Quick quiz about website traffic: Do you know how many people visit your website each month? How those visitors engage with your site? What type of content captures their attention?
If you don’t know the answers to those questions, that’s okay. I’ll teach you how to find and use this data to your advantage as an SEO.
Website traffic tracking is the process of observing visitor behavior on your site, and it’s a crucial practice for SEO professionals today. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the value of website traffic data for a number of reasons.
These numbers offer more than just bragging rights about your impressive visitor count. Tracking website traffic as an SEO KPI can actually impact your rankings in search engines.
Keep reading to find out the biggest benefits of monitoring your visitor data.
As a bonus, get my favorite recommendations for website traffic estimators to help you better understand what’s happening on your site.
Why Is It Important to Track Your Website Traffic?
Tracking website traffic is crucial for SEO because it provides insights into which keywords are driving traffic, and where there might be gaps in your SEO strategy.
Below is a glimpse of Semrush’s free website traffic checker, a powerful resource for any SEO or agency owner.
Let’s review some ways monitoring website traffic can help you boost search engine rankings and attract more visitors.
Leverage a Data-Driven SEO Strategy
I’ve frequently dealt with SEO projects where decisions were based on instinct rather than data. There’s a place for intuition in SEO. After all, what we do is an art and a science — but in general, we want to use concrete data to make decisions.
Sometimes, checking website traffic is an overlooked way to get that data, particularly with larger sites.
Checking website traffic to identify top-performing keywords, pages, and content helps you refine and improve your SEO tactics to get you better, more consistent results.
For example, you can use Semrush to identify the sites that are referring the most traffic to your site. This can help you build similar backlinks to boost your ranking and drive even more traffic.
Analyze User Behavior
Have you ever wondered why a visitor left a page seconds after arriving? Or why certain pieces of content keep visitors glued right up until the very last word or image?
Analyzing user behavior lets you discover what your visitors are truly up to when they land on your site. You can then use this data to identify opportunities to optimize your content and create a better user experience.
Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the latest version of Google Analytics, enables you to measure traffic and visitor behavior across your websites, and it’s one of the most essential tools for SEO professionals.
GA4 focuses on event-driven data and introduces new metrics that provide deeper insights into user engagement and content interaction.
Here’s a quick sampling of what you can track with GA4:
- Session information for individual users that tracks their specific actions on your site.
- Actions, decisions, and pathways visitors choose while navigating your content.
- Complex user journeys across multiple devices.
These metrics illuminate the paths users take, the bottlenecks they face, and the content that resonates most.
Regardless of preference — SEO vs. SEM — we don’t just want traffic. We want engaged, satisfied visitors. By leaning into these insights, you can create website experiences that attract, retain, and delight the folks who land on your site.
And better user experiences will indirectly help you in the search engine rankings, too. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
Optimize Conversion Rates
The process of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) focuses on getting visitors to complete specific actions, like signing up for your mailing list or making a purchase.
CRO can also lead to better engagement, indirectly benefiting SEO because search engines prioritize sites that provide a good user experience.
There are a number of ways checking website traffic helps you optimize conversion rates. With website traffic estimators, you can:
- See where potential customers are dropping off (for example, if you see that certain pages are attracting a lot of traffic but have a low conversion rate).
- Monitor user behavior, interactions, and pathways to identify patterns and bottlenecks in the conversion funnel.
- Dig into your traffic sources to determine if certain types of searches are converting better than others.
- Identify the kinds of visitors you’re attracting by looking at user demographics and engagement time.
This website traffic data helps you capitalize on every opportunity to engage with and convert your audience (which means more wins on your monthly SEO report).
Resolve Technical SEO Problems
Analyzing website traffic can also help you uncover technical SEO issues you might have otherwise overlooked.
For instance, sudden drops in traffic might indicate broken links, incorrect redirects, or crawl errors. Similarly, spikes in 4xx error page visits might suggest a problem with internal linking or outdated content.
Or if you think your SEO copywriting strategies are on point, but you still aren’t ranking for your target keywords (and your traffic isn’t where you’d expect it to be), a site audit could reveal technical SEO issues you need to solve.
Run a Semrush site audit to find potential issues dragging your site down. During your audit, click the “Issues” tab and search for “4xx.”
Then click “XXX pages” to get a list of broken pages that show a 4xx status code.
With an audit, you can also scan for issues like slow page loads, duplicate content, mobile compatibility problems, and redirect chains that could affect your site rankings.
Refine Your Content Strategy
You can also use Semrush to monitor which pages users visit, how long they stay, and how they move through your site. This can help you identify popular content and hone in on potential areas for improvement to better follow SEO best practices.
Use these insights to guide your content creation and optimization efforts.
Here’s how that might look in your day-to-day efforts as an SEO:
- Reducing bounce rate: If you notice a high bounce rate (visitors leaving your site after viewing just one page), it might indicate that your content centered around a high keyword search volume isn’t meeting user expectations or the page is not user-friendly. Improving these pages can lead to better user engagement.
- Identifying high-performing content: Which pieces of content are pulling their weight, and which aren’t? Are your long-form articles keeping visitors on the page? Is that new infographic driving engagement? Or perhaps a recent video tutorial saw a spike in shares. By spotting patterns of interaction and consumption, you’ll be able to identify the kinds of content your audience loves (so you can create more of it).
- Revisiting content: As trends shift and audience preferences evolve, you’ll spot opportunities to update pieces of content or create follow-up posts or pages. If a particular topic starts to surge in popularity, you can capitalize on that trend by positioning yourself as the go-to expert in that niche.
In my experience as an SEO, measuring return on investment (ROI) is critical. It’s the only way to know if your efforts are paying off.
When calculating ROI, use attribution modeling to give “credit” to different marketing and SEO strategies for bringing in visitors or making sales. Imagine a basketball team where every player passes the ball, but only one scores.
Who gets the credit for the goal?
That’s what attribution modeling tries to figure out — but for your marketing channels and SEO efforts.
Here’s a quick overview of a few of the most common models you can use to determine the effectiveness of your SEO:
- First touch: Gives all the credit to the very first marketing strategy a customer interacts with. It’s like crediting the player who started the play in our basketball example.
- Last touch: Gives credit to the last marketing interaction before a sale or conversion. You’re only acknowledging the player who made the final shot.
- Multi-touch: This model spreads the credit across all the strategies a customer interacts with. Every player who touched the ball gets a share of the credit for the goal.
- Time-decay attribution: This one gives more credit to the strategies closer to the time of conversion and less to those further away.
Here are other common tools and metrics to calculate ROI:
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): This metric identifies the value a customer brings to your business throughout their entire relationship with you.
- Predictive analytics: Predictive analytics uses past data to predict future outcomes. For example, you can look at past visitor behavior to predict how a visitor will likely interact with a page or post.
- Google Analytics 360: This premium version of Google Analytics provides deeper insights and more data about website visitors.
Adapt to Algorithm Updates
As you know, search engine algorithms change regularly, which can significantly impact your website visibility and performance. Monitoring website traffic helps detect these changes.
For instance, a sudden drop in traffic might indicate a recent algorithm update that affects your rankings.
Being aware of these updates lets you adjust your SEO strategy in real-time. If you notice traffic changes after an update, analyzing the data can help identify which parts of your site were affected so you can pivot your strategy to align with the new algorithmic criteria.
How to Check Competitor Website Traffic
Keeping an eye on your competitors is a smart move for all SEOs. By monitoring their website traffic, you’ll find out what’s working for them, which can inform and refine your own strategies.
Semrush’s Traffic Analytics lets you peek behind the scenes of your competitors’ traffic, including:
- Key user behavior metrics like bounce rates
- Growth or decline in audience
- Major traffic sources
- Traffic volume
Semrush’s advanced features enable you to do side-by-side domain comparisons. These reveal gaps in keyword strategies and spotlight potential opportunities you can capitalize on.
6 Tools You Can Use to Check Website Traffic
Looking for tools that go beyond the basics of checking website traffic? In addition to Semrush, here are several to consider:
- Open Web Analytics: A free, open-source web analytics tool that also provides heatmaps and mouse tracking.
- Matomo (formerly Piwik): This free, open-source web analytics platform prioritizes user privacy with full data ownership. Matomo also offers funnel analysis, goal conversion, and event tracking features.
- Kissmetrics: A behavioral analytics and engagement tool that offers customer segmentation and email campaign automation. Their platform also tracks individual and group visitor behavior over time.
- Hotjar: This user behavior analytics tool provides heatmaps, session recordings, and survey functionalities. You can also capture qualitative data for user feedback.
- Crazy Egg: If you want a visual analytics tool that shows you where users click, scroll, and navigate on a page, Crazy Egg is a great choice. You can also use it to perform A/B testing to optimize web page performance.
- Adobe Analytics: Adobe has a comprehensive web analytics and reporting tool that offers advanced segmentations and real-time and mobile analytics.
How to Safeguard User Data When Tracking Website Traffic
Tracking user data is essential for understanding website traffic. But it comes with significant security and privacy concerns.
We’re living in an era dominated by data breaches and privacy scandals. So ensuring your website tracking strategies are secure and compliant isn’t just good practice – it’s legally required.
Here are some quick considerations for taking a privacy-first approach to website tracking:
- Know your regulations: Be sure to familiarize yourself with privacy and security rules specific to your audience’s location. This includes the General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Various other countries and states have their own data protection laws.
- Practice transparent data collection: Inform visitors about the data you’re collecting, how it’s used, and why. Obtain explicit consent before tracking.
- Limit data collection: Collect only what’s necessary for your specific purpose.
- Ensure data security: Use encryption and other security measures to prevent unauthorized access to visitor data. Regularly audit and update your security protocols.
- Clearly post user rights: Users should have the right to access, modify, or delete their personal data. They should also be able to opt out of data collection or revoke consent.
- Partner responsibly: If you’re using third-party analytics tools or services, ensure they’re compliant with all relevant privacy and security regulations.
That said — I’m not an attorney! Consult your web developer and legal counsel for more details on staying compliant with local, state, and national regulations.
Tracking Website Traffic for SEO Made Simple
When you learn how to track website traffic, there’s a goldmine of insights. They can help you improve your SEO game, make data-driven decisions about your content strategy, and ensure you get maximum ROI for your marketing efforts.
With Semrush, you can analyze your competitors’ visitors so you can spot opportunities and find more ways to drive traffic to your website. Get started with Traffic Analytics today.