It’s critical to measure success when doing SEO, but which SEO metrics should you be looking at to determine success?
Number of backlinks?
Leads and sales?
Truth is – all of these are important. But, here’s the kicker: you should never use any single SEO metric to determine success/failure.
This is because all SEO campaigns have multiple “touch points” starting with the initial impression and ending with the final conversion, with many additional touch points in between (note: think of this as the “SEO funnel” — keep reading to learn more!)
Looking at single metrics in isolation will only tell part of the story.
It can also lead to inaccurate assumptions and conclusions regarding the success/failure of your campaign(s).
How do you solve this?
Create a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
In simple terms, this involves mapping various SEO metrics to overarching business goals and objectives (e.g. increase awareness, boost organic traffic, generate more leads, increase sales, etc).
This allows you to say: “If [insert metric] improves there is positive progress towards a particular business goal. If it doesn’t, we need to reassess/readjust the strategy”.
Increase brand visibility
Top 10 keyword rankings (SERP visibility)
Increase organic traffic
# of organic users (brand vs. non-brand)
More visibility to "money pages"
Organic traffic to product/ service pages
Increase number of quality leads
# of form fills or phone calls from organic
Increase online sales
# of sales from organic traffic
In short, KPIs are the connective tissue between the business’s goals/objectives and the SEO work you’re doing.
Since there are so many different metrics you could choose from, I recently reached out to 61 SEO experts from companies like Cars.com, SEER Interactive and Kaizen Search, and asked the following question:
List the key metrics you use to measure the performance and ROI of SEO campaigns?
If you want to jump straight to the responses, go here.
IMPORTANT: ROI will always be the ultimate metric. If you’re spending more on an SEO campaign than it’s making you, you should rethink the strategy.
Download the SEO Reporting Dashboard
Don't want to play with dimensions and filters? To save you some time, I looked at all the SEO metrics mentioned by the experts and created a custom Google Analytics SEO reporting dashboard.
You can download the dashboard, connect it to your Google Analytics account and have a professional SEO report for your business and/or clients in seconds.
Click the image below to import it directly into Google Analytics account.
Let’s talk more about this concept of the “SEO funnel”, and take a closer look at the most common SEO metrics mentioned by the experts.
The "SEO Funnel": Impressions, Clicks, Engagement & Action
SEO success relies on four things happening:
Impressions >> Clicks >> Engagement >> Conversions
(they MUST also happen in this order)
This is very similar to the traditional sales funnel, which at a basic level consists of:
Awareness >> Interest >> Decision >> Action
In fact, you can easily map these four things to a traditional sales funnel:
Let’s take a look at the four pieces of the puzzle in more detail:
1. Impressions: Unless you rank in the search results, nobody will even know you exist, so you’re going to need to rank in (at least) the top 10 for your target keywords (ideally the top 3).
2. Click: Ranking is great, but it’s a pointless endeavor if nobody shows any interest in your content and actually clicks through to your website from the SERPs. Your content needs to entice people to click (hint: you also need to make sure ranking for the right keywords).
3. Engagement: Getting people to your website isn’t enough; they need to actually engage. This means reading your content, commenting, visiting other pages, etc — basically, they’re making a decision as to whether you offer anything of value to them, or not.
4. Conversion: This basically refers to some kind of on-site action — it may be a sale, email subscriber, lead, etc. Only after a visitor has seen, clicked-on, visited, and engaged with your content will they convert.
Much like with a traditional sales funnel, leaks at any stage in your SEO funnel will mean wasted dollars. SEO metrics can help to quickly identify if, and where, these leaks are occurring — you just need to look at the right metrics.
- Getting visibility (i.e. impressions) but no clicks = Rethink SERP presence - title, meta description, schema markup. Are you enticing the user to click? .
- Getting clicks but poor engagement = poor content and/or UX.
- Getting traffic but no conversions = traffic qualification issue (i.e. poor keyword targeting) and/or conversion issue on the website.
Find the leaks, and you'll know where you need to focus to get quick SEO wins for your business, clients and/or employer.
But what metrics should you be looking at to find the leaks?
SEO Metrics: What Should You Be Looking At?
There are a million and one SEO metrics you could be analyzing across your campaigns.
Rather than me telling you what I think you should track, I asked 59 SEO professionals which metrics they use to gauge performance and show ROI (note: you can skip right to the responses here).
I'll highlight the most common metrics across each stage of the SEO funnel, what the metric measures, why it is important, and the tools you can use to quickly collect the data.
ORGANIC VISIBILITY (Awareness)
If people don't see your website (in the SERPs), they won't visit.
Organic visibility is, therefore, the first step in the SEO funnel.
Here are a few metrics to keep an eye on:
SEO Visibility Trends
Total Keyword Rankings
- What it is: # of keywords (in total) you currently rank for.
- Why it’s important: Strong websites will generally rank for more keywords by default — if total keywords is increasing over time, it’s generally a good sign (as long as your keyword and content strategy is targeting the right audience, at the appropriate stage in the funnel).
- Tool used: SEMrush
- What it is: % of keywords ranking in the top 3, 10, 20, etc.
- Why it’s important: This is an important metric early on because SEO campaigns can often take a while to start generating significant traffic gains. So, you want to be able to show your keyword sets trending positively.
i.e. from top 20 to top 10, and then eventually into the top 3. It validates that what you are doing is working, and helps the client see the long term payoff.
- Tool used: SEMrush
Specific Keyword Rankings (Most Clients Are Fixed On This)
- What it is: Ranking positions of target keywords.
- Why it’s important: Most of the search traffic goes to the top 1-5 rankings; the higher you can rank for your target terms, the more search traffic you’re likely to get. Most clients will look past general keyword trends and want to see progress against specific "money" (product/service) keywords.
- Tool used: SEMrush/Search Console
Note: At my search marketing agency, we also like to take the SEMrush keyword ranking data and populate into a Google Sheet with visual formatting to give the client a heatmap view of the rankings data:
Search Engine Impressions
- What it is: # of times your website has been displayed in the SERPs.
- Why it’s important: It helps uncover new high volume keywords you can optimize for, and provides a relative gauge of your growing/declining organic footprint. It should be growing steadily over time.
- Tool used: Search Console
Branded vs. Non-Branded Keyword Performance
- What it is: # of keywords containing branded words (e.g. robbie richards) vs. non-branded (eg. keyword research tools).
- Why it’s important: More traffic from branded keywords correlates with increased brand awareness. However, over time you want to see non-branded keywords (related to your product/service) increasing steadily. Generally, non-brand keywords will bring new users searching for information, products/services related to your business.
- Tool used: Google Analytics
Ranking is important, but it’s totally pointless if nobody is clicking through to your website from the SERPs.
More clicks = more traffic.
(it can also be a sign that brand awareness campaigns — from efforts such as guest posting — are working well)
Here are a few metrics to keep on top of:
SERP Click-Through Rate (CTR)
- What it is: # of clicks to your website/ # search impressions.
- Why it’s important: You can have great keyword rankings and SERP impression share, but if your CTRs are low you're leaving a lot of traffic on the table.
Look in the Search Console CTR report and look for undperforming keywords and landing pages. Often, a tweak in the title tag/ meta description, or adding schema markup can result in an instant boost in CTR, and organic traffic.
Tip: Before you start doing keyword research and creating loads of new content, look to see if there are any opportunities to get some quick wins by optimizing the SERP presence you already have.
- Tool used: Search Console
% New Users (Organic)
- What it is: The % of visitors from organic search who have never visited your website before.
- Why it’s important: It generally correlates with increased organic (non-brand) visibility — you’re reaching a new audience.
- Tool used: Google Analytics
Desktop vs. Mobile vs. Tablet
- What it is: A comparison of desktop vs. mobile traffic metrics.
- Why it’s important: Over half of all online traffic now comes from a mobile device. It's important to segment desktop/ mobile traffic and look at your KPIs - rankings, traffic, CTRs, time on site, conversions etc. - to ensure there are no gaps in performance. For example, lower rankings and conversions on mobile could indicate poor UX.
- Tool used: Google Analytics
Top Organic Landing Pages
- What it is: Pages receiving the most organic traffic.
- Why it’s important: All organic traffic is not created equal. Your keyword and SERP strategy should prioritize pages with higher commercial intent. i.e. you should be looking at page-level data - traffic, engagement, conversions - across your core money (product/service) pages.
Your clients will be most interested in seeing organic traffic increase to their most important pages. You should be able to spot quick-win opportunities.
For example: Do you have a product page ranking #5? Improve the content or build some links and get it into the top 3. This will immediately move the bottom line.
On the flip side, if rankings are slipping on key pages you can redirect efforts quickly.
You can also quickly spot which pages are getting a lot of organic traffic, but not converting. Maybe there is a hole in conversion strategy? Maybe the UX is bad? Maybe the page is ranking for the wrong keywords? Minor changes here can deliver big results.
- Tool used: Google Analytics
Traffic is only half the battle.
You also need people to engage with your website/content. If they don't engage, you'll never even get a chance to convert them into leads or paying customers.
Here are a few engagement metrics the experts look at:
- What it is: # of people who view only one page during their visit.
- Why it’s important: It can sometimes indicate that a person didn’t find your website useful and simply left. Note: it's common for some traffic to have a higher bounce rate.
For example, people who visit blog posts often leave after reading. However, if you are noticing really high bounce rates on lower funnel pages, or during the checkout stage on ecommerce sites, you might want to revisit the messaging, or take a closer look at the traffic source to ensure the content matches the user expectation.
- Tool used: Google Analytics
Time on Site/Page
- What it is: Average amount of time people are spending on your page(s).
- Why it’s important: If this number is low, users probably didn’t find what they were looking for (or you need to target more appropriate keywords). Time on site is also a more heavily weighted ranking factor now - if users hit your page and bounce away quickly, it'll likely hurt your rankings.
- Tool used: Google Analytics
Pages Per Session
- What it is: # of pages they view during a single session (i.e. visit) to your website.
- Why it’s important: If people are viewing a lot of content, they’re engaging with your brand and finding your website useful. More touch points = more likely to convert further down the line.
- Tool used: Google Analytics
This is the one that really matters: conversions.
If you fail at this stage, nothing else matters. It was all in vein.
Here are a few metrics you should focus on:
Conversions (from Organic Traffic)
- What it is: # of conversions (from organic sources) within a specific time period.
- Why it’s important: Pretty simple - if very few of your visitors are actually converting into leads or sales, there is a big problem. If this is the case, take a top-down look at the numbers.
Are you targeting the right keywords? Does content match intent? How is the UX? What is your conversion strategy? There are a lot of possibilities. Watch this metric like a hawk.
- Tool used: Google Analytics
Conversion Rate by Query
Organic Assisted Conversions (and Value)
- What it is: It tracks the interactions a customer had on your website leading up to a conversion.
- Why it’s important: The consumer is more educated, and the buyer journey has become a lot more complex. People often have multiple touchpoints with a brand before converting. Don't short change your SEO efforts by only looking at SEO with a last-touch attribution mindset.
For example: a buyer could have originally come to your site from search, left your site, then returned and converted a week later after seeing your display ad on YouTube. SEO deserves to be getting some credit.
- Tool used: Google Analytics
Now we've taken a high-level look at the most common metrics used by the experts to measure SEO performance and ROI.
Next, grab the free Google Analytics SEO dashboard below, and then take a deeper dive into the metrics each expert monitors in their SEO campaigns:
Now, let's take a closer look at the metrics each expert uses to measure performance across a range of different SEO campaign types - traffic growth, link building, brand awareness, user engagement etc..
61 Professionals Discuss Which Metrics They Use to Measure the Performance (and ROI) of SEO Campaigns
#1: Jordan Frank | SEER Interactive
- Organic sessions (mobile + desktop)
- Revenue/primary site conversions from organic sessions
- Referral sessions (mobile + desktop)
- Revenue/primary site conversions from referral sessions
At Seer, we like to quantify ROI and our performance in terms of revenue. It can often be difficult for clients to grasp an SEO agency's full impact if performance metrics begin and end with keyword rankings, links, and other more traditional SEO data points that don't tie back to the client's business goals.
So at the very least, my dashboards always include revenue and/or primary website goal completions from organic traffic and referral traffic, which can be easily pulled from Google Analytics.
#2: Casey Meraz | Juris Digital
Our SEO Campaigns are geared towards our clients ROI. The more information the client is willing to share with us, the better.
Since we mostly work with law firms we start by finding out the average value of a case by looking at historical values. Once we have this number we have an average revenue number per case signed.
From here we will track all phone calls, clicks to call, text's, live chats and contact forms. We review these and separate these by relevant leads.
At the end of month we compare this data to the number of cases signed and multiple that number to the average cost per case. We can then determine our clients ROI based on their marketing spend from actual contacts and cases signed.
#3: Jennifer Van Iderstyne | Overit
We measure a number of different metrics and include them in our monthly reporting, but here are 3 of the top areas we keep a close eye on to evaluate growth and strategic opportunity.
Organic Traffic (Google Analytics) - Specifically New Users - We regularly review the status of organic traffic volume month over month, and year over year. While we watch the raw numbers, of particular interest are new user numbers.
While this is imperfect, continued growth of new organic users reflects success in attracting site visitors who were previously unfamiliar with the brand.
It is important however that this number correlates with growth in overall and returning users as, ideally new users will become return users after their first visit.
Organic Conversions (Google Analytics) - Goal completions generally represent leads, and so we measure that closely. But we also collaborate with our clients to understand and measure the value and quality of those leads, along with the rate at which they turn into paying customers.
As part of the analysis, we're always looking for insight on how to increase the rate of conversions from highly trafficked pages. We also use data from content marketing initiatives to understand where informational topics have lead to conversions, to use those as themes as guides to further content development.
Keywords Ranking Positions and Volume (SEMrush) - Higher ranking positions represent opportunities for more exposure, clicks, traffic and customers. For that reason, naturally we monitor how well clients rank for well-searched, relevant keywords.
Because every ranking keyword represents a chance to bring in visitors, we also monitor growth of the number of ranking keywords, particularly in the top 20.
#4: Jordan Kasteler | jordankasteler.com
Keyword count - this shows the total keywords a page ranks for.
Total keyword volume - this shows the total potential volume all your desired keywords would be targeting.
Total keywords - the # of keywords your domain is ranking for that have more than 10 searches per month and are in position 100 or less.
Organic Traffic - how does this compare month-over-month and year-over-year?
Conversion - has there been an increased lift in business from leads or sales be it from organic or not.
Micro-Conversion - how people have become life-long subscribers to your messaging.
#5: Helen Pollitt | Reflect Digital
Traffic volume by channel - this gives clients an overview of the marketing channels that are driving traffic to their site, an obvious one but without this metric it's not possible to see where to invest your marketing budget.
Google analytics is my go-to tool to analyse this but not without routinely checking the source is being categorized correctly and creating filters when it isn't.
SEO Visibility - Using the index from the folks at Searchmetrics it's possible to see the increase or decrease in a domain's visibility in the SERPs.
Using a combination of the search volume and position of keywords Searchmetrics' index analyses how often a website shows in the search results. From there I can map our organic search efforts against the graph to see how the domain has benefited, and also see at a glance any historic effects of site migrations or algorithm updates.
Over time, I would expect to see search visibility increase as our work takes hold and the site ranks better and more often for high volume search terms.
Goal Completions - what use is driving high volumes of traffic to a site if it doesn't result in an increase in sales/sign-ups/downloads?
Without adequate tracking of goal completions it's not possible to see how marketing efforts are benefiting our clients' businesses, so I consider tracking relevant on-site goals a priority.
In tandem with my clients I will identify website interactions that will result in a tangible benefit to the client's business and from there, using a combination of Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics, I build goals to measure the frequency of these actions occurring.
Not only is this a key metric in identifying how qualified the traffic is that I'm driving to the site it also provides an insight into how conversion can be improved.
Not many people signing up to your newsletter? A goal in Google Analytics can help identify at what point a form is frequently abandoned. Want to know if it's worth your team's time in writing whitepapers for your website? Set up a goal for tracking downloads. Simple, but crucial.
#6: Pete Campbell | Kaizen
- % Split of Non-Brand + Branded Sessions (including analysing Not Provided data)
- % Terms Ranking in Top 10 Positions
- Leads (Email Collected / Callbacks Requested)
#7: James Norquay | Prosperity Media
The ways in which we show ROI for clients includes the following - Conversions from SEO traffic, overall organic traffic, referral traffic from SEO, and visibility metrics such as rankings based on location.
#8. Andy Crestodina | Orbit Media
• Rank for target phrases (you can't put it in the bank, but it's important, right? It's certainly not irrelevant).
• CTR per phrase (now you're getting closer to the value. Drill down from the Search Console > Landing Pages report to see the performance per query).
• Search Traffic (sessions from organic per URL).
• Time on Page (it's a user interaction signal that correlates with rank, it's also an indication that the content is answering the visitors questions. It's more important to me than bounce rate).
• Conversion Rate (we measure the percentage of visitors who convert into subscribers for the organic channel for each URL).
#9. Lauren Burgoni | SEER Interactive
Whenever we kick off a new SEO campaign, our team usually starts with benchmarking all the major SEO metrics to follow up on quarterly.
These would include:
- Organic traffic figures (monthly)
- Referral traffic figures (monthly)
- Page-1 keyword rankings
- Striking distance" keyword rankings (Page-2 or 3)
- Monthly search volume potential for Page-1 keyword ranks
- Number of indexed pages, number of crawl errors
- Backlinks (including number of referral domains).
We would also perform a Competitive Keyword Gap Analysis to identify market share for different keyword categories or content themes.
For content-heavy projects, these can be reviewed later to see if we were able to successfully improve visibility for high-priority content categories using holistic strategies.
ROI should always tie back to client goals, and strategies should support those goals (linkbuilding vs. content vs. thought leadership, etc.).
Measuring SEO is always tricky. There are so many things that go into it.
For example: if you're a larger site and have launched new page types, then the first think you would want to measure is the indexation count or how the new pages are being indexed & crawled by Google.
For this look at Google Search Console Index Status Report and Bing Webmaster Tools Site Activity Report.
It is also "Google practice" to create a new sitemap for the newly launched pages and track them separately. Server log files are also great source for this measurement.
Coming to the traffic front:
Measuring traffic growth is a solid KPI in SEO. Traffic growth based on page group or category group is a must depending on the site structure.
Week over week measurement is overwhelming so it is always good to do a YOY or MOM traffic comparison. Segment the traffic in GA:
-By Page Group
-By Device group
-If you have pages for each neighborhood and cities then grouping by Market type is beneficial.
Don't be over obsessed over keyword tracking as keyword ranking fluctuates a lot and in fact vary depending on location, device type etc. But looking at the over all keyword visibility trend is a good practice to reference it against any Google updates. We use STAT to monitor keyword rankings.
ROI measurement for SEO depends on various factors such as site conversion rate, order value, Google CTR and most importantly how the attribution modeling is set for your organization.
#11. Anna Hoesl | CLC Agency
Identify and Integrate Leads: Website form submissions and 3rd party leads such as leads in iFrames or calls (year over year/month over month).
Keyword Rankings: Rankings of targeted keywords before and after launching SEO campaign (year over year/month over month).
Conversion Rate: Changes in conversion rates that might be influenced by A/B testing campaigns, changes in Meta Description or Title Tags (year over year/month over month).
User Engagement: Mixture of lead submissions, active time on site and page views (year over year/month over month)
Site Health: Issues solved by Technical SEO Classic Indicator Analytics Data: Sessions, Users, Bounce Rate, Session Duration, ..
#12. Gabriella Sannino | International Marketing and SEO company
The metrics we measure all depend on the campaign's goals at the time. However, for search campaigns, we always include click-through and conversion.
Click-through rate is a definitive metric. The ultimate point of optimization isn't ranking; it's to get people to click through to the page. The ultimate point of a link isn't about backlinks; it's about people clicking through to the page. And so on, and so forth.
So we watch click-through pretty closely when implementing any campaign as an indicator of whether the external marketing is doing its job.
We watch conversion for much the same reason. It does no good to get eyes on the site if the business doesn't do better for it. It's not quite as intricately entwined in each campaign as CTR, so much as is it's an overall indicator of site health.
For example, if you're implementing a social awareness campaign, watching the conversion rate is probably on the low end of priorities. Instead, you might be watching CTR, brand mentions or social follows. If you're implementing a sales campaign, however, conversion rate is probably going to be on the high end of metric priorities.
Finally, there's Cost Per Lead. Ultimately, you want a low CPL, right? For us, CPL is a review metric. We look over the campaign at intervals in regards to cost, compare to how many leads we've received, and tweak as necessary.
It's best for short-term campaigns that are fairly simple. The more points of sale that could be included in a campaign, the harder it can be to watch.
Floating metrics - metrics we watch some times and not others - have included a wide range of points.
For example, we had a client who wanted to up visitor retention. We incorporated return visitors into the metrics we watched.
Another client wanted to find out which referral sites gave the best returns for marketing campaigns, so we watched that metric.
In short, the best metric to use is the one that fits the bill and particular purpose of the campaign.
#13. Adam Chronister | Enleaf
While we get more granular as a campaign matures, we initially look at measuring search traffic (especially organic), total page visits, total conversions month-over-month along with conversion rates, etc.
We also use SEMrush' reports to get a feel for our general idea of ranking distribution and SERP visibility.
#14. Eli Schwartz | elischwartz.co
My primary metric is search traffic with a secondary metric of # of keywords rankings for a page as reported by GSC or a rankings tool. ROI is more specific to a business, so it could be conversions, time on site, or pages per visit.
#15. Linda Kyzar | Stream Creative
Improving keyword rankings in SERPs typically tops the performance measurement list for our client’s in competitive industries.
I’m able to pull keyword metrics from client campaigns built in SEMrush.
We share up-to-the minute results with our clients through dashboards created with Databox. Databox brings together data from all of our analysis tools and displays in real-time.
Specifically for keyword monitoring, we set up a Databox dashboard called SEMrush Keyword Mission Control to monitor the metrics below:
Top Keywords by Position
A drop in search rankings from position 3 to position 8 (or worse) can happen in an instant. When should you react? Marketers need to know about these issues as they’re happening. With campaigns set in SEMrush, you can automatically pull this data from your Rankings Overview, and monitor and set alerts on a Databox dashboard.
Keyword Rankings by Search Volume
Also pulled from your Rankings Overview, monitoring keyword positions sorted by total monthly search queries gives you a quick view of where you stand with keywords that have the highest search volume.
This list provides you with metrics for keywords ranking in Google’s top 3, top 10, top 20, and top 100, and percent of change over time. When your keywords slip to page two, you can analyze and adjust at the time of the drop. When these keywords rise in SERPs, it’s a great time to check in with your client. 🙂
Visibility Trend - Position Tracking
This view displays your CTR (click thru rate) progress in Google’s top 100 for keywords from your current SEMRush tracking campaign. If you’re not already at or close to 100% (first position on SERPs), a steady climb is what you want to see here.
Gotta include one from GA! Monitoring your top channels allows you to zero in on organic traffic performance driven by your SEO strategy, and compare to traffic coming from other sources including email, social, direct traffic and more.
#16. Sam Hollingsworth | Elevation Ten Thousand marketing agency
Visits/sessions: This is an obvious top-level KPI that can at least give an impression of the sort of volume a site commands regularly, as well as seasonality and any other outside influences that may affect performance.
New users/visitors: This is another high-level look at, not just the volume of visits/sessions, but how often users are returning and how their behavior coincides in that of site performance. Of course, this is most useful of a metric as a supplementary KPI with visits/sessions.
Page/session: This is a useful to metric, especially when looking at on a channel-by-channel basis. It's worth understanding what the user experience/buyer journey is like and how it differs based on each channel.
Avg. time on site/avg. session duration: This is a supplementary metric further analyzing user behavior that, like page/session, helps understand how users interact with your site based on the different channels they arrive from.
Company-specific KPI (i.e. transactions, enrollments, request a quote, etc.): This is an obvious metric that measures success. More transactions = more money. More money = success.
Revenue: The all-mighty dollar will always be the main measurement for success in a company trying to take money. Revenue fits hand-in-hand with company-specific KPIs that generate revenue, and both are useful to build cases for success to the most important stakeholders.
#17. Chris Dreyer | Rankings.io
Keyword rankings: Keyword rankings are a KPI for pretty much all of our SEO campaigns. The reason we pay such close attention to this is that our client’s prospects are using those terms to find businesses online that are offering those services.
This is a foundational element of SEO because if businesses do not rank well for a keyword phrase, then they are not showing up where it matters. The more we can boost a client’s rank for a given keyword phrase, the closer we get to getting them more clients, customers, revenue. We use SEMrush to keep track of our client’s keyword rankings.
Referring domains: These are a means to an end and referring domains alone does not equal success. We want to be sure that high-quality referring domains are being added during an SEO campaign because we know that they are a primary ranking factor in Google’s algorithm.
In all of the clients we’ve helped achieve first page rankings for, links have been a common denominator between ranking well and falling short. We use Ahrefs to evaluate the backlink profiles of our clients.
Organic traffic levels: We use organic search traffic (in platforms like Google analytics) like the canary in the coal mine. Even though you can add referring domains to a site, that does not mean Google has to recognize them as legitimate.
We’ve seen sites that have been completely destroyed by adding large quantities of bad referring domains and their traffic is low because Google is penalizing them. We use Google Analytics to keep an eye on organic search traffic for our clients.
#18. Jacob Wulff | Thrive Internet Marketing Agency
My agency records and compares 3-key metrics for our clients campaigns; top 5 keyword rankings, traffic, and leads. We compare these metrics month-over-month and year-over-year to show value and results to clients.
We use Advanced Web Ranking to track the number of top 5 keyword ranking keywords, and Google Analytics to track traffic and leads (setup as goals in GA). The clients love this easy to read format and our team loves it to gauge performance.
#19. Jacob Wulff | Thrive Internet Marketing Agency
There are several metrics useful for measuring SEO performance:
- Total visits from search and share of total visits from search can be measured using Google Analytics, and show whether or not search traffic is increasing over time.
- Keyword ranking (how your website ranks for specific keyword phrases, over time and versus competitors) can be measured using any keyword ranking tool, such as Authority Labs.
- Share of search traffic from "generic" phrases versus branded phrases can be measured (at least as a sample) by Google Search Console. Well-done SEO should, over time, increase traffic from non-brand search terms.
But for B2B companies, the key metric for SEO ROI is goal conversions from search, measured using Google Analytics.
If conversions are strong overall but weak from search (e.g. the share of conversions from search is well below the share of traffic from search), that's an SEO problem. If conversions are weak overall, it's likely more of a conversion rate optimization (CRO) problem, such as poorly designed landing pages.
#21. Emily Yost | SuperScript Marketing
My job as an SEO is not to drive more traffic to a website, but to drive better-qualified traffic to a website.
Coaching the client on setting realistic goals is key.
My primary KPIs include:
1. Organic impressions, tool used = GSC
2. Click-Through-Rate, tool used = GSC
3. Total organic entrances, tool used = GA
4. Session duration/bounce rate, tool used = GA
5. Avg. pages per visit, tool used = GA
6. Total backlinks - links from industry leaders, influencers, local institutions, etc. tool used = Ahrefs
6. Avg KW rank - paying special attention to non-branded rankings as a measurement for brand awareness/discovery, tool used = GSC, Moz & Ahrefs
7. CVR - how many users entering the site via search engines complete CTA's, or purchase a product (if an eCommerce client), tool used = GA
#22. Joe Williams | Zen Optimise
I keep tabs on keywords by checking their rankings. A typical client may have target 200 keywords and I'd group these by priority, with roughly 10% getting P1 (top) priority, 20% getting P2 (second) priority and the rest would be P3 priority.
Once each keyword has been allocated to a landing page, I create a custom segment in Google Analytics for all of la
nding pages and call it "Targeted SEO Landing Pages".
For 200 keywords, with an average of 6 targeted keywords per page, that's around 34 landing pages in total. I'd also keep tabs on the overall organic traffic in Google Analytics.
Lastly and most importantly, I'd setup macro (e.g. Sales) and micro conversions (e.g. PDF downloads, form submissions, key videos watched etc) in Google Analytics and see how well the Target SEO Landing Pages and the organic overall traffic performed.
#23. Dawn Boyette | Valeo Online Marketing
I don’t have a set of metrics that I look at for every client’s ROI. Each client has their own goals and needs for their particular brand.
Each campaign I build is customized with it’s own goals and ROI metrics.
An ecommerce customer will focus on their sales numbers compared to the amount of money spent. A B2B client will be most interested in the number of leads we’ve generated.
Still other clients are only looking at their brand exposure, or overall site engagement. Each client I service has their own unique set of goals. And, my efforts on their behalf are customized for each one.
#24. Steve Barringer | InventHelp
The obvious metric to measure organic SEO is traffic; however, traffic alone is not a great measurement.
First, we need to establish which keywords (and the traffic that comes from them) convert into leads, which is easily done by creating and analyzing related PPC campaigns.
This way, I can determine which keywords create traffic that converts into leads, not just unproductive website visits.
For reporting, I use Google Analytics (setting up appropriate goals) and SEMrush. So, the most important factors for me to report are conversion rates in coordination with total traffic, also taking into account top keyword rankings.
SEO ROI is not just about traffic and rankings but also about your brand and keeping your customers happy. So, I dig deeper to see if conversion rates are lower in certain geographical areas.
Positive and negative customer reviews from local areas can have a huge impact on conversion rates and ROI, so reputation management is a large part of SEO in the current landscape.
To sum it all up: Consider total conversions/leads/sales minus the lead cost. Traffic, conversion rates, keyword rankings, and branded traffic/conversions are all important metrics when you consider how they work together.
*(You also want to look at mobile and desktop results separately.)
#26. Adam Rowles | Inbound Marketing Agency Perth
1. Leads From Organic Traffic - The easiest way to measure ROI of SEO is to setup goals in Google Analytics and segment by Organic traffic.
Also, Hubspot can track traffic all the way to a sale. However, this is only as accurate as the client input unless e-commerce.
2. Organic Sessions - We use Google Analytics to get an accurate measurement of how much traffic is generated from SEO. However, we use organic search metrics from SEMrush to compare against competitors.
3. Keyword Visibility - Before we start getting traffic we need to move keywords to the first page of Google. We need to measure this progress otherwise we might get impatient with no traffic.
Keyword visibility gives us an idea if we're on the right track in the early stages. We use a few rank tracking tools to track the websites keyword visibility (top 100 positions for target keywords) and compare with competitors.
Also, we monitor 'Impressions' in Google's Search Console.
4. Domain Authority/Rating - We use Moz or Ahrefs to monitor the performance of our link building efforts. It's one thing to get a link, but we want it to pass on link juice from a reputable domain.
5. Other metrics - Click-through-rate, Average Position, Avg. Session Duration, Pages/ Session, Bounce Rate.
#27. Shari Thurow | Omni Marketing Interactive
I use a number of different metrics to measure SEO performance that I believe all SEO practitioners should use.
First, the most appropriate web page (or other digital document) SHOULD appear highest in navigational queries for the brand, business, or organization. I will run a series of navigational queries to determine this.
A navigational query is one in which searchers WANT to go to a specific website or to a specific web page in a website. I would make sure, first and foremost, that the majority of navigational queries deliver searchers to the right place.
Second, I want to see that the largest volume of search-engine traffic is NOT going to the website's home page. Reason? A home page is not usually a final-destination page. A home page should guide users to other important places on a site.
If a website is optimized properly, home-page traffic will often decrease. Though this previous statement is not true 100% of the time, I still want to verify that searchers (users) are getting to their desired content as directly as possible.
Finally, I want to see how well the destination pages convert via direct and indirect search-engine traffic. Remember, a search session can last days, weeks, and even months. So when I look at this final metric, I try to see the big picture.
#28. Scott Taft | SEER Interactive
Revenue - Certainly not the easiest of KPIs to track back to an SEO campaign, but you need to get as close as possible to tracking the real dollars your SEO efforts are driving.
At Seer we leverage our Analytics team to help clients set up this kind of tracking and, though it can be tough, it's worth it in the end and crucial to understanding your real SEO ROI.
Assisted Conversions - I work for a lot of B2B clients and it's the norm that your conversion funnel is omnichannel.
Organic is only one piece of the puzzle and sometimes it's the first step when a potential customer is educating herself on your product. She might eventually convert via paid or social but I need to be able to communicate organic's role in that conversion process and assisted conversions help me do that.
#29. Dan Taylor | dantaylor.online
Rankings - Rankings are a staple of organic search performance, and being able to track them correctly across multiple devices (as well as for localised venice search results) is important in helping clients understand campaign progress.
They are also a great metric and indicator for website health following any major algorithm updates, development pushes or protocol migrations. Keyword visibility can also fall into this (making the client site visible for more keywords, including longer tail search phrases).
I use a number of tools for this including SEO Rank Monitor, SEMrush, Search Console and the Cognitive SEO Keyword Tool.
Organic Traffic & Leads - Ultimately traffic and leads matter to your clients bottoms line, so its not all about rankings. It's helping create a strong environment for both search engines and users that cultivates qualified leads, which ultimately turn into revenue.
Google Analytics and Yandex Metrica are the tools I prefer to use. Metrica is an especially useful tool, even if you don't do anything in Russia. Out of the box it gives you a top level bot traffic report, heat maps, click maps and some great user insight statistics.
#30. Caroline Constable | Blue Hat Media
- Branded vs. non-branded keyword visibility
- Conversion rate
- Number of leads
- Number of transactions
#31. Harris Schachter | Optimize Prime
First off is traffic from natural search, this is the most important both for the entire site and at a page level.
After this I look at conversions (purchases, leads generated, etc.) then the value of those conversions minus the cost of the content/ link building/ SEO efforts to determine ROI.
You're probably wondering "What about ranking?" - Sure, I look at rankings but only as a leading indicator of the above analysis, not a success metric in an of itself.
#32: Kas Szatylowicz | Nightwatch
At Nightwatch, we carefully observe and strive to improve on a few crucial metrics which are correlated to our consistent growth (when it comes to conversions as well as search visibility) in the last few months. Among them:
1) Backlinks (number, quality, and diversity)
Acquiring links from high DA and PA pages helped us improve our search visibility and click potential, which resulted in a higher SERP position. As our link building is heavily focused on guest-posting, this also allowed us to position ourselves as experts in the SEO industry and opened new collaboration opportunities.
We don't only pay attention to the number of acquired backlinks, but also to their quality (high, medium, low, suspicious) and type. As Nightwatch allows us to determine the quality of the links we get, we try to consistently acquire links from the websites with page authority above 35. Apart from that we consistently monitor the type of links acquired (do-follow, no-follow) and the number of referring domains
2) Average position
Monitoring the average position for all the keywords we track helps us to adjust our SEO strategy and understand whether we are on the right track to becoming visible in SERP to new potential leads.
3) Organic traffic and new/old visitors
Organic traffic helps to determine whether our SEO efforts are paying off, and the new/old visitors is a great indicator of the behavior of the people visiting our landing page. This combined ensures that we focus on driving a better-qualified and in the end result - increase conversions and sales.
#33. Charlie Williams | Screaming Frog
Goal conversions or Ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics - Traffic is all well and good, but we want to show the results of our work, and what it means for the client's bottom line.
Organic traffic metrics from Google Analytics: Sessions, users, pageviews, bounce rate, average session duration & pages per session - These are the basics to show the amount and engagement success of our SEO work.
How much traffic are we getting? What is that traffic doing? And how long do they stick around? Compare key metrics, such as as sessions to both last year and last month.
Organic traffic breakdown by device (from Google Analytics: Knowing what device your audience is seeing your content on, and the relative success for each, is a key part of modern SEO.
Impressions, clicks and click-through-rate data from Search Console's Search Analytics report: Using the API to get fuller data, this (rough) set of stats from Google can help show the effect of your changes to a site. Segmenting the query data by URL can give you insight into the SEO success of a page.
Otherwise, a simple breakdown of any of these stats by URL can show your best, or worst, performing content.
Number of organic landing pages driving traffic (from Google Analytics or Search Console)
Top performing referrers (from Google Analytics) - how else are you earning traffic?
SERP visibility: Keywords ranking for, position, monthly volume, expected traffic, keyword difficulty.
What keywords are we visible for? Have we moved up or down? What opportunities can we see?
You can use any of the excellent visibility tools (Ahrefs, SEMrush, Searchmetrics, Sistrix) or an enterprise platform (GetStat, PiDatametrics, Linkdex etc.) to do this, and after conversions, its often the part clients are most interested in!
Backlink metrics: Number of referring domain, number of external links, number of external followed links, new links etc. It wouldn't be an SEO dashboard if we didn't talk links...
Using your index of choice (Majestic, Ahrefs, Moz etc.), its simple to get some key stats in to show the current situation, and show off any coverage you are particularly proud of!
#34. Mark Kennedy | FDI Marketing
There are a lot of metrics that are important to showing the value of SEO. But since we work with a lot of small businesses, the most important metrics are leads and/or sales.
If you talk about click-through-rates, bounce rates, impression share, etc to a SMB owner, their faces gloss over.
In terms of leads, setting up correct goals is crucial. You’ll have your main conversions (such as a lead form) and for some accounts you may have micro-conversions (such as a whitepaper download).
The nice thing is you can use Google Analytics and AdWords to assign values for each. Because not all goals are created equal. And you don’t want to over-optimize for a micro vs a main conversion.
And for many SMB’s, phone calls need to be measured as well. We use Marchex for phone tracking. There are other good ones out there as well, but we like this software.
We can listen to the calls to make sure they are true leads (not sales prospecting) and we can track by channel (seo vs ppc vs email).
Also, live chat that integrates with Google Analytics, which helps track lead flow as well. We use ApexChat and we can get reports on the leads and the transcripts. And both the calls and the chats can help with customer service improvements and makes great content for SEO.
Also, ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics is a no-brainer. But I think while it’s important to measure revenue and orders for each channel, you have to analyze the conversion paths as well.
So, tracking multi-channel funnels can really help a small business owner understand how his email blast integrates with his SEO efforts or how a remarketing campaign impacts paid search.
If you can paint a clear picture of how digital (and offline) marketing leads to forms, chats, calls, and sales, these are the metrics that prove the value of an SEO campaign (or any channel) to a business owner.
#35. Chris Giarratana | CJGiarratana.com
I always look at Time On Page, Conversion Rate by Search Query, Number of Pages Visited, and Referral Traffic.
This information helps inform me on the best performing content, so I can optimize that content and develop more content similar to it.
To find this information I use several tools first-party tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console. However, I also cross-reference my findings with third-party tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush.
These third-party tools give me new data points to use when examining first-party tools and offer new opportunities to expand my content & SEO efforts too.
#36. Ariel Kozicki | Wpromote
For keyword rankings - we measure total organic keyword rankings, and then also page 1, 2, and 3 keyword ranking improvements.
It can also be valuable to filter in quick answer rankings, image results, and local pack rankings and assess increases there as well.
Then in Google Analytics, evaluating organic traffic sessions and new users, and then usability and conversion metrics such as bounce rate, average time duration on site, and of course revenue and transactions.
#37. Tom Demers | Digital Examiner
We use a number of metrics to measure progress from organic search.
The biggest high-level things we measure month-to-month are:
Keyword Rankings – While there are some issues with keyword rankings (eg. personalized search, numerous elements being baked into a search result, etc.) they’re frequently a good leading indicator for determining / troubleshooting issues with organic traffic.
We use Authority Labs for rank tracking and also look at Google Search Console search analytics data as well.
Organic Traffic – Obviously overall organic traffic is a key means of measuring SEO progress. We use Google Analytics and/or whatever analytics tool a client may have for these purposes.
Conversions & Revenue from Organic Search – Obviously the ultimate goal for any SEO campaign is primarily to help drive more business, so we’ll frequently use Google Analytics (or another analytics vendor or in some cases back-end reporting from tools like Marketo) to measure conversions and revenue from SEO efforts.
#38. Harsha Jadhav | Salmat
YoY growth in organic sessions and MoM organic search visibility by theme.
I don't tend to pinpoint to a particular keyword's ranking performance, but instead like reporting for the theme which gets identified during the keyword research.
I also like reporting on organic conversions for pre-defined goals and e-commerce transactions.
Onsite search is also a good indicator and helps fine tune the set of keywords that provide further opportunities.
For content performance, I look into engagement and user behaviour metrics such as bounce rates, time spent on page and a few social metrics like shares and likes.
For backlinks, I look into the root domain links and domain authority along with site history and link growth rate.
#39. Dicky Phillips | CF Search Marketing
Increase in non-branded traffic: This might seem like an out of the box idea of tracking ROI, but with the increase in conversational search, we really value the increase of traffic coming for more long tail or even question based search queries.
With organic, our hope is to introduce more consumers to our clients' brands.
Improved user behavior: I will be a bit more specific with this one, as there are many User Behavior signals worth mentioning, but for us its all about inventory or product page views.
Even though overall organic sessions may be down, we still consider it a valued return on investment if we are seeing a noticeable increase in terms of product page views and dwell time. Quality over quantity always.
Goal conversion rate: This is an obvious one, but much lower in the funnel than the other two.
If you actually combine all three of these they sort of work from the top of the funnel and down to this point, which can either be tracked calls, form submits or in regards to Google Maps and local search - requests for directions.
#40. Ryan Scollon | Ryan Scollon SEO Freelance
Rankings: Rankings don't mean everything, but some clients are fixed on being #1 for a given search term. So it's important to show them your progress towards that goal.
Organic traffic: Another correlation to increased rankings is an increase in organic traffic. Rankings don't mean anything if no one is searching for those keywords, so showing your clients that they are also getting more visitors from organic traffic is a great way to show progress.
Conversions: Just like rankings, traffic means nothing if it is the wrong type of traffic. If you are attracting the wrong audience, or your website does not make it easy to convert, it's important that these issues get picked up on.
Tracking conversions is a great way to show if your work has made a positive impact on the conversions for the company.
#41. Sam Hurley | Optim-eyez
#1: Referring Domains & Total Backlinks + Mentions
SEO performance is still largely effected by backlinks and awesome domains / brands linking to you is always indicative of success.
Ahrefs is unrivaled when it comes to monitoring backlinks. Brand24 or Mention are great for monitoring unlinked mentions.
#2: Organic Visibility & Traffic
Because we're talking 'free' visibility + traffic!
SEMrush is amazingly user-friendly and you can easily plug in competitors which provides a visual representation of keyword performance across your industry. For greater budgets, Linkdex seems unbeatable.
Google Analytics for measurement of organic traffic.
#3: Visitor Engagement
Increasingly important to SEO as we progressively head into the realm of a mightily-advanced Google. These metrics count.
Google analytics. Specifically metrics such as bounce rate, time on page / site, pages per session, new / return visits, exit rate, locations and devices.
Search Console for CTR analysis (also considering the impact of brand terms).
Hotjar or Visual Website Optimizer for scroll depth, website usage recording and user-satisfaction feedback.
#4: Goals / Conversions / Acquisitions + Value of Each
The ultimate, desired outcome of SEO!
Google Analytics. Also important to delve into attribution (+ modeling), length of conversion paths, total touch-points and bottom line value to the business (immediately and also lifetime revenue).
Organic traffic should always be related and compared to other channels, plus benchmarked against your industry using Google Analytics features.
It's a good idea to estimate overall PPC costs for the same targeted search terms and compare those costs with the current investment + return of SEO. This can be done using SEMrush or a tool like SpyFu (and some brain work).
I would suggest Kissmetrics for a deeper understanding and evidence of organic user behavior and conversions.
Finally, marketing automation software such as Marketo to connect the dots between organic traffic, leads, prospects and return customers for the bigger picture — with an additional view to further-optimizing the journeys and user-experiences of each.
#42. Stacey Caprio | Accelerated Growth Marketing
Cost versus revenue and profit, cost per conversion, number of conversions, conversion rate, click through rate.
#43. Jason Mun | Bespoke CX
- Organic Search Traffic
> Month-on-month %
> Year-on-year %
> Traffic trends of key landing page urls
- Organic Search Conversions
> Month-on-month %
> Year-on-year %
> Conversions by landing pages
- Multi-channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions
> Great for understanding and demonstrating how organic search has affected conversions and different touch points
- Number of pages driving organic traffic
- Top 3 rankings
- Page 1 rankings
- Average rank of different category keywords
- Monitor both desktop & mobile
- Compared month-on-month and against first benchmark
- Compare rankings with competitors too (clients love to know where they stand)
Google Search Console:
- Search Analytics Report is great for validating different trends and identifying keyword trends etc.
- Check clicks, impressions, ctr & average positions
- Using the query report, filter by specific landing pages to show keyword coverage and performance (remember that one URL can rank for many keywords, especially if it in a long form piece of content)
- Compare data week-on-week and month-on-month
#44. Shane Barker | Shane Barker Consulting
1. Changes in traffic for non-branded keywords
To determine whether our SEO campaigns are delivering the desired results, the first thing we normally do is track the changes in traffic coming from specific keywords.
We start by tracking the increase in traffic for non-branded keywords by excluding branded keywords from the Google Analytics organic search traffic report. This helps us understand whether our efforts are helping expose the brand to people conducting relevant (but non-branded) searches.
2. Changes in traffic for branded keywords
Then we track the changes in traffic coming from branded keywords as well by including them in the Google Analytics organic search traffic report. An increase in traffic for branded keywords may mean an increase in brand awareness, which is great.
But this is an important metric to track because a decrease in traffic for branded keywords means something is wrong. It could be the result of a search engine algorithm update or penalty. Either way, it needs to be taken care of as soon as possible.
3. Changes in page rankings
We also track changes in our page rankings using the Google Search Console. This tool helps us figure out how our web pages are ranking for different keywords. If there’s an increase, it means a boost in visibility in search engine results. It also means that our SEO efforts are working.
4. Number of inbound links
It’s also crucial that we check the number of inbound links coming to our website. We use the Backlink Checker from Ahrefs for this.
Ideally, we want an increase in the number of inbound links. More inbound links can mean result in an increase in traffic, and higher search rankings.
5. Bounce rate and visit duration
We also track bounce rates and visit duration, (using Google Analytics), for our SEO campaigns. Both metrics help us determine whether or not the traffic we’re getting is relevant and engaged.
#45. Ryon Flack | Bruce Clay Inc.
Depends on the website, but these are the main metrics I usually use to measure ROI on SEO campaigns.
Organic Rankings – Knowing a site’s position for various keywords is important because the higher the site is in the rankings, the more traffic is captures - especially for high traffic queries.
Also, sudden fluctuations up or down means the site could be affected by something other than any optimization efforts.
Month-Over-Month & Year-Over-Year Organic Traffic – It is important to know what the trends of organic traffic are overtime.
MoM/YoY organic traffic reports from GA, Coremetrics, Adobe Analytics, Kissmetrics, etc. help establish trends as well as measure a site’s progress towards achieving its goals.
Google Search Console Site Analytics Data – Site Analytics data from GSC is crucial for a lot of reasons. Below I’ve listed a few:
• It is a source of accurate, comparative traffic data directly from the source
• It provides information about keyword volume
• It provides insights about individual keyword CTR
• It is useful for keyword research and long tail keyword analysis/discovery
• It is helpful with analyzing how users interact with SERPs and where they are clicking
• It gives a high level overview of a site’s organic visibility in the past 90 days
Goals Completed/Revenue Generated by Organic Sessions – Conversion rate varies by keyword and it is important to know if a site is ranking for highly converting keywords or for lower converting keywords.
#47. Tyler Tafelsky | Captivate SEO
In most cases, we consult with the client to determine the KPI's that they find most important.
Typically, our SEO campaigns will include a combination of the following key metrics: keyword rankings, organic search traffic (and new user organic traffic), organic conversions, and percent growth of the latter metrics, both month-over-month and year-over-year.
#48. Rich Missey | Cars.com
Google Search Console CTR by avg position and keyword type - determine what Title & Description variations encourage clicks from SERPs.
Omniture traffic, bounce rate, time on site, and user pathing to help determine if visitors can find the desired information.
#49. Ibro Palic | Spokane SEO Services
I measure organic traffic to each landing page, from there I gauge how well customers intent is matched by bounce rate, average session duration, eCommerce conversion rate, transitions, and revenue.
Ultimately it comes down to conversions, however, true conversions are not always gauged correctly when it comes to SEO campaigns. This is where I consider assisted conversions.
This can be easily found by going to conversions in analytics -> multi-channel funnels and setting the secondary dimension to landing page URL.
Since there are so many forces at play, especially on e-commerce websites, we must consider the assisted conversions that are derived from SEO campaigns, which are often attributed to PPC (re-marketing campaigns), or eventually to direct visits (branding campaigns).
For me, ultimately it comes down to revenue over a one to three-month period. The traffic can always be improved through various methods, however, if there are no true revenue gains over a few months then we have a problem.
I mostly use google analytics and google search console for analysis. Lately, I found an effective use for Google Data Studio, which I’m using to measure each campaign.
Color coding helps metrics helps identify low performing campaigns that are flagged for additional review.
#50. Ian Cleary | Razorsocial
Traffic generated, new email subscribers from that traffic, and revenue (either directly from that traffic or follow on sequences after).
#51. Doug Thibault | EQ Media Lab
When tracking the ROI of my SEO efforts, I ask myself the following questions:
What Are The Goals That I Want To Accomplish?
This is not something that is tracked with a tool, but rather the first question that should be asked to determine the ROI of an SEO campaign.
To understand how the money, time and efforts generate a result, I need to be sure that there are SMART (Specific, Meaningful, Attainable, Reasonable, Timely) goals in place that will provide the desired financial outcome for me or my clients.
What Are The Costs Involved?
To determine the ROI of your SEO efforts you first have to understand what the hard costs are for the tools and resources that are used. This includes but is not limited to costs for content creation, analytics and research tools, employee costs and link creation efforts.
To track this I use a combination of Quickbooks Accounting Software and Google Sheets to ensure I keep a running monthly record of all expenses incurred for a specific SEO project.
What Is My Conversion Rate For The Desired Goal or Goals?
Conversion rates determine the percentage of success for the effort put forth in your SEO campaign. I use Google Analytics to set up goal tracking for each of the individual goals and use individual and average metrics to monitor conversion rates for the period I am auditing. This gives me a general idea of the return that is being generated for the SEO efforts
What Is The Average Value Of A Goal Conversion?
This is always a conversation that should be had with your clients, or if your efforts are for your own SEO project, with yourself. The main consideration is that SEO should be compared to a marathon, rather than a sprint. Your efforts contribute to the long term success of the company’s goals rather than short term sales goals.
It is fairly simple to determine the value of your goal conversions if you sell products or services with a specific price. I simply use Google Analytics to determine the amount of Organic traffic that converted and attribute this number to exact sales revenue to determine the ROI of my SEO efforts.
You can also set up goal value tracking in analytics that works well for fixed value products and services but this does not take refunds and other unexpected items into account.
When the conversion goal is something that does not generate immediate revenue, such as a phone call or form submission, it becomes more of a process to determine the value. It involves some math to determine how many calls and how many form submissions, on average, eventually become a paying customer.
Let’s say you have 100 calls to your sales phone line, out of those calls, 30 result in a desired sale, and your average revenue per conversion is $50. Your conversion rate would be 30% and your revenue for that conversion channel would be $1500.
How Many Organic Visitors & How Do Those Visitors Act?
We find more success as the amount of traffic to our sites grow as long as we continue to monitor and optimize. I use Google Analytics to track Organic Traffic sources and mediums.
From here I am able to break down the stats and learn from a granular perspective on how to improve each.
The statistics that I pay the closest attention to are below. I use these because not only are they important to determine the ROI, they are also ranking factors for the search engines.
1. Sessions – Tells me how many visitors I am getting. Visitors are awesome!!
2. Average Session Duration – This tells me how long people are spending on my site. Obviously the longer someone spends on your site, the more value they are getting and more content they are consuming.
3. Bounce Rate – This will tell me if my content is relevant to what the visitor expected and whether the site flows properly or if there are issues. High bounce rates equals irrelevant page content and poor ranking factor.
4. Pages Per Session – This tells me on average how many pages my visitors are consuming while visiting my website. More pages per session means visitors are finding your information useful and want more.
5. New vs. Returning Visitors – This can be found under the audience section in behavior stats. This will tell me if I am attracting users back to my site
This are a few of the many stats, tools and methods that I use to make decisions with regards to SEO strategy. It is important to ensure that you have a firm grasp on as many metrics as possible that contribute the campaigns success.
Also, these audits should be done on a regular basis so that the costs do not get away on you or you are not left explaining to your client why they are not getting their expected returns from your efforts.
#52. Carrina Parry-Stevens | Fast Web Media
The metrics I use to measure performance and ROI depends on business and campaign objectives.
Generally speaking, there's a number of things to look out for when measuring campaign performance which are indicative of whether a campaign is a roaring success, or a complete flop.
Here's a couple of the things I obsess over:
-Organic Traffic Vs Traffic from Other Channels
-Organic Revenue Vs Revenue from Other Channels
-Organic Rankings (Compare two periods)
-Quality of backlinks
-New Users Vs Existing Users
#53. William Kammer | Levy Online
It's important to get as much tracking in place as possible. This will allow you to track phone calls, form fills, and other conversion metrics that are most important to your client more granularly.
Organic traffic and ranking reports are good to determine trends, but none of it matters if things aren't converting.
#55. Marcus Miller | Bowler Hat - UK
Typically we look at two different types of SEO metrics.
Firstly we have our traditional or in-agency SEO metrics that we can use to determine whether the work we are doing is moving the dial in terms of authority and the metrics provided by the popular SEO tools.
We will share these with customers, but often they are not exactly tied to business objectives so they are not much use at the board level.
Typical metrics we would look at here include:
Rank for main keywords
Rank for secondary keywords
Majestic Citation Flow
Majestic Trust Flow
Majestic Trust & Citation Balance
Moz Domain Authority
Moz Page Authority
These would also need to be taken in the context of your competitors and marketplace so we know what we are working towards.
Secondly, we look at more business orientated KPIs and OKRs (whatever is your metric of choice). These will all be aligned with the business and marketing objectives so we can clearly indicate how the SEO work is impacting the bottom line.
Metrics we would tend to look at here include:
- Increase in number of pages receiving organic traffic
- Increase in organic traffic
- Increase in non-branded organic search traffic
- Percentage increase in organic conversions
- Percentage increase in traffic from specific geographic regions
- Organic Impressions (Search Console)
- Organic Click-Through Rate (CTR) (Search Console)
With these metrics we really aim to tie the SEO work to the business objectives so we can illustrate the return on investment.
We may also compare metrics from one channel to another so we can show how much a sale or enquiry costs via social ads, paid search or organic search.
Typically organic has the best ROI by a country mile and again it helps to illustrate where to spend the marketing budget.
I covered metrics and KPIs for SEO in far more detail in my Search Engine Land column a while back.
#56. Joe Howard | WP Buffs
I keep things pretty simple. I track organic traffic / piece of content. This allows me to narrow down which pieces of content are performing best in SERPs and then take a deeper dive into the different aspects of that article (keyword research, overall content quality, off-page optimization, etc) to try to replicate the results of high-performing content.
#57. Patric Cavanaugh | Bell Media
Metrics For Performance
Moz Tools: Keyword Visibility - This way we can get a feel for if our keyword grouping optimization efforts are working.
Your keyword visibility is an estimate of the percentage of clicks your site receives based upon the ranking positions of keywords that are selected or all the keywords you are tracking in a specific campaign
Moz Tools: Domain Authority - Developed by Moz, this score predicts how well a website will rank in search engines by using every metric collected by Moz including total inbound links, MozTrust, MozRank, External Follow Links, Traffic engagement and much more.
Google Analytics & Google/Bing Webmasters: Impressions Google/Bing - We watch impressions because this is another indicator how your keywords are ranking. If your keywords are receiving more impressions it is a good sign your SEO is moving in the right direction.
Google Analytics: Audience Overview - This can be segmented many ways, but we use this to get a month to month or year to year comparison of the user engagement on our client sites.
We can get a really good feel of how our on-site content efforts are working. User engagement should have an upward trend if your content is reaching the right audience organically.
Metrics For Return On Investment
Google Analytics: Client specific campaign goals completed from organic traffic (form fills, organic phone calls, etc.)
Google My Business/ Bing Places: Google/Bing Listing Insights - Phone calls and direction requests directly off of listings. This would be after optimization of claimed listings.
Google Analytics: Assisted Conversions - this helps us show more ROI when conversions come in through direct visits but the user originally found the site through a search engine.
#59. Nathan Oulman | dailyhosting.net
If we’re talking about measuring the success of a website in search, I want to go straight to the source. So, Google Analytics and Google Search Console both play an important part in assessing the success of my SEO efforts.
But rather than assess what’s happening on my site with random data points related to traffic, sources, conversions, and what-not, I like to present my SEO findings in a way that tells a story. In the metrics below, you’ll see that there’s a logical progression:
Before I do anything, I like to assess how the reality stacks up against my pre-set search goals. Typically, I’ll reference Google Search Console first to see which keywords visitors found my site from and what my ranking is for each.
I then use something like the SERPs rank checking tool to see how well my site ranks for the terms I actually optimized my site around (if they don’t align with organic search results).
While I’m usually aware of when another website links back to my site, it’s nice to have a running tally that shows me how many backlinks—especially high-profile ones—there really are.
Organic Search - New Users
Although it’s important to retain a reliable and loyal customer base, that’s not the purpose of SEO and it’s why I don’t pay attention to Returning Users (in this scenario, at least). I want to know:
- The number of new users.
- The growth of new user traffic from organic search month-over-month and, eventually, year-over-year.
- The average session duration of new users as well as how it compares to the last period.
- The number of pages visited by new users.
- The first page new users entered on.
Basically, I want to know that my site is continuing to draw in a new crowd and that the crowd being attracted through search is the right one. If new users are dropping like flies, it won’t matter how many of them enter the door.
#60. Miles Anthony Smith | Digital Marketing Director at Imaginasium
- Continually increasing organic traffic from non-branded keywords; anyone can get branded keyword traffic.
- Top pages bringing in most of your organic traffic vs. conversions
- Domain and page authority growth. Keep in mind that these third-party tools rankings are a relative and not an absolute measure; I've even seen some scores decline while organic traffic grows.
Detailed View Metrics
- Number of keywords each blog post is ranking for. The higher the better, but this can only happen with adding secondary related keywords or semantic keywords.
- CTR on organic traffic vs. other pages
- Time on Page on organic traffic vs. other pages
- # of overall sitewide backlinks and individual posts (considering quality/DA of the source)
- Bounce rate. Just don't get too stuck on this one, since it can be an indication that you gave them all of the information they needed so there was no need to click on other articles on your site. This can happen the more you create evergreen, long-form blog content.
- Conversions (generally email signups since converting organic traffic directly to sales is not easy, most people don't want to be sold, they want a relationship first)
- How non-branded organic traffic compares to competitor websites; this can be used to steal some of their long-form blog content ideas and create better assets for your site.
- What posts are ranking near the top of page 2 that you could goose to page 1 by gaining a quality backlink/social share or two?
Metric That Isn't As Important As It Seems
- Individual keyword ranking positions per post, rather it's better to focus on aggregate traffic for each post instead of getting caught up in whether each post ranks in the top 3 positions for each keyword phrase. That said, it is important to add more link building outreach if a post is just shy of page 1 SERP results, say in the 10, 11, or 12 spot.
#61. Nirav Dave | Capsicum Mediaworks
Here are 3 key metrics that you need to track as they provide you with actionable data to improve your SEO strategy.
1. Keyword Ranking and Click-through rate - Measuring your keyword ranking is essential as it tells you whether or not you are targeting the right set of keywords.
If there is a steady rise in your site’s traffic and ranking over a period, then it is an indication that you have implemented the right targeted keywords.
However, if the traffic is poor, then it is clear sign that you need to make changes to your keyword strategy and this could only be done after you have identified the ranking position of each keyword.
Similarly, by tracking the click-through-rate (CTR) metric, you are able to measure the number of clicks your ad has received. Here, the higher the percentage of CTR the better, as it shows that you have targeted the right keywords, which will help improve your conversion rate.
2. Organic Search Traffic - One of the main reasons for investing in SEO is to attract new customers and as such, measuring the organic search traffic metric is a must. This metric tells you the amount of traffic your site has received through search engines per month, which helps you make changes to your SEO strategy in case of lower traffic.
By tracking this metric, you will be able to better align your keywords and content with user-intended search queries. Thus, make sure track this metric on a regular basis.
3. Revenue - The success of your SEO campaign is correlated to the amount of revenue you are able to generate. Hence, this is another metric that you need to measure, in order to gauge if you are on the right path.
What SEO Metrics Are You Watching?
There you have it - 61 SEO experts revealed the key metrics they monitor across each stage of the "SEO funnel".
What SEO metrics are you going to add to your dashboard? Are there KPIs you're tracking that weren't mentioned above?
Let me know in the comments below 🙂
P.S. Below - you can download a free SEO dashboard containing the most common metrics mentioned across all the expert responses: