When marketers talk about SEO metrics, there's one overarching goal in mind: gaining a higher page rank for Web content. The process of accomplishing this task is multifaceted and ever-changing. The Huffington Post notes that link building, key topic research, meta-tagging and a host of other variables are used to optimize a website for the search engine algorithms that organize search result orders, and these tasks can be complex and time-consuming.
For organizations primarily focused on driving traffic from search queries, page rank is a critical SEO metric — for many, it is the most important measurement of a campaign's success. However, driving additional website traffic should be the primary focus. High-volume traffic and search exposure aren't the only opportunities provided through SEO, which means other metrics can be useful in evaluating SEO success — particularly if your SEO campaigns have additional goals. Here are three SEO metrics you might want to follow to get a clearer picture of your digital performance.
1. Average Visit Duration
The logic is simple: Longer site visits equal higher probability of sales. Uninterested consumers won't stick around, but as the visit duration lengthens, the likelihood of a conversion grows. There's no ideal average visit duration, but in general higher numbers should equal higher conversion rates. If you see a positive correlation, you know you're on the right track.
Average visit duration is most informative when it's broken down by the different channels driving traffic. Shorter visit durations from specific channels means that those channels aren't delivering great prospects to your doorstep or that your website is not delivering a positive visitor experience. In some cases — if, for example, your social campaigns are seeing substandard average visit durations — this could be an indication that social efforts need to be ramped up. Adjust your channel-specific campaign strategy to turn average visit duration in a positive direction.
2. Referral Traffic
Referral traffic offers a few different benefits. For one, it drives semiqualified prospects to your website. In many cases, referral traffic also comes from new sources of exposure — a guest blog post, a social share, a PR release, etc. But referral traffic is also rewarded by search engines, which use referral traffic as a page-ranking metric.
The best way to drive referral traffic is to get your brand out in new places. Offering to write a guest post for an industry blog and being active across all relevant social networks helps build exposure and engagement. Keep in mind that referral traffic can come from surprising sources — Pinterest, for example, drives more referral traffic to publishers than Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit and Google+ combined, according to Mashable. Use a little elbow grease to drive referrals, and the results should start to come in.
3. Visitor Growth
Monitoring growth makes perfect sense: You're spending on SEO to grow as a company, not maintain your current standing. With analytics tools, visitor growth is easy to examine in relation to your starting baseline. Even for inexperienced marketers, this job is easy: You basically want to see visitor growth trending upward. Small peaks or dips don't matter as long as the overall growth continues gradually.
One nice thing about visitor growth as a metric is that it can help you project future lead opportunities. If you have a consistent conversion rate, you can use these figures — and other important SEO metrics — to set goals for your SEO practices.