Your ability to show results, whether a site owner or an SEO expert, makes you valuable.
The only way to convince your clients to kiss your feet and bend down is to do it. Or prove to your friends that you know what you’re doing and keep your bragging rights.
It seems simple enough, but this is where things become a little hazy. You can’t solely gauge your progress by how your rankings change or lay down on your bed and refresh your Google Analytics before falling asleep.
Fortunately, there are many additional ways to assess your SEO effectiveness objectively. And you’re about to learn that.
But first, there’s a lot of confusion as to what metrics, KPIs, OKRs, vanity metrics, and actionable metrics are, so let’s define these first.
Are KPIs the Same as Metrics?
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are tracked to determine a company’s success. Some people, however, use the terms “KPIs” and “metrics” interchangeably. Are key performance indicators and metrics the same thing?
No, it does not.
KPIs are a type of metric, which means that while all KPIs are metrics, not all metrics are KPIs.
KPIs are specific metrics used to track progress toward specific goals. Conversely, metrics can be any data gathered as part of routine business operations.
So, what is the distinction between KPIs and metrics?
KPIs are chosen primarily because they are important to track and provide insight into how well a company is performing. The distinction is in the word “key.”
That is why it is critical to understand the distinction between a metric and a key performance indicator (KPI).
What are metrics?
A metric is a measure of something. In business, metrics are used to track progress and performance. They can be financial, such as revenue or profit, or non-financial, such as customer satisfaction, employee retention, or in this case, SEO.
Types of metrics
There are four main types of metrics:
- Leading indicators – these predict future performance
- Lagging indicators – these show past performance
- Inputs – these measure the resources used to produce results
- Outputs – these measure the results achieved
Understanding the difference can help you find the right software to provide insight and get your SEO tech stack to provide valuable information instead of just noise.
What Are Vanity Metrics?
A vanity metric is a measure of success that doesn’t necessarily correlate to business growth or profitability. In other words, it’s a number that looks good on paper but doesn’t tell you much about how your business is performing.
There are all sorts of vanity metrics out there, but some common ones include things like website pageviews, social media followers, and email subscribers. The problem with these metrics is that they’re easy to manipulate and don’t give you an accurate picture of whether or not your business is growing.
Problem with using vanity metrics
Vanity metrics make you feel good but don’t necessarily provide any valuable insights into your business. For example, the number of likes on a social media post or the number of visitors to your website. While it’s great to see these numbers going up, they don’t give you any information on whether people are actually engaging with your content or if they’re just scrolling past it.
This can be a problem because you might think you’re doing great when no one is paying attention to what you’re putting out there.
Difference between vanity metrics vs. actionable metrics
There are a lot of metrics out there, and it can be tough to know which ones to pay attention to. Here’s a quick rundown of the difference between vanity metrics and actionable metrics:
- Vanity metric: A metric that looks good on paper but doesn’t give you any insight into how to improve your business. For example, website traffic is a vanity metric because it doesn’t tell you where that traffic is coming from or what they’re doing on your site.
- Actionable metric: A metric that provides insights into how you can improve your business.
Why measuring SEO effectiveness seems impossible.
If SEO is new to you, you probably feel a bit unsure. Your eyes suffer after months of work, which you’ve been doing every day. However, you can’t tell if your actions are effective. All of us have been there.
You, therefore, monitor a single metric, most likely keyword rankings. You notice some keyword ranks improving, and resume your work.
The issue is that using just one SEO metric won’t offer you the full picture. It’s comparable to declaring a puzzle complete after placing only one piece on the board.
The answer is to monitor several parameters. Your preferred analytics and SEO tools will provide these numbers.
Why are measuring and tracking SEO results important?
First off, SEO takes a lot of work. So, you need to know whether your efforts are paying off. Unfortunately, few businesses keep track of SEP results. I’ve personally witnessed it. A business invests fully in an SEO effort; they produce a ton of content, create links, and boost title tags.
They shake their shoulders when you ask them if they perceive a return on investment. Given the enormous time and effort required for SEO, it’s critical to understand whether or not the work was worthwhile.
Second, the outcomes of your SEO efforts tell you whether you need to adjust your strategy. The absence of results does not imply that SEO is ineffective. It can simply indicate that you need to modify what you’re doing.
And keeping a careful eye on your outcomes enables you to determine whether you’re on the right track or need to change directions.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) for SEO success
One frequently gets a striking impression of how much data there is to deal with while measuring SEO efforts. It can be challenging to come to clear conclusions and provide management or clients with straightforward reporting. The answer is to be aware of the key performance indicators (KPIs) to employ and link them to the client’s or company’s goals.
Your KPIs should be linked to clear marketing objectives. Ideally, your business or client has developed a digital marketing strategy outlining good marketing goals. To effectively assess the performance of your SEO activities, you should link your KPIs to these objectives.
SEO metrics you need to track
1. Keyword rankings
The most used SEO measure is keyword rankings. I’m not sure if it’s ego-related, but SEOs enjoy boasting about their keyword ranks. Now, it’s a reliable metric, and maintaining the top rank does make you feel.
The keyword rankings will reveal several things to you, including:
- Whether you’re using the appropriate keywords. If your website is not visible for your desired keywords, you should shift your focus to less competitive terms (at least for the time being).
- No matter if your site is genuinely expanding. Your rankings and the overall amount of keywords your site is ranking for ought to improve over time. Increases in these two metrics will indicate that your site is becoming more authoritative and that longtail traffic is beginning to increase for your posts.
Your overall keyword alterations at a glance – how your keyword positions are changing over time – will be the first thing you notice. You can tell right away from this snapshot if your technique is effective.
You’ll see the ranking changes reported over time as you scroll further down the page. You can create your keyword list where you’ll add the specific keywords you want to track.
It doesn’t matter if you have high keyword rankings (especially if you’re just getting started). However, what matters is that you’re either witnessing an increase in the number of keywords you’re ranking for or that the positioning is getting better.
You’ll start attracting longtail visitors when you begin to rank for more keywords. Well done!
However, if one of your keywords rises from position #20 to #2, you’re doing very.
2. Backlink quantity and quality
More than 200 different variables influence your rankings. Nearly tough to keep up with them all. However, you need not worry about that because backlinks continue to be a key ranking factor.
Improve both the quantity and quality of your backlinks, and Google will reward you greatly. It’s necessary to make a course correction if you aren’t gaining any new backlinks or if your backlinks are of low quality.
Tracking your backlinks will provide you with crucial details like:
- How successful are your link-building techniques? When you conduct broken link building, for instance, and you receive 10 links out of 100 emails sent, you’re getting a really good response rate.
- Sources that might be used for future link building. Not all of the links leading to your website were likely created by you. You can find possible chances for incoming links by tracking your current links.
- How economically effective is your plan? If you spent $500 to get a single link but didn’t move your rankings, it’s time to change your plan to a more affordable link-building method.
Numerous low-quality links won’t have any impact on your rankings. But if you obtain a few links from reliable sources, you’ll undoubtedly see an improvement. How can you tell if the backlinks you have are of excellent quality?
Get a thorough analysis of your entire link profile using Monitor Backlinks. Both quality and quantity will be what you’ll look for.
You should check for a few key criteria to determine whether the websites linked to you are of excellent quality:
- Trust Flow: A high Trust Flow indicates that the site connecting to you is well-regarded by Google and has many backlinks pointing to the domain.
- Citation Flow: This statistic, comparable to Trust Flow, will inform you of a website’s quality based on the quantity and caliber of links it has. To evaluate the overall quality of a website linked to you, use these two indicators. The higher, the better.
- MozRank and Domain Authority (DA): Additional crucial quality indicators. The quality of the site increases as MozRank and DA increase.
Not all links pointing at your website will be of the highest caliber. However, the correlation becomes increasingly valuable as these indicators increase.
3. Organic traffic
I’m going to hazard and bet and say that you probably use SEO to increase the volume of organic search traffic.
Most people begin using SEO for this purpose. You can obtain a clear idea of how effective your SEO strategy is by tracking your organic traffic levels over time. It’s one of the most accurate indicators because increasing organic search ranks correlates directly with your SEO efforts.
We’ll be using everyone’s favorite tool, Google Analytics, to monitor the shift in organic search traffic.
With Google Analytics 4, you can go to Reports>>Acquisition>>Traffic Acquisition to see how many organic traffic you get compared to other traffic:
There is only one thing that matters about your specific organic traffic levels: they indicate an upward trend. Your strategy is effective if your organic traffic is increasing. You must alter your strategy if your organic traffic is stagnating or declining.
4. Time spent on page or Average engagement time per session
Engagement metrics are becoming more and more significant in the post-Panda era. One of these measures is the time visitors spend on your website.
According to this logic, if users spend a lot of time on your website, they probably enjoy your material. Consequently, your website is valued and stocked with excellent content.
A high time spent on the page indicates that you are meeting user expectations. A searcher enters a keyword into Google with a certain intent, and if they visit your page and stay for a while, your site fulfills that intent.
Consider the page’s objective when calculating your average time spent on the page. Does it only provide information? Or is the objective to encourage email signups? The goal of the page will determine how long users stay on it.
How long it takes you to read a page in its entirety is a decent indicator of how in-depth the writing is. Users are reading and engaging with your content if the average time spent on a page is close to that.
5. Bounce rate or Engagement Rate
In Google Analytics 4, Bounce rate is the percentage of sessions that were not engaged sessions. In other words, Bounce rate is the inverse of Engagement rate.
Users that visit your website quickly click the back button are said to have a high bounce rate. It’s not good, I agree. Google wants its users to be satisfied. Therefore, it won’t help your rankings if visitors to your site frequently arrive and then go as quickly as they can, to put it mildly.
You should assess the bounce rate as a separate statistic for each page. This will show you whether you have any weak content or pages that are causing your bounce rate to increase overall. We’ll look at the bounce rate using the same screen from your Google Analytics report from the previous step, so hopefully, you didn’t close it.
So, go to that section and look for the Bounce Rate column. This will show how frequently users arrive at your website and click the back button immediately.
Remember that your topic, the type of information on your website, and the traffic source will all impact your bounce rate. For instance, if your post responds to the query, “How many calories are in a banana?” it is likely that your user will read the response before leaving your website.
Let’s compare your bounce rate to that of other websites in your niche to see if it stinks. CustomMediaLabs have discovered the following industries’ typical bounce rates:
- 20% – 45% for e-commerce and retail-based websites
- 25% – 55% for B2B websites
- 30% – 55% for lead-gen websites
- 35% – 60% for non-e-commerce content sites
- 60% – 90% for landing pages
- 65% – 90% for online portals, blogs, and information sites around news and events.
6. Mobile traffic
Mobile search is more popular than desktop search among users.
Mobile is king, according to Google. A surge in mobile traffic indicates that Google thinks you’re operating correctly. It indicates that your website has strong interaction metrics, is responsive, and loads rapidly. You wouldn’t rank in mobile search if these weren’t in place.
This is especially true if you recently had a content or design change to meet mobile requirements.
Additionally, increasing mobile traffic will let you know whether you rank for any mobile-specific keywords. You can also get traffic from voice-only mobile searches because mobile device rankings differ from desktop rankings.
We’ll return to Google Analytics to view your mobile traffic statistics. Go to Tech details>>Platform / device category
When you do this, a screen will appear with information on your mobile site’s performance and the percentage of traffic it receives from mobile devices.
Your specialty will determine exactly how much traffic you can expect from mobile. Still, if you’re in any of the following niches, you should anticipate that more than 60% of your traffic will originate from mobile visitors:
- Beauty and Fitness
- People and Society
- Pets and Animals
- Home and Garden
7. Click-through rate
You can determine how well your listings are driving traffic to your site by tracking your CTR.
Sure, having a high Google position is valuable, but what good is it if no one visits your site because of that rankings? There is a heated argument over whether or not your CTR affects rankings, but that is unimportant.
What matters is that the more visitors your site receives, the better your CTR will be. We’re going to change the tools, but we’ll still be using Google products to determine your CTR.
Start the Google Search Console program.
Select Search Results
Click the Total Clicks, Total Impressions, Average CTR or Average Position to pull the data.
Based on the sorting options above, you may also see your CTR for a certain page, countries, or device. A recent Ignite Visibility study for each Google position discovered the following average click-through rates. To ascertain whether your CTR is high or low for your present ranking position, look at the ranking statistic below:
- #1 – 20.5%
- #2 – 13.32%
- #3 – 13.14%
- #4 – 8.98%
- #5 – 9.21%
- #6 – 6.73%
- #7 – 7.61%
- #8 – 6.92%
- #9 – 5.52%
- #10 – 7.95%
8. Domain authority
Your domain’s authority is shown by its Domain Authority (DA), a phrase and statistic that Moz created. It will be simpler to rank, and Google will view you as more reliable if your domain has more authority. Your increasing DA is a clear sign that your SEO efforts are impacting.
Your industry will determine whether or not you have a strong DA. To help you compare your site to others, Smart insights have provided some benchmark data as examples:
- Media and Publishing: 86.23
- Higher Education: 78.67
- Sports and Entertainment: 75.55
- Accommodation and Food Services: 71.27
- Software and Applications: 67.52
- Healthcare: 67.51
- Business Services: 67.04
- Retail: 64.62
- Consumer Goods: 64.07
- Construction Products: 63.18
- Real Estate: 61.52
- Finance and Insurance: 60.09
- Wellness: 58.35
9. Returning visitors and direct visitors
If visitors dislike your site, it will be much harder to raise your rankings. Don’t you wish you could track anything more besides the above indicators (bounce rate and time on site)?
A high percentage of repeat customers indicates that people can’t get enough of you. The same is true of direct visits. Visitors won’t return to your website if it has poor content. Consider these two measurements as value markers.
Although these stats aren’t necessary, having a healthy amount of direct and repeat visitors tells Google that your site is memorable and exudes the quality signals that will improve your rankings.
These figures are available via Google Analytics. Navigate to Retention on your dashboard.
Users that visit your website or app for the first time are considered new users. Analytics defines a new user as anyone who does not have a Google Analytics cookie and a Client ID from your site or an App Instance ID from your app. Returning users are those who already have these.
There is no perfect split between new traffic and direct visitors. Your industry and the kind of site you run will determine this. An e-commerce website, for instance, will have a far larger percentage of repeat visitors than an instructional website that primarily receives traffic from search engines.
However, if your percentage of returning visitors is lower than 25%, your content most likely has to be improved. People visit your website, but they seldom ever come back; anything above 30% suggests that you are keeping a third of visitors to your website, which is a good number.
The ultimate goal of SEO is to increase product sales. That’s why I advise everyone to follow everything I’ve said thus far and the overall site conversion rate.
For instance, increasing my email list is the main objective of my website. I would monitor the number of visitors who subscribe to my email list via Google Analytics.
11. Social shares
Social shares are when users of social media share your materials. Social shares are still crucial to your SEO efforts, even if it is often believed that Google does not consider social signals and shares when ranking SERP results.
Benefits: Considering social media’s significant role in SEO, tracking your social shares is advantageous. The likelihood that more people will watch your material and eventually visit your website increases as more people share it with their followers. A rise in your website’s organic search ranking results from more visitors.
Taking measurements: In Google Analytics, select Acquisition>>Traffic Acquisition before clicking Channels. You will now see a glimpse of a website’s traffic sources, which are arranged by channel. The sources of Search, Social, Direct, Referral, Email, Paid search, and “Other” will be visible to you.
Adding social sharing buttons to your website can help you track social media shares, which is another useful feature of Yoast.
Best practices: Keep an eye out for any erroneous geography or business information on your accounts while tracking this KPI. Incorrect phone numbers, websites, or other information could hurt your SERPs rating.
12. Crawl errors
Search engines rely on computer programs that run automatically to “crawl” your website and add it to its database. Your rankings will suffer, regardless of how fantastic your website is if Google and the other search engines can’t interpret it.
Fortunately, Google offers a feature in Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) that enables you to check for crawl issues and informs you if any of your pages are having trouble indexing.
There is a good chance that you have other flagrant SEO faults if thousands of crawl difficulties are up in the Search Console.
13. Page speed
Page speed is one of the most important aspects of the user experience your site offers, which greatly impacts how well it ranks and how effectively it converts visitors into customers. Therefore, it’s crucial to monitor your load times as you optimize your site to see if the adjustments you make affect you.
Time to track those results
Now that you have the necessary skills and equipment, you may proudly display the outcomes of your labor-intensive SEO efforts.
Pick a few to start with and add more later if all of the metrics above seem excessive. Instead of wasting time on SEO tasks that aren’t truly improving your rankings, you can adjust your plan using factual data by periodically evaluating your SEO results.