In this post about measuring your SEO progress, read about selecting the key performance indicators to measure for your particular business and website, how to measure them, the universal SEO performance indicators for all websites, and the major benefits of measuring your SEO.
Similar to life or business, search engine optimisation is all about constant and consistent improvement – something that is not possible without measuring progress. Regardless of whether you handle your SEO campaign in-house or outsource to an external professional, the ability to accurately track your progress allows you to review your strategies and tactics to find out what is working and what isn’t.
Unfortunately, most people new to SEO assume that keyword rankings are the only thing you need to track to know how your SEO is performing. While an important metric, keywords don’t fully reflect your SEO performance. For a more accurate evaluation, you’ll need to look at several key performance indicators (KPIs).
Luckily, Google Analytics, one of the best SEO measuring tools is available for free. And who better to ask how well your search engine optimisation campaign is going than Google itself?
Measure What Matters To You
Through Google analytics and other SEO tracking tools, you’ll be able to measure a host of performance metrics; but not all will be important for your particular situation. Every business and every website will have its own unique set of metrics that matter to them and it’s up to you to figure out which metrics best reflect what you’re trying to achieve.
Of course, measuring the success of your SEO efforts will be counterintuitive if you didn’t set any goals beforehand by which to quantify progress. Once you have identified the key performance indicators that matter to your SEO, establish goals to create a baseline from which to measure growth from. Ideally, this should be done before your campaign kicks off – so it’s crucial that it’s done immediately if you haven’t already.
How To Measure Your SEO
After you have determined which metrics matter for your particular business and/or website, you’ll need data about your website to start the analysis. Data on your website’s SEO performance can be gathered using analytics software, the most popular being Google analytics. It’s free and quite powerful for the majority of applications.
Although each business and website will have unique metrics that matter to them, as mentioned earlier, there are five universal performance indicators that anyone can use to measure the SEO performance of their website. These are:
1. Keyword Rankings
This is the most common metric used in SEO performance measurement. Keyword rankings show you how your targeted keywords are positioned in the big search engines like Google and Bing i.e. whether they are improving or dropping. Generally, the closer to number one your keywords can get, the better.
While some of your keywords naturally rank highly, such as highly targeted long-tail keywords that are specific to your product and location or keywords pertaining to your brand name, most will be part of your long-term strategy to gain visibility as they are both competitive and high in commercial intent. The latter keywords are the ones you need to pay particular attention to.
Expect to see some short-term fluctuations in your keyword rankings and significant volatility with the implementation of Google algorithm updates, but growth should be seen in the long-term view regardless. Check this metric at least once each week as a drop in your rankings could indicate a deeper issue that needs to be addressed.
2. Organic Sessions/Traffic
Google defines a session as a visit to your website, the actions taken during the visit, and the exit of that user from your site. Organic sessions are visits to your website that originate from search engines such as Bing and Google.
An increase in organic traffic is a key performance indicator as it clearly aligns with any SEOs core objective – getting more people on your site. Some digging around will help you find the reason for the increase or decrease of organic search if you do identify any significant variances from your previous position.
Pay special attention to the organic clickthrough-rate (this is the percentage of users who click through to your site after seeing it on the SERP) as this will show you how effective your titles and meta descriptions are at capturing your targeted audience.
Once you get people to actually visit your site from the search engines, you’ll want them to take a certain action. This generates leads which could convert into sales. A lead can be any sort of contact with a visitor/ potential customer. It could involve signing up to a newsletter, submitting a contact form, calling the business or making a free pre-order.
Checking this metric helps you find out whether you are attracting more visitors to your website and whether these visitors complete the desired action once they land on your site. This metric relates closely to the core objective of setting up a business website which is increasing the customer base – which in turn increases sales.
4. Bounce Rate
The bounce rate is a measure of the percentage of users who load a single page on your website and then exit immediately without taking any action. For most websites, the typical bounce rate falls between 40 and 60 percent, which means that about half the visitors will leave without taking any action. This, however, varies depending on your niche/industry.
A high bounce rate (above 60%) indicates that your ranking page is irrelevant to the users, hard to navigate or has proven to be untrustworthy. A low bounce rate, on the other hand, shows that your website is relevant to user queries, easy to navigate and has trustworthy content.
5. Page Load Time
The page load time is actually an underlying contributor to several of the metrics mentioned in this article. If a page is taking too long to load, for instance, many of your visitors will bounce back to the results page, explore less of your site, and thus be less likely to convert.
The ideal page load time depends on the complexity of the web page and the user’s patience; however, the majority of visitors will leave a page if it takes more than three seconds to load. With each additional second in loading time, you can expect a resulting increase in bounce rate and decreased user engagement. A slow page load time is an indicator of a poorly optimised website which should be addressed.
Why Measure Your SEO?
There are two main reasons why you should measure your SEO progress. These are:
- To track your return on investment. SEO requires a significant investment of both time and money to be successful. Measuring your SEO helps you determine whether your investment is resulting into actual returns for your business.
- For Constant improvement. To stay on top in SEO, you will need to constantly and consistently improve your tactics and strategies to keep up with your competition and the everchanging search algorithms. Measuring your SEO shows you which areas you need to work on and improve for better results.