Measuring your marketing efforts is only one step in a successful campaign or business initiative. You also need a strategy for improvement.
SEO (search engine optimization) has a lot of moving parts. To succeed, you need to see what is working and what isn’t. To properly evaluate your SEO performance, you’ll have to work your way backwards.
Measuring SEO Progress and Setting Goals
We all remember SMART goals, right?
- Reasonable and
We all use goals and goal setting in our lives. The same process can be applied to evaluating your SEO performance and setting up your strategy. Begin with the goals your organization looks to achieve and incorporate them in your approach to search engine optimization.
Here are common SMART SEO goals you may want to consider:
- Increase organic traffic
Look at the number of leads you’ll need to meet your business goals, and then determine how much more organic traffic you need to reach the goal.
- Increase quality of backlinks
Google ranks both the quality and number of backlinks. In search, this is a trust factor. If other sites use your backlinks, it shows they trust your content. Google rewards quality backlinks with better search ranking.
- Improve your conversion rate
The better you can convert a visitor to a customer, the stronger your business. First, collect data on your current baseline conversion rate, then take steps to improve it.
- Increase the time spent on page(s)
Do visitors like your web content? If they do, they will spend more time reading and using it, and you have a better opportunity to convert them into a customer.
- Decrease the bounce rate
A “bounce” on your website is when a customer goes to one page and isn’t interacting with your content. A high bounce rate means your content doesn’t interest visitors, and you probably aren’t reaching your customer. You want to lower the bounce rate.
- Increase total organic traffic engagement (clicks, form submissions, email signups, etc.)
When visitors are using your website, filling out forms, doing research and otherwise engaging with your content, then they are more likely to become a customer. The higher you can push engagement, the more visitors you will convert.
Prioritizing and Measuring Your SEO Goals
Ready to get started? You have a few more things to do first.
Remember, SEO takes a lot of time and dedication. None of those goals will be achieved overnight, so it’s important to prioritize based on business initiatives.
Once you have nailed down priorities, it’s time to see how your current performance stacks up compared to where you want to go.
You likely have access and basic reporting set up within Google Analytics and Google Search Console. If not, take a look at our SEO Checklist on how to get started with both.
The KPIs you determine are most important will need internal benchmarks. Internal benchmarking is the process of measuring current performance metrics with organizational goals. Simply, you need to compare where you are against where you (and your business) want to go.
External benchmarking is measuring against competitors or industry leaders. This is good to keep an eye on, but as you get started, don’t be discouraged by external benchmarking. You will get there.
High Level Website Metrics
Your website metrics will often reveal themes in the data, themes which often reveal opportunities or threats to your business and goals. Common website metrics to track include:
Total site traffic – the total number of people visiting your website
Traffic channel – how your traffic is generated (organic, paid, direct, referral, email, social)
Traffic source – where your traffic is coming from (Facebook, Google, Yahoo, etc.)
Traffic medium – an extension of the source, it’s a defined category by either Google Analytics or a user (organic, ppc, cpc, affiliate, paidsearch, etc.)
Engagement metrics are the actions and behaviors users take on your website. Engagement metrics are ammo for your search engine optimization, and a measure of the effectiveness of your website’s content.
The more visitors interact, the better you can reach and influence them. Higher engagement means your content is what your audience wants.
We’ve pulled a short list of metrics to consider depending on your goals, metrics which can be found in Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
- Bounce rate – The rate of users that view only one page and leave the website. The bounce rate will reveal where users get bored of your site, or where they find what they need and see no reason to continue. Navigation and home pages should have the lowest bounce rates on the site since you are trying to push them down the funnel to conversion pages. If the navigation pages have a high bounce rate, there’s a good chance your conversion pages aren’t seeing much traffic.
- Average time on page. It’s the amount of time a user spends on a particular page. Obviously, the longer they are on the page the more content they are consuming.
- Pages per session. The average number of pages a user visits in a session (pageviews/sessions). This metric sheds light on how engaging the overall site is. You want users to engage with your website and the amount of pages they visit is a good indication that you have quality content.
- Average session duration. The amount of time a user spends on your website. Sessions will reset after 30 minutes of inactivity but can be adjusted within Google Analytics.
- New users and returning users. A new user is a visitor who has never been to the site. A returning user is a visitor who has started a new session, but has previously been tagged by a cookie. Cookies are device specific, and if a user clears their cookies, they will be seen as a new user the next time they visit your site.
- New visitors. The distinction between new visitors and new users comes at the level of which they are calculated. New visitors can only be counted ONCE since they are based at a user level. New user calculations are session based.
- Goal conversions and event tracking. These can be anything your organization has deemed worth tracking based on specific goals. That could be anything from users watching a video or signing up for a newsletter. Typically, these are the metrics that the business sees as worth reporting on. Conversions and event tracking can be defined and set up through Google Analytics.
- Exit rate and top exit pages. The number of times visitors have left a site from a page. This is less an engagement metric and more so a disengagement indicator. Identifying where visitors are leaving your website can help you understand where there may be opportunities to improve your site. Note: bounce rate means they only visited the page they entered the site on; exit rate means they left the site from a different page they entered.
- Click-through rate (CTR). Shown as a percent, it is the number of users that saw your page in search results divided by the number of people that clicked to your page. This metric can provide insight to the performance of your page title and meta description. A low CTR may mean your page isn’t appealing enough as the user is doing research.
How to Conduct an SEO Audit
There are plenty of helpful SEO tools that have quality auditing capabilities. Getting an understanding of the current landscape of your website will help prioritize what is feasible in the short term versus the long term, and what aspects of the project will deliver the highest return.
Here are a few tools that will help with SEO audits:
- Google Search Console. Allows marketers and webmasters to check the indexing status, website and page performance.
- SEMRush. With a plethora of tools within the platform to conduct keyword research, competitive analysis, backlink audit, overall site performance audit and more, SEMRush has the power to manage all your SEO/SEM efforts (if you have the budget).
- Raventools. A popular platform for small businesses and agencies, it has elite web analytics tools with an easy integration process.
- Screaming Frog. Using tools that mimics Google’s crawlers, it finds on-page SEO issues.
- Ubersuggest. This platform, created by one of the most respected SEO experts in the industry, offers several options such as a free backlink audit, common SEO audit, and a Chrome extension used for keyword research and CPC analysis.
- Google’s PageSpeed Insights. It does what the name says, gives insights about page speed.
Page Experience and Website Performance
With Google’s “Page Experience” update, companies are becoming increasingly aware of user experience. Positive user experiences have always been a primary goal of websites and SEO.
With the update, there’s now criteria for measuring user experience. Website performance metrics such as loading speed and visual stability hiccups won’t be tolerated anymore. Search engines are demanding more of websites and companies are forced to deliver or face the consequences.
Keyword and Rank Tracking
As we have learned, keywords are a large part of search engine optimization. After all the keyword research you have painstakingly gone through, don’t you want to see if it’s paying off?
There’s a direct correlation between higher search engine rankings and the amount of organic traffic coming to your pages. Keyword tracking and rank tracking give you the ability to see where your content is positioned for the given search queries. Tools such as SEMRush, Ubersuggest or Google Search Console parse through the SERPs to see where you (and your content) rank.
If you keep a close eye on the rankings, you can quickly respond to any drastic drop in your position. Updating your content based on how others may be ranking, you can often find that niche that leads to higher rankings on the SERPs.
Jump-Start Your SEO Strategy
Proper planning and reporting starts with the end in mind. There’s not a single path, but many paths on the road to success. Tracking your SEO performance keeps your organization accountable for constant improvement.
You won’t become an SEO expert overnight. Reading a few blogs isn’t going to make you a search engine guru. The key to success is making steady progress and just getting started. Pick a task, get your hands dirty and start optimizing your website.
If you run into any problems or have a question, the specialists at GO2 Partners are here to help.