I really enjoy marathon running. And I really enjoy diving into search engine optimization (SEO) work. And, although you might not think it at first, these two things have a helluva lot in common.
For example, you know you should eat well and stick to a training plan ahead of a marathon. But when it comes to the crunch all you want is pizza and beer, and to slouch on the sofa. Staying on track takes a lot of work and dedication. The payoff is an improvement in your running, but getting there feels like an uphill battle.
The same is true with SEO. It’s hard work. Sometimes completing SEO tasks is an everyday grind. But it must get done if you want those higher Google rankings. More importantly, those higher rankings brings your goals a step closer.
Measuring the little changes that matter
I use running as an example because during marathon training all the little things add up to make a big difference. Eating better, laying off the booze and following a strength training schedule means hitting my goal marathon time is more likely.
Measuring the little changes that impact my performance makes sure I do more of what’s effective and tweak other bits until they work, too. You need to apply the same principle to SEO.
When working on multiple projects and updates to improve rankings how do you know what’s working and what’s not if you’re not measuring those little changes?
Setting measurements (aka key performance indicators)
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the metrics and measurements directly linked to your business goals in Google Analytics (GA). Analyzing these tells you how effective (or ineffective) your SEO strategy is.
A common question is, “What numbers are good KPI target numbers?”
Before diving into specific SEO metrics used in KPIs, I’d like to answer this. Setting KPIs against industry averages can do more damage than good. Every company is different and your industry averages may include figures and analysis from businesses much bigger or smaller than yours.
For this reason, I don’t believe in industry averages. I glance at them, but it’s not about getting numbers higher than someone else.
It’s about improving your own numbers.
Hitting an industry average might be a first goal. But why stop there? Going back to the running analogy, the drive is to always set a personal record. Every time. And in SEO, I’m always interested in improving KPIs.
For example, if my business goal is getting more leads to my contact page, I increase my search engine visibility and monitor click-through rate (CTR) of the organic search results pages. Benchmarking all these numbers before starting your SEO strategy is vital.
So with that said, let’s get in to the SEO metrics you should be measuring.
1. Organic Search Visits
Organic search traffic is the best, because it’s free. Therefore this is the first SEO measurement you should track.
While the major metric (aka macro) you’ll be keeping an eye on is the number of visits to your page or site, you can also look into micro metrics, like:
- landing page performance,
- which search engines are sending traffic,
- bounce rates,
- conversion rates, and
You can do this from your analytics platform. Go to Acquisition > Overview to get a high level view of your website’s primary traffic channels.
This tells you how each of your channels are performing in terms of traffic volume, average time on site, customer behavior, and conversions.
2. Search Engine Visibility
As the name suggests, this measurement is based on the percentage of time your website is visible in organic search results.
Example: if your website has 100% search engine visibility, it means you have every single search engine result for that search term. Along with all the clicks.
Sounds ideal. But just like me being able to run and talk at the same time, that ideal will never happen.
Most tracking tools rank based on the first 100 search results. Each result is assigned points. Let’s say you’re tracking two keywords and want to know what organic visibility those keywords are achieving.
Position 1 scores 100 points. Point value decreases the lower you drop down the rankings.
Keyword 1 is in position #5. This gives the keyword 96 points. Keyword 2 is in position #3. This gives the keyword 98 points.
Total points are 194. If both keywords were in position #1, total points would be 200.
Visibility is the actual point divided by total points. 194/200 = 97% organic search visibility.
Sounds complicated. And it is. So, thankfully we don’t have to manually calculate this. The search engine powers-that-be have created tools to figure it all out for us.
Want to see your website’s visibility number? Use SEMrush (affiliate link), Ahrefs, Moz or Searchmetrics.
3. New Organic Users
Attracting new users means increased visibility. These are people previously unfamiliar with your website. Measurements of new organic users needs to correlate with a similar growth in overall and returning people. Ideally, new users become return visitors.
These metrics should reflect each other. If they don’t, then you’ve identified a problem and your goal should be converting new users into repeat visitors.
To monitor new organic user levels, go to Audience > Behavior > New vs Returning. Segment the report on Organic Traffic.
4. Referral Traffic
Referral traffic means people coming to your website, from other websites and sources. Traffic is brought in through emails, social channels, other websites, and paid advertising.
Links from referrals are called backlinks. Google loves sites that get referrals from other websites, because it indicates trust and authority. When it comes to backlinks, the more-the-merrier but you have to make sure they’re quality links. This means they’re relevant to your business and the content it’s linking to.
To see what backlinks are pointing people towards your site:
Go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals to monitor referral traffic.
Like new organic users, if your backlink number increases you can be sure there’s rising awareness of your website. Your SEO is doing it’s job.
While this all sounds great and like it should be easy-peasy, there’s one catch. It’s called “referrer spam” or “fake traffic”.
This is when a program, not a real person, visits your website. Affiliate programs are common culprits. They earn commission with increased traffic. By using embedded links that includes a code, it gives them a cut of revenue from products you purchase. You can spot these folks in your Google Analytics because they have a super high bounce rate.
Helpful hint: exclude referrer spam. Go to Admin > All Filters. Add the new filter and call it something like Exclude [SpamDomainName].com.
5. Keyword Rankings
When I set-up tracked keywords for my photography business, it was sad. Everything was at zero. Makes sense. My site was brand new. But look at this upward trend over 60 days.
This is why tracking keyword rankings is addictive. SEMrush tracks all the keywords, the position over time, estimated traffic to my website and average position. It’s hard to resist checking them each day when you’re seeing such a quick change.
6. Keyword Performance
Google Analytics (GA) is good for so many things, but it doesn’t analyze organic keyword search performance.
Look at your GA keywords. The number one keyword displays as “(not provided)”.
This is because Google changed its policies back in 2011 to protect user privacy. Keywords remain hidden like this, unless you’re running a paid Google Ads campaign.
Image source: WordStream
Not having access to this data is frustrating. And there are ways to unlock the “keyword not provided” results. Filter out this data and focus on the organic keywords that are available.
To see what organic search terms are driving traffic to your website go to Google Search Console > Search Traffic > Search Analytics.
Note, there’s only 90 days worth of data at any given time but you may want to go back further than this. For long-term reference download the data monthly.
Google Search Console gives you useful keyword specific performance results. You can use these measurements to influence other SEO decisions.
Within Google, you’ll see keyword:
- CTR (click-through rate), and
- average position.
Do I need to rank for more organic keywords?
If yes, then focus on content creation.
Do I need to improve how many people are clicking through to my page?
Make changes to the page title, meta descriptions and add structured data.
Do I need to reduce the bounce rate?
Improving the landing page experience can help.
7. CTR (Click-Through Rate) from Search Engine Results
Higher Google rankings means higher CTR. It’s an SEO no-brainer.
Image source: Neil Patel
Google Search Console shows the number of people clicking through to your site based on keyword phrase.
Of all seven metrics you must measure during your SEO campaign, CTR is arguably the most important.
Low CTR means people aren’t connecting with the optimizations, like the page title tag and page meta description. There isn’t enough oomph in the copy to convince the searcher to click through to your page. You’re therefore falling at the first hurdle. If the search powers see you’re not attracting people to your site, they’ll keep bumping you down the rankings.
Organizing your SEO measurements
Getting your website optimized is a time-consuming task. Creating a plan and putting it into effect needs daily dedication so your business reaches its personal best. Only then will the SEO measurements and results you get make a real difference to your company.
Whether you choose to DIY your SEO or would rather have the whole lot looked after by an SEO strategist, I can help. The first step is understanding your goals — which is something we’ll discuss during our first call. Click here if you’re keen to get started.
https://searchengineland.com/12-most-important-seo-metrics-to-monitor-285190 https://searchenginewatch.com/2018/02/06/8-key-google-analytics-reports-for-seo/ https://cognitiveseo.com/blog/15516/measure-seo-efforts/ https://www.monsterinsights.com/google-analytics-hacks-increase-organic-traffic/