I’ve compiled this list of 11, actually 12 metrics that I feel are much more important than PageRank,
Good old fashioned traffic. Take a look at the amount of organic traffic that you’ve gained or lost over time. This metric alone is enough to let you know you are on the right (or wrong) track.
Two months ago our blogs organic traffic nearly tripled right after a Penguin refresh. We took this as a huge sign that we were on the right track. What do you think we care about more, the fact that our traffic nearly tripled or that we went from a PR2 to a PR3?
This is one metric that is gaining attention across the globe. Webmasters everywhere compare and rely on “DA / PA” to check the overall quality of different websites. PageRank has been an easily manipulable metric for years now, and no longer used as an industry standard “score” for webmasters.
According to Moz:
“Domain Authority represents Moz’s best prediction for how a website will perform in search engine rankings. Use Domain Authority when comparing one site to another or tracking the “strength” of your website over time. We calculate this metric by combining all of our other link metrics—linking root domains, number of total links, MozRank, MozTrust, etc.—into a single score.”
Moz does a great job of calculating Page and Domain Authority by taking many different factors into consideration.
Quality over quantity is the name of the game here. Remember, more is not always better. You want to look for backlinks from high authority domains placed organically by other webmasters.
Google Webmaster Tools has been a lot more accurate with backlink data as of recently, however we still prefer to use ahref.com’s index for checking backlinks.
Tip: One of our favorite backlink metrics to look at is referring IP addresses. This is one step above “referring domains” because it will look deeper into your backlink portfolio by showing you how many hosts are pointed at your site.
Dare I say rankings. We haven’t used a rank checker in over a year here at Elite Strategies, however doing a quick Google search for your targeted keywords is a great barometer to measure success.
Rankings aren’t what they used to be. With personalized search, location based results, and Hummingbird very rarely do 2 people see the same set of results. Nevertheless, from a broad perspective checking out your organic rankings from time to time is a great indicator to measure your sites success.
Like backlinks, more is not always better, however most webmasters will agree that a beefed up site with several hundred pages will have much more inherent value than a thin site with 5 pages.
Tip: download a copy of your XML sitemap and do a raw count of how many indexed pages you have. Then go over to Google Webmaster Tools and see how many pages are actually indexed. If there is a huge difference between the two, you have work to do!
This metric alone can be enough to make your site a winner. Again, quality over quantity. One retweet from a relevant and authoritative Twitter member can bring in 100’s of thousands of visitors, while dozens of retweets from other accounts might not bring in any.
In addition to the massive traffic that social signals can bring in, some folks like Eric Enge are saying that they can have a huge impact on Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm. Even if he is half right, it is worth listening to.
The holy grail of metrics. In a sense, nothing else matters except conversions. Conversions are a great way to show that you not only have traffic, but have targeted traffic.
Marketing Shepa did a great study in October of 2013 that attempted to measure the organic conversion rates across several industries. The study found that organic traffic converted at a much higher rate than traditional media such as TV and radio advertising. And that makes sense, when a user sits down and does a search query and lands on your site – their intent is very focused and purposeful.
There is an entire sub-industry of SEO (and marketing in general) known as CRO or “conversion rate optimization” that deals with UX and the art of improving your conversion rate on your website.
Paddy Moogan of Distilled Marketing did an excellent post about CRO for SEO in 2010 that is still very relevant to this day. Another company named Optimizely develops software to help with CRO, and writes excellent posts about CRO on their blog usually every day.
Some argue that CTR paired with ‘time on site’ is one of the most important signals in organic ranking. One great way to improve your CTR is to find which keywords in Webmaster Tools you are showing up for the most, and tweaking your title and meta description to be more appealing in the SERPs.
To calculate your organic click through rate just do:
CTR = Clicks / Impressions * 100
So for instance if you have 45 clicks today and 650 impressions you would do:
CTR = 45 / 650 = .069 * 100 = 6.92%
Tip: Measure your CTR across multiple pages, keywords and categories to see where the weakest links are.
High bounce rate can really send a very poor signal to Google. Webmasters should pay very close attention to bounce rate and always try to improve their content in order to reduce the amount of people leaving their site.
One way to look at bounce rate is the “think like Google does” philosophy. Example:
Lets say you have a site that ranks on the first page of Google for “foo bar statistics.” Each time someone visits that site, they end up leaving in 10 seconds because there are tons ads on the sidebar and really poor information. One might say this is a low quality site not worth visiting. Now, what does Google reiterate time and time again? User experience. Since this is what you would call a very poor user experience, one might conclude that sooner or later, and although it might have tons of high quality backlinks and other metrics, it will get pushed down in the SERPs in favor of a higher quality site.
Time on site is a great way to measure how good your content is, and it works hand in hand with bounce rate. There are some great ways to increase your time on site metric right away such as by adding videos and writing content that is more engaging to your audience.
Duane Forrester of Bing explained a scenario about time on site that stayed with me for the last 2 years:
“If your content does not encourage them to remain with you, they will leave. The search engines can get a sense of this by watching the dwell time. The time between when a user clicks on our search result and when they come back from your website tells a potential story. A minute or two is good as it can easily indicate the visitor consumed your content. Less than a couple of seconds can be viewed as a poor result. And while that’s not the only factor we review when helping to determine quality, it’s a signal we watch.”
This is one of my favorite SEO metrics to look at. Whenever I am analyzing a new site, page load speed is one of the first metrics that I look into. I’ve seen sites go from zero to hero just from making a few page load speed tweaks. Google has stated many times that page load speed is an important factor in organic rankings, and webmasters should pay close attention to this metric. We compiled a post about optimizing WordPress for optimal page load speed that we reference quite often.
Kind of a joke, but I put this one here just to illustrate how irrelevant PageRank is. Some companies have seen huge percentage changes in conversions just by changing something as simple as a your background color.
Pay attention to what matters. If you’ve been pouring over backlinks and dozens of other metrics for months and just can’t seem to get your site to budge, step back for your second and browse your site like a customer would. Or better yet have 3 of your friends browse your site and have them take honest notes that you can look at. If they are anything like my friends they will tear your site apart and be gut wrenchingly honest.