Correctly measuring the success of an SEO campaign can vary greatly depending on the type of business you're in and your objectives.
However, there are three key performance indicators (KPIs) that should always be considered when measuring an SEO campaign's effectiveness:
Not only can the information gathered from these three KPIs enable you to accurately measure your campaign's performance, they can also provide you with actionable data to improve your campaign over time.
Keyword rankings are the most common and obvious KPI, especially when studies show that websites listed on the first page of Google receive up to 92 percent of traffic share. Tracking keyword rankings over time gives you the ability to craft your SEO strategy around the keywords that require the most attention and provide the most benefit.
For example, let's say you're tracking 20 keywords, and all but five of these are on the first page of Google. You know that in order to get these five keywords on the first page, you will have to invest more optimization efforts into them.
On the other hand, you may discover that these keywords are simply too competitive, and based on your research, would not provide enough benefit to warrant the effort. It would be more beneficial to focus efforts on the other 15 keywords in order to get them into the top three positions, where they'll really pay off. Without keyword ranking data, making informed strategic decisions such as this would be very difficult.
While keeping track of rankings is crucial, it isn't enough. You must also understand how these keywords translate into increased quality traffic.
Measuring the volume and quality of traffic that first page rankings deliver is essential. First page rankings are useless if they don't deliver enough of the right kind of traffic.
Traffic volume should be measured based on the number of visits that come from organic search. With a successful SEO strategy, you should see a significant increase in organic search traffic over time.
How much traffic you should expect depends on the size of your target audience. For example, a successful SEO campaign that targets people who are looking for online business card printing nationwide will deliver significantly more organic search traffic than a successful campaign targeting people who are looking for a local dentist.
Measuring the quality of traffic is a bit trickier as it requires more careful analysis. Some metrics that can be used to determine the quality of traffic include:
- Pages Per Visit
- Average Visit Duration
- Bounce Rate
When reviewing these metrics, if you find that the average number of pages viewed per visit is low, the average time visitors spend on the site is also low, and the site's bounce rate is high, you may have discovered there is either an issue with your website or with the type of traffic your keywords are delivering.
We'll focus on the latter issue, which requires understanding the relationship between the keywords your campaign is targeting, and the traffic they're delivering. Let's take a foreclosure defense lawyer for example whose target audience is a person that is trying to avoid foreclosure on their home, and is looking specifically for a good foreclosure defense lawyer.
It may make sense to the lawyer that they should optimize for the keyword term, "avoid foreclosure." However, this keyword presents two issues:
- The person searching with this keyword isn't necessarily looking for a foreclosure defense lawyer. They could be researching ways to avoid foreclosure without having to hire a lawyer.
- Even if this person is open to hiring a foreclosure defense lawyer, they are still in the research phase and are therefore open to other options as well.
Conversely, the person that searches with the keyword, "foreclosure defense lawyer" is most likely looking for exactly that, a foreclosure defense lawyer. They are also past the research phase, as they've decided that hiring a lawyer is the best way to avoid foreclosure, and are simply searching for the right one.
For these reasons, this person will be more inclined to invest time on the foreclosure defense lawyer's website, researching the lawyer's credentials, reading articles written on the lawyer's blog, and so on. There is also greater likelihood that this person will convert into an appointment and possibly a new client, which leads to the next KPI.
Perhaps the ultimate measure of success for an SEO campaign is conversions, but how are conversions defined?
Conversions should be defined based on your specific goals.
Let's say your goal is to increase leads. With this in mind, conversion tracking may include contact requests, quote requests, appointment requests, or phone calls to name a few. It's also essential to distinguish between conversions from organic search, and conversions from other sources.
It's important to note that not all visitors are ready to buy, and neglecting to measure the actions of those visitors is a mistake. These conversions can be defined as newsletter subscriptions, social shares, whitepaper downloads, and other actions visitors take that indicate they are interested in what you offer. These types of conversions also serve as a great traffic quality indicator.
With conversion tracking in place, you can take the campaign full circle by knowing which keywords are generating these conversions, and why.
Having a system in place to track the monetary value of conversions gives you the ability to determine the ROI of your SEO campaign.
You can take this a step further and determine your ROI based on a customer's lifetime value (the expected revenue or profit you will receive from that customer over their lifetime). Only measuring a new customer's initial purchase, and not taking into account future repeat purchases can result in an inaccurate depiction of the true return you are receiving on your investment.
Tracking these KPIs not only allows you to measure your SEO campaign's current performance, but also provides actionable data to help you make the right decisions to ensure its future success.