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SEO in 2009: Part Two: Focusing on Metrics that Matter
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
In part one of our series on SEO in 2009, we served up our opinion as to where we see SEO going in 2009. You'll hear many suggest that SEO is dead and that rankings are dead. Well the name SEO may be dying, but really for me SEO (Search Engine Optimization) was a temporary label anyways. When I started in the Search Industry I saw myself as more of an online or digital marketer. This label SEO was new to me and as I quickly found out, would only be a part of my job. You see, my background is in marketing and more importantly in customer relations.

Some have suggested that I may be one of the "best" SEOs in Canada and on the planet. To them I would say no I'm not. I am an online marketer helping my clients with their online strategies. SEO is just a part of what I do. So I get a kick of all of these articles that suggest that SEOs need to become marketers in 2009, or SEOs need to stop focusing on tactics and look at the strategy. This is not new to me for I have been living that for the past five years that I have been involved in online marketing and SEO. Which brings me to the point of this piece. Over the past couple of years we have seen a shift in the metrics that have become important to site owners. Previously it was rankings and page views then it was organic traffic vs sponsored traffic. Well in 2009 the metrics that matter (just as they matter right now) are engagement metrics such as bounce rate, time spent and the like. In addition ROI and your return is a metric that is always in fashion.

SEO in 2009: Refocusing on Metrics that Matter

With the tough economic times throughout the planet, online marketers and SEOs will need to prove their value even more n 2009. The way to do this is not through ranking reports but it should be mentioned that organic rankings do provide some valuable insight on how a website is progressing on a keyword level. However in 2009 we are going to see more personalization and blended search results in the major search engines that began surfacing in the late spring of 2007.

Five SEO Related Search Engine Metrics that Will Continue to Matter in 2009
  1. Non-Branded Search Engine (Organic) Referrals - for SEO, monitoring the traffic that comes in as a result of clicking on a natural (organic) listing from a search engine results page will continue to be a key factor to measure your online success in 2009. Add the non-branded element and you will be able to determine if you are doing an effective job at intercepting your online audience and addressing their need for information.

  2. Bounce Rate - yup, Bounce Rate will still be a sexy metric in 2009. Lowering the bounce rate of your important pages on your site should be a priority in 2009. Searchers and people in general are being bombarded with online options to click on. Once they click on your site, you had better make sure that you are giving them what they are looking for.

  3. Time Spent on Site - closely related to bounce rate is the amount of time spent on your site. This is another engagement metric that site owners should be monitoring to gain an understanding of how users are engaging with your site. It's as simple as monitoring the trends. If you notice that less time is being spent on your site now than in 2008, then perhaps that recent website redesign you just completed wasn't such a good idea. Understanding where users spend their time on your site can help you address their information needs by providing the content and data that they are searching for.

  4. Subscribers to Your Content - personalization is becoming more and more popular with the average searcher. As a result, rankings in this sense are irrelevant. However one area that you will need to monitor as personalization and blended search become more common is tracking the users that are subscribing to your content. For example, your RSS feed subscribers to your blog(s), the number of followers that you have on Twitter, the number of people subscribing to your YouTube channel. These social subscribers can provide a lot of insight into how people are engaging with your web properties and with your brand online.

  5. Site Search - how users are engaging with your site's search functionality. Besides Google, you would think that internal site search is a popular activity when users land on your site. This engagement metric provides you with additional insight into what keywords and topics people are looking for when they arrive on your site. The fact that they are using your internal site search may also be an indication that they are not finding the information that they are looking for when arriving on your site. In 2009, engagement metrics such as site search will become even more important in understanding the searching habits of your site visitors. Are they looking for demos? Perhaps they are looking for video content. Whatever the case may be, look for this metric to become more important in 2009.
While the first element of change for SEO in 2009 is refocusing on metrics that matter, one of the overdue elements of change is the understanding by companies that SEO does indeed provide value when leveraged correctly. This will be out topic of discussion in our next piece on SEO in 2009.

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posted by Jody @ Tuesday, November 25, 2008  
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Name: Jody
Home: Kelowna, BC, Canada
About Me: SEO guy by day, family man 24/7.
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