Your SEO campaign is up and running. You think you’re ticking all the right boxes with keywords, awesome content, on-page optimisation and backlinks.
Everything is going brilliantly, right?
Truth is, without numbers, you’re flying blind.
Your campaign could be on the cusp of serious growth OR you could be sitting on a sinking ship without knowing it, and without the information to do something about it.
Search engine optimisation is one of those strategies you cannot afford to set and forget. There’s huge potential to grasp if you just give it the time and attention it deserves.
Organic search is responsible for 51% of all website traffic (source). Plus, over 90% of search engine traffic goes to page one and about 60% goes to websites in the top 3 spots.
So if you’re not investing in SEO, that’s an insane amount of web traffic you’re missing out on.
But here’s the thing: you need to be patient. Most SEO campaigns will start showing uplifts within 6 months, but for those high-ROI results you’ve been dreaming about, you need a minimum of 8 to 12 months to mature a campaign.
That’s why data is so important - it gives you (or your SEO agency) the power to drive refine your SEO to get an even better ROI.
So, what are the key performance metrics you need to measure for success? Let’s take a look…
Lesson #1: Success isn’t found in one SEO performance metric.
You need big picture reporting if you want to drive big revenue results.
In other words, set up your reports to pull on a whole range of metrics - not just one or two metrics and definitely not just vanity metrics.
What happens if you only focus on one or two metrics?
You can get false positives.
Let’s say you see that your site is rising the ranks on Google and your click-throughs are soaring. Everything must be working brilliantly, right?
If you don’t bother looking deeper, you might keep investing more and more in the same tactics you think are working.
But delve a bit deeper and you see that the click-throughs aren’t from people who are likely to convert - maybe you’re getting a massive proportion of your clicks from people in South Africa, but your product is only available to people in Australia.
The biggest mistake you can make is to build your future strategy and invest a truckload of budget using insights that don’t reflect reality.
Get the whole story.
Focus on a wide range of metrics, covering engagement, traffic, conversions, ROI metrics and more.
Then, make these your benchmarks to easily see how you’re tracking and where improvements are needed.
Top SEO metrics to measure for success
1. Click-Through Rate (CTR)
Search click-through rate is the percentage of users who clicked through to your page from the organic search results, out of the total number of searchers who saw the search engine results (aka Impressions).
CTR is way more important than your ranking position on Google. What’s the point in ranking high for a keyword if nobody is clicking to your site?
But unless you know the benchmarks, CTR is just another number. You need context to see how you’re tracking.
This graph provides context:
You can see how the top three search results have a huge average CTR. It’s over 30% in first position dropping to 10% in third position.
In other words, the top three positions typically grab the lion’s share of organic search traffic.
After that it drops quickly to just 2% CTR for positions 9 and 10.
Now it’s time to find your CTR.
Go to Google Search Console:
Image credit: Search Engine Journal
It clearly shows you the number of clicks vs impressions, and how this trends over time.
2. Links to your website
We know what you’re thinking - why measure links? Surely there are more important metrics to track?
But consider this: you already know how important links are to search engine optimisation. Google uses quality backlinks as a ranking factor to determine whether your site is an authority and useful to searchers. The more high quality, relevant backlinks you have, the more likely you will rank highly in the search results and acquire high domain authority.
So, it makes sense that you need to track links as a metric.
But you can’t just track the number of backlinks.
Google doesn’t rank you based on having a huge volume of links pointing to your site.
You need to track the quality of backlinks.
If you have hundreds of links, you haven’t got time to trawl through every link and see if it’s relevant and high quality.
So, use these tools to help:
- Google Search Console
- Moz’s Link Explorer
Ahrefs is particularly useful, as it lets you check the URL rating distribution - the percentage of backlinks that are high quality vs low quality.
3. Conversion rate
Now we’re getting to the really meaty data - the data you can start using to build your business case for SEO and refine your strategy for the maximum ROI.
Conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who take a specific action against a goal. The goal is whatever you want it to be for that specific page: email signup, ebook download, a purchase, phone call, and so on.
Knowing your conversion rate starts to give you a clearer idea on the return on investment (ROI) of your SEO efforts.
There are a few practical ways you can put your conversion rate insights to work. For example, you can compare the conversion rates of content to see which pieces are driving more conversions. Then, use this to drive your content strategy in a better direction.
How do you work out your conversion rate?
First, you need to set up goals in Google Analytics.
For an ecommerce site, this is simple - you’ll want to set up goals based on transactions.
Setting up goals for lead-based businesses (that is, not an ecommerce site) is different because there aren’t actual “transactions” that result in dollars being spent on your site. So, think about what actions you want visitors to take on your site. For example, if the goal of a page is to get visitors to fill in a form for an ebook, set that up as a goal.
Then, GA will show you the conversion rate against this goal.
Image Credit: Social Media Examiner
Again, you need context to understand how you are really performing.
What makes a GOOD conversion rate for your site?
Check the average conversion rate for your industry. The data below is a few years old, but it provides a starting point. You can always do some quick research to find your specific industry benchmark.
Image credit: Marketing Sherpa
Now, how does your conversion rate stack up against the rest?
If you’re falling behind, it’s time to take action.
4. Dwell time
Dwell time is the length of time a visitor spends looking at a page after they’ve clicked through from the search results.
It’s considered one of the top engagement metrics, as it can tell you how effective your content is at solving a searcher’s query.
Think about it, the more time you spend consuming the content on a page, the higher the chances that page satisfied your needs.
5. Average time on page
Average time on page is the average amount of time a visitor spends on one of your pages before going anywhere else.
This can be very informative when it comes to your content.
Let’s say you have a 4,000-word blog post that you know takes 12 minutes to read. But visitors are only spending on average 45 seconds on the page. Clearly, the content isn’t hitting the mark.
Maybe the title is misleading, which means people click away pretty quickly. Or the content isn’t high quality enough for people to invest much time in it.
At the same time, a low average time on page isn’t always bad news. People don’t spend much time on the Contact Us page, and if they do it’s probably because you haven’t included the contact information they need.
Go to Google Analytics to find average time on page:
Image credit: Ahref
6. Bounce rate
Bounce rate tells you when searchers visit only one page on your site, then return to the search results.
The metric is calculated like this:
Bounce rate = Percentage of single-page sessions / Total website sessions
Many SEO experts put a lot of weight on bounce rate as an SEO metric, saying that it influences your organic search ranking.
Research by WordStream even shows a correlation between bounce rate and rankings. The lower the bounce rate, the better the rankings.
But it’s not that cut and dry.
Bounce rate can be misleading as a measure of SEO success because even if some of the bouncers arrived on your site via a search result, it doesn’t mean they clicked back to the search results. Maybe they navigated directly to another site or closed their browser completely.
Image Credit: Monster Insight
7. Pages per visit
Sometimes the goal of your web page is to convert visitors instantly. You want them to fill in a form, submit a query or purchase right there and then.
Other times, the goal is to keep visitors engaged and lead them through to other pages, which take them even deeper into the sales funnel. This is especially valuable for eCommerce and service-based businesses.
The more pages people browse on your site, the more likely they are to buy something.
This is where pages per visit can be a helpful metric.
Source: Google Analytics
Along with bounce rate and average time on page, pages per visit is an engagement metric that plays an increasingly important part in determining your search ranking.
The more time users spend on your site, the more they like your content, or so the theory goes.
Of course, it could also mean visitors aren’t finding what they need - but that’s where you need to look at other important SEO metrics to see the whole picture.
8. Pages indexed
Index status is usually overlooked as an SEO measure, but it can be incredibly handy in telling you how your site is performing with search bots and crawlers.
Go to Google Search Console and navigate to Google Index > Index Status.
This tells you which URLs the Googlebot has tried to index.
You should see something like this:
(Image credit: SearchEngineLand)
Use it to identify any issues which could be preventing your pages from showing up in the SERPs.
Notice any sudden drops or sharp increases in indexed pages? Look into them.
9. Site health
Look for any technical problems and crawl errors that may affect performance, search visibility and user experience, including:
- Page speed
- Broken links / redirects
- Duplicate content
- Missing metadata
There are a few tools you can use here. One of our favourites is Ahrefs Site Audit:
Image credit: Ahrefs
Go into Google Search Console to see the Crawl Stats.
The crawl stats depend on how quick and search-bot friendly your site is. Tracking this over time is a good indicator of your site’s SEO health.
To see your site speed, go to Google’s PageSpeed Insights and type in your page URL.
Your page load time is an important ranking factor for Google but also impacts your user experience and conversion rates.
Soon this data will be available within Google Search Console, making it even easier to track and see possible problems.
10. Organic Search Rankings
We had to include search rankings on the list of important SEO kpis. But you need to look beyond simply which ranking position your website is at.
How are organic rankings tracking over time? Are they dropping or lifting with different trends and seasons? Which keywords bring in the most traffic (highest CTR)?
Go to Google Analytics and track performance over time for Search Visibility, Search queries, Average Position and Traffic.
In Google Analytics, you should see something like this:
Image credit: Shopify
Another way to track rankings is on Google Search Console. Track which of your web landing pages are ranking on the first page of Google for their target keywords.
Go to your Google Search Console dashboard, click on “Search Traffic” and then “Search Analytics”.
You should see something like this:
If certain keywords haven’t been doing as well (aka your keyword rankings are low) this is where you can identify them and work out how to tackle them.
Need a benchmark?
See how your keyword rankings against your main competitors.
Use SEMrush to help.
This is where you bring everything together and link it back to your business goals. Are you achieving actual sales, conversions and revenue from SEO? How is this improving over time? Where are the opportunities to do better?
Use your conversion rate and goal tracking here.
Image Credit: Search Engine Journal
Run a conversion report through GA to see the number of conversions and the value of these conversions. In other words, how much revenue has been generated? Have you met your SEO KPI?
Now, to work out the return on investment, simply compare these values with the amount of money spent on your SEO campaign over the same period.
Granted, it’s not an exact science, but you’ll get a good idea of how your SEO campaigns are impacting on business objectives.
Expect your ROI to change from month to month. You will likely start with a negative ROI in the beginning, where you spend more to set up campaigns and optimise your website. But that’s common - especially when you consider the SEO results time-frame. It’ll be a few months into your campaign where you’ll really start seeing the growth. And after 8-12 months, your ROI will be showing some incredible results.
Do the same with your other digital marketing channels - calculate the ROI of your PPC advertising, social media advertising and email marketing.
But don’t just pour all your budget into the channel that’s performing the best. It might be that PPC is performing especially well because SEO is contributing to a strong brand awareness. That doesn’t mean you should pull all your investment from SEO. Remember that digital channels work better together.
Over to you
Tracking these important SEO KPI’s is an absolute fundamental of any SEO campaign. Relying on guesstimates never works for long in any digital marketing strategy, and especially not SEO.
Knowledge is power. Start tracking from the start and you’ll have the power to refine and improve your SEO campaign to see some real revenue results. Want to find out how to build the foundations of a revenue-busting strategy? Get your free Ultimate SEO Guide to increase traffic and skyrocket your rankings!