4 Metrics for Analyzing SEO Traffic (and one to ignore)

Ian Lurie

I have a defense mechanism: When something makes me want to puke, I look at statistics, and I feel better. Last week’s economic shenanigans were more than enough to make me ill, so I figured I’d have a glance at my blog’s organic search engine traffic.
Here’s my analysis, with a little teaching blended in. You can do the same thing on your own site:

Keyword Diversity

First thing I noticed: My keyword diversity is way, way up over last year. I now receive traffic from 5,247 different key phrases, versus 2,100 or so this time last year.
Keyword diversity is critical to any internet marketing strategy, for three reasons:

  1. More keywords means your less vulnerable to a drop in ranking with one of those words.
  2. Higher diversity means you’re getting traffic from more specific, ‘long tail’ phrases. In my experience, that traffic is higher quality, has better conversion rates, and generates far better return rates.
  3. You get to find really funny keyword combinations like ‘snidely whiplash’ and ‘buy a wife’. Those really did show up in my keyword list, by the way.

So, higher keyword diversity is good.

Visits from Search

There’s a lot of ’em: 8,200 in the last 30 days. More than last year by a factor of 3 or so.
I keep much closer track of visits from SEO than I do rankings. That’s because rankings don’t matter if they don’t bring you traffic.

Visit Quality

Finally, I want to see the quality of traffic from organic search results. In this case, I’m doing OK. Visitors from search engines are spending 1% less time on the site than others. That’s not worth worrying about.


Yes, I check them, but not often and not as part of my traffic analysis. Rankings for ‘money’ phrases takes a long time to change, so tracking them is like tracking the stock market: Depressing.


Yah, whatever. Pagerank doesn’t matter.

Ian Lurie
CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie.

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  1. I totally agree. I have pretty specific keywords, and others have told me not to be so specific about them and to be more broad. Why??? When you are specific, you are not just getting traffic, you are getting qualified traffic that you know is interested in your content/product/service. There is no point bringing traffic when it isn’t relevant traffic!

  2. Hey Ian. Thanks for this post. I think it’s so important for clients to get the point that search engine optimization is not always (or mainly?) about hunting after a few target keywords–but rather how all of a site’s content contributes to an effective SEO strategy. Your emphasis on keyword diversity is right on, and refreshing to read.
    I just add a post about this in response to yours adding some of my past thoughts on the subject as well (http://agencycritique.com/web-smart/entry-pages-as-functional-homepages/).

  3. Nice post Ian, I enjoyed the read.
    Keyword Diversity –> spot on!
    I also agree too much emphasis can be placed on rankings and quality traffic is what a marketer is truly after.
    But, If you were to see a drop in traffic wouldn’t you naturally check your ranking to see what shift has occurred?
    I feel ranking are a bit more important that what some portray at times.
    I do not check rankings every day or even weekly, but certainly I monitor various reports about 2x a month.
    I know if my rankings are steady I can pretty much expect “X” amount of traffic, and it allows me to identify other areas for more traffic. (low fruit)
    So again, I guess I feel a little stronger than some out there about the ranking issue.
    Keep the informative posts coming! 😉

  4. @Mike You caught me. I was exaggerating quite a bit. I DO check rankings. We record them almost daily here at Portent. However, I NEVER let clients see them unless they beg. Rankings tend to skew the entire discussion away from sales and towards ego.

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