5 Useless SEO Metrics You Should Stop Using Right Now
When you open up your Google Analytics, hundreds of metrics are bombarding you with tons of incomprehensible data and disappointing results. Some of them appear to be utterly useless while others, however, have a direct bearing on the success of your website.
So, how do we figure out where to invest our efforts?
In this article, we’ve gathered 5 SEO metrics that a lot of businesses are still using to measure their progress on the web. In the following paragraphs, we’ll show you how wrong they are.
1Total Number of Backlinks
The total number of backlinks is probably the most useless metrics that are still being used by webmasters and website owners. On one hand, total backlinks appeal to the most of us as it can potentially help with rankings and authority. On the other hand, though often practiced in the SEO community, building an impressive number of backlinks doesn’t necessarily imply that a website with the greatest number of links will receive the highest rankings.
Simply put, the quantity of backlinks won’t bring you any good. And furthermore, building up a number of low-quality backlinks may even lower your rankings. Link building strategies that were classy just several years ago are now outdated and can do far more harm than good. Since Google enrolled the Penguin upgrade, websites with a multitude of low-grade links from spammy resources are also considered spammy and will probably be penalized by Google sooner rather than later.
So, how do we know what links are spammy?
Well, the easiest way to find out is to check the number of high-quality inbound links that had already been placed on the website. The more significant the number, the more reliable the resource. In general, if the site is well-linked and doesn’t have the long history of spamming activity, it’s worth your attention.
But, as we already know, quality of links is a way more important than their quantity. For example, links from governmental and educational websites are often considered the best, whereas link farms and low-quality blogs are the worst places to get links from.
Another factor to consider is the ratio between the volume of incoming links and the number of referring domains. When you have dozens of backlinks and very few referring resources, your link profile is in trouble. We’re not saying that your website is going to be penalized and screw up in SERP just because you have hundreds of links coming from a single domain, but it can potentially be dangerous in the long run.
So, the practice of building up the link profile with low-quality backlinks is bad for your SEO. We’ve made it crystal clear in the previous paragraphs. However, if you’d like to get more info on this topic, you can check out the article Link-Hunting for Dummies. How to Track Good Links and Improve Your Rankings.
Let’s say, you have written a great piece of content. It’s useful for your audience, it’s completely original and represents the in-depth research. But, suddenly you find out that the number of targeted keywords in it is approaching zero.
What does one do in a case like that?
The correct answer would be – nothing. Moreover, the percentage of times a targeted keyword appears on a page is the last thing to think about when creating the content.
At the same time, it’s still important to use keywords that you want search engines to spot. But think about your target audience. Who are they? Barring the age, gender, behavior, and goals, they all are the people, aren’t they? Moreover, they are the people who buy your products and services. Don’t you think it’s more important to make their buying experience better, rather than smoothing it out by repeating keywords for some 2-5% of the text on a page?
Well, we suppose we don’t have to mention anything as trite and clichéd as, “Content is King.” Yet, in our case it’s true. It’s indeed crucial to focus on the quality of pages instead of the number of keywords included. Even though you’d probably not rank as high as your competitors that use particular keywords more frequently, pages with engaging, up-to-date, and useful information are a way more efficient in bettering conversions.
At the end of a day, keywords stuffing is not as effective as it was several years ago, so just forget about it.
Research what topics admire your potential consumers and start writing content relying on their interests. Include as many keywords as makes sense for your readers, but don’t put too much value in the metrics like keywords density. It will make you think you’re going down a right path when you actually aren’t.
3Number of followers in Social Media
Social Media can improve your SEO. In fact, social media marketing and SEO are always considered as a single whole. Even though social signals have no effect on rankings in SERP, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ along with other networks have the significant power to drive traffic, improve visibility, enhance brand loyalty and can potentially boost conversion rates. You can read more about the role of social media in the SEO strategy in our recent blog post: Social Networks: How to Use Them to Improve SEO.
Despite the fact that your followers are just as valuable as your website’s visitors, the mere number of them shouldn’t be taken as the indicator of your success. Why? The number of followers alone doesn’t have any impact on the rankings in SERP. It determines your potential reach and nothing more.
If you want to make the proper use of social networks, you should shift from the reactive approach of counting down the number of people subscribed to your brand’s profile, to the proactive measurement of their engagement with your brand.
Try to write posts on different topics and then track which of them generate the highest engagement level.
If people like what you post, they’ll want to learn more.
In addition to that, webmasters and website owners should realize that the primary role of brand pages in social networks is to communicate with both current and potential customers. Twitter and Facebook are not only the places where your potential customers spend over 30% of their online time, they are also the best channels to spread the good word about your business.
This is another point to the today’s list of overvalued metrics. According to Google, “bounce rate is the percentage of all sessions on your website in which users viewed only a single page and triggered only a single request to the Analytics server.” In simple terms, bounce rate is a ratio of single-page sessions to the total number of sessions. The higher rate corresponds to the higher number of visitors clicking the back button after landing on a single page.
At the same time, Google doesn’t tell what bounce rate can be considered as “good.” Besides that, it has plenty of other issues that can make the usage of this metric completely pointless; let’s take a look at a couple of the most crucial of them.
Bounce rate does not apply to pages with infinite scroll
Infinite scroll pages started gaining momentum a couple of years ago, and they are still pretty trendy across the web. Nevertheless, if you have decided to implement infinite scroll on your website, don’t get surprised when you see the sharp increase of the bounce rate for your website.
Why does it happen? Well, let’s imagine your site has a structure similar to Facebook or Twitter. Your visitors load the page to read the first post on it, and as they reach the end, the second post starts loading automatically. After reading the second post, a visitor scrolls down to the third, and so on and so forth. And then, after going through several posts, a user leaves the page.
Should we count this as a bounce? From the logical point of view, of course not. The visitor didn’t leave the site after going through the single post. Nevertheless, if every post wasn’t given the unique URL, all posts are considered as a single page. So, in our case, it counts as a bounce. On the contrary, though, even if every post has its unique URL and a user clicks the “back” button after scrolling down to the end of a single post, it doesn’t count as a bounce.
In the end, using bounce rate with infinite scroll pages is like pushing water uphill with a rake.
Bounce rate ignores the needs of customers
The main problem with bounce rate is that it can’t be applied to every website on the web. Let’s say, you have a long HTML 5 landing page that contains all the necessary information about the services you provide. Visitors don’t have to navigate through your website to find out if those services are useful for them and get your contact info. They may end up calling you and buying the service, but at the same time, such visitors are treated as “bouncers.” In this case, the landing page is not a problem, the wrong metrics are. If users can satisfy their goals through calling on the single page, you should probably leave out the site-wide bounce rate.
Bounce rate isn’t a golden number we should be aiming to leverage. On the other hand, user retention is something we have to look into. Instead of going down the wrong path with completely pointless metrics, you can use the Dwell Time, for example.
Unlike bounce rate, it measures the time it takes for a website visitor to go back to the SERP. To look over it, you can use Google Analytics, or choose from the variety of SEO tools.
- To do that in Google Analytics, go to Acquisition -> All traffic -> Source/medium. Dwell time in Google Analytics is called “Avg. Session Duration.”
- Alternatively, you may use the RankActive software. Go to Analytics -> Audience Analytics. You’ll find the metrics called “Avg. Visit Duration.”
5Total Amount of Traffic
Here is another “golden” metric of SEO. The one that, in fact, won’t tell you anything useful. One of your website’s pages may be loaded with traffic, but the traffic alone doesn’t indicate that your sales are high as well. We should make out that the website visit doesn’t indicate the visitor’s interest in our products or services. It’s neither the reflection of the buying intent nor the benchmark for success.
What’s more, overall traffic doesn’t represent any value for local businesses.
For example, you are running a dental clinic in Lincoln, Lincolnshire. The town’s population is small. The number of people seeking dental care is even lower. Given the circumstances, 200 visits a month is pretty good. But should you care about traffic from Edinburgh or Brighton? It’s highly unlikely that people from there are going to visit you and bring some profits to your business.
So, instead of tracking such vanity metrics as overall traffic, one should pay more attention to the number of visitors from the service area and conversions coming from local traffic.
Let’s sum it up
Some metrics are important and represent the great value for companies across the web. Others don’t. Your total backlinks, number of followers in social networks, keyword density, overall traffic and bounce rate are not nearly as valuable as your revenue. At the end of a day, the primary purpose of every commercial project is to generate profits, so don’t pay much attention to vanity metrics, which won’t help you with that anyway.
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