For many years, the secret to success online was placed, almost entirely, upon Google page rankings; and for good reason. The statistics showed that if your page wasn’t on the first page of Google results for a search, even within the first three or four listings under a keyword, traffic dropped off at such an alarming rate that the page was almost not worth having. This idea was the basis for almost all SEO and web design work. SEO strategies involved taking a handful of important keywords and ensuring that the page ranked highly for them.
However, just as the Googlebots constantly change their algorithms and consumers continually change their approaches, the most important factors in successful web design have also evolved.
Page Rankings Focus Can Harm
Page rankings remain a good Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for a quick glimpse, but performance here doesn’t equal a successful page. However, more than a superficial ‘health check’, page ranking potentially hides a multitude of issues and cloud opportunities. Search engines are a complex platform. Regional, personal and historical factors all influence the results of any individual search (meaning that a CEO checking the performance of a site on their work computer will likely be very pleasantly surprised)!
In focusing entirely on page rank, an SEO team will be tempted to use “black hat” SEO tricks of the trade that create swift ranking climbs. However, aside from the reduction in site quality, a major source of distrust from consumers, Google heavily punishes these types of techniques when the Googlebots inevitably detect them.
Gone are the days when the concept of ‘ranking number 1 for keywords’ is the be all and end all of a successful SEO strategy. Keyword usage is different than it used to be, not only due to the competition on certain keywords or the changing preferences of search engine algorithms, but also because of the changing understanding of consumers. Focussing only on certain keywords will prevent many more searches from landing on your site. You are ‘cutting off the tail’. Full sentence keywords and questions are more common, not only because of the use of voice applications like Apple’s Siri or Google’s ‘Now’ tools, but also because consumers understand that search engines are ‘smarter’. Therefore, more natural copy meets more natural searches.
What is the Best SEO Strategy?
The strategy must be much more holistic. More truthful. That means regularly updating relevant content, written without concern towards ‘keyword density’, without having to resort to buying cheap inbound links. This will both impress the search engine algorithms much more (as their astonishing sophistication continues to grow), but also, most importantly, provide a much better customer experience, in turn building brand loyalty and increasing revenue; the real KPI.
To really understand the performance of a website, other factors are much more expressive. Clearly, revenue is top of the performance indicator, with site visits, and vitally, page retention rates, provide the best ‘health check’ for a site. Much more can be understood about a page’s performance by looking at visitor habits when on the page. By following customers through your site, the performance, and visitor preferences can be understood. Looking for the main entry pages, the route to revenue, (the pages, and the order of pages, which a customer uses), and equally importantly, the pages from which visitors leave, both provides an understanding of how customers are using your site, what information they are looking for, and which parts are not engaging them.