SEO, when done correctly, is the convergence of technical and creative practices that ensures you rank highly in relevant search engine results, propels traffic to your website, increases brand awareness, generates leads and drives sales. It’s not surprising then, that for any discerning brand, a search optimised website is sacrosanct! According to Search Engine Journal, SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate.
I’ve already outlined the essential content marketing metrics you should track in order to understand and measure your effectiveness; so exploring the SEO metrics that matter most to your strategy’s success is a logical progression. Like most of history’s great pairings – Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, burgers and pickles (ok, this may be a personal preference) – content marketing and SEO combine perfectly. The technical requirements of SEO, from keywords to tags, enhance the visibility and reach of content, and together they generate backlinks and organic traffic.
By now, you should know how to measure your content marketing efforts, but what metrics should you be tracking to gain an understanding of your SEO strategy? The digital age is also one of excess; excess tools, excess platforms, excess information. You need to be able to streamline the data and report on the fundamentals in order to optimise your performance and attract, engage and convert your customers.
Keyword performance and rankings: Keywords are the common starting point of any SEO strategy, but how do you know if you’re ranking for your chosen keywords? And are your chosen keywords even the most appropriate for your overall goals (which I’m assuming are to outrank your competitors and drive traffic to your website)? Get analytical. You can use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner to generate information on search volume data and new keywords, and implement those keywords when optimising your website and creating content for it. Then, you can measure the performance of those keywords by discerning how well your website is ranking for those key search terms, and whether they are driving traffic to your website.
Google AdWords: Under the “Keywords” tab within “Campaigns”, you can view information on the number of interactions (clicks or views), impressions, CPCs and costs for your keywords. Additionally, you have the ability to create and run a more detailed keyword performance report for selected accounts and campaigns with added conversion insights.
Google Analytics: You can also find data on the performance of your keywords in Google Analytics by clicking the “Acquisition” tab, accessing “All Traffic”> “Channels” and “Organic Search”, which will provide you with essential information on a keyword basis. To do this you must link Google Analytics to Search Console/Webmaster Tools – note keyword data is only available when the search is performed on a non-encrypted browser setting, i.e. not with a SSL.
Organic search traffic: Effective SEO + high quality content that incorporate optimised keywords should = an influx in organic search traffic that you can examine within Google Analytics. You can analyse this traffic on a keyword basis (as discussed above), by search engine, or “source”, or “landing page”, which is particularly helpful if you want to take a more granular look at SEO performance across your website.
When drilling down into your organic search traffic, pay particular attention to the behaviour metrics “Bounce Rate”, “Pages/Session” and “Average Session Duration”, as they demonstrate how users are interacting with your site and its content. It’s helpful to set yourself benchmarks to gauge the success of your SEO in this context; how many pages of your site should a user view before they are convinced and converted? How long on average should they spend viewing content before they convert? How high a bounce rate is too high to indicate users are not engaging with your website’s content? Setting yourself these goals will facilitate your measurement of SEO success and help you to refine it.
Sean Si is the CEO and Founder of SEO Hacker and Qeryz. A start-up, data analysis and urgency junkie who spends his time inspiring young entrepreneurs through talks and seminars. Check out his personal blog where he writes about starting up two companies and life in general.
Image from https://seo-hacker.net/
Q. What are the metrics that matter most to you?
“This is tricky. Usually metrics that make sense are set by the lead marketer. For example, in my second company, Qeryz, the metric that matters most to us is based on signups so it’s not really the quantity of traffic coming in but the quality.Some questions we ask ourselves are:1) Where do the best sources of conversions come from?2) Can we increase our traffic from those sources? How?3) Are there other possible similar sources of traffic?
Another example is my first company, SEO Hacker. With SEO Hacker, the metrics that matter most is search traffic coming in. It’s simpler, easier to qualify and mostly quantitative.
We’re an SEO company and one thing I strongly believe in is to practice what we preach. So if our search traffic goes down, that’s always something I’m not happy about.”
Q. Are there any metrics relevant to SEO that you feel are often overlooked?
“I think that brand mentions are overlooked. I’m not entirely sure if there’s a tool that would aggregate your brand mentions all over the web regardless of freshness and report to you whether your brand is widely known or it needs some working on. Let’s get one thing straight: Brand mentions will (almost) never be the new linkbuilding (thanks to Bill Slawski for that awesome piece of truth) however from Simon’s post in Moz, it does connote that it is a supplemental factor to your off-site efforts. So to get the best of both worlds, using your brand as an anchor text will hit two birds with one stone. It’s arguable that exact match anchor text links are still the most powerful types of links but it’s also widely known that it’s the most dangerous as there is a tipping point.”
Q. What are your favourite tools to analyse the performance of your SEO?
“I love Cognitive SEO in checking the backlinks that a piece of content I wrote is getting. After all, if you’re merely getting traffic, that’s awesome – but if you get links too, then that brings your content one step closer to being evergreen. Meaning, you’ll have a higher chance of getting perpetual search traffic from it.That’s really how you scale traffic through content. If you’re always promoting it then it’s 1 is to 1; you’ll always have to go back to promote past pieces of content. But if the content ranks, it becomes immortal, will get more links and give you a positive cycle effect.”This is by no means a complete list of SEO metrics; simply a selection to get you started. Keep the conversation going by letting us know which metrics matter most to your SEO strategy in the comments below!