Conventional wisdom holds that search engine optimization (SEO) is an essential part of digital marketing. When it comes to measuring the outcomes of these strategies, though, there are common SEO metrics, like keyword rankings and organic website traffic, and then there are SEO results.
What I’m talking about is digging a bit deeper into the analytics to identify outcomes that impact the bottom line. That is:
• Are you bringing relevant traffic to your site?
• Are you converting on that website traffic, driving behavior like form fills, demo requests and purchases?
It’s “show me the money!” not “show me the vanity metrics!” At least that’s the common refrain I hear from our own SEO clients.
Analytics You Can Use To Measure SEO Results
The good news is that today there are many ways to use data-rich analytics to measure the SEO results that drive dollar signs instead of clicks alone. What’s more, these methods focus on the data your SEO efforts are already generating, bringing you actionable insights that help evaluate the health and efficacy of your SEO program, while also identifying opportunities for improvement.
Here are three good places to start:
1. Benchmark Your Current Website SEO
Some people call it a website audit or checklist. I call it a fearless inventory. Though you might not like everything that you see, it’s important to set website performance and SEO benchmarks before starting a new SEO campaign. This will give you a starting point to measure against your monthly progress.
Simply set up a spreadsheet to track key analytics to help measure improvements or setbacks over time. Many companies will source this information through Google Analytics or another third-party web analytics/SEO platform (there are plenty of good ones). If your site is built on WordPress or a similar platform, look for SEO plugins to help track your site analytics and SEO.
Here are some important KPIs to include on your list:
Indexing: If you want to rank and drive SEO results, search engines have to be able to find your site. The good news is that most search engines, including Google and Bing, will give you free site “crawlability” scores.
Site Speed And Performance: Did you know that site speed is a Google ranking factor? You’ll want to run your URL through a performance test to get a baseline composite score for things like First Contentful Paint and Speed Index.
Mobile-Friendliness: Next to site speed, mobile compatibility might be one of the most important SEO ranking factors. Did you know Google recently moved to mobile-first indexing? Establish a baseline mobile score for your website. I recommend utilizing the free Google Search Console to run a mobile-friendly test.
Organic Keywords: How many organic keywords does your website currently derive traffic from? How many Google Snippets are your pages capturing? Positions in the top three search results? All of this information should be included in your benchmark report.
Backlinks: The number of authoritative websites linking back to your webpages — your backlink “portfolio” — is another important SEO metric that helps drive better rankings and qualified traffic. Take a baseline of the sheer number of backlinks in your portfolio.
Finally, make sure to compare all of these benchmarks against your top 3-5 competitors. Add columns to your spreadsheet for each competitor’s metrics.
2. Listen To What The Heat Map Is Telling You
Which parts of your webpages are getting the most attention from organic website visitors? Heat mapping can show you where people are clicking and which percentage of views click through or bounce back away from your pages.
There’s a lot of different software that can help you get quite granular heat mapping for your website. This includes data around:
• Where people are clicking
• Scrolling behavior
• Click maps from page to page
• Where people are hovering
• Specific user reports
If you know that a certain page is ranking highly for the keywords important to your business, you want to make sure that you’re optimizing the experience on those pages when that qualified SEO traffic gets there. What are your users actually looking at versus what you think they should be looking at?
To start, take a heat mapping solution for a trial spin to get a free page report for one of your more important pages. This will give you an idea of how that page is performing and what to benchmark.
3. Scope And Optimize The Conversion Funnel
Getting people to your site is only half the battle, and it’s only one step in a broader conversion funnel. You can use tools like Google Analytics to set up tracking to measure conversion goals such as purchases, email signups, button clicks, content downloads and other website actions. Record the conversion rate for specific pages, as well as broader weekly and monthly “goal completion” data as part of your benchmarking report.
With these baselines in hand, good or bad, it’s time to optimize. Take a look at organic site traffic to pages for which you have goal tracking set up and look for ways to optimize those experiences. If a page is ranking highly for a specific search phrase, consider how you can optimize your web experience to encourage a person using that search phrase to convert.
After you’ve dialed in your site performance and funnel tracking, run A/B tests on your highest converting pages against your baselines. Look at the whole journey — from organic keyword search to the goal completion itself — to look for potential improvements that might boost conversion, and test those tweaks and changes against each other.
Remember, It’s About More Than Just Website Traffic
Again, the focus shouldn’t just be on ranking highly for lots of keywords and driving website traffic. Businesses with bottom lines care more about what they’re doing with that traffic. They care not just about bringing lots of people to their website through SEO strategies but about bringing lots of the right people to their site and then getting them to do something.