Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a long-term marketing strategy. It consumes resources for months before delivering results. And since success is so far away, it becomes difficult to gauge the efficacy of an SEO campaign.
But you must ensure that the campaign is on track, heading to the desired goal. That way you can course-correct before you waste time and money in inefficient activities.
It does not matter if your SEO is managed in-house or is outsourced, you need to keep an eye on some KPIs, some vital signs that indicate you are heading in the right direction. The most important of them is SEO Return on Investment. A positive SEO RoI is a clear sign that your SEO campaign is working. However, SEO RoI is the destination. To reach there you need to follow a map – a map of SEO KPIs.
In this post, we will talk about
- Some critical SEO KPIs that you must track.
- How to optimize your campaign for each SEO metrics.
- Tools that will help you measure the KPIs.
- “Feel-good” metrics that you must avoid tracking.
Top 10 Crucial SEO Metrics That You Must Track
Everytime someone sees your listing on any page of Google search, the system counts it as an impression. The more you rank on Page 1, the more impressions you receive.
Ideally, if your SEO is working, the monthly impression count should rise steadily. Bear in mind, you should wait at least 3 months before you see any rise in impression count. That provided you are churning out quality content day after day.
Tool that measures impression count.
Google Search Console is a free tool that collates all the metrics from Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). It shows how many times people saw your pages on Google SERPs. You can find the metric in the Performance tab.
How to increase your impression count on Google SERPs
You need to be on the first page of Google to increase the impression count as only a sliver of searchers ever clicks on page 2 of Google SERPs. There’s a slurry of items in the checklist to rank your website on page 1, but keyword research is a start.
It will help you identify low competition keywords, you can then build content around it. When you select keywords that align with the search intent and optimize content for featured snippets, you rank on page 1 for that low competition keyword. This results in an increase in impression count.
Alright, got your impression count in order? Now it’s time to analyze your…
Average Click Through Rate (CTR)
CTR is the percentage of impressions that get a click. If you get 1000 impressions and 20 people click on your links, you have a CTR of 2%.
Higher you rank on Page 1 of Google SERPs, the higher is your CTR. This image from Backlinko shows how CTR drops lower down the SERP.
Not everyone who visits the SERP clicks on any of the 10 links. In fact, more than 50% of Google searches do not get a click. So, even if you rank in the top 3 results, you need to optimize your search impressions for clicks.
Tool that measures CTR.
You can find the CTR of your webpages in the performance tab on Google Search Console.
How to improve CTR of your website?
To improve CTR, you need to optimize the title, meta description and URL tags of your pages. While you include keywords in them, you must make them enticing. Access this illustrative guide to boost your CTR.
Organic traffic is the web traffic that you get from organic search. You want to see a steady increase in the number of people visiting your website. Steady increase in organic traffic indicates that SEO is working for you. The more people visit your site, the more clients convert.
Tool that measures Organic Traffic.
You can find the organic traffic on Google Analytics. After logging into the tool, follow this path – Acquisition -> All Traffic -> Source/Medium. There, you can select google/ organic to see traffic from organic search.
How to increase organic traffic?
An increase in organic traffic is a direct result of an increase in the impression count. Also, as your CTR increases, organic traffic increases too.
Mathematically, organic traffic must be equal to the number of impressions multiplied by the click through rate. However, that may not always be the case. People may not be able to visit your website if your pages load slow, or if you have crawl errors.
Page speed is how fast your page loads. We all have experienced this – we click on a link from Google SERP and are looking forward to accessing the content, but the page takes so long to load that we close the tab. You lose traffic when your pages load slow.
Tools that measure Page Speed.
There are multiple free tools that calculate your page load speed. Google Pagespeed Insights and GTMetrix are two such tools. They will identify the factors that cause slow pages. For instance, if you use heavy images or have low serve speed, you will learn that from the tool.
How to optimize your page load speed?
You can increase the page load speed of your website through on-page and technical SEO. There are many layers to this process like selecting the right server, choosing the right CMS, compressing the images, minifying the code, etc.
You can also choose to set-up Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for faster load speed on mobile devices.
A decade back, it was common to encounter a broken link on Google SERPs. But now, things have changed, you barely ever find a broken page as Google pulls it down quickly. Broken pages result in a horrible user experience. Along with server errors, they negatively impact your ranking and foil your SEO efforts.
When Google explores your website and finds broken links, it returns a crawl error on Google Search Console tool. You need to get rid of these errors otherwise you risk a drop in ranking, with that goes your traffic. There are 2 main crawl errors that you must be worried about:
- 404 Error – It indicated that a webpage a searcher wants to access does not exist.
- 5XX Error – It indicates that a webpage can’t load because of a server error.
Tool that displays crawl errors.
You can find all the crawl errors in the Coverage tab of Google Search Console.
How to fix crawl errors?
To fix 404 errors, you can permanently redirect the visitors from the broken page to another page. This is called 301 redirect. And to fix 5xx errors, roll back the recent changes you made to your site and try again. If the errors won’t go away and your developer can’t fix it, consider changing your web host server.
Alright, we have discussed the metrics related to the top of your SEO funnel. We talked about how to get more people to your website and pitfalls to avoid. Next, we will talk about the metrics of when people are already on your website. Let’s figure out how to optimize them.
Average Time on Page
After your visitors make it to your webpage, you need to gauge how much they engage with your content. Average time on page indicates how much time they spend on your pages. A high average time on page signals Google that visitors find value in your website. This boosts your ranking indicating that SEO is working for you.
Where to check average time on page?
You can find average time on page in Google Analytics. Head over to Behaviour -> Overview. Remember, this data is not only for organic search traffic. However, any traffic on your website that stays there for long signals Google of the quality. That’s why even Social Media traffic impacts SEO.
How to increase average time on page?
- The key to increasing average time on page is writing content that aligns with the Google title. Often, the title of your page on Google SERP is the biggest motivation for people to click on it. However, if your page doesn’t offer what you promised, your visitors will leave in no time. So write content that addresses their pain points directly.
- Writing better quality content is essential. Even if you have quality information, you will lose visitors if your content is shabby. And writing quality information takes time but here’s how you can do it faster. Also, create quality images to support your text. It is easy to do it with a tool called Canva.
- In addition, you can use videos to keep people on your page for longer. Even if you do not produce videos, you can embed content from YouTube. Even a 1 minute long video can do wonders for your average time on page.
Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who did not interact with the page. They did not click on any other link or visit any other page of your website. A high bounce rate indicates that you are either attracting an irrelevant audience or your information did not align with the search intent.
Tool to check bounce rate
You can check the bounce rate on Google Analytics. Go to Acquisition -> All Traffic -> Source/Medium and select google/ organic.
How to reduce bounce rate?
To reduce bounce rate, write content that aligns with the search intent. For instance, if someone searched jeans for summer on Google, cover the topic in entirety but do not go off topic. If you’re writing about summer t-shirts in the same post or page, you have gone too far off.
Pages per session
A session begins when a user visits your website and ends after 30 minutes of inactivity or when the user leaves. Pages per session indicates how well you direct traffic on your website.
Ideally, you want the visitors to access multiple pages on your blog. This way you and Google know that your content is awesome, and there’s greater probability to convert leads. The more leads you convert, the more sure you can be of your SEO campaign efficacy.
Tool to check pages per session.
You can check pages per session on Google Analytics. Go to Acquisition -> All Traffic -> Source/Medium and select google/ organic.
How to increase pages per session?
One of the best ways to boost pages per session metric is to have a solid internal linking structure. It allows your visitors to easily navigate to relevant pages.
For instance, if in the article on jeans for summer, you include a link to another – article how often do you need to wash your jeans in summer – there is a chance you will get more clicks. Make sure you link to a relevant anchor text too.
Goal Conversion Rate
Goal conversion rate represents the percentage of sessions that end with visitors taking the desired action. You can set these goals on Google Analytics. For instance, if you want users to subscribe to your newsletter, you can set that as a goal. Each time a user takes that action, Google Analytics records a goal completion.
A high goal completion rate is a solid indication that SEO is working for you.
Tool to check goal conversion rate
You can set and track your goals on Google Analytics. The whole process is explained with illustrative images here.
How to increase goal conversion rate?
You need to optimize your posts and pages for conversion. Essentially, you optimize SEO performance for all stages of the marketing funnel. In this blog post, we illustrate how to go about your CRO efforts.
New Referring Domains
Backlinking is an important aspect of any SEO campaign. The more domains refer to you, the more referral traffic you get and your domain authority increases. This signals the search engines to rank your website higher.
You need to track how many quality backlinks you acquire every month.
Tool to track referring domains
You can track your referring domains on Google Search Console under the Links tab.
How to build quality backlinks?
There are many outreach methods to build backlinks like guest-posting, broken link building, stealing competitor backlinks, etc, but most of those methods may not work for you. Instead, you can access a rich list of link building methods that will work for you in the long-run.
Metrics to Avoid Tracking
Now we have a list of top 10 SEO metrics you must measure to ensure your campaign is on track. It’s important to know about the metrics that you need not track. These are vanity metrics. They may make you feel good but they may not contribute to SEO RoI.
Domain Authority or Domain Rating
Domain Authority (DA) is a metric introduced by a company called Moz. This metric estimates how powerful your domain is. Domain Rating (DR) does the same job. However, Google never validated any of the external tools. It’s best you avoid tracking these metrics.
A lot of businesses get stuck tracking their ranking. It’s inspiring to see your website listed on Page 1 of Google SERPs. But it’s of no use if you don’t rank for a quality keyword that aligns with search intent. A low quality keyword will not contribute anything to your traffic or attract an irrelevant audience. What matters is the quality and quantity of traffic these rankings bring.
You now have a list of metrics you must track to prove that your SEO efforts are working. You also have the tools that will help you analyze SEO KPIs. Set up your reports to track these data points today.
However, bear in mind that SEO takes months to show results. In addition, Google drops algorithm updates that shake up rankings and traffic for short spurts, but often you regain your ranking if you use white hat SEO.
Which KPI is the most important in your opinion?