The purpose of having a website, and perhaps a blog, is to get found online. You want to be there when people are looking for you or someone like you. No matter what your business sector, it’s incredibly important to have a website at the core of your online presence and marketing strategy.
But having a website isn’t enough. You can’t just “set it and forget it.” You need to maintain and update it. You need to make sure it’s built well and has the proper structure. If you own a small business, odds are you’ve gotten a phone call from someone telling you that “the first spot on Google is open” and they can get you there. Tempting, eh?
Well, my best advice for those types of phone calls and emails is to hang up or delete. But whether you hire someone to help you with your search engine optimization or do it on your own, it’s important to learn how to check on the fruit of your labors and understand if it’s working or not.
Understand the Importance of SEO
While there is an importance for some to really drill down and make a science out of SEO, for most small businesses, it’s not that critical, and it doesn’t have to be rocket science. There are certain things you can do to beef up your SEO, both internally and off-site, and they are pretty easy. Making a commitment to blogging can even help take care of a lot of that without digging too deep into your website.
But it’s important to measure your efforts and see how it’s going. There are a few simple things you can do to check on how well you are doing.
Understand Your Google Analytics
If you don’t have Google Analytics installed on your website, take care of that now. It’s free and rather easy, depending on how your site was built. It’s pretty much a matter of installing a piece of code on your site that measures all of your traffic. Once you install the code, it will start tracking how people get to your site and use your site.
One important area to check is what is known as your “organic search traffic.” This is the best place to look to get a clue as to how well your SEO efforts are working. You can find this under the headings:
Acquisition > Keywords > Organic
Once you get there, change your custom date range to get a larger view of how your site is performing in organic search over time. For this illustration, I set my analytics to report from December 2009 (shortly after I started my site) to October 31, 2013. This gives me nearly four years of data to track.
As you look, you can clearly see an upward trend over that time, with some distinct peaks and valleys in certain places. But you can see the growth. You can also see that it took quite a few months before I gained any traction in search results.
The beauty of all of this is that if you are paying attention, you can even account for the peaks and valleys, and understand the WHY behind the numbers. For instance, I happen to know that the large jump in November 2012 is due to one particular post I wrote that actually had nothing to do with marketing, but drove a lot of traffic, both search and referral. Additionally, the dip the following few months was, in part, due to some changes in Google’s algorithm.
And Google lets you annotate your analytics with little memos along the way so you can write in any information that might explain those changes. For instance, if you do an SEO overhaul of your site, mark that down in the annotations. Perhaps you start blogging, or blogging more frequently. Write it down. Understanding what is happening and why, is more important than just seeing numbers that indicate either growth or decline.
Understand Google’s Changes
I mentioned earlier that some of the changes in my organic traffic can be related directly to changes in Google’s algorithm. How do I know? Well, I keep up on the latest news when Google announces that they have made a change. The easiest way to do this is by using Fruition’s free Google Penalty Checker. You connect it to your Google analytics and it will report to you on every change that Google has made, and the likelihood that it had an effect, either positively or negatively, on your numbers.
What you can’t see here is that if you hover over each of those circles, it tells you more about the Google algorithm update in question, and gives further details on what specifically was included in that update.
There’s a lot more to the whole SEO thing than this, but these tips will give you a good place from which to start so that you see whether you are making any progress in terms of search results, as well as guide you along the way to make proper SEO decisions for the future.
Are you seeing growth as a result of your SEO efforts? Are you able to understand why you are seeing growth or decline in your numbers?