There are numerous ways to measure SEO content performance. Google itself uses dozens of ranking signals to determine the importance and popularity of a site. In your quest to determine just how to best optimize a site for your users, you might be making a few key errors in your analysis.
Looking over common data, it is plain to see that user behavior and user experience are what matter most to both users and SEO professionals. How does content come into play here? Content can effectively draw in an audience or cause them to be forever lost as a patron. It is the crux of online success. Traditionally, user experience is determined with a line graph, depicting which types of content users respond to the most.
That is how Google measured content success, so naturally SEOs all followed suit. The graphing system works when all website’s visitors are on a laptop or desktop. In the age where most have Smartphones, it left experts questioning whether a graph really was the best way to accurately gauge content effectiveness.
With measures like RankBrain moving up the ladder of importance, it is important for domain managers to take note. Patterns of user behavior will become more and more important in the coming years. Google is using artificial intelligence in an attempt to accurately gauge user behavior.
At present neither Google’s RankBrain nor SEO professionals can read people’s minds. There is no 100% accurate gauge of user interest; however, there are certain signals that have proved to be a fairly accurate barometer.
• Time on site. Just as it implies, this measures how long a user is on a given site or page.
• Bounce rate. This determines how many users click on a link and immediately back right back to the SERPs.
• Pages seen per user visit.
All these indicators can be indicative of good content, but there are also times when these signals can be misleading. Don’t be fooled by these common misunderstandings about content performance.
Time On Site
When users click on a link, they will inevitably be on the site for some period of time, whether it be one second or ten minutes. It is commonly misconstrued that having a high average time on site length is always a good indicator of content performance. It can be, but take this example.
How many times have you go on a website to check out an article that was sent to you? You click on the link. You just begin to read it when your child starts crying from the other room or your boss suddenly walks past your cubicle and you have to make a quick dash to another tab. Technically you are still on the page, but you are not engaging with the content. The content is merely present on the screen.
For mobile device users, which nearly everyone is, time on the screen is not a good indicator of interaction. The screens are smaller. It might be harder to stay on a screen when you have to constantly scroll down on the phone. It could just be that mobile users get in and get out faster.
Time on site is not always the best indicator of that behavior.
Bounce rate is another indicator that is often inaccurate, but treated as the end-all be-all of the SEO content analysis world. Bounce rate is calculated by how quickly a user returns to the SERPs after clicking on a link.
If the click back occurs immediately that the bounce rate is high. Many SEOs believe that a bounce rate should be low overall. Implying that your users enjoy your site’s content.
A high bounce rate could actually be a good thing. If your website and content are efficiently organized on the page, then a user might not need much time to enjoy the content. Your content might be so good that users form an opinion about it fast.
Think about it. A person is looking for a quick answer about a frequently asked question. A link appears in Google. The user clicks on the link. Suddenly, the exact information they are looking for is clearly represented on the page. The bounce rate would be high, but it does not give a clear picture as to the quality of the content.
Pages Seen Per User Visit
People often assume that when a user is on a website with ample content, the user will then check out other articles if they liked the first one. Sometimes, this is true. Buzzfeed for instance has users surfing to find articles they find amusing.
Assuming that this happens all the time can be bad for business. As someone who gauges content performance, you should not concern yourself with how many pages a user visits during one sitting. Not all effective content will keep users engage enough to visit other pages.
How to Manage SEO Content Performance without Falling Into Traps
1. Tag, tag, tag.
Tagging your content keeps everything in nice categories. Tagging your content into categories will help you track traffic, button clicks, image pinning, and any other user behavior. It will make it easier to measure content performance.
2. Combine and compare all the things!
The more data you put together, the better picture you will have of user behavior. Take a page that performs well. Look at two or more signals and compare them against a low performing page. Comparing these two pages between each other and amongst similar pages in your niche should be helpful in determining what made a page successful.
3. Be a keen observer.
Combining and comparing data that you have collected from your pages is not enough. You must not look at this information in a metaphorical silo – meaning that you must take outside factors into consideration. It could be that a page’s success came from a weird mention in a post going viral on Facebook. It could be that people found your page after accidentally mistaking one celebrity for another. Take these factors and others into careful consideration before applying anything similar to other pages.
Focus Should Be On the Content
The content should focus on user experience. Whenever you make changes to your content, be careful to make the right decisions. You could alienate your core audience by trying to appeal to those who found your page from a short-lived viral post.
Still, change is not always a death sentence to a site. Countless Facebook updates over the years have angered users, yet their popularity is still intact.
The lesson: put an emphasis on content. Treat with caution and skepticism for any changes or analysis to content performance.