At this point, most of you are probably familiar with the concept of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is the process of adjusting your website's code, site structure, on-site content and off-page factors to make it easier for search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing to find, read, index and rank your site. But before you edit a single line of code, change a page heading or ask a relevant website to link back to yours, make sure you have proper website tracking in place and gather some baseline data. Data plus gut intuition beats gut intuition every time.
What type of data do you need to collect? It depends on your goals, but at a minimum you should gather baselines for the following key metrics:
- Visits from non-branded organic search
- Web leads from non-branded organic search
- Phone leads from organic search
- Your website's visit-to-lead conversion rate
- Top landing pages
These are the metrics your SEO work is going to improve. Rankings don't matter nearly as much as many SEO consultants would have you believe. Google and the other search engines began personalizing their search results over a year ago. The organic search results you see for any keyword query are specific to you - based on your IP address, previous search history, what your friends on Facebook have shared and liked and a variety of other factors. This is why you can't just make some SEO changes to your site and rely on the visual improvement in your organic search rankings.
Rankings do not directly result in listings or sales - remember that.
A far more important metric than improved organic rankings is increasing the number of non-branded organic visitors to your website. The term "non-branded" refers to people searching for the service you provide without using your name (or your company name). In my case, it would be someone searching for Maryland SEO Companies vs. Blue Corona or Ben Landers. In your case, it might be Top Rockville Realtors vs. Coakley Realty. Make sense? If you identify your website's visit-to-lead conversion rate and it's 1%, you know that you're going to get one lead for every 100 visits you drive to your site. Get more visits to your site and, assuming they're as qualified as your normal site visitor, you'll get more leads (and eventually sales!).
Tracking your website is pretty easy. The primary tool you need is Google Analytics. Of course, like any tool, Google Analytics is only as powerful as the person using it. In order for it to be of any value, you've got to make some customizations. Start by putting some basic filters in place and set up goal tracking. Filters insure that you and the rest of your office are removed from your tracking data. This may not seem like a big deal, but internal visits can really throw off your conversion rate data - especially if you have a (relatively) low traffic website. Goal tracking is important because it allows you to differentiate visitors that contact you vs. someone that visits your website and leaves without doing anything. You don't have to be technical to set up Google Analytics correctly, but you can always Google, "Google Analytics set-up help" if you need a friendly hand to assist you.
Remember - before you invest in SEO, take the time to get an accurate baseline of the aforementioned metrics. Rankings and keywords don' matter as much as some purported SEO experts would have you believe. The key to success is getting more (qualified) visits to your website and converting more visitors into contacts (leads via email or phone).