Remember when PageRank was an important indicator of your site’s value? It indicated that Google viewed your site as valuable (or not). Well, many know that hasn’t been the case for some years now – but people, for some reason, still highly value it. With the advent of more broad scale Analytics and Tools capabilities, you can track so many elements of your website that PageRank doesn’t even come into the ever-present equation of Your Site + X = Success. Well, recently Google became fed up with the obsession some still have with PageRank. The search engine then blogged about some factors that the search engine views as an indicator of success, replacing the unknown variable in the equation with some answers.
According to Google’s Webmaster Central blog, PageRank is not a metric that should be considered an end-goal, meaning it alone does not indicate that a site is successful. Though it is a metric that indicates the usability of your site, PageRank is not actually the indicator of absolute success that many think. Google even points out reasons why PageRank has become such a ubiquitous measure of success for many webmasters: it is easy to track. Just because it is a number and therefore a concrete, measurable element, does not indicate that is a more important component of a site than is, for instance, relevance or reliability. So, what does Google emphasize as important (as opposed to PageRank) to track and measure?
What is Page Rank?
For those of you who are new to SEO, PageRank is the value that Google assigns to every page that it assesses (Google updates this number only a handful of times over the course of a year). 0 is the lowest, so that if a site has been assigned a PR of 0, Google does not view it as an authority in its niche. A strong PageRank sits around 4 or 5, and PRs of 8-10 (10 being the best) are very valuable (Google’s Webmaster Central blog has a PageRank of 8, meaning it is viewed as an authority). PageRank used to be a lot more significant than it is. These days, however, other factors are much more important. Google even admits that the publicly displayed PR number for any given site is actually different from the one used to decide a site’s ranking within the Google algorithm. Though the PR of a site is still taken into account, other tracking elements can be useful when trying to assess what needs to be optimized on a site and whether that site is actually successful.
So, what should you be tracking?
According to Google, instead of focusing on your site’s PR, you should consider other factors that change more often and that more closely indicate whether your site is contributing to your business’ success. The idea is that, if your business is booming thanks to your website, chances are it is a reliable, authoritative site filled with relevant and unique content that attracts visitors and turns them into customers (though this may not always be the case). If Google sees this, the search engine is more likely to consider these factors as indicators of a positive user experience when deciding your site’s ranking than if they see a strong Page Rank. Seeing your business being affected (positively) by your site is just a much better way to assess a site’s relevance and authority.
Google points out three metrics (all measurable in Google Webmaster tools) that are more pertinent to your site’s ranking than PageRank. These are your site’s conversion rate, bounce rate and click-through rate.
Though Google’s blog covers the basic reasons why these are good elements to measure, lets delve a little deeper into how analyzing these rates might help you better gauge your site’s success than if you were basing your analysis on PageRank alone.
Conversion is one of the essential reasons why you design your site in a compelling way. Why do you optimize your site? Sure, it is because you want people to visit your site instead of that of your competitor. But just driving traffic to your site isn’t really the ultimate goal of your SEO strategy, is it? Ultimately, you want to do business with the people who visit your site. So, conversion is getting people to take action when they visit your site, whether it be by buying your product, giving you their information, etc.
The appeal of measuring conversion (instead of measuring something like PageRank) is that it directly indicates how your website is affecting your business. You can measure just how your company is benefiting from something you do on your site. PageRank, on the other hand, does not give any specific indication about how any website elements are affecting your business. All it tells you is how Google views your site, in a way that may or may not reflect how the search engine ranks your site. If you measure your conversion rate and you find it to be low, there are a few things you can do to bring it up. With a little bit of effort, you might be able to see an almost immediate change in your conversion rate; this is another way in which this metric differs greatly from PageRank (which changes only a few times annually, and the reasons why can sometimes be vague). With conversion rates, you are more likely to establish a cause and effect relationship with how your actions may affect your rates and therefore your business. Here are five quick tips for increasing your conversion rates:
1. Give something away for free to draw people in and gain the trust of your visitors. In return, try to get email addresses or demographic information: anything that will help you to interact with your site’s visitors better.
2. Include your contact information in large, bold letters, and do so in the top left (or right, if you so choose) corner of your site. Do this on every page of your site.
3. Make sure your page loads quickly. You can check your page speed in Google Webmaster Tools.
4. Ensure that your site is easy to navigate and user friendly. A good user experience is key.
5. Have some testimonials on your site. If visitors feel they are being referred to your business by reputable people, they are more likely to engage with you. Try to use Video Testimonials, so they can actually see the person who is recommending you, and understand enthusiasm about your business.
Avoiding high bounce rates is paramount. When someone finds your site on Google, Yahoo, or Bing and clicks on it, but then very quickly clicks back and out of your site, you know there is something that is putting him or her off.
When site visitors “bounce,” they come to your site but leave quickly without really checking things out. Your bounce rate indicates what percentage of your site’s visitors bounce. If you have a high bounce rate, you should think about making some changes to your site. Perhaps your design is not adequately drawing people in. Maybe your content is not compelling enough, or there are too many advertisements on your page. Maybe your visitors didn’t even give your site a chance because it took forever to load. Even if you have an awesome, high PageRank, it won’t matter if no one is staying on your site. Measuring your bounce rate allows you to see where you need to improve your site, where PageRank would not necessarily allow you to pinpoint something that specific.
Analysis of your site’s CTR would tell you that, when your site shows up in the SERPs, some number of people clicked on your site. Say your site showed up in the SERPs 1,000 times, and people clicked on it 999 times. That is a very good CTR (and, let’s be honest, probably doesn’t happen for many people). If Google Webmaster Tools tells you that, of the 1,000 times you showed up in the SERPs, 3 people clicked on your site, you know that despite your great SEO campaign, people are not clicking through your site. You may be #1, but your business is not benefiting. This is when you should look at title tags, headers, etc and check that within the search results, you are presenting yourself in a compelling way. Though your PageRank may be awesome and your site is number one, your site simply isn’t performing. So, low CTR is an important indicator of success that is not reflected in PageRank, further proving that it may not an accurate indication of site success.
Another interesting way to analyze your site
Beyond what Google suggests, there are other methods that can help you analyze the effectiveness of your site. Some methods of analysis allow you to directly understand what you are doing wrong (or right) and then fix them in order to improve your conversion and click-through rates and decrease bounce rates. One of these methods is A/B Split Testing. This kind of testing allows you to test what works best (and worst) on your site. You can split test headlines, taglines, colors, photos, offers, opt-ins, discounts , positions of graphics, etc. Basically, when you split test, you show half of your visitors one version of your site and the other half another version. Then, you can see what elements of your site are causing high bounce rates (and remove them!) and which ones are actually inspiring conversion (keep these!).
You should also consider social media activity a metric
That’s right, we’re still talking about this. Though Twitter ended its contract with Google today (leaving the future of real time search hazy at best – until Google + becomes mainstream, that is), other social media platforms can still be useful for optimizing your site. Tracking your “likes” allows you to better understand what type of material your audience likes. This allows you to better cater your site to their needs and wants, and interact with your potential customers. If you develop trust and relationships, chances are your site’s conversion rates will go up, as will your CTRs. This is why tracking is necessary; being able to understand how much of your success is coming from social media is essential. Google also likes to see that you are interacting on a daily basis on all social media platforms.
Speaking of social media: Are there more metrics you find helpful when analyzing your own site? Just think this post was interesting? Have any questions? Post them on our Facebook page or Tweet us @EverSparkSEO!