Using Your Website Statistics to Prioritize Your SEO Efforts

The process of determining how to drive targeted search traffic to your website involves understanding your market and optimizing your site to reach out and corral potential customers.  For brand new websites that are starting fresh , the slate is clean.  With no links pointing to a new site and no history of showing up in the search engines, there is no data available to steer your optimization efforts.  However, for sites that have at least a limited presence on the web, webmasters can see a significant improvement in search engine traffic by evaluating their existing standings.  The best starting point is your website stats.

Eight Years Ago
Eight years ago my brother and I started our first internet business, a website selling camping equipment – OuterSports.com.  We used a simplified shopping cart system for newbies.  After a few months of building links to our new site, we started getting orders.  The shopping cart system had a valuable statistics module that allowed us to see the search terms people were using to get to our site.  The stats program also associated the referring search engines with the search terms that were being used to send people to our site.

While browsing through these statistics, I noticed that there were certain search terms that we were apparently showing up fairly highly for in Google search results.  At that point I didn’t fully understand the importance of using our marketing keywords (we really didn’t even sort out what our niche keyword terms would be until later) in the anchor text of the links we were getting, it was obvious that Google’s algorithm had a natural preferences for some of our product pages over others.  One such keyword term was “polypropylene underwear”.  Just prior to adding that product to our site, we didn’t even know what the stuff was.  Our supplier listed polypropylene underwear in their catalog, so we added it to our site.

I did a Google search to find out exactly where we were in the search results for the term “polypropylene underwear”.  We were on the second page – #12.  After reading some more detailed explanations of how Google’s search algorithm worked, I thought to myself, “Well, if we’re #12 for ‘polypropylene underwear’ without even intentionally optimizing our website (internal and external links), it shouldn’t take too much to get into one of the top positions for that term.”  I created some links to our polypropylene underwear category page from a few of our other product category pages and from some product pages, and I made sure to use the term “polypropylene underwear” in the link anchor text.  Surely enough, within a couple weeks, we had climbed up into the top five for that term.  Shortly afterwards I turned the site’s maintenance over to my brother so I could work on a different site, but he continued to use the same strategies, securing more external links as well, to achieve the top spot in Google for that particular term.

The Moral of the Story
This article is not so much about how to gain a top spot in Google for people searching for underwear as it is about building upon the momentum Google has already given your site.  One thing I’ve found with regard to my ecommerce websites’ interaction with Google’s search algorithm is that some pages have a natural tendency to move toward a position near the top of Google’s rankings, but just out of reach of the majority of the market, who normally exhaust their clicks on the first five search results.  By examining your stats, you can easily find what search terms Google thinks your website naturally solicits for high placement, and you can oftentimes quickly increase the amount of targeted traffic your site gets by focusing some attention on those intrinsic strengths.  A thorough review of the search terms for which your are receiving relatively moderate traffic will show you some diamonds in the rough.  Many of those also-ran search terms can be turned into medalists with much less effort than search terms for which your site currently ranks outside of the top 100.

Show Me the Stats
If I’ve convinced you of the efficacy of this strategy, you may be wondering where to get access to the magic information.  Most website hosts give their account holders some form of access to web statistics.  Web servers log visitor activity in a standard format that can be parsed and presented logically by a number of website statistics programs (some free, some not).  Google has made a lot of webmaster tasks easier by offering Analytics.  To use Google Analytics, you simply insert code script into your site’s code (typically it goes into a sitewide header or footer file so that it exists on each page of your site).  With the script in place on your site, you can use the Analytics control panel to find the information I’ve been discussing.

Initially, I’d recommend beginning your campaign to move also-ran search terms to the top of the search engines by finding one or two search terms and focusing your efforts on them for a couple weeks.  Once you’ve achieved the results you want, you can move on to other similar terms.

If you consistently use this method for creating synergy between your website and Google’s search algorithm, you should find it a good way to provide good quick incremental gains for your online business.

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