It’s important to establish benchmarks for success when embarking on a new SEO campaign. How else would you know if your tactics are working? By taking the time to clearly outline which KPIs are the most indicative of progress, you can keep your eyes on the prize during the long and steady climb in the SERPs.
When it comes to SEO, slow and steady wins the race. SEO takes time. It’s not always about being number one. A more constructive aim would be to drive qualified organic traffic to your website and while working to minimize crawl errors and redirect chains.
This post will be outlining some important SEO KPIs and discussing how they can be used to navigate your journey towards better online visibility. Goal setting is vital to success — in life and in business. Before we dive into which KPIs you should be paying special attention to, let’s begin by establishing a practical definition of what a KPI is and why it’s important.
KPI is short for Key Performance Indicator. It is essentially a benchmark for measuring progress and performance. Knowing which KPIs to identify and track largely depends on your goals and your industry.
KPIs help businesses stay focused on their overall strategies by providing periodic checkpoints for comparison and measurement. Time is the strongest indicator of success. It’s one thing to have a short but effective burst — it’s another to sustain growth and improvement over an extended period of time.
It’s important to bear in mind that progress doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Ups and downs are inevitable. Use KPIs in a similar way that old-world sailors used constellations — to light the way.
Determine Your SEO Objectives
Before we dive into the heart of the matter, I want to pose a question: what do you hope to accomplish with your SEO efforts?
On the surface, this question seems obvious. But it’s amazing to me how often people confuse the role of SEO with different facets of digital marketing. SEO is the art of optimizing websites and content for search engines. This can be accomplished best through a combination of content creation and technical SEO tactics aimed at improving site functionality.
Successful SEO requires a deep understanding of search engine ranking factors and a whole lot of research. Before launching a campaign to improve online visibility, you must define what “SEO success” means to your company.
Are you looking to drive more organic traffic? Rank for more competitive keywords? Create location-based landing pages? Clean up 404 errors and redirect issues? Establish an organized internal linking structure? Or are you more interested in lead generation?
Don’t just answer with all of the above. That’s lazy and unfocused. Start with something concrete and build accordingly.
While these free tools provide valuable insight into traffic, rankings, and site health, I highly recommend investing in supplementary tools such as Ahrefs or SEMRush. These powerful tools help with every aspect of SEO and include far more data than Google would ever give you for free.
While there are many SEO metrics worth measuring and monitoring, we’ll be narrowing it down to five high-level KPIs that will really show you how you’re doing.
Keywords and queries are the currency of SEO. Competitive rankings have the potential to drive high volumes of qualified organic traffic to your website. In my opinion, this is the most telling SEO KPI. Don’t just monitor your site’s overall keyword rankings, monitoring which keywords your individual pages are ranking for.
Doing so will tell you a lot about your keyword research, the quality of your content, and your onpage SEO tactics.
The whole point of SEO is to grow targeted organic traffic. This inbound traffic comes from having visible keyword rankings in the SERPs for specific pages. Two important metrics for measuring and improving organic traffic are click-through-rate (CTR) and the “Aquisition” section of Google Analytics. The best way to grow organic traffic is by creating in-depth pages that answer customer queries.
Once you do that, optimize and monitor the page, making adjustments as needed. Just remember to give it time before you tweak too much. Search engines take time to index pages.
Page speed is an unsung hero of SEO KPIs and a strong indicator of website performance. Internet users are incredibly impatient. If your page takes a fraction of a second too long to load, it could result in a quick bounce. Using Google PageSpeed Insights and Google Analytics to assess your page’s load time can shed some valuable light on the matter.
If your pages are taking too long to load it may be necessary to enlist your web dev team to troubleshoot the issue.
Google Search Console is a great tool. Among other useful features, it allows you to submit your sitemap directly to Google. It also shows you which of your pages have not been indexed and lets you request indexing. A page can’t rank if it’s not in Google’s index, which means your content must be laid out in a way that communicates its aim to search engines. For this reason, it’s a good goal to keep track of which of your pages are being indexed.
When it comes to being indexed, it’s worth mentioning that you need to make sure that your robots.txt isn’t inhibiting crawl bots.
Bounce Rate & Conversion Rate
This two-headed beast can be as humbling as it is insightful. It’s one thing to get your page landed on, but it’s another thing to have it adequately address searcher intent. Bounce rate is a metric that I associate with user experience. Searchers are more likely to stick around if a page looks appealing, has a thoughtful layout, and adequately answers their question. On the other hand, if it looks spammy and withholds information, you can bet they’ll hit the back button pretty quick.
Use Bounce Rate and Conversion rate to tell you about how users are responding to your content and make improvements accordingly.
This list of SEO KPIs is far from complete but it will get you heading in the right direction. If you can master the measurement and interpretation of these metrics, your SEO campaign will be doing just fine.
A large part of success lies in determining your mark at the onset of the campaign. This will give you a roadmap for where you’re headed. You’ll inevitably need to adjust course along the way. This is a good thing — it means you’re getting somewhere.