By Jeremy Rivera
A few years ago, before coming to Raven Tools, I was a customer support representative for a company that provided web sites for real estate agents. I took calls from on everything from a site not loading to a “broken printer” that just needed to be plugged back into the socket.
Eventually, a pattern of questions emerged. First was “How do I get rankings?” Then came “How can I get more hits on my site?” Next there was “Why isn’t your site getting me leads?” And finally, “How do I cancel my account? I can’t afford this site anymore.”
What I now know after researching the metrics that matter most for SEO is that these questions directly reflected the way that these real estate agents – rightly or wrongly – measured the success of their site.
Let’s look at each of these common questions and see what they were missing and how they were looking at the wrong metrics.
“How do I get rankings?” Fixating on ranking No. 1 looks a lot like this. Source: http://iwdrm.tumblr.com/post/
The most common metric customers knew to ask for was search engine rankings. It was as if they thought a No. 1 ranking for a particular keyword would magically make their business suddenly successful beyond their wildest dreams.
This view of first place as the pot of gold often led to practices like keyword stuffing, hiding links, link schemes and more.
If they didn’t go in for black hat techniques, they were taking misinformed advice from forums, second cousins and roommates who “had a site ranked No. 1”.
Even when the sites did rank for the coveted keyword, there wasn’t any thinking about how much estimated traffic would actually go to those phrases.
Fast-forward to present times and SEOs are still frustrated by rankings. Trying to gauge your success just by looking at your site’s rankings is all but impossible as SERPs are now localized, personalized, carbonated and often should just be buried at sea like moldy leftovers.
This isn’t to say that there isn’t value in knowing how your site ranks for various terms. These days, an average of where you rank makes more sense, which is why Google and Bing’s Webmaster tools search queries and average positions are a better “ballpark” metric to benchmark increases or decreases from an SEO campaign.
“How can I get more hits on my site?”
This second metric is a little more focused, at least. These were generally more established agents who had rankings but weren’t seeing the traffic that was supposed to follow.
But of course you can’t just look at hits for a site. There are other, accompanying metrics that offer more complete information about how visitors engage with their site.
For instance, it would have been great to know that visitors who landed on a listing page were more likely to be return visitors or that people spent more time on a listing when there was an embeded video tour.
Focusing on the bigger picture by viewing together metrics like bounce rate, time on site and number of pages visited can provide a fuller view of visitor behaviors.
“Why isn’t your site getting me leads?” So you’ve got plenty of traffic, but where are the leads? Source: http://iwdrm.tumblr.com/
Now this is a pretty good metric – of course we all want leads.
But the truth is that many of these sites were altars to vanity, with more photos of the agents than the homes for sale.
They had huge slideshows that took forever to load but didn’t give you contact information or the price of the home.
These sites didn’t have content that encouraged people to view homes, sign up for property evaluations, or go to open houses.
The lesson here is that you can’t ignore the experience of the customer once you manage to get them to the site.
Conversions are a result of good engagement on your site, so don’t forget to build your site with that in mind.
“How do I cancel my account? I can’t afford this site anymore.” This is the attitude most of the clients had by the time they made this call.
The reality of search engine optimization – or any marketing, for that matter – is that it won’t fix a fundamentally broken business or pave over bad business practices.
Since I also fixed their broken inboxes, I can tell you that most of these Realtors weren’t responding even after days of receiving an inquiry from their site.
When I called these kinds of Realtors (and remember, they called us first) the most likely result was leaving a message with a secretary and getting a call back about half the time one to two days later.
Even if you do see huge success in SEO, it can still hurt your business if you’re not prepared to follow through.
Keep in mind just how easy it is for your visitor to find a competitor who is going to be quicker on the draw.
That’s why one of the most often overlooked metrics is spend per closed lead. How much can I spend on SEO and online marketing per closed lead that adds revenue to my business?
Connecting your business goals to your marketing strategy can make or break your success.
What are the best – or worst – questions you’ve asked to determine your SEO metrics? Let me know in the comments.
Jeremy Rivera is the Manager of Product Marketing for Raven Tools. When he’s not managing Raven’s SEO efforts, he referees for women’s roller derby and organizes the Ingress Resistance movement in Nashville.