The levels of website traffic you are receiving is a key measure of SEO success. Monitoring your website traffic goes far beyond simply looking at how many visitors you are receiving on a daily basis. The quality of the traffic your website receives is the more important consideration.
The information you need in order to measure the quality and success of your website traffic is all available if you use Google Analytics alongside Google Webmaster Tools, although there are several examples of effective analytics software and services you could use as alternatives, if you wished to.
Knowing how many visitors come from search engines is not an out and out factor to use for determining the quality of traffic, but it is a sure indicator of whether your SEO strategy is having an impact.
In addition to measuring the level of traffic you are receiving from search engines, you should also consider the following traffic sources:
Direct navigation traffic.For new businesses, this will likely be a low number and percentage.
Other referral traffic from across the internet.Your performance here will indicate whether SEO activities such as social media marketing and content marketing through guest posting and link building are proving successful.
Only you, or your SEO agency or freelancer, will know to what extent you have been investing in social media or guest posting, so the performance you expect to see here will depend on this. For example, if you know you have been link building on websites that don’t attract much traffic themselves, you are not likely to see a great deal of referral traffic coming from them.
Search engine referrals are the key metric here because the others feed this. If you have built or earned a high quality link, or are gaining a reputation for excellence on social media and earn many shares, this will subsequently boost your search rankings and your traffic.
Do not limit your knowledge to knowing the level of traffic you receive from search engines as an umbrella figure. Knowing the percentage of referrals you receive from each specific search engine can help you to make your SEO efforts more targeted.
Businesses that offer services around the world can analyse traffic on a ‘per country’ basis.If Google has a 90% market share of search in one country, but only 50% of your referrals come from Google in that location, you need to think about what you can do to change that and maximise the opportunity.
If your traffic drops suddenly over the weekend, the initial reaction might be to panic and scream “Google update!” Knowing where your traffic is coming from will enable you to analyse where any problems are actually coming from.If your Google referrals suddenly plummet, then you can probably put it down to an algorithmic update or manual penalty, while if they all drop there might be a problem with your site that you have not yet identified.
Although Google is the global market leader when it comes to search, you might find that you receive better traffic and achieve more conversions using Bing or Yahoo!Different SEO approaches and metrics count for different things in each search engine.If your strategy is geared towards Bing, for example, then understanding which search engine provides your traffic helps you measure effectively whether this is worthwhile, or whether you should switch focus to Google to tap into the larger potential market.
Previously, the logical next step in this process would be to use Google Analytics to measure which keywords are driving your traffic numbers from organic search. Google are now encrypting all searches using SSL, meaning that 100% of keywords will show in Analytics as (not provided) at some point in early 2014, if not sooner. Keyword data is currently still available through Google Webmaster Tools, but it would be no surprise if Google extended this “keyword blackout” to this platform, too.
As with the general topic of measuring SEO success, identifying your keyword referrals will rely on you accumulating data from a variety of sources rather than relying on one, as might have been the case while using Google Analytics. You are still able to analyse search performance at page level, so you will know which pages are most visible through Google search. You can also track your rankings for keywords using SEMRush, as detailed earlier. This is not an exact science, but if you know you have a handful of keywords for which you rank on page one, and you know what percentage of your traffic comes from a search referral, you will have a reasonably good picture of which keywords are working and delivering organic search referrals.