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Active Pages: the #1 SEO Indicator in 2014

23rd July 2014AnnabelleAnnabelle

Identifying Active Pages is absolutely crucial!

The notion of Active vs. Inactive Pages is, for SEO, as close to "useless vs. useful" as we can get. It tells us if a page performs as an organic landing page or not.

Definition of an active page:

A page which generates at least one organic visit over a given period.

All we need to do is make sure we don't compare apples and oranges - always compare Active Page volumes or ratios over the same length of time. Easy: all Botify crawl reports use a 30-day period.

Active Pages is a useful metric to consider when making decisions (for example, to confirm that a website section should be disposed of, because it is identified as totally useless), as well as when checking results (to measure the impact of internal linking optimizations, for instance) or monitoring SEO efficiency on a particular section of the website.

Imagine increasing the number of active pages AND the number of visits per active page!

How does this fit with other SEO indicators?

Broadly speaking, some SEO indicators are about whether a page exists or not for search engines. Others are about how the page is perceived by the search engine.

We recently covered two key indicators of the first kind, available in the Botify Log Analyzer:

  • Google's crawl rate on your site: pages Google sees or doesn't see

  • Orphan pages found by Google: pages that are not linked on the website

The second kind of SEO indicator deals with content uniqueness, semantics, incoming links, ranking, etc.

If we look at this through an SEO transformation funnel, indicators for whether a page exists or not for search engines are at the beginning of the funnel. Indicators about page perception are in the middle, and Active Pages and organic visits are at the end of the funnel.

Active page indicators in Botify

The active pages ratio provides an interesting indication sitewide, but it becomes all the more meaningful when considered by type of page.

Both Botify tools provide active pages information, but with slightly different perspectives:

  • A snapshot analysis: a crawl report from Botify Analytics or Botify Log Analyzer maps active pages(over 30 days) to pages found by the Botify crawler on the website (this crawl, near the end of the 30-day period).

  • Historical analysis: the Botify Log Analyzer interface shows daily active pages or cumulated data over a selected period.

Here are a few graphs you can find in our tools (and a few details about what they are built from, if you are interested in what's under the hood).

Botify Analytics:

Report from website crawl:
Graph example: active pages ratio by page depth or number of clicks from the home page Botify Analytics, active pages by depth [Screenshot updated with the new Botify Analytics interface]

  • Data source for organic visits : Google Analytics import
  • Indicator: active vs inactive pages
  • Period considered for active / inactive indicator : 30 days
  • Pages categorization available in graphs: no, these are active pages at the site level (but on-demand data extracts per page category are available through the URL Explorer)

Botify Log Analyzer:

Report from website crawl and logs analysis:
Graph example: active pages by dimension or page category (one bar per category - labels were removed)

Botify Log Analyzer, active pages by dimension

  • Data source for organic visits : server logs
  • Indicator: active vs inactive pages
  • Period considered for active / inactive indicator : 30 days
  • Pages categorization available in graphs: yes (one bar per category)

Logs monitoring interface:
Graph example: active pages over time with distribution by category, daily view

Botify Log Analyzer, daily active pages

  • Data source for organic visits : server logs
  • Indicator: volume of active pages over time
  • Period: aggregation by day or cumulated over a customized period
  • Pages categorization available in graphs: yes (colors represent categories)

Active Pages Ratio: no such thing as a predefined "normal" rate

Of course higher is better. But what you can expect depends on the nature of your website and on pages types.

For instance, in an e-commerce website, navigation pages by product category, which role, in SEO, is to attract middle tail traffic, should all or virtually all be active. On the other hand, if there are millions of product pages which bring in long tail traffic, an active pages rate of 20% can be seen as good. But, if products from a particular section perform a lot better than products from another section, then it's worth checking why.

A particularly low pages rate for a specific type of page can indicate several things:

  • These pages are not adequate target pages for organic traffic. They can be classified as pages that shouldn't exist from a search engine perspective (example: some forum pages) - or perhaps, they shouldn't exist either for users (example: an alphabetical directory that users don't use, which provides access to content that is accessible elsewhere, through category pages).

  • Some of these pages are adequate target pages for organic traffic, but others shouldn't exist. For instance: duplicates. In this case, the active pages rate for the "good" pages will be higher once the duplicates are removed.

You may also suspect abnormal page volumes based on other information - and common sense.

Let's look at pages volume, too

We have visibility over volumes by page type in the Botify Log Analyzer, or through the URL Explorer in Botify Analytics, by filtering to get a specific URL format.

Did any figure make you raise an eyebrow? Did you expect as many pages? Or perhaps you expected more? It's worth validating that we have the right ball park figures.

For instance, if you are an e-commerce website:

  • How many product pages are there on your website? How does that compare to the number of products you have in theory (from your database)?
    If it's higher, chances are there are duplicates generated automatically (due to URL construction: added tracking parameter, different special character encoding, ...).
    If it's lower, it means that all products are not accessible on your website: nor Google, nor the Botify crawler, nor users can find them.The good news is that you should improve organic traffic just by making them accessible on your website.

  • How many internal search pages do you have? How does that compare to the number of product pages? We've encountered a website with more search pages than products, for instance. Then it's obvious there are way too many search pages.

Because website volume and depth are often closely related, the top causes of excessive depth are also top causes for abnormal page volumes: read more about these problems in our post on website depth.