How to Measure SEO Performance: Vital Metrics & KPIs
How do you measure the success of your SEO campaigns? What are the best SEO KPIs (key performance indicators) or metrics to track?
I’m asking for a friend…
But seriously, how do you prove that when, or if, the changes you’ve made to your website have had any effect at all on your bottom line, or your top line for that matter? It’s not always easy to prove to key stakeholders that what we as SEOs are asking them to do isn’t some kind of fruitless shamanistic ritual or hand-wavey snake oil sales tactic.
Fear not fellow Search Engine Optimists! There are plenty of ways for us to show the impact of our work and the value of SEO.
Start With Your Goals
How we measure the success of our SEO campaigns depends on the goals of that campaign. For example, the KPIs will be different if you are trying to rank no. 1 for “wedding dress” than if you’re trying to cram as many people as possible into the top of your sales funnel by getting them to register for a webinar or book an online appointment.
I’ve broken out these SEO KPIs into four main groups based on the type of SEO campaign or initiative you might be running.
In SEO, visibility means getting your website in front of as many eyeballs and potential customers as possible. Visibility KPIs for SEO can include impressions in search results, organic ranking positions in search results, and your share of voice (I’ll talk about this later in this post).
Overall Visibility (Impressions)
Search impressions broadly measure your overall organic visibility. For example, if you are starting an SEO/content strategy that is turning out five new, high-quality articles a month, the number of impressions your website is making in search engine results pages (SERPs) might be the KPI you need to monitor.
Use Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools to benchmark your website’s number of impressions at the onset of any campaign or promotion. Be sure to annotate whenever changes or additions are made to the site so you can closely monitor the effects of the changes.
Topic and Keyword Rankings
The oldest and most recognizable SEO metric is keyword rankings. We hear it all the time, “Is my website ranking number one for Keyword V?!” “Are we ranking higher than Competitor Q?”
Tracking and reporting on individual keyword rankings can be a double-edged sword. If stakeholders become too focused on ranking for a specific keyword or phrase, your ability to prove the value of your SEO may hinge on the next Google algorithm update. We don’t want that. As long as you are strategic with which keywords, topics, and groups of topics you are tracking and reporting on, this can be an invaluable way to prove the success of your SEO efforts.
There are any number of tools out there that can track your individual keyword rankings: Moz, AWR, Raven Tools, etc. Personally, I love the way that STAT allows for the tracking of target pages and groups of tagged keywords.
Share of Voice
Like I mentioned before, it can be dangerous to focus solely on keyword rankings, since there are so many factors that are out of our control. Share of voice is one way to get your point across without putting all of your berries into one bowl. In organic search, share of voice is a calculation based on the search volume of a given keyword, your position in organic search results, and the expected click-through rate for the position. STAT does a fantastic job of tracking this SEO metric:
After you get your site in front of searchers in the SERPs, you need to get them clicking through to your website and converting.
Any analytics platform can get you the data you need here. Whether you’re using Adobe Analytics, Google Analytics 360, or Matomo, you can track and measure the organic traffic to your website. Be sure to put a focus on the pages or sections of the site that you are working on and don’t forget about Dark Traffic.
Click-Through Rate from SERPs
Click-through rate from search result pages is a good way to measure the effectiveness of your new title tags and meta descriptions. By this point, you’ve managed to get your pages ranking higher in the SERPs, but are searchers clicking on your shiny blue links?
Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools track all of the necessary metrics to show your improvements in driving people to your site from the search results pages.
Most of the focus for SEO is getting your website visible to your target audience and then getting them through to all of your wonderful content. Visibility metrics and traffic metrics are great for reporting on those SEO successes, but that’s not where the money is going to come from.
However, your success involves more than just SEO. It also relies on a coherent content strategy and conversion optimization. You need people to take action and convert on your website, and engagement metrics are about measuring those user actions.
So, to make sure users are taking the desired path through the website and eventually converting, we look at some of the traditional SEO metrics like pageviews, time on page, bounce rate, and conversions.
Pageviews give you an easy-to-understand view of user engagement: how many pages did a visitor to your site see during their session?
Depending on the nature of your website (B2B e-commerce vs. B2B SaaS, for example) the pageview metric can be interpreted differently. Ask yourself, are users engaging with the content in a way that you expect? If you are running a nurture, awareness, or educational campaign, you’ll be looking to see the number of pageviews per session increase. If your SEO campaign is focused on bottom-of-funnel, high intent traffic, the ratio of sessions to pageviews will be closer to 1:1. So every additional pageview earned is more valuable to the bottom line.
Time on Page and Bounce Rate
Once users get to your site, are they consuming all of the content they should? Time on page and bounce rate metrics can be used to show the quality and effectiveness of your on-page content. For more on engagement metrics, check out our guide to choosing content KPIs.
Conversions are where the ROI meets the road. If you’ve set up your analytics platform properly, you should be tracking all of your desired website conversions. So, is your organic traffic converting? You’ve got your pages ranking and people are clicking through to the website, but are people taking the desired actions when they get there? If not, this is an opportunity for some A/B testing and conversion rate optimization (CRO).
It may be a little more difficult to prove the value of technical SEO implementation. The challenge comes from making changes that very few people will ever see, and trying to justify the amount of effort that goes into those changes. Some key metrics to prove the effectiveness of your technical SEO fixes include page speed and performance, the number of pages indexed in search engines, and the number of crawl errors associated with your website.
Page Load Speed
Page speed is a ranking factor and it is critical for mobile traffic. If you are trying to make your site faster to capture and retain mobile users, start benchmarking now. Use tools like WebPagetest, Lighthouse, or even just use the DOMContentLoaded and Load times from Chrome’s developer tools to gather your data. Then, take those metrics and plug them into a data visualization tool to track your progress over time.
Depending on the current state of your site and the goals of your technical SEO efforts, you may want to see more or less pages indexed by the search engines. For example, if you’ve inherited an e-commerce website with millions of duplicate pages you’ll want to track your success in removing the cruft pages. Or you can track the success of a new website launch by monitoring how quickly your new content is getting crawled and indexed by the search engines. Google Search Console, or third-party indexes like Ahrefs, are useful for tracking which pages are being indexed.
If you need to tie your technical SEO work a little closer to major KPIs, line up the number of impressions from Google Search Console with the number of erroring pages. GSC even has that as a built-in functionality now.
Crawl errors (server responses like 404, 403, 500, etc.) on a website can be an indicator of a low-quality website. Too many crawl errors can add up and then start to drag down the overall quality of your website and start to negatively affect your rankings in search results. Using the number of crawl errors from a crawler tool like our very own RainGage or Screaming Frog is a great way to report on your day-to-day work.
Other SEO Metrics
I don’t want to forget about some of our tried-and-true SEO KPIs! Metrics like the number of backlinks and linking domains, Moz Domain Authority, and Majestic Trust Flow are a few of the more traditional SEO metrics that can still have a major impact on your SEO success.
The number and quality of backlinks and linking domains to your website will always be a core SEO KPI to track. If you are running a content promotion campaign, monitoring your new links to the target pages is one of the only ways to show how effective your investment is. Use a tool like the Moz Link Explorer to track the quality of your backlink profile.
Moz Domain Authority
Moz’s Domain Authority (DA) is another way to demonstrate your SEO and content outreach campaign effectiveness. Since DA is a good indicator of a website’s potential for organic visibility, tracking it in conjunction with the optimizations made on your website, and any of your link building work, will ultimately prove their worth.
At the end of the day, being able to measure the success of your SEO work is essential. By using any combination of these SEO metrics like share of voice, organic sessions, and conversions, you should be able to paint a picture of your SEO performance for your key stakeholders. What you choose to track ultimately depends on your business and your goals. With this list of SEO KPIs and reporting metrics, you are well on your way to being able to justify your SEO efforts to decision-makers, building your case for the value of SEO.
The post How to Measure SEO Performance: Vital Metrics & KPIs appeared first on Portent.
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CX Journey™ Musings: On Means and Outcomes…
Do you know the difference between means and outcomes? Between the journey and the destination?
I know. I know. Those are silly questions to ask.
Of course everyone knows the difference between means and outcomes. Of course everyone knows the difference between the means to an end and the end.
Or do they?
As I was driving to an appointment the other day, I saw a sticker on the back of a construction truck that read, in big red letters: Safety is the goal.
So, let me throw out some definitions here.
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An SEO’s Guide To Getting $h!t Done
SEO consultants love the principled stand. We make recommendations like You Must Change Your Sitewide Navigation Or Die. Change Your Content Or You Are Doomed. Optimize for E-A-T.
Clients don’t want to hear it. They don’t trust us. We’re walking in off the street and making arcane, complex recommendations about a single channel. So they respond by saying “We don’t have the resources” or “Prove it first.”
They’re not bad clients. We’re lousy consultants. We need to learn to make incremental requests that will pay off, then use successes to build trust and momentum.
This is my presentation/rant on the subject:
I’ve talked about client participation and roadblocks in digital marketing, too. Have a look here: Digital Marketing Strategy That Works.
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White-Hat Link Building: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?
Outreach as an SEO practice is becoming more common—and more difficult. With backlinks being one of the top Google ranking factors, the term “link building” is turning into a popular buzz word within the marketing industry. Most online marketers are desperate to build their brand’s backlink profile and are willing to do anything to get a link. But there is a fine line between how you should and shouldn’t build links, and it can drastically affect your search engine rankings. That’s where white-hat link building comes in.
What Does “White-Hat” Mean?
The term “white-hat” isn’t limited to just link building. It’s used to define agreeable SEO practices as a whole and should be an important part of any outreach strategy. Practices that align with Google’s guidelines are considered white-hat. In other words, keep it clean and play by Google’s rules. Your goal should be to focus on the user by creating a good experience and adding valuable content to the internet, not manipulate search rankings with dirty (black-hat) SEO methods.
Why Should You Engage Only in White-Hat Link Building?
While black-hat tactics are tempting and seem quicker and easier, they won’t withstand the test of time—or Google’s algorithm updates—and could cause you a manual penalty that will set you back months, if not years and have you buried trying to correct it. It’s serious stuff.
Google is constantly updating its algorithm. When it identifies spammy or low-quality backlinks pointing to your site, you will likely be penalized, and your rankings will plummet. Just ask JC Penney—they learned the hard way.
Manipulating search engines in any way is against Google’s guidelines, so make sure you aren’t using black-hat tactics. Don’t participate in link schemes, such as buying, selling, or trading links for SEO purposes, using link farms, or producing low-quality, auto-generated or spun content to place links.
If you have only authoritative, high-quality backlinks, earned naturally through a variety of white-hat link building strategies that I will go into next, you don’t need to worry about your rankings when the algorithm updates since you aren’t breaking any rules. White-hat methods are “future-proof”; they hold up in the long run.
White-Hat Link Building Techniques
If you can’t buy, sell, or trade links with other websites, then what can you do to build authoritative links? Here are a few squeaky-clean white-hat strategies that you can implement without crossing the line.
This is a slow process and yields a lower number of links, but these links can be highly valuable to your site—well worth the extra effort if they’re relevant! The links you place through guest posting should be extremely relevant and authoritative, and it allows you to control the context around your brand and include suitable related keywords. Placing guest posts on sites with greater authority will add nicely to your backlink profile and gain link equity (the value a link passes onto your page).
Your main focus in this approach is to create quality content and cater to the audience. Reach out to online media outlets, bloggers, and other websites related to your industry and ask to write an article for them. Within the article, you’ll link back to relevant content on your site as a resource. Many outlets that accept outside contributors will allow you to have a link to your site in the author bio as a way for you to gain additional exposure. This will help establish your brand as a reliable source of information and an authority in your industry.
It’s against Google’s guidelines to trade or pay for links in any way. If another site asks you to place a link on your site for them or asks for payment to place a link or publish a post, RUN. This is a clear violation of Google’s guidelines and puts your site at risk of being penalized.
Guest posting is a slow, low-volume approach, but content promotion is quite the opposite. You can place a large number of links in a short amount of time, which can result in a high volume of referral traffic and quickly expand your brand awareness.
You’ll create and publish an exceptional piece of content on your site, such as a comprehensive how-to guide, tool, or original data. Then, reach out to online media outlets, like news stations and magazines, and ask them to cover your content on their site. This tactic will showcase your brand’s expertise and help to build its authority in your industry.
Utility Link Building
If your company sells local services like home security, TV, or internet, then utility link building can be beneficial and require little effort on your part. You don’t need to write articles or create new content at all, just send a quick email.
Look for utility and resource pages on local government (like city and county) sites and real estate sites. Reach out and ask them to include your website as a resource. This is an easy way to target local, engaged audiences that are already searching for the services you provide.
Like utility link building, link reclamation doesn’t require you to create new content. It’s a simple way to turn unlinked brand mentions into links or fix broken links that should lead to your site but don’t.
Reclaiming Unlinked Brand Mentions
Using outreach tools or Google search queries, find instances online where your brand name is mentioned but doesn’t link back to your site. Email those sites and thank them for referencing your brand, then ask them if they would (pretty please) include a link to your site.
Broken Link Reclamation
You might have discontinued a product or service, removed outdated content, or re-launched your site and it affected some of your URLs so the pages they refer to no longer exist.
Use your outreach tools to find these broken links that should lead back to your site. Figure out what the links originally referenced and find a new page on your site with products or content similar to the original. Email the sites and let them know the link is broken, provide them with a link to the new page, and ask them to replace the old link with the new one.
Stick to the Guidelines
In the end, white-hat outreach is the only way to ensure your brand obtains high-quality backlinks and maintains its place in the SERPs over time. Don’t be tempted to use sloppy black-hat tactics and link schemes, or else your site will pay the price in the end. Adhere to Google’s rules and don’t be a cheater!
The post White-Hat Link Building: What Is It and Why Does It Matter? appeared first on Portent.
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How to Track Micro Conversions with Google Analytics
To immediately clear the air, this post is not about why you should be tracking micro conversions. If you are a seasoned marketing professional, you already understand the importance of them.
This post is about how you can use Google Analytics (GA) coupled with Google Tag Manager (GTM) to identify and track the end-impact of those micro conversions.
You will be able to set up segments within GA that are tied to a specific micro conversion on your site and answer the question,
“Are people who experience this micro conversion more or less likely to achieve a macro conversion?”
Some examples of other types of questions you’ll be able to answer include:
- “Are people who visit the special offers page more likely to convert?”
- “Which CTA leads to a higher rate of sales?”
- “Which blog pages lead to a higher chance of newsletter signup?”
- “Are people who watch our video more likely to fill out the form?”
Disclaimer: Be on the lookout for false positives. They are terrifyingly easy to fall victim to using this tactic. Start with the data, and then take a qualitative look at the micro conversion and determine if it was the micro conversion or something else that had an effect on conversion rates. Remember, you aren’t in your users head, so you have to use context clues about their experience to understand their intent.
Step 1: Figure Out What You Want to Track
Already tracking your micro conversions in GA? Skip to Step 3: Setting up your Segments and Analyzing
Experience it Yourself
Mimic all the possible journeys a user can experience through your site and pay attention to every action you take. This includes things like CTA clicks, element views, form fills, video plays, or page depth. Take note of any of these micro conversions, as you will be setting events up for them later in GTM.
Check the Data
While the behavioral flow tool in GA can be useful, I find it a bit hard to easily comprehend in a timely manner. Below are a few alternative ways you can use GA to see what pages users most commonly visit before converting.
Using the Navigation Summary view is a great way to see where most of your users are coming from in relation to your contact/lead generation page.
- In Google Analytics, navigate to “Behavior>>Site Content>>All Pages.”
- Choose a macro conversion page (such as your contact page).
- Select the “Navigation Summary” view.
When you get to this view (screenshot below), you can see the most common “previous” and “next” pages a user visits in relation to the page you selected.
This is a great way to understand which page most commonly sends users to the contact or lead generation page of your choosing. If any of the % Pageviews stand out from the rest, it is worth tracking visits to that page as a micro conversion to see if it really does attribute to macro conversion rates.
Goal Completion Location: Goal Previous Step
If your macro conversion has a thank you page as the Goal URL (and the macro conversion form lives on multiple pages of the site) you can use this tactic to learn the pages that most commonly lead to that macro conversion.
- In Google Analytics, navigate to “Conversions>>Goals>>Goal URLs.”
- Choose a macro conversion Goal URL (such as your thank you page).
- Select the “Secondary Dimension” list and choose “Goal Conversions” and then choose “Goal Previous Step – 1.”
In this view (screenshot below) you can see which page(s) most commonly resulted in a thank you page visit. Remember, this tactic is best when your lead generation forms exist on pages other than your contact page.
Observe Your Users
Use a session recording tool like FullStory. Filter for only users who reach the macro conversion and observe. Look for patterns that might be attributed to their end conversion.
Step 2: Use GTM to Set Up Events for Micro Conversions
For non-page visit micro conversions, you will need to use GTM to set up events. It’s a simple process, but you will need a basic understanding of how to use GTM first.
My favorite method for this is using the “Preview” tool in GTM and performing all the micro-interactions I want to track.
Make Sure All of the Variables for the Interactions you Want to Track are Active.
For example, if you want to track video views as a micro conversion, you will need to enable the variables under the “Videos” section of the Built-In Variables list.
- In GTM navigate to “Workspace>>Variables>>Configure.”
- Find the variables related to the micro conversions you want to track (most commonly, this will be clicks and should already be activated).
- Select the variables you want GTM to track.
Go into Preview Mode and Perform the Micro Conversions
This is where you are going to determine what variables associated with the micro conversion you are going to use in order to track it.
- In GTM, choose “Preview Mode” on the top right.
- Open your website and perform the micro conversions you want to track. If your interaction sends you to a new page, hold the Command function (Mac) or Control function (PC) on your keyboard and then perform the action to open the page on a new tab. Once you perform your action, go to the Variables selection in the Debugger tool and find unique variables associated with that action. You will want to use a combination of variables so that this event only fires when that specific action on that specific page takes place. In the screenshot example below, we are looking to find unique variables to the hero CTA, “See What We Do.”
- Set up a trigger for your micro conversion. This will allow you to use a combination of variables and trigger an event once all those variables are met. In other words, it will allow you to track your micro interaction. In GTM, navigate to “Workspace>>Triggers>>New.”
- You will then be presented with a view of “Trigger Types” to select from. Choose the one that equates to your micro conversion. For example, if your micro conversion is a link click, choose “Just Links” under the “Click” type.
- You will then be presented with a “Trigger Configuration” view. Complete the criteria and choose the variables you found to isolate the micro conversion. See an example below for the “Homepage Hero CTA” click we referenced earlier.
Set Up GA Events Using GTM
Next you will create a Tag that will fire an event once your micro conversion has been triggered.
- Navigate to the “Tags” section and choose “New” on the top right.
- Click on “Tag Configuration” and choose your tag type. In this case, you will choose “Google Analytics.”
- Under “Track Type” choose “Event” and then fill out your Category, Action, and Label event details.Disclaimer: make sure you have a proper naming convention for your events as far as Category, Action, and Label go. This will save you a lot of time when you’re analyzing.
- Once you save this, select the “Triggering” region underneath your Event details and choose the trigger you created for your micro conversion.
- Save the tag and publish your workspace. Your GA Event for your micro conversion is now good to go for analysis!
Step 3: Setting Up Your Segment in GA
- To create a new segment in GA, choose the “Add Segment” option at the top of your view (next to “All Users”).
- Then choose “+NEW SEGMENT.”
- Then you will go to “Conditions” on the left, choose the filter dropdown for User, then select the event criteria you created in GTM here.
- Disclaimer: for the Filter, you can select “User” as we directed or keep it with “Sessions.” Our Analytics Architect Michael Wiegand Explains which one to use and why:
“Choosing Users spans all sessions from a given person, but is limited to 90-day window. Choosing Sessions is limited to 1 stay, but allows you to look at more than 90 days. So the tradeoff really is a historical look back beyond 90 days (Sessions) versus the whole customer journey within 90 days (Users).”
- If your micro conversion is a page visit, you’ll follow the same steps but instead of “Event Action” you will choose “Page” and include the URL.
- Save your segment, you’re now ready to collect data and analyze.
Step 4: Analyzing Your Micro Conversions Using Segments
With micro conversions, the most valuable thing you can learn is how a micro conversion is affecting your macro conversions. The goal here, as mentioned, is to figure out if people who experience this micro conversion are more or less likely to achieve a macro conversion.
Compare Segment Versus Baseline
A good starting point is to select the “All Users” segment at the same time as your micro conversion segment. Here, you’ll be able to see how your segment of micro-converters does against the baseline.
For example, for an automotive industry client, we created a segment (micro conversion) for users who visited their special offer page. The macro conversion, in this case, is when a user starts to schedule an appointment to get new tires.
The findings from tracking this micro conversion were counterintuitive but led us to discover a bigger problem that needed to be solved.
Somehow, users who visited the special offer page actually had a lower conversion rate than all users combined.
Thanks to tracking this micro conversion, we were able to spot a serious pain point on the site and take action to fix it.
Compare Similar Segments Against Each Other
Say that you have several different CTAs on your site that bring the user to the same lead generation page. You can set up micro conversions for each of those different CTAs and see which one(s) lead to a higher conversion rate.
Another client, who provides free quotes for solar energy installation, had four different treatments on their site to get users to the “Get a Quote” page.
We created a micro-conversion segment for each of those CTAs and compared them all against each other.
Now it can get a little busy here, but you can clearly see how each CTA did as far as the macro conversion page it led users to.
In this example, we learned that the “Homepage Hero CTA Clickers” are much less likely to convert than users who engaged with the other CTAs.
Our actionable takeaway was to replace the homepage hero CTA with one that was a little higher up in the funnel.
When you are analyzing these micro conversions, don’t stop at the first insight you come across. You should continuously compare them against all the different goals you have set up in GA. And remember to be on the lookout for false positives!
Pro Tip: the best way to avoid false positives is to validate your findings with either a deeper analytics dive or through an A/B test.
If you find yourself creating segments for every little interaction on your site, don’t fret. While it’s possible to get a little carried away with these, it’s better to have a larger pool of micro conversions to analyze than having to go through steps 1-2 to set up the tracking for them.
The post How to Track Micro Conversions with Google Analytics appeared first on Portent.
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