If you’re new here, you’ve likely not heard me discuss the mercurial omnipotence of the Google Gods. Deities, in general, are problematic, particularly when gathered together in a pantheon (seriously, take a look at the Greek lot). At present, the Google gods (by which I mean the 200 plus factors Google’s SEO ranking algorithm uses to determine where a piece of content appears on SERPs) cover so many different parameters, signals, and indicators it can be damn tricky to figure out what constitutes a good key performance indicator (KPI) to monitor to judge the success of your SEO efforts.
In other words, there are so many factors that contribute to your website’s ranking status that it’s tough to decide what metrics will tell you if all your hard work is paying off.
And as any savvy business owner and entrepreneur will know, one should always have a reliable means of determining the return you’re getting on any marketing investment.
SEO is a beast that requires one of two things in abundance: time or money.
The more money you have to pay other people to do the pesky work (writing articles, optimising your website’s structure and functionality, creating and managing quality backlinks, securing media placements, writing, writing, writing, writing…), the less time you have to spend on it.
But one way or another, you’re spending.
Time, money, or both.
What are you achieving for that expenditure?
Do you actually know?
The majority of people have no clue. They may have a vague awareness of whether or not they rank for specific keywords that are important to them, but beyond that, they’re oblivious to how successful their SEO strategy is.
Measuring The Success Of Your SEO Strategy…
Whether you have a long-running SEO strategy or you’re just starting out trying to navigate the treacherous seas of the Google pantheon, deciding which SEO KPIs to use to measure your success is absolutely vital.
But with so many factors coming into play, how exactly do you know what will accurately measure your success? What will truly show you if your site is improving or declining in the eyes of the Googe gods?
For starters, there is no one SEO KPI you can rely on to show you how successful your SEO efforts are. Not even keyword ranking, on its own, is enough to determine that anymore.
While that is true, don’t let it fool you. And if you’re working with an SEO agency, do not allow them to use that as a justification for failure to demonstrate success. Sad to say, I’ve seen a lot of cowboy SEO companies over the years attempt to convince clients that measuring SEO success is very hard, or ambiguous, and as long as you have *insert magic bullet here*, you’re fine.
That bullet can be many things. For example, they may say that as long the number of keywords you rank for increases, you’re golden. Or that traffic increases are the only thing that matters. Or that you’re ranking #1 for this, this, and this, therefore you’re already succeeding.
There are grains of truth in all these assertions, but only grains.
The truth is that certain things can be used to make it sound like your SEO efforts are doing really well. A percentage increase is usually the go-to here.
But whether you’re working with an agency or going it alone, having a clear understanding of SEO KPIs is vital.
What Exactly Is An SEO KPI?
Very simply put, an SEO KPI can be consistently measured, with a change in the result showing either a positive improvement or a negative decline. Where SEO is concerned, KPIs are used to determine how well your company is performing on SERPs by looking at how successful your website’s content is at answering queries from searchers.
SEO KPIs will not only tell you if your site’s SEO is improving, but also which of your marketing activities are having a positive impact (so you can do more of them), which are negatively impacting your rankings (so you can change them), and which are having no impact either way (so you can stop them and use the resources on more of the activities that are working).
As marketing strategies go, SEO is a long game. You need 6-12 months for an SEO strategy to start bearing fruit. But setting your KPIs from the start can better help you assess how impactful your efforts are in those frustrating early months when it feels like you’re spending endless time and/or money on a waste of time.
What’s The Best SEO KPI To Track?
This question entirely depends on your objectives and the marketing strategy you are using. For example, one business will gain more value from increased organic traffic, while another will only gain from an increase in conversions.
For example, if a company’s primary revenue stream comes from affiliate marketing, traffic is the name of the game. The more people on the site, the more people see product placements, buy the products, and send a percentage of what they spend into the business’ bank account.
If, however, your company functions on a time-for-money basis, it doesn’t matter how much organic traffic you have on your website; if none of them signup for your services, you’ve not made any money from it.
The most important thing to remember is consistency. Select metrics that reflect the needs of your business model and your goals, and use them consistently.
Now, as to which KPIs to use, here are the top four genuinely helpful indicators of SEO success…
#1 Tribe Growth And Loyalty…
Word of mouth marketing is still the most powerful force you can depend on in your business. With Google increasingly skewing their ranking criteria towards user experience, having loyal followers who return to your site again and again, share your links, and rave about you to their online contacts is increasingly valuable.
While it might seem like an odd KPI when it comes to marketing, in all honesty, the more people you can grow your tribe with loyal followers, the more successful your efforts will be.
This isn’t just true of SEO. Social media and email marketing rely heavily on loyalty and growing the number of individuals who repeatedly interact with you.
How To Measure Tribe Loyalty As A KPI…
As SEO KPIs go, the only problem with this one is how you physically measure it. Using quality surveys and feedback loops is a great place to start. You can easily measure positive and negative user experiences, learn about your shortcomings, and fix them.
Short of this, ensuring you have multiple signup points to your newsletter on your website allows you to effectively track follower growth, while any good CRM and email marketing system will clearly show you how many followers click to return to your website week on week.
How To Gain More Loyal Followers…
Ensuring you’re consistently updating your website with high-quality content through your blog and vlog, as well as updated product/service information, is the best way to consistently grow your following and ensure loyalty.
Beyond that, make sure you don’t have a shit website.
Sorting out all the niggly things like painfully slow loading speed, broken links, and poor navigation is not just vital for achieving higher ranks on the SERPs. It’s vital for ensuring a loyal following and a tribe that return to your site again and again.
Why? Same reason for both: User Experience is super important. Ensure yours is as smooth and positive as possible, and you’ll naturally increase the number of people landing on your page, as well as the number of those people who become superfans.
#2 Average Organic CTR…
One of the most uncomplicated SEO KPIs you can monitor is your organic click-through rate (CTR). This straightforward metric tells you how many of the people seeing you pop up on search engine results pages are actually clicking on your links.
How To Measure Organic CTR As A KPI…
Essentially, it’s the total number of impressions you create on SERPs, divided by the number of people who click through to your website.
The higher you can push that number, the better. The easiest way to keep track of it is to set up Google Search Console for your website. You’ll be able to easily track keywords your website ranks for, how many impressions you create as a result of each keyword, and how many of those impressions click through to your site.
How To Improve Your Organic CTR…
Organic click-through rates depend on a few different things. If you’re looking to improve it, your first port of call should be checking that your content matches the intent of users searching for the keywords you rank for and, if not, tweaking to ensure it does.
After that, you can play around with your titles, metadata, and any other info that will be visible on SERPs (featured snippets, etc.) to try and make your copy more enticing.
#3 Organic Traffic…
Organic traffic is, very simply, how many visitors land on your website as a result of typing in a query on a search engine and clicking an unpaid link that appears on the SERPs. Given that getting people on your website is the whole point of SEO, you’re probably surprised that organic traffic isn’t higher up the list. Here’s the thing, though, before the organic traffic generated by SEO hits your site, your organic CTR kicks in.
So the higher your CTR is, the more organic traffic you get.
You can see now why it tops it on the list.
As for loyal followers, look beyond the part where you get people to your site, and you’ll realise that the true point of SEO is building a loyal audience, a dedicated following, a tribe.
So, that’s why you found loyalty and CTR higher up the list. All that being said, tracking your organic traffic is a crucial SEO metric.
All that being said, organic traffic is the name of the game, making this an excellent SEO metric to track.
How To Measure Organic Traffic…
Organic traffic is very easily tracked using Google Analytics, which shows you traffic to your website as a whole, as well as specific pages. This allows you to understand which content drives the most traffic and which performs poorly. From here, you can improve the poorly performing pages and make more content in line with your top-performers.
Every visitor to your site has the potential to convert to a customer, so the more traffic you have, the better. It’s as simple as that and a crucial metric to properly track. For example, ranking for search terms doesn’t do you any good if those terms down have enough people searching for them to drive a lot of traffic to your site.
Likewise, getting your content to rank for a term is only half the battle – people need to look at the preview and find it relevant enough to click through.
The one thing to bear in mind with this metric is that it’s a little fuzzy. While you can clearly see if you’ve achieved the objective to rank #1 or not, knowing how much traffic is enough and whether you’re ‘there’ yet is considerably harder to gauge. There are no fixed numbers. There is no amount of organic traffic you ‘should’ have.
Yes, more is better, but there are other factors to consider. The biggest of these is relevance – driving a ton of traffic that is never going to buy from you won’t do you any good at all. Instead, your traffic needs to be genuinely interested in what you have to offer, so they convert to clients.
For that reason, you definitely cannot rely on organic traffic alone to tell you how well your SEO strategy is working.
How To Drive More (Relevant) Traffic…
Driving more traffic relevant to your business is simultaneously very simple and an absolute ballache.
Start with good keyword research into search terms that are:
- Relevant to your product or service
- High-intent (meaning the people searching these terms are very likely to buy when they find an answer to their question)
Then, you simply need to create a crackerjack piece of content for each term, get it ranking, and wait.
Of course, the bitch of that is that it requires a tremendous amount of content, time, patience, and the ability to effectively optimise your site and content for search.
Easier said than done, but entirely doable if you have the time/money to invest in consistent content creation.
#4 SERP Visibility…
What most business owners really want is to be #1 on Google.
They want to be the first thing people see when searching for relevant keywords. That requires SERP visibility.
Among the main goals for many businesses is to make content appear on the first page of Google. Why? Because the higher your content ranks, the more people you are likely to reach. This not only increases your traffic but your conversions, too – both in terms of sales and leads.
Your SERP visibility is an easy way of tracking how visible your website is on organic search results. It’s calculated using various data points, like click-through rate, search volumes on keywords, your domain URLs frequency.
This is a handy metric, not only for telling you how much your SEO efforts are increasing your overall visibility month-on-month but also for competitor comparisons. If you have competitors you want to best, becoming more visible than them is a key goal; to reach it, you need to know what you’re aiming for!
How To Measure Your SERP Visibility…
A search visibility score of 0% means none of your pages are ranking on the top 5 pages (top fifty results). Realistically, you’re unlikely to hit 100%, as this would mean you owned every single rage ranking in the top fifty spots on SERPs. However, for non-branded keywords, you can reasonably aim for around 45% visibly.
The easiest way to track your SERP visibility is to use cloud-based SEO software. However, while you can fudge ways of monitoring other SEO KPIs using free tools, you’re going to struggle to accurately measure SERP visibility without creating a project in proper software for your website.
I always recommend SE Ranking, as it’s a comprehensive system that gives you everything you need but is far more affordable and flexible than other options.
How To Boost Your SERP Visibility…
Content, content, content… honestly, it’s all about the content. For the best possible results, post a weekly blog (or article if you prefer) of 2,400-2,600 words and include a video or audio version of your text (or vice versa) plus plenty of images. Make sure the whole shebang is well optimised. You can, obviously, post more than this, but make sure that consistent weekly, long-form, multimedia post is there.
Do it once a week, every week, and be patient. Keep at it every week for 6 months, and you’ll soon see that SERP visibility spike.
Don’t give up after a month because you’re not seeing results yet.
Other SEO KPIs To Watch Out For…
I’ve covered the top four KPIs you can use to measure the success of your SEO, but there are plenty of others. Depending on your goals, you may find some of these more relevant, but – very generally speaking – I would advise you to monitor all of them, but focus on the top four initially, without worrying too much about the rest.
Once you’re getting excellent traction with your tribe growth, organic click-through rate and traffic, and SERP visibility, you can start looking at other factors. Fine-tunes these other KPIs as you’ll massively improve your results.
The problem with doing it the other way is that all the benefits you will see from the additional metrics improving would have been far more significant had you created a solid base by initially focusing on the core four.
Right, caution out of the way. You may also want to monitor the following:
- Keyword Ranking
- Domain Authority
- Bounce Rate
- Average Time Spent On Page
- Core Web Vitals
- Average Session Duration
- Conversion Rate
- SEO-Driven Revenue
In a Nutshell…
In terms of SEO success, your ultimate goal is to maximise sales. To do that, people need to know you exist, click on your content, look at your website, and become dedicated members of your tribe.
This is why you care about SEO. It’s all about building that tribe, creating that empire.
If you monitor these metrics carefully and invest in their improvement, you’ll be reaping the rewards of a website sitting pretty at the top of the SERPs in no time…
P.S. Don’t forget, it’s well worth investing in a real system to track your progress. If you’re working with an SEO expert on an SEO package, you should expect them to provide you with a monthly report that measures all agreed upon KPIs. If you don’t have someone like that on your team, I’d highly recommend investing the (nominal) amount needed for SE Ranking.