In 2023, there are a staggering 1.13 billion websites on the internet, but only about 200 million are actively used. Regardless, that’s a LOT of sites to compete with.
So, how can your website stand out? That’s where SEO (Search Engine Optimization) comes in. SEO helps your site get noticed in the vast digital landscape. However, having an SEO strategy is not enough; you must measure its success.
This article will explore why measuring SEO success is crucial and how tracking key metrics can guide your way. Think of it as your roadmap to ensuring your website isn’t lost in the online crowd.
Understanding SEO Effectiveness
SEO, which stands for ‘search engine optimization,’ is like having a map of the vast online world. When people search for products you sell, services you provide, or information related to your expertise, SEO ensures that your website appears in those search results. The more visible your pages are, the higher the chances of getting clicked on. Ultimately, SEO aims to attract website visitors who may become loyal customers or followers.
SEO vs. SEM
Now, let’s clarify the difference between SEO and SEM (Search Engine Marketing). SEM encompasses both SEO and PPC (Pay-Per-Click) activities, making it more of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. In simpler terms, SEM is about gaining visibility and traffic from search engines through both organic (SEO) and paid (PPC) efforts.
SEO and SEM are closely related. SEO focuses on driving organic traffic through unpaid means, while SEM encompasses both organic and paid traffic generation.
Most online marketing strategies fall into three categories: earned, owned, and paid.
- Earned strategies involve building your online reputation. Imagine a small artisanal coffee shop that consistently produces high-quality, unique blends. By garnering positive reviews and mentions in reputable food and lifestyle blogs, their brand gains credibility and trust. This earned recognition not only leads to an increase in foot traffic but also attracts coffee enthusiasts who are willing to pay a premium for their distinctive products. In this way, the earned marketing approach can establish brand authority, boost customer loyalty, and ultimately drive organic growth through word-of-mouth recommendations and valuable content.
- Owned strategies mostly focus on your website and platforms that you control. For example, a fitness apparel company that maintains an active and engaging social media presence, a user-friendly website, and a regularly updated blog. Through these owned channels, they can communicate their brand’s values, showcase new product releases, and engage directly with their audience. This not only fosters a sense of community and trust but also allows for the collection of valuable customer data to tailor marketing efforts effectively. By using these owned assets strategically, the company can reduce reliance on third-party platforms, retain customer loyalty, and achieve a higher degree of self-sufficiency in their marketing endeavors.
- Paid strategies involve advertising and sponsored content. This approach can deliver rapid and targeted results. For instance, an e-commerce startup looking to gain immediate visibility might invest in Google advertising. By running Google Ads campaigns, they can ensure their products appear at the top of relevant search results, driving instant traffic to their website. This immediate exposure not only boosts sales but also provides valuable data on which keywords and ad placements are most effective. Paid marketing offers a predictable and scalable way to reach a specific audience, making it an invaluable tool for businesses looking to accelerate their growth and drive conversions quickly.
Now, let’s address the ever-evolving nature of SEO. The fact is that search engine algorithms are constantly in flux. Staying ahead requires adapting to these changes. That’s why measuring the impact of your SEO efforts is so important.
The Importance of Measuring SEO Success
Measuring SEO success isn’t just about tracking numbers; it’s about gaining insight into your online presence and understanding SEO’s true value to your marketing efforts. SEO Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are crucial in bridging the gap between your business objectives and the data provided by SEO tools and web analytics.
Effective SEO delivers a cascade of direct and indirect benefits that can substantially impact your digital footprint. One of its paramount functions is enhancing visibility. This means that your website should be front and center when prospects search for products, services, or information within your expertise. Improved visibility is closely tied to your search engine ranking and is the gateway to increasing your website’s traffic and audience.
In recent years, Google has significantly emphasized E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness) as outlined in their Search Quality Rater Guidelines. Let’s break that down just a bit because this is a critical part of finding success.
This means having knowledge and skills in a specific subject. Regarding websites, Google wants them to be created and maintained by people or organizations who truly know what they’re talking about.
If you’re looking for information about health, for example, it’s better to trust a website run by medical experts rather than someone with no medical background, Right?
Authority is about being seen as a respected and influential source in a particular field. This takes time. Websites considered authoritative are those that others in the same field look up to and link to. Google values websites recognized as authorities because they provide reliable and valuable information.
Linking plays a fundamental role in how Google’s algorithm determines the relevance, authority, and visibility of web pages in search results. It is a key factor in the ranking and indexing process because it takes time and you have to rely on others to naturally create the links. It’s validation that people think you’re actually providing authoritative content.
Trustworthiness is all about whether people can rely on the information they find on a website. Google wants websites to be honest, transparent, and reliable. If a website has a history of providing accurate and truthful information, it’s considered trustworthy. Sites that deceive or spread false information can be seen as untrustworthy.
This all said, failing to assess your SEO performance can diminish these critical factors, affecting your online reputation, credibility, and, ultimately, your ability to connect with your target audience effectively.
Key Metrics for Evaluating SEO Performance
Now, it’s time for the section you’ve been eagerly awaiting. Here, we will attempt to unlock some of the secrets of SEO success by introducing a set of key metrics that businesses should track to evaluate their strategies.
These metrics are your SEO compass, guiding you through the digital wilderness. We’ll introduce each metric and explain why it’s vital and how it is pivotal in steering your website toward greater visibility and success.
Key Metrics You Must Track for SEO Success
Organic traffic is the lifeblood of websites, representing the visitors who find your site through unpaid search engine results rather than clicking on paid ads. Achieving high organic rankings on search engines that deliver high levels of organic traffic is the primary purpose of SEO.
In contrast, paid search traffic originates from pay-per-click (PPC) ads prominently displayed on search engine results pages. Beyond search traffic, websites also welcome visitors through different avenues:
- Direct Traffic: Visitors who directly type your website’s URL into their browser’s address bar.
- Referral Traffic: Visitors who arrive via links from other websites.
- Social Traffic: Traffic sourced from social media posts, whether organic or paid.
2. Keyword Rankings
Keywords are the compass that helps online explorers find your website. They are the words and phrases that help search engines understand what topics your website covers. Effective SEO hinges on understanding this language of searchers and optimizing the keywords in your content accordingly.
To uncover the right keywords for your business, you can turn to keyword research tools like WordStream, SEMRush, Moz, or Ahrefs. These tools assist in identifying the most relevant and high-traffic terms for your industry and audience.
Now, let’s discuss keyword rankings specifically. This is where your website appears on a search engine results page (SERP) when a specific keyword or phrase is entered.
The best way to keep tabs on your keyword rankings is to set up a monitoring campaign in whichever SEO tool you use. But, be aware that obsessing over keyword rankings is not ideal because it can be misleading and may not reflect the true success of an SEO strategy. Keyword rankings can fluctuate due to various factors, and they don’t necessarily correlate with increased organic traffic or conversions.
Additionally, in local results, keyword rankings can vary based on the user’s location, search history, and other personalized factors, making them even less reliable as a sole performance metric.
3. Click-Through Rate (CTR)
CTR, or Click-Through Rate, is the number of clicks your ad gets divided by the number of times it’s shown, expressed as a percentage (Clicks ÷ Impressions = CTR). For instance, if you had five clicks from 100 impressions, your CTR would be 5%.
It’s essential to note that Google Analytics doesn’t calculate CTR automatically; you may need to compute it manually.
In the world of online advertising, benchmarks are invaluable. For comparison, CTRs for Google Ads campaigns typically hover around 6-7% for search ads. While not a fixed standard, it serves as a solid starting point. For email marketing, a good CTR should range from 2 to 5%, with variations depending on your industry.
4. Conversion Rate
At the heart of every online endeavor lies the pursuit of conversions—getting more users to take the actions we desire, whether it’s making a purchase, signing up, or downloading valuable content. This is why the conversion rate is the North Star in the world of digital metrics.
Conversion rate is the percentage of user actions relative to total clicks on a display ad or digital asset. It represents the effectiveness of your marketing strategy. These actions might include clicking on another link, downloading a B2B white paper, or signing up for special retail offers. The formula is simple: clicks divided by actions equal your conversion rate.
In straightforward terms, your conversion rate measures how well your public-facing content performs. If 6% of your website visitors purchase or join your mailing list, your website’s effectiveness is 6%. Remarkably, a “good” website conversion rate falls between 2% and 5% across all industries, though industry-specific rates vary significantly.
5. Bounce Rate
Your website’s bounce rate is akin to an exit door, indicating the percentage of visitors who land on a page and promptly depart without interacting further, essentially marking a “one-and-done” visit. Unlike exit rates, bounce rates focus solely on these swift, non-engaged visits where users don’t linger and explore additional pages on your site.
A favorable bounce rate typically hovers around 40% or lower. If your bounce rate surpasses 60%, it may signal the need to improve your page content to captivate and assist users better.
However, it’s essential to recognize that bounce rates can vary significantly based on factors like industry, page type, and even seasonal fluctuations, so benchmarks may differ.
6. Page Load Speed
Page load speed, or page speed, measures the time required to download and display an entire web page within a browser window. This metric is super critical to user experience and online success in our fast-paced digital landscape.
Several factors can influence page load speed, including:
- Web Hosting: The quality and performance of your hosting provider.
- Images: Large or unoptimized images can slow down loading.
- Code: Excessive code can hinder speed.
- Browser Caching: Storing elements in a user’s browser to speed up future visits.
- Ads and 3rd Party Widgets: External content can impact loading times.
A good desktop page load time is typically under two seconds, with some aiming for under one second or less. Studies show that even a one-second delay can result in 11% fewer page views, a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and a 7% drop in conversions.
In terms of dollars, a one-second delay on a website earning $10,000 daily could cost you $250,000 in annual sales. Speed matters.
7. Mobile Optimization
Mobile optimization is a cornerstone of online presence today, with mobile devices typically driving over 55% of website traffic and 92.3% of internet users accessing the web via mobile phones.
Mobile optimization involves ensuring your website adapts seamlessly to different devices. A mobile-responsive website is like a chameleon, adjusting its content and design based on the device it’s viewed on.
In contrast, mobile-friendly websites often shrink desktop content, making user interactions cumbersome. Mobile-responsive sites, on the other hand, reformat content to maintain an optimal user experience. They even gracefully handle the shift from vertical to horizontal views.
Tools like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, HubSpot’s Website Grader, BrowserStack, and W3C mobileOK Checker can help gauge your mobile responsiveness, ensuring you deliver a seamless experience to the mobile majority.
8. Backlinks and Domain Authority
Backlinks, often known as “inbound links” or “incoming links,” are the virtual endorsements of the digital world. These are links from one website to another, connected through anchor text. Search engines like Google see backlinks as votes for a specific page, indicating its relevance, quality, and authority. Pages with abundant and relevant high-quality backlinks tend to bask in high organic search engine rankings.
Domain Authority (DA) is a predictive search engine ranking score devised by Moz. Ranging from 1 to 100, a higher DA implies a greater likelihood of ranking in search engine results. DA factors in dozens of variables, using machine learning to align link data with actual search results.
Backlinks play a pivotal role in boosting your domain authority. Although not a direct Google ranking factor, many SEO tools employ DA to assess your strategy’s effectiveness by comparing you to competitors. Scores between 40 and 50 are average, 50 to 60 are good, and above 60 is excellent. However, building domain authority takes time, often several months or more, and hinges on acquiring quality backlinks.
Consider the example of Copywriting For You, a website launched in the summer of 2023 with a modest DA of 0.3. With diligent content creation and acquiring quality backlinks, this site is on the path to increasing its DA, inching closer to the coveted higher rankings on search engine result pages.
But compare this to high-traffic sites such as HealthDay with a DA of 80 or Sanctuary Marketing Academy’s website with a DA of 41. These more established websites have high-quality inbound links and new high-quality content posted regularly.
Setting SEO Goals and KPIs
Setting clear and achievable SEO goals is extremely important. To ensure you’re on the right path, follow the SMART criteria: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
- Specific: Make your goals precise and focused. Rather than saying “improve website traffic,” define it as “increase organic traffic by 30% in the next six months.”
- Measurable: Goals should be quantifiable. Define how you’ll measure success, such as using tools like Google Analytics or SEO software.
- Achievable: Set realistic goals within your resources and capabilities. Ambition is good, but attainability is crucial.
- Relevant: Ensure your goals align with your business objectives. Ask, “Is this goal pertinent to our mission?”
- Time-bound: Establish a timeframe for achieving your goals. For instance, “reach 1,000 newsletter subscribers within three months.”
Common SEO goals and KPIs can include:
- Increase Organic Traffic: KPI – Monthly unique visitors from organic search.
- Improve Keyword Rankings: KPI – Percentage increase in top 10 keyword rankings.
- Boost Conversion Rate: KPI – Conversion rate from organic traffic.
- Enhance Page Load Speed: KPI – Average page load time.
- Build Quality Backlinks: KPI – Number of high-quality backlinks acquired per month.
By setting SMART goals and KPIs tailored to your business, you’ll have a roadmap to navigate the ever-evolving world of SEO and measure your progress effectively.
Navigating SEO Success Metrics & Measurement
SEO isn’t a luxury but a marketing necessity. Understanding its metrics, from organic traffic to bounce rates, is akin to mastering the stars in the night sky—it guides your way.
By setting SMART goals and KPIs, you can ensure your SEO strategies are on course. Remember, the journey to SEO success is continuous, often requiring patience as you continually invest and your domain authority grows.
As you embark on this voyage, equip yourself with knowledge. Download The Academy’s free whitepaper, “SEO Fundamentals Guide: How to Get Found Online,” and dive deeper into the world of SEO. With this guide in hand, you’ll confidently navigate the ever-changing tides of SEO.
Start your journey to SEO mastery today!
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