Not keeping track of your website’s metrics, or doing it but not taking action based on what you find, is more or less equal to walking around in pitch darkness hoping to somehow reach your destination: both are possible but highly unlikely for SEO.
But which metrics should you pay special attention to? Some of them you’ve probably heard about hundreds of times as they tend to crop up in every self-respecting webmaster’s watch list. There are, however, many metrics besides bounce rates and Google keyword rankings—perhaps less well-known and less-discussed but still very important.
Today we’ll take a look at some of the less well-known metrics that can make all the difference between success and obscurity.
1. Number of Pages Receiving Visitors From Search Engines
When you see significant changes in the quantity of your traffic it doesn’t always come from the changes in keyword demand or better ranking of your existing pages. One of the less obvious reasons is the changes in the number of pages of your website indexed by Google. You may get a dramatic increase or decrease in traffic without actively doing anything and without experiencing significant changes in search keywords patterns, simply because Google is crawling deeper or shallower on your website.
In what way is this useful? You get an additional insight into the performance of your website. If you add content and these pages don’t get indexed, then something is wrong. If Google crawls deeper on your site, you can connect this to some changes you’ve done recently and made a note for yourself that this particular action had a positive impact. For example, if you alter your navigation structure and soon notice that more pages start getting visits, you can mark it as a useful practice and continue experimenting in this direction.
2. Split Between Branded and Non-Branded Traffic
Branded keywords are the ones that contain a direct reference to your company or product name while non-branded are broader terms only tangentially dealing with your business and more related to the industry on the whole.
Seeing the amount of both types of traffic and how they perform against each other helps you balance between them and define your future SEO strategy.
On the one hand, branded traffic usually performs better in terms of pure conversions—but this is mostly because when somebody searches a branded keyword they already know about your business and are probably looking for a particular item. In other words, more branded traffic means higher brand affinity and awareness.
On the other hand, it is from non-branded traffic that you get most of your new users, visitors and potential future customers who discover your brand for the first time. If your branded campaigns fare better than non-branded ones, it means that you should concentrate on building more brand affinity.
3. Crawl Errors
Among other things, Google Search Console shows you crawl errors—site-wide by default, but the report can be fine-tuned if you so wish. Needless to say, any crawl error you notice should be acted upon immediately, its existence means that some parts of your website don’t work as they are supposed to and don’t bring you any traffic.
Site errors should be addressed first of all because they affect your entire website. DNS and server are the most important: the former meaning that Googlebot doesn’t connect to your site at all, and the latter that your server takes too long to respond. Using Fetch with Google and then following help instructions is a good starting point to solving these problems.
4. Final Conversions (Goal Achievement)
Yes, conversion is probably the metric that gets the most discussion out there, so how does it fall into a list of lesser-known metrics? It is very simple: we are talking about final conversions, the achievement of the end goal you set in front of your business—for an online retailer it will be making a sale, for a SaaS agency selling a subscription, and so on—in other words, you should measure the factual results, something that puts money in your pocket. Free subscriptions, for example, aren’t conversions; many people subscribe with a vague intention of catching up with this reading later on only to unsubscribe half a year later without ever interacting with your website again. Only final conversions can show you how well your strategy is working and if you should change anything.
5. Backlink Profile
Backlinks still play an important role in SEO, but their quantity doesn’t matter much anymore—quality is much more important. A single backlink from a high-authority website is worth a hundred easy-to-get ones, and these days Google may actually penalize you if you tend to rely on many low-quality backlinks. Therefore, it is the quality of your backlink profile that you should pay attention to, not the sum total of all your backlinks.
How to get more high-quality backlinks? Create valuable content. Seriously get into guest blogging, get in touch with influencers in your industry. Avoid cheap spammy links like the plague.
There is much more to SEO than just measuring the most obvious metrics and taking mechanical actions to improve them when you believe they lag too far behind. SEO strategy is more about seeing the bigger picture, using lesser-known metrics to glean the meaning of the changes that happen with your resource, and taking swift action based on your findings.