SEO, or search engine optimization, can be confusing in general. And when it comes to measuring SEO for success, it can seem near impossible. How do you know your SEO is working? What metrics should you pay attention to in SEO? How can you tell if your SEO is driving any type of results?
It can all feel a bit murky. But, have no fear! We’re here to cut through the clutter and help you figure out the right way to measure SEO success by focusing on a few key SEO metrics.
SEO Metric #1: Organic Traffic
One of the goals in SEO is to increase the visibility of your website on top search engines. So, it would make sense that one way to measure that is by tracking the amount of organic traffic you’re seeing to your website. Organic traffic is traffic that comes from search engines and lands on your website as a result of unpaid (organic) search results.
You can find this information in a few different ways. The first is through Google Analytics. The second is with any website tracking you may be using through your digital marketing partner or third-party provider.
We know that SEO takes time to go into effect. So, don’t fret if you’re not seeing an initial boost in organic traffic right after launching your SEO strategy. It may take anywhere from three to six months to start seeing any traction, but you should eventually see a larger percentage of your website traffic coming from organic sources, like Google or Bing, by the ninth or twelfth month when your SEO is working.
SEO Metric #2: Bounce Rate
When you employ an effective SEO strategy, one of the benefits is optimizing your website for searchers, not just search engines. This means that you’re creating and posting content that’s relevant and that speaks to your audience. When you create content that’s relevant to searchers, you will likely begin seeing a slight decrease in bounce rate, because the users will tend to spend more time on the page and potentially navigate to other pages on your website.
Bounce rate is an SEO metric that shows the percentage of users who visit your website and leave without clicking through to another page. For example, if you search for a dentist near you and click on the first result but don’t find compelling information on that page or you have no interest in that dentist, you’d likely click out of the window or click the back button to see what else Google has for you. That would be a bounce. But, if you clicked on the result and found information that appealed to you, you’d likely click to another page on the website, like a contact or appointment request page.
Bounce rate isn’t always an indication of a lack of engagement though, so it shouldn’t be the only SEO metric you pay attention to. For example, you could have visited that first dentist’s page, liked what you saw, and called the number listed on the top of the page to make an appointment. A bounce rate isn’t going to take that into consideration.
SEO Metric #3: Pages per Session
Similarly to the bounce rate, tracking an increase in pages per session speaks to increased engagement on your website. The more pages per session or the number of pages a user visited while interacting with your site, the more likely it is that users are finding your content and your website engaging and relevant.
SEO Metric #4: Leads
If you have a tracking system in place, you can track which leads came from organic sources, which would speak to the effectiveness of your SEO strategy. There are a few different ways you can track this information.
The first is through call tracking. With call tracking, a proxy number is used based on where the user visited your site from, you can then see the number of calls you received as a result of your various marketing tactics. There would be different phone numbers for SEO, display advertising, print, and more, but they would all route to the same place.
The second is a more manual process and involves you or your team asking leads how they found your business — either through a web form, email, or on the phone. You can then track this information in a shared spreadsheet or lead tracking system.
Another way is through your lead tracking in general. You can place a code on your site that tracks where users are coming from and where they went on your site to become a lead. This is then stored in a lead inbox so you can see how many leads were driven through SEO.
While increased leads aren’t a sole metric of SEO success, it can be a good indicator that your website is optimized to convert users who are visiting from organic search.
SEO Metric #5: Keyword Performance
Keywords used to be the holy grail in SEO. Previously, you could stuff your website full of keywords and see the visits roll in without any regard for how it actually sounded to real people. But, search engines caught on to that trick (also known as Black Hat SEO) and made updates to their algorithms that allow them to better understand the content and context on your webpage to ensure a better experience for consumers. This means that keywords and rank reports are no longer the most important indicator of SEO success. In fact, because of how personalized search engines can be now, rank reports really don’t help you at all.
As our director of SEO services explained, two people can each search for “dolphins,” and one person can get results about the animal while the other gets results about the football team. There are so many factors search engines take into consideration when determining which results to show on the page — including location, intent, previous search behavior, and more.
However, you can look at keyword performance to ensure that your website is aligning with search intent and hitting the right goals for your business. You can also look at keyword performance as a way to improve your other campaigns or look for new opportunities for your business.
For example, if you notice that the majority of users are visiting your site for a keyword around “dental cleanings,” and that’s not one of your top services, you would know that your web content needs to be updated to better reflect what you do. Or, it might point to adding that service more prominently to your practice if it’s sending a lot of people to you.
SEO Metric #6: Time on Site
Another indication that your SEO strategy is successful is an increased time on site. Just like a lower bounce rate and increased pages per session, increased time on site shows that users are finding your content useful and engaging with it.
Think about it: If you navigate to a website’s blog and don’t find the content relevant or useful, you’re not going to spend a ton of time on the site. However, the more useful you find the content, the more time you’ll likely spend reading it.
SEO Metric #7: Organic Clickthrough Rate
Finding your organic clickthrough rate (CTR) requires a little bit of math. In order to get this number, you look at how many clicks a search result received and divide it by the number of impressions from that same search. So, if a specific search got your website 1,000 impressions and 50 users clicked on your site from there, your organic CTR would be 5%.
This number helps you identify which searches are driving the most traffic to your business and can be noted as valuable. A low organic CTR might note that there are areas for improvement for those searches. Say your top service for your alteration shop is suit tailoring but your organic CTR for local searches related to suit tailoring is pretty low “ you might want to focus extra efforts on your web pages around suit tailoring to see if you can improve that percentage.
SEO Metric #8: Crawl Errors
In order to determine which sites to display in search results, search engines send out bots (often called search engine spiders) to crawl all the sites on the web. These little bots analyze all the aspects of your website as well as offsite signals to determine where you should appear in search results.
So, if there’s a crawl error, it could be detrimental to how your website shows up in search results. An error could come from a broken link within your site like through an internal link you added that no longer exists, or by the bot not being able to access your site at all.
By looking at any crawl errors, you can identify what needs to be fixed on your site to give your SEO a boost the next time a spider comes crawling through.
SEO Metrics #9: Backlinks
You know that SEO comprises onsite signals, like your web content, internal link structure, and more, as well as offsite signals, like local listings.
Another important offsite signal is backlinks. Backlinks are links from other websites to your site. For example, let’s say your local chamber of commerce site is highlighting the upcoming teeth whitening party you’re hosting, they include a link to the event page on your website. Or, say a dentist in another state is writing a blog post about teeth whitening, and they include a link to a blog post you published on your site about teeth whitening parties. These are both examples of backlinks.
Search engines look at these signals to see if your site has authority, the more backlinks you have to your site (as long as they’re from reputable sites as well), the more signals search engines have that your site is authoritative.
SEO Metrics #10: Local Visibility
Local visibility isn’t a specific number you can measure, but it’s important nonetheless. In order to figure out your local visibility, you’ll need to look at all the aspects of your local SEO, including your location tags on the backend of your website, your local listings, location-based keywords used in your content, and your online reviews.
One way you can measure this is by looking at a report from your local listings management partner if you have one. They can show you how your listings are faring and how often people are seeing them. You can also look at your Google My Business performance specifically — are people seeing your listing, are they clicking to your website or to call you, are they leaving reviews?
This is made easiest when you’re working with an SEO partner to help you corral all this information, make updates as needed, and continue optimizing your site based on best practices and your unique goals.
We know determining the right SEO metrics to measure can be difficult, which is why we provide transparent and easy-to-understand reporting for our SEO services. Our experts work with you to truly understand your business and your goals, taking a holistic and individual approach to each and every campaign. We’d love to talk with you more about how we can partner for SEO success. Give us a call or shoot us an email today.