Seo secrets - part 1

How to measure website success when rankings, Google PageRank and sheer traffic have gone the way of “hits”: All these older metrics become more and more meaningless in the current web environment.

  • Why measure rankings when they differ from location to location and from computer to computer due to localization and personalization efforts by Google and other search engines?
  • Why look at a site’s PageRank when Google itself admits that it’s only one of 200 signals that determine the assessment of a site’s authority in Google and sites with PR 3 outrank PR 7 sites?
  • Why brag about traffic when you can get hundreds of thousands of people visit you via Digg and the likes just to make’em run away in an instant?

The good old days of primitive measurement of website success are finally over. Business people demand more than just traffic and rankings, marketing professionals get more web-savvy than 12 year old kids who almost were born on the Web and new web analytics tools finally make it possible to consider far more and specific metrics than ever before. So check out these 33 website success metrics instead of rankings, Google PageRank and traffic:

Business Metrics

People doing business online, be it with eCommerce sites like Shops, publishing companies, consulting firms etc. do want to see results in Dollars, which in most cases makes sense although blogs for instance do offer ROI which is not easily measurable though. Often it’s more brand recognition, reputation building etc. For most commercial websites measuring revenue is the best possible was of determining success.


ROI means Return on Investment. If you spend 1000$ on your website and earn 2000$ your ROI is 200%. So calculate the cost and the financial benefits and compare both. There are whole books about that.


ROI sometimes gets difficult to define. What is the investment exactly, is the time spent on social media e.g. an investment or only the work on the site? Thus measuring sales, especially for shops, is much easier. Higher sales = good website optimization of course.


You do not sell directly on your website? You do want users to contact you via your site insetad? Measure leads. A SEO campaign that brought 100 leads is better than one which brought a million page views but no new potential clients.


OK, you do not sell anything directly and you do not sell services either, but you want people to join, participate in a survey, recommend your site or simply subscribe to your email newsletter? Measure conversions. You should do it for sales and leads too but even without these conversions make a very reliable website or marketing campaign success metric.


While subscribers can be referred to as conversions you can count the sheer number every site should by now offer RSS and track RSS as well as email subscriptions like blogs do. Your subscribers are the most important users of your website, even if they do not buy anything. So if you don’t have an RSS/Atom or whatever kind of feed get one now.
Usability metrics

While not every site’s success can be measured in revenue, sales or leads you always can and should measure the sheer usability of your site. Many sites today still concentrate on being pretty, “having a bigger logo” and some special effects like Flash or AJAX, sound or video. While this might look good in most cases it’s not the most important factor that decides whether your site is going to fail or to succeed, usability is.

returning visitors

This is obvious, only returning visitors really like your site. So the more come back the better, the more successful you are. One time search visitors and casual social media visitors are not the backbone of your site. The subscribers and returning visitors (often the same people) are.

pageviews per visit
While measuring pageviews is sometimes futile as bad websites where you have to click more can have higher numbers of pageviews the number of pageviews per visit often will tell you a whole lot about how much your visitors like your website. A 1 to 1 ratio is bad unless they all click the buy button instantly.

time on page

The time spent on a page can be read in manifold ways but you can deduct from it whether people just skim your content or read your whole article among others.

time on site

It’s not always the longer the better but 5 minutes is in most cases better than 30 seconds, especially for a publishing site or simply a blog.

bounce rate

The bounce rate is one of the most important usability metrics and thanks to Google Analytics or Woopra easy to follow nowadays. 100k visitors from Digg with an bounce rate of 95% means that in fact only 5.000 actually visited your site. So a site with a much lower visitor number AND bounce rate can be much more successful than a “stupid traffic” site with huge traffic numbers. Targeted quality traffic is key for a successful site.

form/shopping cart abandonment rate

Forms are the most important parts of most websites in business terms, be it the contact form, or the shopping cart which technically in most cases is a form. Now imagine a super market where half or more of the customers abandon their cart in the middle of the checkout process or while perusing the market. Count these people and try to make them stay. The simplest way of checking the shopping cart abandonment rate is by sending a message to customer support each time a cart or other form gets abandoned. Sometimes you might be able to get back to the potential client with the incomplete data he entered.

next pages

To make people visit more than one page on a site we use internal links. Some of the links are links that we really want the people to follow. Checking the “next pages” from a particular landing page we can determine whether the readers followed our advice or wanted to see more of it. When on your home page the next page is in most cases the search or the sitemap page you’ve got a problem.

links clicked (heat maps)

Modern “Web 2.0″ web analytics solutions sometimes offer heat maps views or at least a site overlay way of checking clicks. This way you can determine where your visitors click or try to click (to no avail sometimes in cases of not linked logos or underlines words which are not links). Do people click where you want them to click or not?


Even better than heat maps of click behavior are heat maps of actual eye movements. You need more than a web analytics package to check that you need real people to take part in a study but if you are large company depending on your website you should check this for sure. Do people look at your main message at all? Do they actually see the “buy now” button?

internal searches

Are most of your visitors clueless or targeted? You’ll find out via the analyzing the internal searches. There is even a widget to do just that. Google Analytics also allows that.
SEO metrics

SEO experts love to measure. They loved measuring PageRank, rankings and traffic and they still need something to follow this urge. Well, there still is a lot to measure beyond strict business or usability metrics. Old school SEO still makes sense in lots of cases, especially with backlinks which still determine above all your success in Google search. I’d concentrate here on Google, but on the US market it still also make sense to check these with Yahoo and others. Also, checking backlinks with Google is not fun (only a fraction of data is released by Google unless you check your own site in Google Webmaster Tools) so you’re advised to measure them with Yahoo tools are tools that measure it using Yahoo data.

number of backlinks

You still need to know how many people or rather pages link to you. especially if this week more or less do it. The sheer number may be meaningless if you have 10.000 links from one site though. So focus also on domain popularity (links from one domain counted as one).

quality of backlinks

Getting a ton of links may mean nothing in comparison to one link from the NYT. So determine the quality of links: Has the linking page many other outgoing links? Has it PageRank? It it an old authority domain etc.?