A potential client asked in an email – “How to assess if my content reaches its full SEO potential?”
Another person inquired recently, “How do I check if I’m getting all the traffic I could, given my content’s current rankings?”
Many other connections have raised the issue whether they could attract more visitors without increasing rankings and search visibility.
And the short answer is – yes. Or at least, most likely.
So, let me explain this further and then, suggest 3 quick strategies that will help you assess your content’s search performance.
The Problem with Search Rankings and Traffic Today
SEO is obviously one of the biggest considerations when creating content.
After all, search engines can send quite a lot of highly-relevant traffic, particularly if you’ve selected the right keywords and optimized the page for them properly.
Plus, this traffic just keeps coming. Providing that you’ve followed all SEO best practices, then, there’s no need for working on those pages anymore.
(Now, before I get called out on the above statement, let me clarify – I do understand that other factors affect page rankings. I also acknowledge that competition might overtake you anytime, reducing your search visibility. However, I deliberately simplified the process above as explaining the intricacies of rankings is not the purpose of this post.)
So, where’s the problem?
For one, acquiring higher rankings doesn’t mean that you’re going to receive greater traffic for those keywords anymore.
Our search behavior has changed. We no longer focus on the top three search results on a page but scan it, looking for listings that promise to deliver the information we’re looking for.
In other words, we seek relevancy.
Various research projects have confirmed this already. According to one eye-tracking study, for example, we now scroll SERPs (search engine results pages) more, particularly on smartphones and mobile devices.
(That’s also because other listings occupy the top of the page, pushing organic results further down.)
As a result, top rankings don’t always translate to higher search performance.
And so, let’s review three quick ideas that will help you assess if you could actually be getting more traffic from your current rankings.
Strategy #1-Check your click-through rates
Google regularly calculates the number of people who saw your search listing and those who also clicked on it.
It reports the click-through rate, the metric used to describe that difference, for pages and search queries in Google Search Console.
You can find it in Search Traffic > Search Analytics section.
(Note, the search engine offers more information than the above, and you can mix it with other data to gain an even greater picture of your content’s SEO performance.)
But how do you know if your content underperforms in search? Unfortunately, there aren’t any specific benchmarks to compare your data with. Most of the research pertains to the way we used to search before, not how we do it now.
So, use common sense. A page or search query that receives a good number of impressions and ranks high, but its click-through rate is low, clearly fails to attract and convert visitors.
Common reasons for that include:
- Poor meta title that doesn’t instill confidence in the information you promise
- Meta description that fails to describe whether this content is relevant to what a person’s looking for.
- The entire page targets a wrong keyword.
Strategy #2-Compare keyword trends
Your audience’s needs for information change. In fact, the interest for most topics fluctuates throughout the year. SEOs refer to this behavior as keyword trends. And needless to say, those trends can also affect your content’s performance (although, for the most part, there isn’t anything wrong with that.)
If you notice a particular piece of content suddenly losing traffic, in spite of nothing else changing with its rankings, assess trends for its keyword.
Head to Google Trends, type your search phrase into the search box and correlate the graph with your traffic data.
Chances are that you’ll discover similarities indicating your content following a trend. Nothing else.
However, if the two don’t match, look at other indicators for potential problems.
The aforementioned click-through rate is one example. Another, rankings per locations that send you the most traffic. Possibly, rankings in your target location remained consistent. However, they might have dropped for other countries, resulting in poorer SEO performance.
Strategy #3-Review engagement metrics
Google rewards engagement. Deliver content that provides users with the exact information they’ve been looking for or even exceeds their expectations, and you’ll naturally be in the search engine’s favor.
Fail to do so though, and your search performance will most likely suffer.
Again, plenty of research studies confirm the strict correlation between quality (which Google measures through user engagement with the content) and search visibility.
Metrics such as bounce rate, time on page or page views help assess how useful visitors find your content.
- High bounce rate might signify that they don’t find the information relevant to the search phrase they used.
- Low time on site and page views might indicate problems with content quality since it fails to keep users reading.
Where to learn more:
- Listen to my interview with Tim Soulo from Ahrefs, the leading SEO platform on his process for choosing the right keywords for content to attract highly-relevant traffic.
- Read my guide on increasing brand visibility with content.