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SEO should be measured by sales, not just rank

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 by Steve Masters tagged

Ranking graphTraditionally, search engine optimisation (SEO) has a direct relationship with rankings. The higher up the search results you go, the more traffic you get, in general. This is especially true when you get on to page one of Google. If you achieve a top three position for your most trafficked search term, your visits will jump up significantly. You’ll be laughing all the way to the rank (sorry, couldn’t resist).

More and more, though, rank-focused SEO is no longer something you can do in isolation. Organic traffic comes from social networks and other referral channels, and this traffic may be the result of optimisation work that’s boosted your reach. So much SEO activity crosses over into content marketing and social networking, and PR has a role to play in SEO.

Google has made it hard to achieve consistent rankings

Consistent rankings are harder to achieve these days, because there have been so many changes to the search algorithms and the design of the results. Don’t assume from this that SEO is no longer possible. You can follow Google’s quality guidelines and ensure you do all the right things to help your site appear in results, but the search engine of today is no longer what it used to be.

Search results used to have 10 organic results with some ads on the side. Now, we get web pages interspersed with map listings, videos and biographies, and the results change depending on where you are, who you are and what you did previously on your computer.

Focusing on rank as a measure of success is becoming difficult because of that. What makes more sense is focusing on conversions. That’s why more and more SEO professionals now talk about conversion optimisation as much as they talk about rankings.

Organic traffic from SEO is no longer the main factor

Over the past year I have spent almost as much time tracking referral traffic for clients as organic search traffic. With the growth of social media, website owners have more opportunities to interact with users away from the site.

Social networks also boost the  reach for content, which leads to referral traffic. That is not directly related to rank, but popularity on social networks can help to boost your domain authority. This can boost your ranks.

The relationship between social, distributed content and search is why SEO professionals now have to think in a more creative way. Where a site may lose rankings in a Google algorithm update, it can still gain visitors through referrals.

The key performance indicator should be sales

Website owners may be paying for visibility on search engines, but they are doing this because, ultimately, they want more sales. The goal of the SEO nowadays is to help achieve more sales. Ranks still fundamental to any SEO campaign, but goal tracking is now important too.

Why spend so much time and money trying to gain traffic from search results if the website doesn’t perform? The traffic needs to lead to some kind of conversion.

How to make conversions a part of our SEO strategy

  • Ensure all enquiry forms on your site have goal tracking code and that you set up corresponding goals in Analytics.
  • Use event tracking code on email links so you can get information about users who click on them.
  • Add telephone tracking linked to Analytics so you can also record conversions that come in through telephone enquiries.
  • If you sell things on your site, Implement ecommerce tracking so that Analytics can provide detailed insights about the customer journey leading up to each sale.
  • Test different calls to action (CTA) – a variety of colours, action words and positions on the page. Review the Analytics to see which CTAs get the best response.
  • Look at your key landing pages and try to reduce bounce rates on those pages – remove links to external sites and try to push users from those pages to your conversion pages.

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About the author

Steve Masters

Steve Masters

Steve is Services Director for Vertical Leap. He started professional life as a magazine journalist, working on music magazines and women's titles before becoming a web editor in 1997, then joining MSN to work purely in online publishing. Since 1999 he has worked for and consulted to a broad range of businesses about their digital marketing. Follow on Google Plus and Twitter