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The Most Important SEO Metrics for Backlink Analysis

Informed business owners understand the importance of SEO to generate awareness for their business, products and services and to drive targeted traffic to their websites. In order to be successful with SEO, it is important to constantly evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns in relation to your competitors.

When evaluating the success of your website, here are the top 11 most important SEO metrics you should get into the habit of using to track the results of your SEO or online marketing campaign.

Backlinks and Root Domains

Backlinks from established websites in your industry are widely recognized as one of the most important factors in attaining a high search engine ranking. This was confirmed in a search engine rankings study commissioned by Backlinko’s Brian Deane. The study found that the number of domains linking to a page correlated with rankings more than any other ranking factor.

The study also found that increasing the number of links to your site may improve rankings for other pages of the site. Essentially, the more quality backlinks you have, the higher your search ranking will become.

A webpage with high quality content and links from established sites such as Forbes, Buzzfeed and Huffington Post is clearly an important and authoritative site, and Google will reward such sites with high visibility in its search results. On the flip side, a webpage with thousands of backlinks from low quality sites is clearly not important. In fact, sites with hundreds or thousands of low quality backlinks is often a good indicator that the site is trying to manufacture its importance and manipulate the search results.

This means that a major part of your SEO strategy should be dedicated to acquiring editorial backlinks from relevant and established websites in your niche, as well as other credible sources such as news outlets. If you are unable to attract organic backlinks, this is going to significantly affect your organic search rankings, as the conclusion will be your content is not worthy of being linked to from authoritative sites. The actual number of backlinks you need for your site to rank high will depend on what is normal for your industry.

You can track results of your link building campaign using a variety of tools such Ahrefs, SEMrush, Majestic and Open Explorer. It is very important to focus on the quality of links you’re getting and not just the quantity as the quality of your links will affect your ability to rank highly in the search results. Note that to qualify as a quality link from an authoritative domain, it has to come from a high ranking web page on the site.  If the webpage the link is coming from has never been indexed, it does not count as a quality link, even if the page is on an authoritative domain.

Follow the steps below to track the quantity and quality of your links using the Ahrefs backlink tracker:

  1. Input your domain name into the search bar.
  2. On the main results page, you are presented with 2 graphs that represent the quantity of backlinks and linking root domains over time. Both should be trending upwards, particularly the graph that represents the linking root domains.
  3. Use the navigation at the top to select “Inbound Links > New”. This should bring up the new links to your domain in the selected time period. Note that you’ll be able to click on the link to find out more about the site that linked to you.

Keyword Rankings

Keyword rankings can be used to evaluate or measure the authority of your domain in relation to specific terms in your industry that you’re trying to rank for.

Your organic search ranking for your target keyword is critically important to your visibility. A Google CTR research study conducted in June 2014 by AdvancedWebRanking.com shows that the webpage that ranks at position #1 on page 1 in the search engine results page (SERP) gets around 31% of all clicks on that page. The page ranked in position #2 gets 14%, while the webpage in #3 gets 10% of all clicks to that page. The web pages in positions 6-10 get around 3.7% of all clicks. This demonstrates the importance of a high search ranking, because just one or two places can mean huge differences in search traffic.

If you are a local business, you can track geo-targeted keywords rankings at the local and national levels. Otherwise, the majority of your organic search traffic is likely to come from long tail keyword searches. However, you should be tracking the most relevant keywords with high search volume. If you find that your site is ranking for shorter keywords, it means you’re becoming more trusted by the search engines.

How to Track keywords

You can check how you are currently performing in local search by using the GeoRanker tool. Another tool you can use to effectively track your keyword ranking is Serpfox. Most ranking tools work in pretty much the same way and you can apply the same process to each tool to get the information you’re looking for. Follow the steps below to track your local ranking for your target keywords:

  1. Click on Add URL
  2. Click on Add Keywords.
  3. Select the search engine you want to use to track your keywords. Add your target keywords, one per line. Select the country you want to track your keywords in.

The Serpfox tool will automatically track your position for the keywords you’ve listed. There is a graph that allows you to track changes over time.

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is a user experience (UX) signal, and it has a strong influence on search engine rankings today. The amount of time your visitors tend to spend on your site is seen as a measure of user engagement, and Google uses this metric to determine whether a site is a good match for a particular keyword. The fact of the matter is, when users click through to your site and stick around, it sends a strong signal to Google that your site makes searchers happy. The opposite is also true. If people are hitting the back button as soon as they get to your page, it means your page is not satisfying the users that are finding your site through an organic search.

Consider the following scenario: let’s assume that your website consistently ranks on the first page of Google for a particular search term and attracts clicks. However, when the visitors get to your webpage, they hit the back button and go back to Google to conduct another search. This means they have had an unsatisfactory experience and your website does not adequately address what they are looking for. Consequently, your webpage does not deserve the high search ranking it has for that term.

If visitors are bouncing right back to Google as soon as they get to your page, this is going to affect your ranking for the term they used to find your site organically. In fact, knowing Google, your ranking for that particular search term will drop like a stone.

Bounce rate gives you a strong indication whether you’re attracting the right audience to your site. The bounce rate for the entire site is calculated from the number of entrances to the site for each page. So, if 100 people visit your landing page and 70 of those users click through to another page, the bounce rate is 30%. This suggests that those visitors may have found your site irrelevant to what they are looking for.

A high bounce rate is a serious problem because it demonstrates that the keywords your site or page is optimized for is attracting the wrong traffic, or is a sign that your content is not targeted to the visitors’ wants and needs.

Difference between Bounce Rate and Exit Rate

To completely understand bounce rate, it is important to understand the difference between bounce rate and exit rate. Bounce rate applies to the landing page, which is the page a user lands on when they arrive at a website. On the other hand, exit rate applies to the page a visitor exits the site on. Exit rate allows you to identify the point where users are exiting from your site so you know where to begin your optimization efforts.

What is a Good Bounce Rate?

Bounce rate is not necessarily a bad thing. For example, blogs in general have a high bounce rate because most people arriving on the page only intended to read the blog post they landed on, and exit the site from that page as soon as they finish reading it. This is why blogs in general tend to have a bounce rate of over 90%, and this is normal for the industry. Furthermore, if a user arrives at your site and clicks a link on the page that takes them to a completely different site, this doesn’t mean the user does not like your content or website. This is why Google doesn’t look at bounce rate in isolation. It also looks at other metrics such as time on site (discussed below).

On the flip side, e-commerce pages tend to have a low bounce rate because visitors tend to want to check out other products and explore the site further. If you have an e-commerce website and have a high bounce rate, then it means your site is ranking for irrelevant keywords. All in all, if your bounce rate is high and your time on page is very low, you can safely conclude that you are ranking for irrelevant keywords, and your landing page is not resonating with your visitors.

Google Analytics Benchmark Averages for Bounce Rate

  • 40-60% Content websites
  • 30-50% Lead generation sites
  • 70-98% Blogs
  • 20-40% Retail sites
  • 10-30% Service sites

Average Time on Site

Google monitors how long people tend to remain on webpages. Average Time on Site is a user engagement metric that Google uses to evaluate the appeal of your site. It is a critically important metric because it can be used to qualify your bounce rate if it is very high. For example, if you have a high Google search ranking and have a high bounce rate, this could have a significant impact on your organic search ranking, because the user experience is very important to Google, and the implication of a high bounce rate is that visitors are not finding the answers they’re looking for when they get to your site.

If Google is sending traffic to your page and enough people are hitting the back button as soon as they get to your page, you will gradually begin to lose your search ranking for the keywords you are currently ranking for. This is why Google does not look at bounce rate in isolation, but looks at the average time on site of your visitors. Google understands that the vast majority of people that arrive on blog pages only intend to read the blog post they landed on, and exit the site from that page as soon as they finish reading it. Consequently, Google will take average time on site into consideration when measuring user engagement with your page.

Other metrics that Google considers when analyzing user engagement include:

  • How long are your visitors spending on your site?
  • How many pages, on average, are your visitors reading?
  • Do visitors return after one visit or do they never return?
  • Is your content being shared by your visitors on social media?

Taking all of this into consideration, it is crucial for you to not only target the right audience, but to also encourage them to stay longer and engage with your content by taking more action within your site. When analysing this metric, if you find that you have very low figures, you’ll need to find out how much time your visitors are spending on each page on your site to identify your worst performing content so that you know exactly what is to be worked on.

Domain Authority

Domain Authority (DA) is a link authority metric developed by Moz. It refers to the authority a particular domain has in comparison to other websites on the internet.

According to Moz:

Domain Authority is Moz’s calculated metric for how well a given domain is likely to rank in Google’s search results. It is based on data from the Mozscape web index and includes link counts, MozRank and MozTrust scores, and dozens of other factors.

DA is scored out of 100, and is comparable to the Domain Rank developed by the Ahrefs team. As the name suggests, DA evaluates the credibility and authority of an entire domain by analysing the quantity and quality of its backlinks. It is a measure of how likely the site is to rank higher in the search results compared to competitor sites. Like PageRank, DA is calculated on a logarithmic scale, which means it is easier to grow your Domain Authority score from 20 to 30 than it would be to grow from 70 to 80.

All things being equal, a website with a DA of 30 and above starts showing some authority in search engines. However, this would also depend on your competition. As a local business, remember that you’re not competing with other businesses worldwide. Rather, you’re only competing with other local businesses in your niche. So if other local businesses in your industry typically have DA of 20, then you only need to increase your DA enough to around 25 to start rising above them in search.

In any case, the better the quality and quantity of the site’s backlinks and linking domains, the higher the score, and the better the chances of the site ranking high on the Google search results page. DA is similar to Google’s PageRank, however DA applies to the authority of the overall website. The most effective way to increase your DA is to improve the quantity as well as the quality of your backlinks.

Page Authority

Page Authority (PA) is also a link authority metric developed by Moz, the difference being that it refers to the authority,  quality and quantity of links to webpages within the domain rather than the overall domain. Just like DA, it evaluates the ability of a specific web page to attain a high organic search ranking on the major search engines. The higher your PA, the greater your chances of being able to rank high. A webpage with a PA of 25 starts showing some good authority in the search engines.

According to Moz:

PA is based off data from the Mozscape web index and includes link counts, MozRank, MozTrust, and dozens of other factors.

PA also looks at the quantity and quality of linking domains, as well as the relevance of information and internal links within the site to one another. As with DA, higher PA means greater chances of that webpage ranking high on search engines. As suggested by Moz, it is best to use PA in conjunction with DA as comparative metrics when researching the search results to determine which sites and webpages to generate backlinks from.

One of the major factors that can help increase PA for a particular webpage is the internal linking structure of the website. Strategically linking pages with the same topic will help build authority for specific pages, as long as those pages have been optimized for a specific set of keywords.

Trust Flow

Trust Flow (TF) is a link authority metric developed by Majestic that is used to evaluate the trustworthiness, authority and credibility of websites and directories that are linking to a particular site. This metric is scored out of 100, and sites with high Trust Flow means that the site has a lot of highly trusted sites linking to it, and as such, is likely to rank high in the search results.

The fact of the matter is, Domain Authority can be manipulated to get a high ranking, and you cannot rely on DA alone when evaluating the trustworthiness and credibility of a website. For example, consider the domain in the screenshot below. As you can see, it has a DA of 89 and a Spam Score of 0.

domain authority screenshot

 

However checking out the TF of the domain shows that the DA has been faked, and getting a link from this site will do nothing for your organic search ranking.

Majestic metrics

Using a combination of Trust Flow and Citation Flow (discussed below), you can get an overall ratio that will help you determine whether a particular website is worth pursuing for a link or not.

Citation Flow

Citation Flow mainly looks at the quantity of links to a website. It does not look at the quality of those links. A site with high Citation Flow and low Trust Flow indicates that the site has been building a lot of spammy links and is unlikely to rank high in the search results. On the flip side, if the site has a high amount of Trust Flow and low Citation Flow, it means that the site’s link profile is based on links from very trustworthy sources.

Consider the following example:

  1. Site A has Trust Flow of 54 and Citation Flow of 43. Trust Ratio = Trust Flow/Citation Flow = 1.25. With a trust ratio of 1.25, this means that the links from this site are from very trustworthy sources, and sites who get links from this site are likely to rank high in the search results.
  2. Site B has Trust Flow of 7 and Citation Flow of 43. Trust Ratio = 0.16. The Trust Ratio here is well below one, which indicates that the site has obtained its search ranking using spammy techniques. This means that the chances of this site ranking high in the search results are very low.

It is important to note that in the vast majority of cases, the Trust Flow will always be lower than Citation Flow, and the sites are perfectly trustworthy. All you need is a bit of common sense in your analysis. If the Trust Flow is very low and the difference between the Trust Flow and Citation Flow is very wide, chances are that the site is a poor quality site.

Using this metric as a gauge when evaluating the linkworthiness of a particular website can help to ensure that the links you are building to your site are not spammy links, as such sites will never rank on Google.

Conversion Tracking

The ultimate objective of most websites is to generate conversions. A conversion simply refers to whatever action that you want your visitors to take when they get to your website. It is the reason why the site was setup in the first place. A conversion could be anything, depending on the aim of the website is. Every site is going to have different conversion goals, which would require a specific online marketing campaign. The site could may be designed to sell products or services, generate leads by completing a lead generation form or to increase brand awareness. Tracking conversions is the most effective way to evaluate the success of a website. If the site is not generating conversions, or is generating conversions at a cost that is too high, then the site is not unsuccessful.

Ahrefs Ratings

URL Rating and Domain Rank are metrics developed by Ahrefs to evaluate the quality of your links. The URL Rating will analyse the quantity and quality of links pointing to a particular webpage and how likely the URL is to rank in Google. This is similar to Moz’s PA, which also predicts how well a specific page will rank on search engines. Domain Rank rates quantity and quality of links to the overall domain.

This metric shows the strength and quality of the overall backlink profile of a given website. These metrics are scored out of 100, and the higher the rank, the better the quality of the domain’s backlinks. You should track these metrics over time, as they will show whether you’re acquiring quality links.

Ahrefs Rank orders all of the websites in the world by the size and quality of their backlink profile. Essentially, it shows you how good a particular website’s profile is compared to other sites. So, the lower the Ahrefs Rank, the better your chances of attaining a high organic search ranking on the search engines.

Targeted Traffic

Traffic is the lifeblood of any website, and your ability to successfully harness the Google search engine traffic would surely provide your business with a strong and successful online presence. Organic search is all about driving targeted traffic to your website, and most business owners with successful websites consider SEO as the best digital marketing investment they have ever made. This is because search engines still make up the greatest percentage of visitor traffic for most websites.

Google analytics is the best tool to use to evaluate the effectiveness of your digital marketing efforts. Google analytics provides the ability to distinguish high-performing sources of traffic from poor-performing ones. The tool will also show you the source of targeted traffic to your site. In addition to helping you separate your high quality traffic from poor performing traffic, Google Analytics will also help you identify which marketing efforts are effective for what types of sources.

The source of traffic is the website or search engine that leads users to your site. For example, if a user clicks through from a blog on the web to your site, that blog’s webpage becomes the source. If a visitor clicked through from Google search engine results page, then the Google search engine becomes the source of traffic for your site.

Google analytics will also reveal which specific media were responsible for which traffic sources, including how each media affected areas such as the average time users spent on your site and the number of pages per visit for that source. Information on the detail page will also help you analyze the value of each media that drives traffic to your site. In effect, Google analytics provides some of the most fundamental information in a very simple format. It lets you know which campaigns are performing well overall for your site, and which ones need to be tweaked, optimized or discarded.

Clickthrough Rate (CTR)

CTR is another user experience (UX) signal that is known to influence search rankings for a particular keyword. There’s been a lot of debate about whether clickthrough rate is a ranking factor especially since its placement in Searchmetrics’ SEO Rank Correlations and Ranking Factors 2014. However, Google confirmed CTR as a ranking factor in a research paper in which they indicated that:

Click-through data has proven to be a critical resource for improving search ranking quality.”

Google

Essentially, the Google Panda algorithm looks at your clickthrough rate in relation to a particular search term that you’re already ranking for. When a user does a search on Google and sees your site listing (title, domain name and description) in the search results, how often do users click through to your site? If you are getting a lot of impressions for a particular search query but searchers are not actually clicking your link on the SERP, then chances are your ranking for that search term is going to suffer.

CTR is viewed as a way of evaluating the perceived trust that searchers place on the results displayed on the Google SERP. For example, let’s assume that your website consistently shows up on the first page of Google for a particular search term but searchers tend to ignore your listing in favour of another listing that is ranking below your site which has a more compelling title and description tag. Over time, that site will eventually outrank your site in the search results.

In the same vein, let’s say you’re ranking at number 8 on the Google SERP. Typically, pages that rank number 8 will get around 3% of all clicks on the search results page. If your webpage is getting 9% of all clicks, Google will take notice and you will see your webpage rise in the search rankings.

Why?

Well, Google’s mission is to satisfy its users. It aims to shows its users the best results for a given keyword. By choosing a lower ranked site over top ranking sites, it means that people view those sites as a better result for their search query, and Google will listen.

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