Home > Articles

Site Stats Share the Bad News, Too

Rebecca Lieb shows how analytics tools and site stats can be helpful in determining the success of your SEO efforts.
This chapter is from the book

Site stats share the bad news, too

  • Just as analytics tools and site stats are an essential aid in optimizing a site’s searchability, so too can these tools flag warning signs, bad news, and other signals that the website in question is not meeting searchers’ expectations.

In such cases, bad news is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, we’re talking search engine optimization. By definition, SEO is a continuous, ongoing process. Without any negatives, what would you optimize?

In the broadest sense, the goal of SEO is to increase organic search engine referrals to a given website. Therefore, tracking unique visitors from search engine referrals as a percentage of a site’s total unique visitors is an essential part of measuring the success of any SEO effort. You want unique search engine referrals to rise, or at the very least to hold steady. It’s worthwhile noting that unique search engine referrals are measured not in their totality but as a percentage of traffic because nearly every business is affected by cyclical variance, ranging from news cycles to seasonality. If the only thing you’re selling is snow tires, you’d expect a decrease in traffic (as well as in snow tire-related searches) in the summer months, wouldn’t you?

The traffic to your site is rising steadily. Great news, right? Well, not so fast. If traffic to the website is going up, but sales, lead-generation, or the other goals of the website are flat or in decline, something’s wrong. It could be site issues, of course, but if flat performance is directly linked to organic search engine referrals, it’s all but a sure sign that the site has been optimized for the wrong keywords.

Keeping an eye on those pages users visit—and those they don’t—is another important set of stats to track. Search engines drive traffic to specific pages in a site, not just to the homepage (see Truth 8, “You don’t have a homepage anymore”). This holds advantages both for the user and for the site owner. Through search, users are able to navigate directly to the page that most specifically addresses their search query. They needn’t bother to poke around a site to navigate to relevant information.

The edge for site owners is that each and every page of a website affords new and specific opportunities for optimization. Each page has a specific and individual set of keywords that can be adjusted and optimized. Copy can be revised and rewritten. Both outbound and inbound links can be improved. Certainly no site gets consistent levels of traffic across all pages. Some are simply bound to perform better than others. But that doesn’t mean underperforming pages deserve to be ignored. They should be considered optimization opportunities.

Even the most rudimentary site analytics tools provide more data than many site owners are prepared to deal with. What matters is determining which datasets are important, and then carefully monitoring and tracking those statistics on a regular basis—daily is great; monthly at a bare minimum.

Overall, the most fundamental site elements to track include the following:

  • Visitors—What could be more basic than knowing how many visitors have come to your site in a given time frame? Be careful to differentiate between unique (or individual visitors) and overall site visits, which account for the total number of visits to the site, combining unique visitors with people who visit multiple times. Although knowing the number of visitors to a site won’t help increase conversions, it’s a good indicator of how search engine rankings and links from other sites affect traffic.
  • Referrers—Where’s your site traffic coming from? This metric lets you know which search engines send how much traffic to your site, as well as which links to you on other sites impel users to visit.
  • Keywords—Ranking well for keywords is one thing. Getting traffic from them can be something else altogether. Keyword stats—those words and phrases searchers are using to find you—let you know exactly how much traffic keyword rankings actually generate.
  • Time spent and bounce rates—Traffic is only part of the goal. Encouraging visitors to actually stick around and do something, such as buying or otherwise converting, is a much more critical benchmark of site performance. Assessing how much time visitors spend on a given page, or on the site overall, is a strong indicator of how well it fulfills the expectations of users who followed a link from a search engine, or any other referrer, for that matter.
  • Exit pages—Exit pages can be a strong indicator of flaws in a website. This stat indicates pages, processes, or other flaws in a site that frustrate, annoy, confound, or disappoint visitors—enough so that they leave. A site page that does not indicate the end of a desired process (for example, the “Thank You” page that following a completed transaction) is likely not a good place to lose visitors. This metric is highly effective at revealing fundamental problem pages on a site.

After collecting the preceding data over several weeks, patterns should begin to emerge that should inform both the search optimization and site strategy. Here’s a hypothetical example. Say a site was optimized for the phrases “video production services Cleveland” and “video post-production Cleveland.” The site ranks well for both keyword phrases, and both generate a healthy amount of traffic. Yet while the first page generates leads (phone calls or filling out a form leading to a “Thank You” page on the site), the second phrase generates traffic, but no conversions.

You’ve got a problem. It could be a site issue, or perhaps a subtle optimization tweak is in order. Seasoned SEOs will tell you that even an apparently meaningless change, such as “video post-production services Cleveland” or “digital post-production Cleveland” or “video production Ohio,” can do the trick.

The number of tweaks, adjustments, and calibrations you can make to any search optimization initiative approach the infinite. But without consistently tracking results with a web metrics program, it’s simply impossible to know what works. And what doesn’t.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020