Like all the best SEOs know, you can only go so far with optimizing your website for search engine optimization if you aren’t measuring success by keeping an eye on certain metrics. Metrics are key indicators that evaluate the performance of your SEO strategy. Blind decision making can only get you so far; you need to know what’s working and what isn’t so you know what steps to take next. But with so many possible metrics to gauge, it can be tough to know which are the most vital for your website’s search engine success.
To get you started, we’ve asked some of the best SEOs around about the key metrics you should be keeping track of.
1. Rankings is still huge, especially since the death of keyword referral data.
There's no realistic way to be able to diagnose traffic drops or rises without knowing your rankings.
2. Pages receiving visits from search.
Knowing how many pages Google's sending traffic to in a given period and how that distributed, as well as how it changes over time, gives a very holistic overview that you can then dig into and improve over time.
3. Pages that contribute the most conversions and assisted conversions from search.
This gets as close as we really can to the holy grail of knowing which pages and keywords send the best converting traffic, for those who want to focus beyond just the raw visits and onto conversion actions.
It's not really an SEO metric, but I strongly believe that it matters above everything else.
That is - your revenue.
If your SEO efforts have zero influence on the revenue that your business generates, then you're sailing in the wrong direction. Too many people focus on things like search traffic or rankings, while not realizing that the vast traffic that they're generating doesn't convert. That often happens because of the searcher intent mismatch or by simply targeting broad TOFU topics.
But if we're speaking about the actual SEO metrics, I'm clearly biased towards the metrics that we have in Ahrefs :)
I do not think you can get away with assigning importance or priority. I think the best SEOs track and optimize everything. A lot of people track rankings and leads/sales. There is nothing wrong with that, but in a scenario where you have a page that generates 5000 visitors per month with 10% of those converting into a sale, and you are seeing a $1:4 return on your spend, a lot of people take the win and move on.
If we can dive through Google Search Console and identify and optimize low CTR pages and make some Title and meta description changes to boost the click-through rate by 5% over a few months, I just brought a lot of extra money in for myself or my client. Extrapolate that across 10, 20, 50 pages, and if the conversion percent remains constant, we are rockstars. In short, track and optimize everything, always.
The days when all you would report on or look at were the rankings for specific keywords are slowly but surely leaving the sphere of focus for most SEOs
With rank zero, video carousels, answer boxes, personalization and more, the click-through rate on search results can vary dramatically even if you rank well. You might be the fourth blue link for your dream keyword but if you're under a video carousel and featured snippet which 'scoop up' most of the clicks then the ranking is only good for your Ego.
Do they join my email list? Get on the waiting list for products? Buy products? Share the page with other people?
It's pointless getting a ton of visitors if they aren't acting in some way...even if that just means people are returning in the future.
I still focus on overall traffic from search - it would be stupid not to - but getting more visitors doesn't necessarily mean any other metrics improve.
I feel like keyword/page positioning in SERPs, time on site/page, and conversion rates are all key metrics that are important to keep an eye on, but I never want to say there are only a handful of important metrics to look at.
Sometimes it’s easy to get hung up on one or two metrics in isolation and sub-consciously exclude other data that could be alerting you to a problem.
For example, a site could be ranking in the top spot for its keyword but that does not necessarily mean people are clicking on the result. It also doesn’t mean they are accomplishing the task you want them to after they click.
SEO’s (and marketers in general) should get in the habit of using multiple metrics to tell a story of whether an SEO campaign is successful or not. You want first page rankings but that is only part of the battle. You still need people to click on your search result and then convert (i.e. buy something, become a subscriber, donate, whatever your conversion action is).
Regrettably most metrics referred to nowadays are humbug. Pure nonsense, created for product or service marketing purposes with no bearing on actual SEO. Trust rank is an example here. Even actual factors such as PageRank are useless as a metric, for the simple reason that Google does not disclose the current, true values in real time. And because attempts to reverse engineer it are a pipe dream. That having said serious SEO is focused around quantifiable and verifiable metrics, like CTR, conversion rate and –for medium and large websites – crawler budget management.
Both what and how often is being crawled by Googlebot are decisive factors impacting all SEO activities. In short, the objective is to drive time spent downloading a page down while keeping a positive upwards trend when it comes to pages crawled per day, as both these factors are indicated in Google Search Console. After all, with SEO everything begins with crawling
.Site performance is another key metric to look at. With users expecting instantly loading, responsive sites any bit of site performance that can be fine tuned is likely worth the effort. That is especially so since Google has and continues to show strong preference in their rankings for faster websites. Based on the premise that faster is always better site performance is one metric which can be well used for competitor comparison and benchmarking purposes.
Traffic. If your site or the site you are getting links from is getting organic traffic, then you know that you can trust them. Then I look at a number of things from Ahrefs DR to Moz's DA/PA. Organic traffic seems to tell me the most though.
These days... (as compared to their role before), I'm seeing user metrics become more of a factor. CTR from the SERP results and time on site are primary indicators to Google that people are liking what they see.
I have really been focused on learning Google Analytics more and more. Looking at time on site, traffic, and pages visited, all help me see what changes I need to make on my site to increase user experience and rankings.
I think people frequently overlook the list of keywords (and associated URLs) that are ranking – and I'm talking about the ones that you may or may not necessarily be tracking. It's useful to pay attention to what the engines think is valuable on your site, not only what YOU think the engines should value. Are you sending the wrong message? Is your primary message getting lost or overshadowed by something else on your site? These are all questions you can answer by keeping tabs on all of the ranking pages and terms.
Traffic, making sure that your links are coming from sites that receive traffic.
Crawl rate. Indexability rate via submitted sitemaps. PV/Session via Organic Search traffic. Average ranking for significant KWs. BR. Page speed metrics
I like to look at rankings for my keywords over time, even though I know this has fallen out of favor with a lot of other SEO experts.
Additionally, I find it useful to look at Google Search Console to find which keywords are receiving impressions, then I compare them with their average rankings. I build links to the pages that correspond with those keywords so I can boost them further in the rankings.
Click-through rate is a relatively new metric that's being used for SEO, and I'm a believer. Basically, try to craft title tags and meta descriptions that entice people to click your result in the search engine results page. And once people click your result, make sure they stay there for a while! Time on site seems to be a factor in the ranking algorithm more than ever, these days. That's a good reason to ensure your content is lengthy (but packed with value without being fluffy) and useful to the reader.
Backlinks are still extremely important. Spend a lot more time on gaining high-quality backlinks, then going for smaller ones. It's also very important to make sure sites within your own niche are actually linking back to you, and not just random sites or Web 2.0 properties.
I can think of three:
1. The SEO visibility trend owns the crown when it comes to SEO metrics
It trumps any other metric you can think about. It is all about maintaining growth. Opening your favorite SEO visibility tool (e.g. SearchMetrics), and diving deeper into visibility trends, keywords and pages that increase/decrease traffic is never a bad idea.
2. Status codes and the indexability ratio of your domain
Don’t worry if you don’t understand what that means, let me explain it. When you (or Googlebot) crawls 10,000 random pages from your domain, how many of them are indexable, valuable pages returning a code 200? Are all those indexed in Google? This is one of the key questions benchmarking the multiple SEO efforts of your team or agency. Getting to 100% (of indexed and valuable pages) is very hard and often impossible, but keeping this ratio high is one of the most important goals for me.
Yes, I mention performance again and if I could, I would mention it one more time :). Similar to the metrics above, performance is one of those metrics that show you the overall shape of your website, code and architecture. It is a broad metric as it can be understood as crawl efficiency (slow or poorly designed pages will slow down crawling) or the performance perceived by your users. I like to look at performance the same way we look at human performance. If you can run 10 miles at a good pace, it is safe to assume that you are in great shape and you don’t have any serious health issues, or at least that your health is in the top 5% of the human population. This is the goal for your website too. Imagine it is a race, you always want your website on a podium.
What worked for SEO years ago, still works today – when you are looking at the best working methods. It still comes down to content, backlinks, and value. Follow these same methods and you are going to see long term results.
I use Ahrefs pretty much exclusively outside of our proprietary reporting dashboard.
Aside from rankings, the conversion rates on specific pages are very important in terms of data as LEADS are the end goal for every business website. I also like looking at pages per visit, time on site, and bounce rate.
Good on-page SEO, with power pages and some good quality links is all you need.
Relevant backlinks and mentions are still one of the most important SEO metrics today. With so many websites and blogs online, it's not about link building on a wide scale anymore. Now it's all about getting the authority links that Google values much more.
User engagement. PageRank was a proxy for the random web user/web surfer which worked well when Google had limited user data, limited revenues & computing was far less powerful than it is today. Literally billions of people use Android & Chrome. In some cases Google spies on users location data even when they have location data settings turned off. If/as Google can pervasively track most web users, they have less incentives to look for proxies of quality and can put more weight on what actual users actually do.
Traffic changes because that is what SEO does, bounce rate because it shows your content does not please a visitor, and ultimately conversions/micro-conversions because that is what generates revenue and is why we even bother.
Human behaviour, has become a very important ranking factor.
Use common sense. There is no magical metric. I look at multiple metrics and have a look at the website.
Keyword Rankings, Conversions, Traffic - These are the normal SEO metrics for most experts and there's a reason for it. To measure the success of your SEO efforts is about having the top spot for your keywords' rankings that lead to increased traffic and more conversions (leads and sales).
If you can keep track of a site's indexation rate and its pattern, you can generally measure it's overall SEO health.
Most important metric I follow is month-over-month increase in position for my target keywords. Given that you don't start seeing meaningful increases in traffic until you reach the first page, it can be discouraging to not see any traffic gains. But if you track the keyword you are targeting and are seeing improvements in your rankings against those keywords every month, then you know you're making progress.
Low bounce rates, high engagement, interactions between relevant pages.
User satisfaction is getting better measured and evaluated every day and will give the extra point in rating a good website.