Over and over again, I hear from clients who have the wrong things on their minds when it comes to SEO metrics, terminology, and their website. This is often because digital marketing “experts” who are trying to “sell” you something will use those metrics and the jargon that comes with them to incite fear into potential customers, which often causes them to act.
The problem is that same client, researching SEO on their own, will find another metric or keyword or tactic they haven’t heard of, and will convince their agency to shift focus to something new before they fixed the problem they were working on in the first place if it was a problem at all. Let me share a few examples, what they actually mean, and what if anything you should do about them.
If your site is WordPress based, or even if it isn’t, you have probably heard about orphaned content. The thing about almost every SEO term that is thrown around on a regular basis is that they sound negative. Nobody wants orphaned content, right? That’s bad, right?
The simple answer is, not always. This is especially true if you create content that is time sensitive, and not evergreen like a quarterly report. You see, all the term orphaned content means is that there isn’t another post or page on your site that links to the “orphaned” content. But if you have a quarterly report on your blog from 2016, what is the relevance of that report now? Remember, this refers only to your internal linking structure, not an outside website that may have linked to that content at some point.
While there are ways to prevent orphaned content going forward, going back and linking to all of your old content isn’t a good SEO “solution” to a problem. While a researcher might want that data from 2016 for a project of some sort, that post being orphaned has nothing to do with your website performance now, or your bounce rates, click-through rates, or conversion rates. In fact, linking to old content from new content can actually hurt your site’s performance by making the overall user experience worse, not better.
If you really want to “fix” old orphaned content so it doesn’t show up on your dashboard, there are really three solutions for you.
- Revive it: If this is indeed relevant and evergreen, build a link from one of your current posts or a new one to that post.
- Remove it: Delete old posts that are no longer relevant or evergreen. You can also do this for redundant posts, just be sure to redirect them to a new page on the same topic.
- Redirect it: Develop an archives page for specific categories that link to orphaned content in that category. This will remove it from the orphaned list and make it possible for search engines and searchers to find it.
Keep in mind that unless you, the business owner, are taking the time to do this, you will be paying someone to do so. And your return on investment really? You won’t see orphaned content in your dashboard, which doesn’t always matter. For some websites, orphaned content is just fine to stay that way, and any internal links built to it can do as much harm as it does good.
This is one of the latest and most common “content scare” words. “Your bounce rates are too high.”
This might be true, but it also might not. First, we need to understand what bounce rate means. Quite simply, it means a single page site visit, in which the user took no action after that visit. It means the duration of their visit shows up as zero, hurting your average session duration rates too, and it means they did not click on a link that leads them to another page on your site, like a content page.
So is a high bounce rate always bad? Not unless your site specifically relies on multiple page visits for its success. This is why it largely depends on where the person lands on your site, and what action they take afterward.
For example, the bounce rate on blog posts is usually 70% or higher. The reason? The person came to read an article they saw on social media or in Google search results. They do so and move on. It’s all about the reason the person came to the website in the first place. If of that 30%, most of those click on another blog post in the related or recent posts section of your site, you’ll have to track them further to see if they actually did anything that resulted in a direct ROI.
However, a blog is not always about a direct ROI. I might visit the blog on MOZ every day for various tips, but each time I might land on the blog, read it, and then “bounce” without clicking. But when I or one of my clients needs SEO analysis tools and software, who do I use and recommend? MOZ. Their “Whiteboard Fridays” with Rand Fishkin, before he left the company, were a weekly staple for me, but on nearly every visit I bounced without going to another page on the site. I still pop in frequently for the great advice offered there.
The only thing I might do is share their page if it was especially relevant. Still, I technically contributed to their bounce rate. What if I knew a high bounce rate bothered them, so I clicked on a related article to lower it? Since I already subscribe to their emails and have an account for their services, my extra click does absolutely nothing for their bottom line. Remember these things:
The reason people come from social media and organic search is that they were looking for the answer to a question or a headline caught their attention, so they clicked on it, got the answer they were looking for, and left.
The readers of your newsletter may be looking for something more in-depth, so bounce rates might be lower. But this bounce rate can also be misleading because you have to combine data to get a real answer. (See note on referrals below).
Even other pages on your site may have high bounce rates that don’t mean anything to your bottom line. For example, if those who visit your “Contact Us” page call you by manually entering your number into their phones, it still counts as a bounce according to Google even though your ROI on that call might be huge.
A Note About Referring Sources
The example above talks about social media and your blog or maybe even your contact us page. However, there is a huge difference in bounce rates often related to where users are being referred from. The only two statistics that matter to your marketing department, the C-Suite, or you if you are a small business owner, should be three things.
- Brand Awareness and Discoverability
- Return on Investment (ROI)
The above-mentioned blog posts are often for brand awareness and establishing you and your company’s expertise in your niche. They can result in conversions, depending on where they fit in your overall sales funnel, but that is not their primary purpose.
Your contact page is about people contacting you, so if you have a high bounce rate when people land on it, but you get a lot of phone calls, you could have a skewed vision of your ROI, and that bounce rate number might be fairly irrelevant.
Bounce rates are also often lower from things like email newsletters or email campaigns. However, what those mean depends a lot on your business. For example, let’s say you are a real estate agent. You probably don’t have a lot of repeat customers in residential real estate, and while you might have new client subscribers to your newsletters, you probably have a lot of them who have already purchased a home from you at some point.
For simple math let’s say you have 1,000 newsletter subscribers. If you get a 30% open rate on your emails, that’s not bad but also not great. That means 300 people open your newsletter actually open it rather than just deleting it (or it may go to their junk folder). If 20% of those who open your email actually click on something in it (pretty good) you have 60 people who actually visit your website.
Depending on where that click leads, they may click on more than one page on your site, giving you a low bounce rate of 50%—which actually only means that of the 60 people that click on something in your newsletter, approximately 30 visit more than one page once they get there. Depending on the landing page you have directed them too, this can be a good thing.
However, you may find that different social media sites also result in different bounce rates, as well as referrals from professional organizations. Those stats tell you where to concentrate your efforts as long as you understand where the users who don’t bounce are going, and what impact that actually has on your business.
A low bounce rate from your newsletter doesn’t necessarily mean it is more profitable than your LinkedIn profile as an example. You have to look at the whole picture. Your lower bounce rate from your newsletter might be less profitable than the higher bounce rate from your blogs.
Total Reach and SEO Metrics
So this entire concept is a little math-heavy, but some of it I can even do as a writer. Let’s say you have 1,000 newsletter subscribers, people you reach with content month after month, but your website has 1,000 unique visitors per week, and 700 of those visit your blog. Let’s say your overall bounce rate is 65% and your blog bounce rate is 75%.
First, the number of people you’ve exposed your brand to is much higher through your blog than through your newsletter, and even with a higher bounce rate, you’re actually getting more click-throughs than through email. If the conversion rate for both is the same, your blog and content marketing are still more profitable than your newsletter.
This doesn’t mean you should do one and not the other. It means that you know where to focus your efforts and that you are making data-driven decisions about what is the most profitable action for your business. Still, you don’t have the entire picture.
Click-Through Rates and Conversions
So this is where the rubber hits the road and at least in part where your ROI comes in, but even here we have to be careful.
Google counts your conversion rates based on what you tell it constitutes a conversion. This can range from someone joining your mailing list to calling or emailing you. However, what Google cannot know is whether or not you landed that client after that contact.
So let’s say you have a great click-through rate of 30% on an email campaign entirely directed at new customers where you get a pretty phenomenal open rate of 50%. That means for every 1,000 people you target with your campaign, you get 500 opens and of those, 150 click on a link. Let’s say a solid conversion rate of 10% means you get 15 new contacts, or conversions, from that 1,000 pool.
Let’s assume this is for a free consultation or free trial software. Of those 15, how many do you anticipate landing as customers after that consultation or trial? Even if you are around 10%, that means you get 1.5 from every 1,000 people you target. This is why marketing is all about the numbers: for most businesses you have to target at least a few thousand people, maybe more, for these numbers to convert to a profit.
But to make the right decision about which campaigns are the best to pour more money into, you have to know how many of those “website conversions” actually turn into paying clients, and this is often the step many businesses forget.
The other aspect is those incidental sales that come from brand awareness and recognition, ones that will not show up on charts or conversion rates. It’s all so confusing. So what is a business owner to do?
Hiring a Professional Team
Let me share a harsh truth: no small business owner can understand all about SEO, keep up with the changes happening all the time, and still have time to run their business. If you are in the C-Suite of your company, and you are not the CMO, you don’t have time either. And if you believe every article that shows up in your email or crosses your desk that cries gloom and doom about a specific statistic, you can go mad trying to keep up.
However, if you are going to compete in today’s market, you can’t ignore digital marketing. What is the alternative? Here are some tips:
- Stay reasonably informed, but don’t go overboard. Stay away from too much research and the frequent “latest on SEO articles.”
- Hire professionals, put together a team, and let them do their jobs. Don’t micromanage, and again don’t be swayed by articles and panic emails that spell doom. In fact, unsubscribe or ignore them.
- Develop trust with your team. Your team knows what they are doing, and their job is to keep up with the latest and keep your site up to date according to those things. Read reports, verify their work, but concentrate on your business while they do their job.
- Concentrate on conversion. The one thing you can control is how well you do at closing deals. Your job is to run your part of your business, not marketing. There is nothing wrong with overseeing it, but don’t get so involved you can’t do your job as well.
- Choose a method and stick to it. There is no perfect recipe for digital marketing, and while this can be frustrating, stick with one recipe, group of professionals, and give it time to work. The more often you switch tactics, the more it is like starting over each time.
Some of the biggest mistakes business owners make is they try to manage everything, including marketing, rather than focusing on their own areas of expertise. They switch tactics too often, swayed by weekly or even monthly trends. And they try to do too much, not trusting the professionals they’ve hired to know what they’re talking about and doing.
As a business owner, you really need to look at the big picture and concentrate on what works and what doesn’t. There are so many things that contribute to any SEO metric, and if you took the time to become an expert on them all, you won’t have time to do your own work.
Have questions on digital marketing or content strategy? Contact me. I’d love to talk with you about your business and how you can make your efforts both successful and profitable. Email me at info [at] unboundnorthwest.com for more information.