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Having the courage to look at the numbers that matter

One of the primary recommendations most people in SEO make is to add loads of great background content to your website (FAQs, glossaries, White Papers, etc). This gets you links and traffic, which has the required knock-on effect of better search engine rankings and more real prospects. Nothing new there, of course, but if we’re to avoid some misleading analysis, we need to remember that the directly induced traffic is different.

I’ve seen many examples of websites slowly doubling their visitors by adding lots of good background content. The chart of steadily rising visitor numbers looks great in management meetings, and everyone around the table will probably nod approvingly when the slide comes up. That is until the sales director says: “If we’re getting all these extra visitors, why aren’t the enquiries rising at the same rate?”

The answer of course is that most of the additional visitors aren’t going to offer much to the sales director. Dig a little deeper into the data (as most people won’t realise you can) and you might find that the number of visitors living in the region where you sell products, and who looked at your actual product sales pages in depth, hasn’t risen nearly as much. Most of those additional visitors have come from all over the world, read an interesting article, got what they needed and left, perhaps without even noticing the company name. Many of them were just an irrelevant side-effect of a useful SEO initiative, and really shouldn’t have been included in an assessment of how well a website is doing.

But how many marketing managers are going to ignore the opportunity to present such a lovely rising graph?

In reality, the Google Analytics chart of “All Users” should come with a health warning. It should say: “Before we show you this page, we’re going to force you to filter out every visitor who lives in a country where you don’t operate, or who didn’t look at any of your product pages, or who took one look at the site and left”.

It’s really easy to do, but have you got the courage to do it?