An SEO metric is the processed data you get from your web analytics tool (the most popular one being Google Analytics) which is meant to help you quantify your website’s performance and by extension, the success of your SEO efforts. There’re several types of metrics: acquisition metrics, behaviour metrics, and – at the heart of Web Analytics – Visitor/audience metrics.
Your visitor metrics are very influential to the way you conduct your SEO. They help you track the amount of traffic coming to your website, their behaviour once they log on and can help you estimate how interested your visitors are in your content. With this information, you can make deliberate adjustments to your website to improve its performance.
The seven most important visitor metrics you need to concentrate on are: Sessions, Users, Pageviews, Pages/Session, Average Session Duration, % New Sessions and Bounce Rate. In this post we shall be looking at these visitor metrics as well as their effect on your SEO.
A Session, sometimes called “visit”, is an aggregate of all the interactions recorded for a user over a given amount of time – 30 minutes being Google analytics default time frame. This means that whatever a user does during their stay on your site (e.g. download resources, browse pages or make purchases) will all be categorised as one session. In other words, a session is a container with all the actions a user performs while on your website within a specified amount of time.
A single user can clock multiple sessions. They can occur within the same day, weeks or even months. An opportunity to initiate a new session arises every time one session ends. Sessions end in two ways:
- Time-based expiration i.e. after a 30-minute period of inactivity (by default) and at midnight.
- When a user changes campaign i.e. they arrive through one campaign, leave, and then come back through another campaign.
With this metric, you can – with some accuracy – determine whether people are really interacting with your site. This information will help you to adjust your site’s layout to make it more effective at moving people along the conversion path.
This metric shows you all your site’s visitors who have logged at least a single session during a specified duration of time. The metric gives you the total number of users who visited your website – whether or not they logged on multiple times – and will include both new users and those that are returning.
However, a returning user can be classified as a new user if they use a different device or browser to log onto the site, or if they clear their cookies before visiting the site again.
Logic would have it that the more users you have the better, right? Well, that depends on how you’re acquiring your users. If you have many users coming from paid sources (e.g. PPC) and none of the new users become frequent users, then your many users are of no benefit to your website.
If, on the other hand, you get your traffic organically (through organic search or links) and your few new users convert to regular users, then the traffic you are attracting is actually benefiting your website.
According to Google, a pageview is “a view of an analytics tracked web page on your website by a visitor”. Often, however, people will browse more than a single page when they visit a website. As such, views on multiple pages are expressed as the total number of pages viewed.
Simply put, a pageview is the number of times a user visits any page on your website. If you have several pages on your website, you generally want this number bigger than that of sessions. Your page view count increases when a user:
- lands on a page on your site
- Reloads a page they are on
- Goes back to a previously viewed page.
Many page views could be indicative of your site having high-quality content that is of value to your visitors. It could also mean that your visitors cannot find what they are looking for and need to open numerous pages while looking for it or your pages are not rendering correctly meaning they are necessitated to reload pages – which also counts as a new page view.
This visitor metric measures the number of pages a user visits during a single session. The metric helps you determine how engaged your users really are.
The pages/session metric will help you determine how smoothly the visitor can move through the pages in your website. The further your pages/session figure is from one, the more likely your site’s visitors are moving along the conversion path. Ideally, the number of pages your users visit per session should be as close to the number of pages a user needs to visit before a conversion is possible.
Average session duration
This is a measurement of the average time a session lasts expressed in minutes and seconds. The more your site is relevant to the user, the longer your site’s average session will be as visitors will stay on longer to get the information they require.
If the average session duration is high while your pages/session metric is low, it could be the result of having too much information on a single page, which causes visitors to spend more time there, or information that is not easily understood, causing people to dwell longer.
New Sessions (%)
From this metric, you get to see the ratio of first-time visitors to returning visitors. The % New Sessions metric not only helps you find out the amount of new traffic coming into your site, but also your effectiveness in getting users to come back.
The new visitor’s percentage often indicates how well your marketing and advertising are at drawing new visitors to your website. If this figure is weirdly high, it might be because you’ve just started tracking your metrics, or your website is new, which makes all users fall under the classification of “new”.
The percentage of users who leave your website after only visiting a single page is captured in a metric called the “bounce rate”. Visitors who “bounce” leave – either back to the SERP or the referring website – without exploring other pages other than the one they landed on.
This could either mean that the content on the landing page was so comprehensive that the visitor did not need to browse further in search of what they wanted (a common case with blogs, events and news sites), or that what they found on the landing page does not relate to their needs.
So how often should you check/analyse your visitor metrics?
If you’re just getting started, a good strategy would be to check your visitor metrics once a week as you familiarise yourself with the workings of web analytics. Otherwise checking your analytics at least twice per month should be adequate to keep your SEO in tip-top shape.
Periodically, however, Google does like to spruce things up with algorithm updates. These updates often change some aspects of web analytics which makes it prudent to check your metrics any time an update is released.
Understanding and keeping on top of your metrics, not just your visitor metrics, is the most important part of ensuring your SEO is as effective as it could be.