How to Measure the Success of Your SEO Strategy
By Morgan Hennessey on October 08, 2018
Once upon a time, it took weeks or even months to see whether or not your marketing efforts were working. Now, digital marketing allows us to actively watch how our campaigns are running to the minute. We have the tools and capabilities to track just about any metric we would ever need to know; from as simple as impressions and clicks, to as calculated as conversion value per cost or the length of view time on a video display advertisement.
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is one of these hip, new digital marketing strategies. SEO is the process of increasing your website’s visibility on the web by means of a combination of strategies, including: keywords, backlinking, page load speed, metas… the list goes on. These strategies will produce organic results. Organic refers to natural and without payment, as opposed to paid placement.
SEO is a necessity in this digital world, but just like anything else, it’s virtually ineffective if you don’t regularly track and maintain it. What is there to track, you ask? There are many metrics to watch, analyze, and act on to improve your SEO.
These metrics are commonly known as KPIs or key performance indicators. Regardless of your campaign or strategy, there will always be at least one KPI that you want to track to see success. There wouldn’t be a point in implementing the strategy if you weren’t hoping to see some sort of change, this could be a change in website traffic, purchases from your website, or even phone calls to your business. For SEO, some of the main KPIs you’re going to want to watch are: backlinks, organic keywords, keyword positions, organic traffic, and organic conversions.
Actively watching your backlinks gives you an extra pair of eyes to see who’s talking about you. Most KPI tracking tools will show you where these backlinks are coming from. If it’s from an unreliable source or a negative brand mention, you can disavow the domain from negatively affecting your SEO ranking with search engines. On the other hand, quality backlinks can improve your SEO ranking with search engines and move you up on the results page because you appear more trustworthy.
This KPI is lucrative for your SEO strategy because without it, you will not see as propitious results from other metrics. The number that you see when checking your organic keywords represents how many keywords your domain has positions for in search results. As this number grows, your website will appear for more and more searches. You can grow this number many different ways. To name a few, you can write blog articles, incorporate optimized copy throughout your site, and update each page’s meta title and description to include keywords.
When tracking this KPI, pay close attention the few days following an update to your website’s content, whether it’s adding a new page on the site or uploading a new blog– this is when you should see major increases. If you aren’t seeing a significant jump in this number, you know that you need to better optimize your content and focus more on revolving your content around target keywords.
Now that you’ve acquired a list of organic keywords, and you could have a list of 10,000, but they aren’t all going to be winners. Not every keyword has high search traffic or will drive traffic to your website. This is when you’ll want to look at your keyword positions.
People aren’t scrolling past the first page of search results. Honestly, when’s the last time you did that? So you’re going to want to track your keyword positions to see how many keywords are actually in the top 10 ranking. Not all of your keywords are going to have great positions right away, so you should be watching their progress. Are they moving up in position? Great, whatever you’re doing around that keyword is working! If keywords are losing positions, then you should do further research around that keyword and try out new strategies. If that keyword has low traffic, it might not be worth pursuing.
How many of your website visitors found your website organically through a web search or from a backlink, not from a paid advertisement? Organic traffic is the tried and true KPI to watch if you want to see if your SEO strategy is strong. Most SEO strategies will directly affect your site traffic– keywords will cause your site to appear in more searches, quality backlinks will bring more people to your website, and optimized meta tags will help push your website to more search results pages.
If you see your organic traffic dipping, look at all of the strategies you are implementing. Have any of them not been maintained recently? Maybe all you have to do is update your metas, or maybe the traffic is due to a larger problem that is past SEO. It’s very important to actively track your organic traffic so that you can catch an issue early, and find a solution much quicker.
If your goal is to make money– because who’s isn’t? Then organic conversions is a KPI that you’ll want to track to figure out your return on investment of your SEO strategy. Organic conversions are all of your conversions (this can be submitted forms, downloads, or ecommerce purchases) that didn’t cost you anything in ad dollars.
When running a report for this KPI on Google Analytics, you’ll be able to pull the search queries that lead the user who converted to your website in the first place. This is helpful information because it can help you understand what keywords and search terms are driving the audience that converts to your website. You might want to adjust your SEO strategy to target these terms more.
There are many tools out there to track digital marketing campaigns, our favorite tools of the trade include Google Ads, Google Analytics, and SEMRush. If you have very limited metrics that you are tracking, you might only need to use one of these tools, but we have developed an effective reporting strategy using all of these tools that show us the most accurate results.
Google Ads is a great aid to the keyword planning process. Their Keyword Planner provides in depth reports on keyword performance, monthly search traffic analytics, competition, and more. Also, if you are running paid advertisements through Google Ads, you can pull keyword and search query reports from the campaigns to utilize in your SEO strategy. Google Analytics should be added to all websites, as is tracks everything in real time, and shows many different variations of traffic and conversion KPIs. SEMRush is a great tool to keep all of your KPIs in one place. Watch keyword positions, traffic, and your site health score all in an educational dashboard.
A good SEO strategy can keep your website afloat, but a great SEO strategy will set you apart from the competition. It takes a lot of work and research, but SEO can be implemented into anyone’s digital marketing strategy. From there, maintenance is key to continue to improve your website’s ranking in the digital space. Begin with tracking these four KPIs and see how much SEO actually impacts your digital marketing success.