The measure of your success online has many facets, and each one of those can have multiple metrics which indicate whether you are performing well or not. With so many performance indicators available, it’s easy to lose sight of actual success while wallowing in seemingly positive numbers and statistics. This can be especially true for organic search engine optimisation (SEO).
Numbers mean nothing if there is no specific goal attached to them. So what if you get 10,000 visits a month? Are you profiting from them? Every metric should be results-based, and the results should be compared and contrasted against the numbers to see if they mean anything in terms of return on investment (ROI). Here are four sample key performance indicators (KPIs) that can help you truly find out if you are doing well or not in SEO. Note that these are “sample” KPIs as different businesses would have different key metrics. At the same time, however, while these are simply “examples,” many businesses of any scale would consider them to be actual KPIs.
KPI 1: Traffic Goal
The main objective of SEO is to drive organic traffic, or the number of visitors referred by search engines, to a website. A traffic goal is a KPI because it measures the impacts of your on-page and off-page SEO as well as link-building efforts, if you can cross-reference your metrics against your ranking. The danger behind the traffic KPI is that it only gives you a number of visitors, and not the number of leads generated or converted. Do not use the traffic KPI on its own — it is a basis of comparison, i.e. looking at your traffic KPI compared to your conversion KPI to show your conversion percentage from organic traffic. Traffic KPIs can also help in tweaking individual aspects of your SEO. You can apply A/B testing to see which facets of your SEO efforts affect traffic — though you will have to wait a matter of weeks or months to obtain data you can work with.
KPI 2: Conversion Goal
This conversion goal is not conversion overall, but conversion taken from organic traffic. In other words, the people who were referred by search engines who actually engaged in ecommerce with your website. Do not count conversion from direct referrals or social media and such. Conversion KPI can indicate the strengths and weaknesses of your website content in terms of marketing prowess (some webpages convert more than others, and if all else is the same then the website content is probably driving the numbers), or perhaps inform you which search engines are sending you more traffic. Used in conjunction with data regarding your top performing keyword targets, you can easily find out which keyword targets are just driving traffic (interested people) and which are actually converting (sales-qualified people).
KPI 3: Subscription Goal
You can use your SEO for many purposes by pointing organic traffic to different landing pages. This means that webpages with specific intent of generating subscribers for an email service or something similar can generate data on how well your organic SEO is contributing to your subscription goals. The subscription KPI is important for much of the same reasons conversion KPIs are important, but also because you can reference it against lead nurturing KPIs (if you use email for lead nurturing) and see how effective your entire lead generation, info acquisition, and nurturing vehicle is for organic traffic, which brings in as much as 60 to 70% of webpage traffic.
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KPI 4: Bounce Rate Goal
A webpage’s bounce rate is the number of people who go back to search results instead of interacting with the webpage, i.e. they leave the webpage they found via search to take a look at other search results. The obvious goal here is to try and reduce the bounce rate. While this may seem like a facet of copywriting instead of SEO (after all, poor content is probably the main reason why people simply leave instead of doing something else), there is also the issue of irrelevance. People can arrive at one webpage, find out that it did not provide sufficiently relevant info, and leave. This is a matter for SEO as it is a concern about keyword targeting. Bounce rate KPIs can tell you that your content is either optimized for an irrelevant (or slightly less effective) keyword, or the copywriting sucks. You can check bounce rates easily, and also see a related matter: webpages that are their own exit pages. This means that these webpages are landing pages and exit pages, which means that visitors might have read the website content in them, but left anyway without doing anything profitable for the website. You should check your calls to action and the quality of your content, as well as the possibility of broken links.
Note that we’ve been talking about “goals” the entire time. We are not only using metrics, but goals — metric KPIs just give you a specific number, whereas if you compare that number to a set goal, you can better assess your performance in key areas. Before you try and quantify KPIs, you should qualify your goals and set realistic objectives achievable within a given timeframe. You can then measure your performance metrics and measure them against your set goals, and use that data as your KPIs. Obviously, these four example KPIs are specifically for SEO, but as mentioned in some points earlier, they can help point out strengths and weaknesses in copywriting, calls to action, and even design. In the same way that A/B testing facets of your SEO can indicate which areas lead to increased or reduced traffic, you can tweak your KPI drivers to see which of them affect particular metrics. This means you can test one at a time, lest you confuse the results of one for the work of another.
On a final note, you need to decide for yourself and your business what “SEO success” actually means. Is it just about traffic? Is it conversion? Is it a combination of several things? Only then will your KPI focus be of any use.