Guy Sheetrit is the founder of Over The Top SEO, one of the fastest-growing and most awarded multinational SEO agencies.
One powerful indicator of a successful marketer is the ability to define KPIs, track them and report them. But it is so easy to get lost in the cesspool of SEO analytics data, given the number of reports marketers have to comb through.
Surely, there must be a way to track SEO performance without the usual complexity?
What Should You Measure?
This guide highlights important KPIs you should be measuring to have an accurate understanding of the impact of your SEO strategy.
Besides content and RankBrain, backlinks complete the top three of Google’s ranking factors. Backlinks are important because Google and other search engines consider them ‘votes of confidence’ for a particular webpage. Hence, the more backlinks a page has, the higher it tends to rank. However, not all backlinks are created equal, and the quality of backlinks matters more than mere numbers.
Link building factors you should track using analytics include the following:
- The number of backlinks to your website.
- The domain authority of the websites linking to your site. The higher the DA of a website, the higher the quality of its backlinks.
- The growth of your backlinks counts over time.
- The number of lost backlinks (due to no index, 404 errors, crawl errors, redirects, etc.)
The keyword ranking metric measures how your website/page ranks in SERs for targeted keywords over time. The goal is to make your website rank high for high volume keywords. Keyword rankings significantly impact the measure of other KPIs such as organic traffic and conversions.
Tracking keyword rankings helps you to:
- Troubleshoot organic traffic drops. For instance, when a change in Google’s algorithm for ranking keywords (such as Semantic Search) affects traffic.
- Determine keywords for which your website is not yet optimized.
You can track keyword rankings by first connecting Google Analytics to Search Console. Then, navigate to the Search Console option which is under the Acquisition tab on the left-hand side of your Google Analytics view. The keyword rankings report can then be viewed through Queries. The Average Position tab shows you how your website ranks for targeted keywords.
Obviously, tracking the average ranking position for keywords gives severely limited data. Hence, most marketers opt for advanced, dedicated keyword ranking tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs Keyword Rank Checker, Moz Rank Checker, etc.
Bounce rate is the most prominent (user) engagement metric. Engagement metrics such as page views, time spent on-page, and of course, bounce rate, measure the interaction of visitors with your site.
Bounce rate measures single engagement/single-page visits, that is, the percentage of users that only visit a web page and leave without taking any action (bounce) such as clicking a link or filling a form. It is calculated by dividing the number of single-page visits by the total number of all visits.
Except in certain situations, every bounce off a page signals that there was no conversion, which, in turn, indicates that the visitor didn’t get what they wanted. For you to record a successful campaign, you must aim to keep the bounce rate at the lowest.
Note that the ideal bounce rate varies by industry and content type. Retail sites have an average bounce rate of 10 - 40%. On the other hand, blogs (since they are mostly informative only) have an average bounce rate as high as 70 -98%. In Google Analytics, you can find your website bounce rate in the Audience Overview report. For individual pages, refer to the Behavior column of the All Pages report.
This simply measures how fast your webpages load. But it is not so straightforward. There are different ways to measure the speed of a page, as you can see below:
- First Contentful Paint: measured in seconds, it tracks how long it takes for the first text or image to be displayed on-screen.
- First Input Delay: FID measures the time from when a visitor interacts with an element on a page (for instance, clicks a link) to the time the browser responds.
- Largest Contentful Paint: this metric quantifies the time to when the largest (main) image or text block is visible on-screen.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights is the most popular tool for measuring the speed of your pages. The app analyzes the performance of the desktop and mobile version of a page and provides an aggregate score. Further, it displays different field data metrics as seen below.
It also shows you recommendations to boost your performance score.
Conversions are the clearest evidence that your campaign is working and it is the closest SEO metric to financial ROI. In fact, most businesses measure conversions and nothing else to determine the success of their SEO strategy. But even though conversions only do not provide an accurate picture, they are undoubtedly a highly rated SEO KPI.
Depending on your business goals, you can decide to count leads or sales as conversions. What’s more important is that you have a basis against which to compare current performance.
You can easily track conversions in Google Analytics by setting a conversion goal. Goals are found under the View column in the Admin tab. Setting up your new goals would require you to select a template based on revenue, acquisition, inquiry, or engagement. Thereafter, you enter the goal description and add the URL of the thank you page. After saving your goal, you may view your data through Acquisition Overview.
An important aspect of conversions is the conversion source. To determine which channels are bringing the most sales or leads helps you to focus your marketing strategy on the most profitable sources. Google Analytics data displays both your conversion rate and top channels.
How many users visit your website through organic search results?
The most fundamental goal of any SEO strategy is to increase organic visibility to the brand website. When your strategy begins taking off, the first thing you will notice is an increase in organic impressions, that is, searches for which your site was visible, whether or not it was visited. Next, you will notice an increase in organic traffic, which measures actual clicks of your website in SERPs.
You can measure organic traffic to your website through Google Analytics by navigating to the Audience Overview report, and adding a new segment for organic traffic.
In SEO, knowing what to measure is the analytics problem half-solved. The KPIs highlighted above are the most essential to boosting financial returns on your SEO strategy. Most other KPIs, even the seemingly complex ones, are often basically iterations of these metrics.