One of the most challenging questions in SEO (search engine optimization) is, “Where do we start?”. When you have hundreds or even thousands of pages, many of which are valuable, how do you start chipping away at the problem?
This question is answered by two other questions:
- Is traffic acquisition the bigger problem?
- Is traffic conversion the bigger problem?
I answer these two questions with two metrics: average time on page, and organic searches per page, both of which come out of Google Analytics.
Why Time on Page and Searches?
Traffic is the lifeblood of SEO: no traffic, no conversions. You can’t convert people who aren’t there. When I do a simple regression analysis of what variables correlate most with traffic for my website, it’s searches and time on page:
Run this assessment on your own site to ensure that the same metrics apply to you and your content; if other metrics apply, adapt the rest of this technique to the metrics you know work for your site.
Prioritizing Pages for SEO
Let’s plot on a simple scatterplot the two metrics, average time on page and searches:
This is a little tough to see, so let’s transform both axes from linear to logarithmic, to spread things out:
Now we’re talking.
Pages that have long time on page mean that we’ve got content that holds the audience’s interest. That’s a good thing. If pages have long engagement times, chances are the audience is finding value in them, and that in turn should increase their propensity to convert – you don’t hang out on content you hate.
Pages that have lots of organic searches mean that we’ve got content that attracts search traffic. That’s also a good thing. If pages have lots of organic searches, that means we’re acquiring new traffic for our site.
What we would do from here is turn this into a classical consulting 2×2 matrix:
By dividing our plot up into four quadrants, we can isolate pages based on their deficiencies.
Pages that get lots of searches but low time on page mean we need to optimize them for conversion by making the content more compelling.
Pages that get lots of time on page but low searches mean we need to optimize them for acquisition by making the content more appealing to search engines and building inbound links to those pages.
If we sort all our pages and assign them to each of these quadrants, we now have two priority lists – a priority list for our content team to fix up, and a priority list for our on-page optimization team to fix up:
These might be the same person or two separate teams in your company, but either way, you’ve got the data you need to help people start making changes and improving your SEO right away.
The most important thing we can do with SEO data is to take action on it; this method of prioritizing pages for organic search optimization helps us break down a list of “fix these pages” into a more focused set of tasks: make a page more interesting to humans, and make a page more appealing to machines.
As search algorithms continue to evolve, the gap between those two tasks will further diminish, but for now, this is a great, simple way to prioritize what content needs optimization, and what kind of content optimization is needed.
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