28 Aug 2014

5 Useless SEO Metrics To Avoid

Numbers... Metrics are awesome! Seriously I know I sound like a nerd, but the truth is, metrics make our jobs as SEOs easier because they allow us to quickly identify complex aspects of large data sets. If used correctly they can show patterns and trends that need to be identified. However understanding which metrics are the most important is a hard task. This is largely because some metrics are better than others based on the goals of the analysis.

Despite this understanding which metrics hold very little value at all can be helpful when trying to avoid types of analysis that waste time and money. Here are 5 metrics that I think are useless:

Number of Competitors Backlinks

When doing competitive analysis for SEO there are many different ways to judge how well a competitor is doing. However the number of backlinks does not usually reflect a coherent understanding of their performance. This is because the quality of backlinks have a greater weight than the amount. Further more, sites with massive backlink profiles have greater risk of attracting negative patterns. For example, a site might have 3,000 more backlinks than your site, but 2,000 of them could all use the same anchor text and be found on the same IP cluster. As a result the site will likely be hit with Penguin or a manual penalty. So looking at the total number alone tells you nothing about the health of a competitor’s backlink profile.

Rankings For One or Two Keywords

This metric isn’t completely useless, but it is dangerous. Dangerous, because so many site owners are tempted to obsess over only one or two keywords. As a result they miss the bigger picture and fail to see trends that they should be paying attention to. I talked about this briefly in the past and still wholeheartedly believe the following.

Now, let me be clear when I say “ranking data”, I am not talking about the position for one or two terms. I am more interested in looking at the bulk of rankings over time, and identifying trends. For example, if your site loses significant rankings for one or two terms, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have been affected by an algorithm update. However, seeing 10 to 20 terms change position by more or less than 15 positions, is an absolute sign that a change has taken place, changes like that need a specific strategy moving forward.

Keyword Density

This is an interesting metric that has been around for a very long time. This is simply the percentage of times a given keyword appears in text on a page. This metric used to hold value, but now a days it is a quick way to over simplify whats really going on, on the page. The only time I use this metric is in a high level comparative sense when trying to identify content that might have manipulative patterns. Don’t fall for this easy metric.

Number of Followers In Social Media

Any good content marketer will tell you that the larger your following is in social media, the easier it is to promote your content, and the easier that task becomes, the more likely that you will attract links and other positive signals. But it is important to remember that the number of followers alone do not have any direct affect on rankings. In fact the most value aspect of a strong social media following is the ability to talk directly with your customers. Can this help with SEO? Sure, but just as many sites are ranking well with out social followings as the ones that are.

The Amount of Your AdWords Budget

For some weird reason there is a longstanding myth that if you spend more on AdWords you will likely do better in organic. In fact I have even heard some very dishonest PPC consultants say this. This is has never been true. In fact Matt Cutts actually made a webmasters help video to emphasize how untrue this is.

What are some metrics that you think are a waste of time??


  1. George La Rosa August 28, 2014 at 1:49 PM

    I think it is obvious that these would not have a direct affect on rankings, but some of these still should be taking into when looking at your SEO efforts holistically.

  2. Dave Curtis August 28, 2014 at 9:31 PM

    Good post Joe. I just had a sometimes client drop out of ranking right off the face of the earth, went to Google Webmaster’s tools and sure enough not too long after heavy completely unsolicited linking from m.biz began (total of 1,500 follow links in about a month and a half) traffic began declining until about ten days or so ago when it made a precipitous nosedive to flatline nothing. I submitted a disavow and a brief explanation and noticed it taking off on a steep rise again today. Most SEOs have said m.biz isn’t to be worried about but they also say they submit their own disavows just in case. Good solid advice Joe. Thanks for the read.

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