How do you measure the success of your SEO campaigns? What are the best SEO KPIs (key performance indicators) or metrics to track?
I’m asking for a friend…
But seriously, how do you prove that when, or if, the changes you’ve made to your website have had any effect at all on your bottom line, or your top line for that matter? It’s not always easy to prove to key stakeholders that what we as SEOs are asking them to do isn’t some kind of fruitless shamanistic ritual or hand-wavey snake oil sales tactic.
Fear not fellow Search Engine Optimists! There are plenty of ways for us to show the impact of our work and the value of SEO.
Start With Your Goals
How we measure the success of our SEO campaigns depends on the goals of that campaign. For example, the KPIs will be different if you are trying to rank no. 1 for “wedding dress” than if you’re trying to cram as many people as possible into the top of your sales funnel by getting them to register for a webinar or book an online appointment.
I’ve broken out these SEO KPIs into four main groups based on the type of SEO campaign or initiative you might be running.
In SEO, visibility means getting your website in front of as many eyeballs and potential customers as possible. Visibility KPIs for SEO can include impressions in search results, organic ranking positions in search results, and your share of voice (I’ll talk about this later in this post).
Overall Visibility (Impressions)
Search impressions broadly measure your overall organic visibility. For example, if you are starting an SEO/content strategy that is turning out five new, high-quality articles a month, the number of impressions your website is making in search engine results pages (SERPs) might be the KPI you need to monitor.
Use Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools to benchmark your website’s number of impressions at the onset of any campaign or promotion. Be sure to annotate whenever changes or additions are made to the site so you can closely monitor the effects of the changes.
Topic and Keyword Rankings
The oldest and most recognizable SEO metric is keyword rankings. We hear it all the time, “Is my website ranking number one for Keyword V?!” “Are we ranking higher than Competitor Q?”
Tracking and reporting on individual keyword rankings can be a double-edged sword. If stakeholders become too focused on ranking for a specific keyword or phrase, your ability to prove the value of your SEO may hinge on the next Google algorithm update. We don’t want that. As long as you are strategic with which keywords, topics, and groups of topics you are tracking and reporting on, this can be an invaluable way to prove the success of your SEO efforts.
There are any number of tools out there that can track your individual keyword rankings: Moz, AWR, Raven Tools, etc. Personally, I love the way that STAT allows for the tracking of target pages and groups of tagged keywords.
Share of Voice
Like I mentioned before, it can be dangerous to focus solely on keyword rankings, since there are so many factors that are out of our control. Share of voice is one way to get your point across without putting all of your berries into one bowl. In organic search, share of voice is a calculation based on the search volume of a given keyword, your position in organic search results, and the expected click-through rate for the position. STAT does a fantastic job of tracking this SEO metric:
After you get your site in front of searchers in the SERPs, you need to get them clicking through to your website and converting.
Any analytics platform can get you the data you need here. Whether you’re using Adobe Analytics, Google Analytics 360, or Matomo, you can track and measure the organic traffic to your website. Be sure to put a focus on the pages or sections of the site that you are working on and don’t forget about Dark Traffic.
Click-Through Rate from SERPs
Click-through rate from search result pages is a good way to measure the effectiveness of your new title tags and meta descriptions. By this point, you’ve managed to get your pages ranking higher in the SERPs, but are searchers clicking on your shiny blue links?
Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools track all of the necessary metrics to show your improvements in driving people to your site from the search results pages.
Most of the focus for SEO is getting your website visible to your target audience and then getting them through to all of your wonderful content. Visibility metrics and traffic metrics are great for reporting on those SEO successes, but that’s not where the money is going to come from.
However, your success involves more than just SEO. It also relies on a coherent content strategy and conversion optimization. You need people to take action and convert on your website, and engagement metrics are about measuring those user actions.
So, to make sure users are taking the desired path through the website and eventually converting, we look at some of the traditional SEO metrics like pageviews, time on page, bounce rate, and conversions.
Pageviews give you an easy-to-understand view of user engagement: how many pages did a visitor to your site see during their session?
Depending on the nature of your website (B2B e-commerce vs. B2B SaaS, for example) the pageview metric can be interpreted differently. Ask yourself, are users engaging with the content in a way that you expect? If you are running a nurture, awareness, or educational campaign, you’ll be looking to see the number of pageviews per session increase. If your SEO campaign is focused on bottom-of-funnel, high intent traffic, the ratio of sessions to pageviews will be closer to 1:1. So every additional pageview earned is more valuable to the bottom line.
Time on Page and Bounce Rate
Once users get to your site, are they consuming all of the content they should? Time on page and bounce rate metrics can be used to show the quality and effectiveness of your on-page content. For more on engagement metrics, check out our guide to choosing content KPIs.
Conversions are where the ROI meets the road. If you’ve set up your analytics platform properly, you should be tracking all of your desired website conversions. So, is your organic traffic converting? You’ve got your pages ranking and people are clicking through to the website, but are people taking the desired actions when they get there? If not, this is an opportunity for some A/B testing and conversion rate optimization (CRO).
It may be a little more difficult to prove the value of technical SEO implementation. The challenge comes from making changes that very few people will ever see, and trying to justify the amount of effort that goes into those changes. Some key metrics to prove the effectiveness of your technical SEO fixes include page speed and performance, the number of pages indexed in search engines, and the number of crawl errors associated with your website.
Page Load Speed
Page speed is a ranking factor and it is critical for mobile traffic. If you are trying to make your site faster to capture and retain mobile users, start benchmarking now. Use tools like WebPagetest, Lighthouse, or even just use the DOMContentLoaded and Load times from Chrome’s developer tools to gather your data. Then, take those metrics and plug them into a data visualization tool to track your progress over time.
Depending on the current state of your site and the goals of your technical SEO efforts, you may want to see more or less pages indexed by the search engines. For example, if you’ve inherited an e-commerce website with millions of duplicate pages you’ll want to track your success in removing the cruft pages. Or you can track the success of a new website launch by monitoring how quickly your new content is getting crawled and indexed by the search engines. Google Search Console, or third-party indexes like Ahrefs, are useful for tracking which pages are being indexed.
If you need to tie your technical SEO work a little closer to major KPIs, line up the number of impressions from Google Search Console with the number of erroring pages. GSC even has that as a built-in functionality now.
Crawl errors (server responses like 404, 403, 500, etc.) on a website can be an indicator of a low-quality website. Too many crawl errors can add up and then start to drag down the overall quality of your website and start to negatively affect your rankings in search results. Using the number of crawl errors from a crawler tool like our very own RainGage or Screaming Frog is a great way to report on your day-to-day work.
Other SEO Metrics
I don’t want to forget about some of our tried-and-true SEO KPIs! Metrics like the number of backlinks and linking domains, Moz Domain Authority, and Majestic Trust Flow are a few of the more traditional SEO metrics that can still have a major impact on your SEO success.
The number and quality of backlinks and linking domains to your website will always be a core SEO KPI to track. If you are running a content promotion campaign, monitoring your new links to the target pages is one of the only ways to show how effective your investment is. Use a tool like the Moz Link Explorer to track the quality of your backlink profile.
Moz Domain Authority
Moz’s Domain Authority (DA) is another way to demonstrate your SEO and content outreach campaign effectiveness. Since DA is a good indicator of a website’s potential for organic visibility, tracking it in conjunction with the optimizations made on your website, and any of your link building work, will ultimately prove their worth.
At the end of the day, being able to measure the success of your SEO work is essential. By using any combination of these SEO metrics like share of voice, organic sessions, and conversions, you should be able to paint a picture of your SEO performance for your key stakeholders. What you choose to track ultimately depends on your business and your goals. With this list of SEO KPIs and reporting metrics, you are well on your way to being able to justify your SEO efforts to decision-makers, building your case for the value of SEO.草逼