5 SEO Metrics that Matter for 2016

What will SEO look like in 2016? Probably a lot like it does now, but that’s okay: too many brands are still playing catch-up. Here are 5 SEO considerations that we noticed were commonly overlooked in 2015.
December 29, 2015


As 2015 comes to a close and businesses review year-end metrics, marketing blogs are full of predictions for the new year: what will happen, what best practices will develop, what Google might come up with next. That’s all well and good, but the fact is, predictions aren’t necessary to start looking ahead at for 2016.

SEO continues to challenge many marketing teams, especially when it comes to knowing how well it’s working and what to do next. While the metrics available for SEO may still seem woefully unclear, there is a wealth of data with tangible insights if one knows where to look. Studying the right data can lead to metrics that matter to the C-suite, and to proven strategies for taking  SEO to the next level in 2016.

1. Branded vs. Non-branded Search Traffic

Businesses often overlook the importance of branded vs. non-branded search traffic in SEO. In a nutshell, branded traffic comes from searches that include a brand name, while non-branded traffic comes from searches using any other keywords.


Clicks from branded searches are great—that number is a great indication of general brand awareness—but more non-branded traffic a site has, the stronger its SEO. Why? Because it means that the website is showing up prominently in search results when users search for keywords that, unlike a brand name, apply to many different businesses.  

There are three ways to measure non-brand traffic:

  • Examine provided keywords and make some general assumptions — for example, if 40% of provided keywords are non-branded and 60% are branded, it can be assumed that about 40% of the keywords not provided in analytics are non-branded. This method won’t be very accurate, however, if the vast majority of keywords are not provided.

  • Look at traffic at a page level. Looking at a keyworded page using Webmaster Tools, examine the traffic to each page. If a high percentage of traffic comes from branded keywords, that page can be categorized as a branded page. By the same token, a page with a majority of non-branded traffic can be categorized as a non-branded page. Most pages will go one way or the other.

  • Use an external solution, such as SEOmonitor, which combines analytics data with its own data to give a more detailed look at branded and non-branded traffic. Even tools like SEOmonitor rely on some assumptions, but they are a step ahead when it comes to analyzing traffic. We’ve worked extensively with SEOmonitor to get the best data possible, given the limitations set by Google.

Keep an eye on non-brand organic traffic in 2016 as a key indicator of how well (or not) SEO strategy is working. If non-brand organic traffic isn’t growing, take a step back and make sure the current keyword strategy is keeping up with the times.

2. Bounce and Conversion Rates

It’s not enough to look at the number of clicks— also consider bounce and conversion rates:

  • Bounce rate is the number of visitors who leave the site within a minute without clicking through to anything else (external links count).
  • Conversion rate is the number of visitors who take action on the site, such as signing up, logging in, or making a purchase.

An effective site has a high conversion rate and a low bounce rate. If analytics show that the site and landing pages are not retaining and converting at a good rate (top sites can exceed 50%, but five to 10% is good), look at the strategies being used and improve them. Trying moving the CTA above the fold, shortening a form that’s gating content (is it really necessary to ask for their phone numbers?), or redesigning the page visually.

Also be sure to compare and contrast bounce and conversion rates for branded and non-branded clicks. Do people who come to the site via a branded search convert at a significantly higher rate than those who come from non-branded searches? If so, evaluate why the site is not retaining people with little or no prior familiarity with the company.

2016 is the time to really focus on bounce and conversion rates. Make sure the landing pages adhere to some best SEO practices to improve engagement.

3. Content Quality

Content still matters, and that’s not going to change. Use metrics to identify the most popular content from 2015, and figure out what it offers that the less popular content doesn’t. Some formats work better, some media types encourage deeper engagement, and some topics average more clicks than others.

Once it’s determined what makes the site’s best content successful, outline how  it will include those success factors in the development of content for 2016.  Start by checking the High-Quality Content Checklist to make sure content is up to snuff.

4. Topical Hubs

Google has been giving more and more attention to topical hubs when providing results to long-tail search engine queries.

What is a topical hub? A topical hub is simply a thorough piece of content that answers almost any question—and, thus, any long-tail keyword search—on the topic. Some SEO strategists (used to) target each keyword with a unique page of content. That only leads to thousands of small, mostly useless web pages, and bad UX. Google figured that out, and is now directing a lot of long-tail queries to topically authoritative hubs.

To strengthen SEO strategy in 2016, focus on content that fits this criteria by creating comprehensive, topical content.

5. SEO Cost-Per-Click

What’s the SEO cost-per-click? A lot of brands don’t take the time to find out, but it could be a huge factor in planning the 2016 marketing budget. When SEO is done right, there should be a much lower CPC than the cost of paid ad campaigns. Determining the value of SEO, and how much to invest in it next year, starts with CPC.

To determine  average cost per click for SEO, divide the amount spent by the total number of clicks earned (here’s where non-branded organic traffic comes back). The actual cost for each click may be lower or higher than this figure, but it will give a good idea to start with.

A smart SEO strategy is to always be on top of CPC. Commit to a low PCP using good strategy rather than relying on paid ad campaigns this year, and bounce and conversion rates should  improve, too.

A Toast to Better SEO in 2016

The fact is, a major factor in the success of really good SEO strategies is to leave no stone unturned when analyzing it. Overlooking the (seemingly) small stuff is easy, and can keep SEO from being as great as it can be.

Make “better SEO” a New Year’s resolution. Our team is happy to help you start things off, even if you just need a few questions answered—just drop us a line. Search volume on the web only continues to grow as Google (and a few other search engines) become more and more a part of our daily lives. There’s a lot of business to earn here—here’s to a successful SEO effort 2016!


Nate Dame
CEO and Founder
Nate is the founder and CEO of Profound Strategy, a results-oriented SEO consultancy trusted by forward-thinking companies, including a few of the world's largest B2B and technology brands. Profound Strategy builds holistic SEO strategies, supports internal teams, and offers full-service execution to create an organic search presence that generates significant revenue.

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