Want to dip your website’s proverbial toe into the world of SEO success? Then from the very beginning of your journey you should be aware of SEO KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Benchmarking should be used to plan and set objectives, as well as assess results in any type of activities and projects. In that respect, website optimisation is no different.
Granted, there are many SEO KPIs. Contrary to most articles and discussions though, we argue that there is no such thing as a good or bad indicator. Each business (and its website) is different and will require a unique approach to achieve the highest ROI.
That is why we strongly advise first considering, and then discussing with your chosen SEO consultancy firm, what the agreed deliverables and SEO KPIs will be for your optimisation campaign. Read on to avoid feeling out of your depth and – heavens forbid! – trustingly accepting any mumbo-jumbo provided by some unscrupulous black-hat SEO agencies as “results indicators”.
Most Popular SEO KPIs
Whether you are looking at on-site or off-site SEO, the most widely accepted optimisation KPIs can be grouped as below.
Natural Traffic KPIs
- Overall organic traffic increase (usually in a particular time frame after initial optimisation effort).
- Quality of traffic (not quantity) – i.e. visitor volumes generated through particular, desirable keywords or their groups. What do we mean here? Well, sometimes overall natural traffic can fall or be stagnant in a period of time. This can be the result of fluctuating keyword “popularity” (seasonality – just think about searches like “Christmas presents” or “tulip bulbs”) or the simple fact of competitors catching up in rankings for non-targeted keywords (!). But, if at the same time traffic coming from your “moneymaker” phrases (identified and targeted through SEO) is on the rise – the resulting increase in sales/conversions is a very positive outcome indeed.
- Non-brand organic traffic volume. By filtering out all visitors who reached your website from Google after looking up your company name (including all variants and misspellings) you attain a much better understanding of the exposure your website and brand receives through SEO efforts.
Note: with continued SEO work the initial “virgin” traffic boost can subside. This can be due to people who have once found your website through non-brand searches becoming loyal clients (switching from googling generic search phrases to looking for your website in particular).
- Relative growth of organic traffic (faster or slower than: your niche/competitors; than natural expansion of your target audience; what are the keywords/pages contributing the most?; etc.).
Search Engine SEO KPIs
- Keyword rankings, i.e. your website’s position on Google’s search results pages – SERPs – for a particular phrase. A success can be defined as achieving position improvements or holding the desired spot. Always consider this KPI on a “per keyword” basis, with emphasis on keywords with higher traffic potential (there is no point in being “number one” for phrases no one is searching for!).
- SERP conversions, i.e. the ratio between impressions (how many times a link to your website has been displayed to a potential visitor) to actual clicks. This can give you a good idea of the “marketing pull” your meta title and descriptions have.
”Marketing” or “Business” SEO KPIs
Apart from the above, there are other measures to consider. Anyone who has worked with professional SEO consultants who share their knowledge is aware that SEO is a long-term process which never really ends. Moreover, optimisation is always about putting a lot of resources and efforts put towards gaining maximum profits which are visible after some time. Hence, we recommend keeping an eye on the below indicators, as they can help you understand that SEO is just another tool to help your business succeed:
- Brand exposure.
- Conversion rates.
- ROI (return on investment).
Granted, these are the most difficult to measure, but a good agency should be able to work with you to assess them. Thus, we highly recommend discussing them and your expectations with your chosen SEO expert.
Traditional SEO KPIs
If, for whatever reason, you are also interested in “traditional” optimisation KPIs, you may want to consider PageRank improvement. This indication of the increase of your website’s authority, which is closely linked to its pages’ higher rankings in SERPs, can be achieved through a mix of unique and useful content marketing and acquisition of high quality, sustainable backlinks.
The most obvious advantage of this measure is its longevity – it has been around for ages and is not likely to be dropped by Google any time soon. At least not according to Mark Cutts:
The most often lamented drawback of PageRank is its lack of precision. The actual authority gap between PR 3 and PR4 pages can be enormous. Thus, a more precise, granular indicator (e.g. PR3.1 , PR4.7) would help better understand which sites are authoritative and trusted.
Another downside is the measure’s “time delay”, estimated at anything between a few weeks to a few months. It means you never know if the number you see in your browser’s tab for a particular site is still valid or not.
This deliberate hindrance introduced by Google is aimed at limiting the somewhat grey area of “website purchasing”. There are numerous examples of buyers who have been lured by a seemingly high authority of a website, only to be left with an often worthless domain not long after the purchase. How come? Well, more often than not, as soon as the transaction is made, unscrupulous sellers re-point all valuable links to their next “product” up for grabs. This results in them essentially selling “thin air”.
In this respect the time delay is a good mechanism, but only as long as everyone knows about it!
Number & Quality (!) Of Backlinks
Before the Penguin update in April 2014 hit, black-hat SEO spammers had one strategy: game the system with masses of low quality links until Google sniffs out and discredits them. Then they would simple start over in “another neighbourhood”. But these days are – thank heavens! – over.
Nowadays, low quality backlinks are not harmless. They can drag your website down, waaaay down, with Google penalising you for everything from:
- unnatural backlink patterns (quantities of certain types of links)
- overoptimised anchor text
- participating in link-exchange schemes
- paid ads that pass PageRank
- links from (and to!) “bad neighbourhoods”
- ..to links from non-relevant websites and “spammy” content.
Lo and behold, it is not a simple “numbers game” anymore. Acquiring links from high quality sources (i.e. high PR and relevant!) has never been easy, but now it is also the crucial and only way to long-term success.
To clarify: it is still of utmost importance to know what types of links (and their quantities) your website and particular landing pages enjoy. It is simply much more valuable to gain just one high PR, “natural” link from a website that covers similar topics to yours, than even a hundred links from PR zero or 1 pages with random content.
SEO KPIs To Track With Google Analytics
First of all, congratulations if you got this far and are still reading! We will make a quick note of the best SEO KPIs to track with Google Analytics (GA), as we often track them for our clients. With regular summary reports, you do not need to set up anything yourself – we are here to help. Still, you should be aware of:
Number of unique keywords that drive traffic to your website.
This simple measure allows you to understand how your website targets “long tail” (more complex) keywords. Remember, getting diversified traffic relies on the amount of content available on each of your web pages. If there is not much useful and keyword-rich text available, it is very difficult to obtain high numbers here.
Number of landing pages indexed.
This informs you of your website’s exposure in search engine listings (how many pages rank well enough to be found by search engine users).
Bounce rate for particular keywords/landing pages.
A “bounce” occurs when a visitor coming from a search engine navigates away from your page within a very short time of seeing it. There can be several reasons for a high bounce rate. For example web pages are not clear, they are “dead ends” (lack of useful internal links to catch the visitor’s eye and keep him/her on the site), they do not have any enticing CTAs (Calls To Action) or images, the product prices are too high (for ecommerce sites), etc.
There is also the option of your pages being so precise and useful that they provide visitors with the searched for information almost instantly! As the satisfied visitor “goes away” quickly, you are left with a high bounce rate.
Hence, Google claims not to take this metric into consideration when calculating particular pages’ position on SERPs. However, we believe good SEO is not only about traffic – it is also about making sure that once visitors come, they stay and remember your site.
And many more..
If you are considering helping your website help you, contact us today to discuss the best SEO KIPs for your business and how we can help you achieve them.