SEO requires good metrics or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). After all, we’re not doing SEO “for our health” but usually “to make money” or if we’re a nonprofit to achieve a goal such as getting more donations and/or helping our target demographic.Here are five key metrics for the SEO for your website. I’ll assume you’ve set up a Google Analytics and Google Search Console account. If at all possible, set up an AHREFS, WhiteSpark, or MOZ account as well, so you can retrieve data on your link performance. I’ll assume as well that you know your keywords targets, have built out a “Keyword Worksheet” and have created a list of target search queries.
First, you need to measure your rank on Google vis-a-vis your target keywords. If you want to rank for “motorcycle insurance,” for example, you want to input that keyword into Google and measure are you 1st, 2nd, or 3rd or at least on page 1 (top ten). If it’s a localized keyword such as “Accountant” then you want to measure whether you rank not only on the regular organic results but in the local pack. For a good tool to localized your search query, click here. You also want to browse in incognito mode, or turn off personalization. That’s the manual way to check your rank. You can use the free tool FATRANK (which is a Chrome extension) for an easier system, or SERP SURF which is another freebie. Generally, however, you need to graduate up to paid tools. I am very fond of WhiteSpark’s rank tool as it has both local and organic, as well as Google and Bing.
Second, you need to monitor your web traffic and behavior. The best tool to do this is obviously Google Analytics, so be sure to sign up and install the tracking code on your website. Going down the left-hand menu in Google Analytics, don’t miss: AUDIENCE (monitor your raw web traffic month-to-month), then Geo (figure out where people are coming from in the real world), Technology (which browsers are they using); ACQUISITION (where are people coming from online such as “organic search,” “direct,” “referral,” and “social”), then Google Ads (if you’re running AdWords), including all the derivations such as keywords, pages, and conversions, Search Console (if you link Google Analytics to Search Console); BEHAVIOR (meaning what do folks do on your website), then Behavior Flow (a picture of where they start and where they end up), Site Content (Your most popular content, including your “landing pages” (the first page they touch)), and Site Speed (an important metric on how fast your website is). We’ll deal with conversions next, as that metric is the “gold standard” of whether your website is working or not as a marketing tool.
- To really blow your mind, install the Chrome Page Analytics plug in. Activate it, and Google will show you percentages on your web pages of who clicked where, and why.
Third, you want to set up conversions in Google Analytics. A conversion occurs when a website visitor does what you want them to do (a “goal“), which is usually filling out a website feedback form or making a purchase on an e-commerce website. You could have intermediate goals, however, such as sign ups to your email list. You need to define your goals in Google Analytics, which (confusingly!) is located not under conversions but under Admin > Goals. Find the URL of your “thank you” page and set that up as a goal. Or, if you’re running e-commerce, make sure that your e-commerce platform is talking to Google Analytics. To read the official help file on setting up goals / conversions in Google Analytics, click here.
Fourth, there are other important metrics to consider, what I would call “odds and ends.” Here are some. A) Site:indexing – is your website being indexed by Google, namely how many pages and how frequently / freshly? Monitor this each month, and look for it to grow. This is also an “early warning sign” if you become de-indexed! B) Reviews. Count your reviews on Google and see if these are growing over time. You can search for your company name and then count the reviews that show on Google. Do this also for Yelp and other review sites that are relevant to your industry. C) Social followers. Count and record your followers on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc., to monitor the growth and engagement of your social authority. D) Links. Links are perhaps THE most important SEO metric outside of rank, so use a tool like AHREFS and log in to Google Search Console. I like to record my domain authority and number of root domains linking to the website each month, looking for growth over time. As for GSC, make sure that you have new links being discovered, that your site is in good health, and your sitemap is being pulled correctly. Obviously, if you have a manual action or other penalty you have a “red alert” and need to address that immediately!
Finally, you want to “never stop learning” or what Google calls “circular Analytics.” Don’t miss the free Google Analytics Academy (hidden under “Discover” in Google Analytics), which has robust online learning resources for Google Analytics, including test-your-knowledge certifications. But more concretely, look at your generic pattern and debug any step that’s not working well:
Keyword > Rank on Google > Get the Click > Web Traffic > Get the Conversion
So, for example, are you ranking on the right keywords? Look for new keywords to discover. Or, if you rank, are you getting the click? Yes or no? If no, work on re-optimizing your TITLE and META DESCRIPTION. Or, if you’re getting web traffic, what’s happening and is it converting? Why or why not? Work on your website look-and-feel and improve its functionality so that you improve your conversions. Also, with respect to the social aspects of SEO such as links, reviews, or social mentions – are you getting more of them? Are they of higher or lesser quality? SEO is like physical fitness, and good metrics will help you learn where you’re weak and where you’re strong, plus be on the look out for new opportunities. NEVER STOP LEARNING!