When you start looking through all of the statistics regarding your website, it can be hard to sort out what’s important from what’s merely interesting. Web stats reporting packages can confront you with a staggering variety of reports. There are as many opinions on what you should worry about as there are crackpot theories about The Government hiding what’s really happening on the far side of the moon.

SearchJust for a moment, stop thinking about how many visitors are coming to your website and ask yourself how — exactly — are those visitors finding your site in the search engines?

The statistic is called “incoming search terms,” and even the most basic web stats reports should include it. It’s basically a list of the top search terms people use who actually click on a search engine link to land on your website. When somebody asks me to put on my SEO copywriter costume (that’s the one with the red cape), it’s one of the first stats I want to look at.

Very often, there’s a difference between what a website owner thinks is working and what visitors are really searching for when they land on his website. Incoming search terms can help you figure out which elements of your site optimization are working and which parts aren’t. They can also provide ideas for new SEO tactics, based on the content of real, live visitor searches.

Tools like Google’s keyword utility can give your incoming search terms even more analytical power. Does your site have some “accidentally” successful search terms that are also high-volume searches? Enhance the site’s optimization for those terms to attract even more traffic. Conversely, if you’re trying to attract a high-volume search and it’s not near the top of your incoming search terms, you need to take another look at how your site is optimized.

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