Two Simple Website Metrics for Small Businesses to Monitor

Filed in Featured, MY BEST POSTS, SEO by Matt McGee on August 19, 2011 5 Comments

scared-ninjaIf you’re an analytics ninja, there are some amazing things you can coax out of analytics and turn into actionable SEO “to do” items.

Unfortunately, many small business owners are not analytics ninjas. (That’s a reluctant ninja at right!) But they still need to measure their SEO work and the success of their overall online marketing. Here are two simple, “starter level” pieces of analytics that’ll help do exactly that.

Overall Traffic from Natural Search

If you’re executing an SEO campaign, the absolute minimum goal you have is more natural search traffic. If you do SEO, you want more people to come to your site from Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. (In reality, you need to measure sales/leads/revenue from natural search, but let’s start with baby steps here.)

So if you go into Google Analytics, you choose Traffic Sources >> Search Engines and you’ll see something like this:


That’s the chart for this blog, Small Business Search Marketing. When I look at this report, here’s what I’m hoping to see — and what I do see:

  • Slow, steady growth in traffic from search engines
  • No major drops in search traffic
  • No huge, sudden spikes in search traffic (unless I’ve specifically gone out of my way to target some trending/hot topic)

But you also have to take a long-term look, too. One year is fine, but how are you doing over three years? Here’s how this blog is doing:


That meets all of my criteria above, so I’m happy with the overall SEO traffic coming to this blog. But there’s another angle to keep in mind….

Percentage of Traffic Coming from Natural Search

This is really important to me, and I try to emphasize its importance to my clients:

SEO traffic is great, but it can’t be all you have!

With that in mind, I always keep an eye on this chart that breaks down how much traffic came from search engines vs. referring sites vs. direct traffic.


In the past year, search engines have sent about 58% of my overall traffic. That seems healthy to me.

Again, one year isn’t enough to really know what’s going on. So I also check back further. Here’s the chart for three years:


Over the course of three years, search engines have sent about 54% of my traffic. That means I’m getting more search traffic in the past year than normal — but it’s only a 4% upward trend, so I’m not too worried.

On the other hand, referral traffic is down by about 5% when you compare the three-year chart to the one-year chart. If that trend continues and the difference gets worse, I’ll start to get concerned.

But the main point of this chart is to make sure that you’re not getting too much traffic from search — or from any single source, actually. You really have to diversify your traffic sources — you can’t put all your eggs in one basket.

What Non-Diversified Traffic Charts Look Like

Let me share two examples of traffic source charts that scare me.

This first one is from a site that, in my opinion, gets too much traffic from natural search.


As you’d guess, most of that natural search traffic comes from Google. The risk is that Google might change things tomorrow and decide that the website isn’t a trusted/authoritative source … and there goes the majority of this website’s overall traffic.

I don’t know what the “magic number” is for search engine traffic — it may be different depending your industry, whether you’re B2B or B2C, and other factors. But for the site above, I think getting 76% of all traffic from search engines is too much.

Here’s the flip side: a site that gets almost exclusively referral traffic.


If your charts look like this one or the one above it, I really think you need to consider strategies and tactics to balance your traffic sources.

Not sure how to do that? Let me humbly suggest you have a look at the SEO Success Pyramid.

Don’t be alarmed by the fact that it’s dated 2008. The principles still apply today, perhaps even more than they did back then.


Two takeaways:

1.) You want to see a consistent and steady growth in overall traffic from natural search.

2.) You want to see a good balance between search traffic, referral traffic and direct traffic. No single source should dominate your traffic source distribution.

If you’re new to analytics, or just not a ninja, I hope these two metrics are a good place to start.

(Stock image courtesy Shutterstock and used with permission.)

Comments (5)

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  1. Lily says:

    This article inspired me to look at our longterm trends on Google Analytics (usually we just look day to day or maybe over one week).

    Not as much of an increase as I hoped, but very slight. And I’m new at this. That’s ok, right?

  2. Matt McGee says:

    Lily – I don’t know what would be considered wrong or right for your business/site when it comes to longterm growth/analytics. Some growth is better than no growth, and obviously better than a decline.

    But if the growth isn’t as much as you’d like to see, it sounds like time to figure out why that’s been the case and what you can do to impact a positive change. Best of luck.

  3. Rich says:

    Really informative point is this. But like you said, most small business owners do not have the time (or willingness to learn to understand) the statistics put in front of them.

    But the information people should be looking for is common sense and what you have written is common sense in the fact that there are certain things you want to keep an eye on as the “quality” visits are what really tell you if things are working as planned.

    Even going to the effort of blocking all the Russian junk that comes to your website is worthwhile if you do not own a small business in russia because even though we love to see high hit rates on our website, it is important to get a true reflection of what visits are of quality and relevant to what you may be selling.

    So your tips are common sense and I would hope people take your advice.

  4. Henry Sim says:

    A couple of my sites are getting bulk of the traffic from direct and referrals. That is no good and I have much work to do to optimize these sites. With regards to Analytics, are there alternative tool available that you can easily create SEO custom report without having to create 10-20 dashboards to put everything together.

  5. Olaf Pijl says:

    Great info! For small businesses with low-traffic websites I often look at non-bounce visitors. These are visitors that view more than one page.
    This simple metric easily provides you with enough data to determine not just the amount of visitors from SEO, PPC or other media. It also shows the amount of engaged, high-quality visitors!
    To see this, add another goal in Analytics for visitors that view 2 or more pages.

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