An SEO campaign may take a while to deliver results, and if you judge the quality of your SEO campaign exclusively on sales, especially at the beginning, you may be frustrated by the lack of immediate results.
So how can you confirm that your SEO is working?
The argument for obtaining SEO is logical: improved search rankings should attract more traffic and, in turn, will lead to conversions. The difficulty in judging its effectiveness is that this process takes time, often quite a while. The time it takes to improve rankings to become quantifiable conversions can be from six months to a year. And even then there are a number of other factors that can still prevent these from being translated into sales.
Therefore, determining if you are getting good value from your SEO requires that you divide the campaign into smaller milestones and measure the progress against them.
Interpretation of rankings and when it is too early to wait for traffic
You should see an initial improvement in rankings fairly soon, especially if your site was not previously visible for the key search terms you have now selected.
However, how quickly you go to the first page will depend on several factors. In general, the stronger the competition for a keyword, the longer it will take to improve your visibility. Putting more resources for this can make a significant difference in how long your site will take to climb the rankings, but if your competition has been around for a long time or has benefited from a strong marketing campaign, it can be especially difficult.
Although they are a good indicator of initial progress, positive ranking changes will not immediately translate into more traffic. It will not be until your key pages have reached the first page of the search engine results that you are likely to start seeing the organic search clicks.
Thinking about the quality of your rankings
The rankings are as good as keyword research that informs the information architecture of your site. You could boast a series of main rankings for several attractive keywords, but it won’t mean anything to your business if those keywords have no conversion potential.
Therefore, rankings should always be viewed in the context of the keyword value. What constitutes a valuable keyword is the subject of much discussion and research and deserves a completely separate article, but we can summarize the general considerations here: a good keyword establishes a balance between broad and specific (think “mustache wax” in instead of “waxing”) and weighs the transactional intent with a high search volume (think of “buying a used car” instead of “a car”).
If you do your research well, your SEO company is very likely to advise you on how to get rid of certain keywords in favor of others.
It is also rigorously tested for context and opportunity. We can get a good idea of how Google will interpret your keywords by looking at the search results for that term. For example, we can begin to think that we have found a great keyword for one of the main services pages of a customer’s site. But when a search reveals that it is also the name of a university course and the first page is monopolized by the results of Wikipedia and the information of the leaflet of some of the most influential universities in the world, then that keyword will not serve much to position the Web.
Low value keywords
When it is virtually impossible to compete for space on page one or if the search results of a keyword phrase are not directly related to your product or service, those keywords will have little value.
If you do your research well, your SEO company is very likely to advise you on how to get rid of certain keywords in favor of others. Often, this is necessary when customers have been previously recommended to simply search for high-volume keywords without first investigating the opportunity of the keywords. When readjusting the keyword approach, rankings generally experience a drop before recovering. But the end result will be a much more focused campaign.
Impressions, clicks and landing pages
As your rankings improve, you will begin to appear in more searches. Google Webmaster Tools track them as “impressions.” First impressions may not lead to clicks on your site, but they are a good indicator of an SEO campaign on the right track. Once you’re ranking on page one for some of your key terms (sometimes even on page two for high-volume queries), you should start seeing the actual clicks.
At this stage, you should see more organic search traffic in your Google Analytics . You may also want to check organic traffic by landing page to get an idea of how much search traffic your key pages are attracting.
If your improved rankings and your growing impressions don’t generate more traffic, it might be time to analyze your metadata or possibly reevaluate the focus of your keywords.
Along with your impressions and clicks, Webmaster Tools will give you the clickthrough rate (CTR) for keywords. This indicates the proportion of clicks (or visits) to impressions.
When the CTR is low (although it is ranking on page 1), it appears in the search, but users are not convinced that they are the right choice for their search query. Often, this can be solved by rewriting your meta descriptions and adjusting your title tags. In other cases, it could be an indicator that goes after the wrong keywords.
Keep an eye on conversions and user experience
Even when your rankings improve greatly and you receive more traffic on your site, sales will not be guaranteed. This is where design and marketing meet SEO. A good SEO can put your site in front of an audience. And you can even get the audience on your site. But if your product does not influence them or if your user’s malfunction is hindered by poor functionality or hidden contact information, it will not be much.
Therefore, a comprehensive SEO campaign sees design and user experience (UX) as an integral part of a successful outcome. When a site is not converting during the last stages of a campaign, it becomes necessary to set goals for conversion tracking (if not already set up), monitor the bounce rate and track visitor behavior for return. This data will help identify any problem with the conversion and user experience that will then be sent to your design and development team (or your agency could make these adjustments on its own).
The sum of its parts
Although the logic behind the “good ranking = sales” argument for SEO seems linear and basic, the process is much more cyclical and complex. The current definition of SEO is much broader than it has ever been. Gathering not only technical elements but also persuasive writing, traditional marketing philosophies, online public relations, user-centered design and intuitive functionality. When any of these elements is missing or has poor performance, it may not have the desired result.
This not only makes considering these smaller milestones essential to measure success as it progresses, but also promotes an approach focused on identifying deficiencies and their solution from the beginning.