Let’s say you started the year off with a new SEO campaign, adding fresh content to your website regularly and working hard to get high quality links. You fixed some tech issues and updated your content on pages that weren’t performing as well as you hoped.
Or maybe you gave in to a clever sales pitch and got a list of actions like this:
- 150 Directory submissions
- 60 Social Book marking Submissions
- 20 Article Submissions (1 article x 20 article websites)
- 10 Press Release Submissions (1 press release x 10 press release websites)
- 10 Blog Comments
That’s an offer that showed up in our email this week.
Either way, we’re coming to the end of the quarter, and you’re wondering how well your SEO investment is performing.
How can you tell?
You’ll see a rise in search traffic
First, check to see if you’re getting results. The Google Analytics report on Acquisition> All traffic> Channels> Organic Search will show you if you are getting more traffic from Google search. The screenshot below is from our lab site, FreshPlans, which has not had any special SEO efforts at all. In fact, we haven’t even written a new post in a year or more. We’re still seeing an 11.14% increase in Q1 over Q4.
If you’ve been making efforts, you should see some improvement. However, you might also need to check year over year. In the case of FreshPlans, our major audience is school teachers. They don’t visit much over the holidays, so we always see a rise in Q1.
Year over year, our poor abandoned lab site sees a real drop. If we were actually investing in SEO for this website, we would have to conclude that it wasn’t working.
Consider the context
Under normal circumstances, seeing a good increase in search traffic is a strong indicator that your efforts are making a difference. If you have a seasonal pattern in your traffic, then you need to be sure to check year-over-year as well as current over previous.
But it depends on the numbers you’re working with. Here are some factors that can affect your traffic:
- The real world. If your keywords are in the headlines, you might see a surge just because more people are looking for your keywords.
- Very small numbers. If you have 439 visits in Q1 and 712 visits in Q2, you’ll see a big percentage increase. Enjoy it. It won’t happen again, most likely, because it’s not really a geometric increase. It’s a little less than 100 extra visits per month. You might continue to get 100 more visits per month, but the percentage of increase will be lower as your traffic increases. We’ve seen increases of 3,000 to 4,000 percent when we begin working with a client, just because their traffic started out so small. We don’t expect that kind of percentage increase to continue.
- Technical issues. Do you have “Discourage search engines” checked in your settings? Have you changed your domain name? Have you used shady tricks in the past? Does your website take 14 seconds to load? This sort of thing can affect the results of any SEO efforts.
Look at the right time
SEO strategies don’t work like ads. When you buy an ad, you see results right away, and they keep working about as well for as long as you pay for them. When you stop paying for them, they no longer do anything.
SEO is not like that. You should not expect to see instant results. You also might not see consistent results.
This line graph shows a client who started having us blog for her where the marker is. She saw a big jump in the first month but not much movement in the second. Traffic went up against the next month but actually fell a little bit the following month. This client might have given up at several points, but she actually went on to see significant growth over time.
Here’s another example. This client might have given up in the first few weeks or months — but what a mistake that would have been.
Every website is different
There are many, many factors affecting the results your particular website will see.
But you should expect to see some improvement over time. Lines heading upwards like the ones you’ve seen in this post are indications of success.
They will have variations, seasonal patterns, or changes as you go along. If you draw a red line from the start to the finish of your campaign, though, it should travel upward from the left to the right of your graph.
If it stays flat or moves downward, you’re not seeing success.
Make sure you have taken into account any factors that might affect your level of success and be sure that you’re given your tactics a chance to change things.
What if you’re not seeing success?
If you see an upward trend, continue with what’s working. Tweak your strategy if there are areas that aren’t giving you as much value as you want, but don’t make lots of changes at once, or frequent changes that mask your results. Keep monitoring your website’s organic search traffic and respond to real changes. Be persistent.
If you’re not seeing that upward trend, ask a few more questions before you make your decisions.
- Is it really SEO? If you agreed to pay someone for 10 blog comments and 150 directory submissions, you really shouldn’t have expected results. That sort of thing is not likely to show you any real improvement. Too often, we see people try a service of this kind and conclude that “SEO doesn’t work.”
- Have you given it long enough? The rule of thumb for marketing is to give it five months before you expect any results at all. We expect to see some movement before that. But jumping around trying one thing for a week and something else for another week and then giving up for a month before trying something else for 10 days… you can’t tell whether it’s working or not.
- How’s it affecting your business? Your KPIs may not be about web traffic. If your search traffic is up a little bit and your appointment no-shows are down by a measurable amount, you owe it to yourself to see whether there is a connection. Tighten up the part of your SEO strategy that connects with your KPIs and see if your business overall is benefitting. Sometimes there’s a gap between seeing more traffic at your website and seeing more traffic at your clinic — remember, the average consumer connects 7 to 12 times before taking action. Identifying that connection can show the value of your strategy.
But if you’ve really given it a solid try and you’re not seeing results, it’s time to change your strategy. Contact us if you want to talk about SEO strategy. We’ll be happy to help.