//How to stop the vanity of your research metrics

How to stop the vanity of your research metrics



Imagine that you publish two blog posts. In a week, a page appears on 1,500 searches. The other page appears in 850 searches.

It is clear which one is on the right track.

Where is it?

Metrics can be misleading. If you do not go under the surface, it's in vain. So, what measures give you deeper information to improve your SEO strategies and which ones do not?

If you do not go below the surface, your search metrics are done in vain, says @itsrbek. #SEO Click to Tweet

Let's get into the subject. (I've extracted traffic and ranking data with the help of Ahrefs tools, the company I work for, to illustrate my points.You can also use Keywords Everywhere Free Chrome extension for search volume and cost per click Majestic is a popular alternative for finding back links.)

HAND-RELATED CONTENT: Clever (and not so smart) ways to use vanity metrics

1. Search Volume by Keyword

Keyword Search Volume Measurement refers to the number of searches for a keyword in a period of time: How many times did a person search for "Formula 1" on Google during a month?

Source of the image

The volume of keywords is generally used to understand the popularity of a keyword and to predict the organic traffic that a page would get if it was filed for that word -key.

Many marketers are learning to use this metric to determine the keywords that they want to target when optimizing their pages for search. They follow the logic that goes as follows: a high search volume is equal to a high traffic equal to more clicks. Therefore, a low search volume equals a low traffic, fewer clicks, is not it?

Not quite.

Bad hypothesis

Search volume does not match clicks Simply put, people do not always click on a Google result to get the information they need. So, even if your page is in the No. 1 place in the search results, your page does not necessarily get a click.

A high search volume does not necessarily lead to clicks, says @itsrbek. #SEO Click to Tweet

Here is an example of a keyword: "What is the Nintendo Switch?", Whose monthly search volume is estimated at 5,500 in the United States. Only 38% of searches generate clicks.

Why does not the first link always have a click? Google's Extracts (also called "Response Zones") immediately address a researcher's question and publish the answer at the top of the results:

Bad hypothesis

Two words: paid advertisements. Regardless of the commercial term used, advertisers buy tons of your keyword search traffic through Google AdWords.

Let's imagine that I work for a company that is an incredible resource on the best types of shorts. I check Keywords Explorer for a "cycling shorts" and discover that, of the 4,200 clicks recorded on the search engine page, 38% result in a paid result (that is, say, not the page that I created). ]

In a nutshell: Keyword targeting based on high search volume seems tempting, but you need to deepen the context to get a more accurate (and valuable) indicator of their traffic potential.

Do this instead

Examine the potential for traffic (that is, search clicks). Aim for high-traffic keywords rather than highly sought-after keywords. You can evaluate this by referring to the overview SERP in the Keyword Explorer.

Let's explore a scenario with two possible keyword phrases.

Plug "submit the site to search engines" in the Keyword Explorer. It returns a search volume of 700 with traffic numbers between 6,000 and 9,000, thus providing the best results.

Now let's try the "tips on SEO". The search volume is higher (3,600), but the traffic is much less important for the best results (range from 300 to 1,250).

It is clear that even if "submit a site to search engines" has a lower search volume, it is likely to generate more traffic than the higher search volume expression, "SEO Tips" .


2. Number of organic key words

Number of organic keywords that refers to the total number of unpaid keywords for which your page ranks. It is tempting to modify such a measure to impress your boss or your client. We are now classifying 100 additional keywords. More ranked keywords equivalent to more traffic, right? Champagne all around!

Bad hypothesis

Do not pop the plug. The page could rank at position 99 for the 100 keywords and not receive any organic traffic from any of them.

The keyword rank position counts more than the rank amount, says @itsrbek. #SEO Click to Tweet

Let's take an example straight away.

Connect to the Ahrefs' Site Explorer on a player's website address, Kotaku.com, to view organic search data for all countries.

The site has 6.7 million keywords and generates about 11.3 million hits per month in organic search traffic.

Connect now to the website www.PCGamer.com.

The number of keywords (5.3 million) is less important, but the organic search traffic (17 million) is considerably higher per month.

Wait what?

The truth is that hierarchy matters a lot.

Do this instead

Observe the breakdown of the positions of your organic keywords.

Studies have shown that the first three results of SERP get 60% of clicks. In other words, the ranking of a keyword is nice. However, it is best if your organic search traffic is higher for the keyword in the search results.

Let's go back to the previous example.

By going to the Ahrefs Site Browser> Organic Search, I uncheck the 4-10 and 11-100 checkboxes in the organic keyword table, to determine the number of keywords ranked by Kotaku.com among the top three. ]

The data reveal that of the 6.7 million ranking keywords, only 153,534 are in the first three results of the corresponding search pages.

By doing the same for www.PCGamer.com, 231,050 of the 5.3 million keywords of its ranking are in the first three results of the search pages.

Regarding the organic distribution of keywords, it is clear that even though www.PCGamer.com ranks for fewer keywords, it has the advantage of ranking for more top positions in the SERP.

This is probably an important factor that contributed to the gap initially disclosed in organic vehicle traffic.

Cutting your organization's keyword rankings is a great way to find out where to focus your next efforts. Work on the pages ranked fourth to tenth to be included in the first three results. It is likely that this will lead to a good growth of traffic.

TIP: Even though your keyword is in the top three, it does not guarantee a lot of traffic. You still have to consider the traffic potential.

3. Total number of backlinks

Just like organic keywords, the total number of links back to your page is important. For example, if you have five backlinks on your page and your competitor has 5,000 backlinks, it is unlikely that you will surpass it anytime soon.

Bad hypothesis

Although it is tempting to congratulate you on backward-looking backlink numbers, this is not particularly enlightening: many elements, including domain authority or domain classification, come into play in the backlinks game.

Back to PCGamer.com versus Kotaku.com.

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PC Gamer has 4.18 million backlinks to the staggering 25.1 million Kotaku, but its domain rating is only three points lower. And, as discussed, PC Gamer also sees more organic traffic.

Backlinks alone will not improve rankings in search results, says @itsrbek. #SEO Click to Tweet

Focusing only on the total number of backlinks can give you an inaccurate picture of your progress in SEO.

Do this instead

Look at the quality, relevance and diversity of your backlinks:

Quality – A link from a page with high authority is more important than a link from a page with low authority. It's as if I prefer to use the medical advice of WebMD rather than a blog page written by a childhood friend of your mother.

In the world of backlinks, measure the authority of the website with measures such as ranking by URL (UR). A backlink from a page with a high number of URs usually gives more weight to search engines than a link from a page with a low UR.
Relevance – Site links similar to yours are more valuable. Search engines consider relevance by looking at the content around the return link as well as the degree of relevance of the domain and page.

For example, you operate a hair salon and want to secure more backlinks. Your friend has a water sports site and agrees to include your content. Since sites do not target the same subject or the same audience, Google triggers a manual penalty and an additional backlink return.

Diversity – Subsequent links from the same domain or page are less onerous for search engines.

Having 100 backlinks on the same site will not have the same impact as the first link on the site, because the first link brings the most value. Work to increase the number of sites with backlinks to your site. Your search rank would be great if you had 50 back links on 20 sites.

Work to increase the number of sites with links back to your site, says @itsrbek. #SEO Click to Tweet

The next time you analyze new backlinks, go further. Dive into the quality of the back link and check if it comes from a new domain or domain already linked to you multiple times – and, of course, make sure that it does not This is not a spam site.



Although vanity statistics often look attractive and may be an indicator of the overall progress of SEO to a certain extent, they do not necessarily provide usable information. You have to dig deeper.

The metrics above are excellent examples of data points to track your performance, predict success, and decide next steps.

Note: All the tools included in our blog articles are suggested by the authors and not by the CMI editorial team. No post can provide all the relevant tools in the space. Do not hesitate to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or those you have used).

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Cover image of Joseph Kalinowski / Content Marketing Institute