What’s the Difference Between Proactive and Reactive SEO?

Being proactive in SEO means you’re making optimization improvements to your pages based on what you know moves you up in rank.

Things like:

1. Using short URLs.

2. Targeting the right keywords for the page.

3. Answering search intent.

4. Using h2’s as a place to reinforce what topics are being covered & including the target keywords.

5. Internal links.

6. Etc.

While the word reactive often has a negative connotation, it’s pretty essential. Here’s why.

Reactive means looking at your page changes through incrementality testing and identifying what’s changing in terms of impression volume, CTR, clicks, CTR, and on-page signals like bounce rate & average session duration.

These signals, when coupled together in the right combinations, paint a powerful picture.


How Does Reactive SEO & Incrementality Testing Correlate?

Let’s look at these data points most important to SEO.

1. Clicks: How many users clicked on your listing after seeing the search results.

2. Impressions: How many users saw your listing after performing a search.

3. CTR: What % of users clicked on your listing versus the number of times the user saw your listing.

4. Average Position: The average ranking position of terms search most often for your page.

5. Session Duration: The average duration of time spent on your page.

6. Bounce Rate: The rate at which users visit your bounce and leave to either go back to the search result or exit the page entirely.

At their definition, there is immense value in understanding how these levers are pulled and what it means when one goes up & another goes down.

Below I’ll list some examples of what I mean and what information you should be taking from this data.

Example 1

1. Clicks – Down.

2. Impressions – Down.

3. Average Position – Stays the same.

4. CTR – Stays the same.

5. Sessions Duration – Stays the same.

6. Bounce Rate – Stays the same.

What might this combination mean?

At first glance, without the whole picture, you might think your traffic is down because something went wrong SEO-wise.

But after digging into the details, you find that the actual total number of users searching for these search terms dropped & your traffic being down actually had nothing to do with SEO at all.

Here’s another example.

Example 2

1. Clicks – Down.

2. Impressions – Up.

3. Average Position – Up.

4. CTR – Down.

5. Session Duration – Stays the same.

6. Bounce Rate – Stays the same.

Impression volume is up, which indicates we’re not losing total search volume for terms (due to seasonality, market shift, or other variables), and our average position improved. Why would traffic be down? 

This is a unique scenario where CTR could drop due to a competitor title/meta description having better pull in terms of click-through power with users searching those phrases and changes in the search results on Google’s end as we often see. Google regularly tests adding position 0 data with featured snippets and rich data, which all need to be accounted for while evaluating these traffic losses.

Based on these two sample outcomes…

Suppose our competitor is indeed pulling more CTR despite having a lower or higher position. In that case, we’ll need to mimic something of the same quality & understand why this title & description is converting users at a higher rate.

If Google had just changed the search results & this is why our CTR dropped, there’s not much we can do.

Regardless, we’re learning through our competitors what copy resonates well with the audience, OR we’re identifying EARLY what direction Google could be taking within our client’s market.

Either way, it’s a win.

Being reactive in this sense means observing traffic drops at a deeper level & modifying strategy moving forward to encompass the winning elements of the story these data element combinations are telling.