Everytime anything changes in Google’s search results, forums come abuzz with the alarmed cries of webmasters who monitor their search engine results pages fanatically.
This is how I generally first learn of these changes. I don’t monitor my SERPs pages. This may come as a surprise, given the business which inter:digital strategies is in – but, to be honest, I consider SERPs to be a minor part of what I do. There are many more important things to monitor and react to.
Instead, I monitor my server logs and statistics. I look very carefully at referrals, referral patterns, and visitor’s habits. I examine what pages are popular and what pages aren’t. I examine conversions. I try and understand why some pages frequently send users buying and others send them flying.
I never worry about a one day phenomenon. Trends are frightening – if traffic drops for a week straight, that’s alarming. If traffic drops ONE DAY – that may well be statistically erased later. Your first priority should always be to your actual visitors. Visitors should always want to stay and return.
What is really important is your visitors and their behaviors on your site. The most important statistic I’ll look at is conversion rate. Ideally, your conversion rate is one of your most testable and controllable elements. Moving sales pitches and advertisements around on the page may have little impact on your traffic, but could have huge impact on your sales.
The second is usually pages viewed per visit. If most visitors are only looking at one page on the site, this is failure. You have not captivated your audience. Ideally, you should be able to differentiate between return visitors and first time visitors when analyzing this statistic – the expected (and desired) behaviors for repeat customers can be very different from that of new visitors. You want new visitors to explore – you want them to be inspired by your site enough to visit several pages.
Third is referrals. Know where your traffic is coming from. Even better; find out which traffic is converting at the highest rates. Try and refine your landing pages for that kind of traffic – if search engine traffic primarily goes to two or three pages, spend your efforts refining those pages and trying to build conversions. Not all pages are created equal.
SERPs are nice – if you can pull your desired search engine results up, then all the best to you. But consider this: your site receives hits every day from thousands of unique search terms. It is rare that more than 10 percent of these hits will come from only two or three unique searches. If those terms drop in search engine’s results for you, other terms may rise.
Monitoring search engine results is only something I’ll do for a particular site to scan its ranking strength. I may pick a single phrase to search and monitor it’s rise and fall. Search engine fluctuations can happen over the course of weeks; I only look at trends over periods of months. Narrower statistical bands are not much more than meaningless.
In addition, SERPs can be useful in monitoring the competitive edge of certain "power terms". In every industry, there are certain terms which are searched far more frequently than others. These terms are worth monitoring; but they may not be the terms which convert the best. Usually, the most searched terms are very general in nature. These are searches by people who aren’t certain what they’re looking for – they may be looking to browse, but not to buy.
In a general sense, SERPs are important. It is important that your site rises to the top for the immense variety of terms which are relevant to its content – but monitoring a few of these terms on a daily basis is not likely to do a lot of good. You can follow these statistics; but shouldn’t obsess about them.