Even though a good SEO campaign takes time to have an impact, there are many quantifiable metrics you can use to determine how much benefit your efforts are bringing to the site. Whatever metrics you use, it is important that you and your team understand your business goals (increase brand awareness, sell more of a certain product, diversify your audience, etc.) and use the proper metrics to accurately monitor how successful you have been in achieving them.
Leading Indicators vs. Performance Indicators
A major difference marketers have to understand before diving into metrics is the difference between leading and performance indicators. Leading indicators can include number of backlinks, ranking for specific keywords, change in PageRank, and Domain Authority. Leading indicators can show that your marketing efforts are being well spent, that chances are good your actions are having a positive impact. They can also be easily compared against competitor metrics.
Performance indicators, on the other hand, more likely include page visits, conversions, followers, social media mentions, repeat visitors, and more. Performance indicators can show you more directly the impact your marketing campaign is having toward meeting your main goals. Some metrics may still be compared against competitor metrics (especially ones related to social media), but other metrics, like conversions and sales, are often only available internally. While both leading and performance indicators are useful, the later will more closely show how your campaign (or specific efforts within a campaign) is driving business.
Define Your Prime Business Indicators
Performance indicators will change depending on your ultimate business goals. You may track progress based on the number of conversions you have (downloading a white paper), the value of each conversion (higher ecommerce sales per customer), retention rate (repeated conversions from the same user), quality of web page visits (bounce rate, average time per visit, number of visitors, click-through rate, etc.), and more. There are a lot of performance indicators to consider. Some indicators, such as number of blog comments or social shares, can even be categorized as either leading or performance indicators. No matter what you decide on, make sure that you clearly define your performance indicators for both you and your team so that all your efforts are targeted toward your business goals.
Here are a few of the main metrics you can use to determine the success of your SEO campaign.
Traffic can entail a lot of different metrics. In one sense this can mean pure volume: number of monthly visitors to a site or number of views a page receives. It can also focus on the qualitative values of traffic: how long visitors stay on a page, how many pages users visit, how long users spend on a page, etc. These metrics, especially when compared to the previous year’s metrics, can tell you how much attention your content is gaining and how interested users are in your brand after arriving on your site. You can measure the success of new content strategies by monitoring traffic to new and old pages. If your site uses advertising to generate revenue, website traffic can be an especially important performance metric.
Content Shares & Social Media Activity
From a branding or marketing perspective, the number of blog comments, content shares, social media likes (Likes, Tweets, +1’s, etc.), and social media followers you gain can be a great indicator of how well your content is being received and how quickly or broadly your name is spreading. The popularity of different types of content can also tell you where your audience’s interests lie and how to tailor your content in the future to provide the most valuable information to your users and in turn gain the most visibility from it.
Conversions can entail many different actions depending on your specific goals. Signing up for a newsletter, registering a new user account, downloading a PDF, filling out a request information form, and placing a sales order all constitute conversions. Year-over-year conversions are a great indicator of how much progress your company is making. Increased performance could also show that new content or other supporting materials are doing an effective job at promoting the desired conversion.
Although sales are usually considered a type of conversion, there can be a lot of diversity in what aspects of a sale you focus on. Valuable sales metrics can include: volume of sales, average value (monetary amount) of a transaction, repeat customer value, relative product performance, and more depending on your business.
While trying to rank for a specific keyword may be aligned more closely with leading indicators, increasing the number of ranking keywords could alternatively be considered a performance indicator if one of your business goals is increased visibility. Aside from seeing rankings for desired keyword phrases, ranking for keywords that you haven’t specifically optimized for (or used within your content) demonstrates that you’ve successfully built up your website’s theme. For example, if we’ve developed our website’s theme around SEO and we find ourselves ranking for “Internet marketing campaigns” without trying to optimize for that specific phrase, we can conclude that we’ve accomplished our goal of defining what we do in the eyes of users and search engines. Even if you actively work on a specific set of keywords, be sure to monitor all keywords you rank for and gain traffic from.
In all of these metrics, aim for year-over-year comparisons (if possible) to avoid seasonal traffic. For more insights into defining performance indicators to track your SEO success, watch Rand Fishkin’s talk on SEO metrics and KPIs.
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