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How To Measure SEO & Assess Performance

Measuring the right KPIs can help you align your SEO performance with your business goals. Here's what you need to consider.

Jun 11, 2024

9 m read

Businesses often set their sights on the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) because it feels like something they “should” do. After all, who doesn’t want to rank number one and get traffic and clicks? But here’s the truth: While clicks are nice to have, they don’t matter if they’re not driving conversions and improving your revenue and growth.

That’s why measuring search engine optimization (SEO) performance can help drive concrete business results. When you know how your website is performing in key areas — search visibility, organic traffic, user engagement, and conversions — you can determine if you’re attracting qualified leads and making the most of your site visitors.

It can be daunting to evaluate SEO, but I’m going to whittle it down to the essentials so you can start building a framework today. I’ll show you different ways to measure search engine optimization and the insights you can draw from the data. I’ll also explain how to tie these metrics to your business goals so you can ensure your efforts are generating maximum impact.

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How To Measure SEO

Download this guide to the concepts & tools to help you track your SEO success. 

Why It’s Important To Measure SEO Success

SEO isn’t an exact science. There are best practices to follow, but implementing them doesn’t automatically place you at the top of the SERPs. Your performance hinges on a variety of factors such as how well you’ve targeted your customers, quality of execution, the aggressiveness of your competitors, and even Google’s shifting algorithms. If you don’t monitor your SEO results, you won’t know if your strategy is on target or where to improve it.

When you monitor SEO performance, you can:

  • Establish a baseline. You’ll need a starting point to gauge progress. With SEO tracking, you can compare data weekly, monthly, quarterly, and even year over year to detect trends.
  • Track progress toward your SEO goals. You need to have a goal in order to achieve it. Your goals should be as specific as possible and relate to your overall business objectives. For example, if you’re launching a new product and want to increase leads, set a goal of how many leads you want to generate within a set time frame.
  • Stay competitive. By keeping tabs on your SEO progress, you can see where you need to step up your tactics or find opportunities to gain ground. Are visitors bouncing from a landing page? You can review the page content and make sure it’s satisfying search intent. Are certain keywords generating a lot of traffic? Capitalize on this interest and target related search terms to capture more prospects.
  • Optimize ROI. Don’t spend precious resources on efforts that aren’t paying off. Use the data to understand what’s not working and adjust your tactics, so your strategy is always deliberate and purposeful.

How To Choose the Right Metrics and Get Started

If you’ve been reading about web analytics, you’ll know there are many SEO metrics you can measure. However, the most meaningful ones are tied to your SEO goals. That’s why it’s critical to think about tracking performance before you implement a search engine optimization strategy.

By considering metrics at the start of a campaign, you can choose ones relevant to your business without getting distracted by the many other bells and whistles out there. You can then select meaningful measurements to lay the foundation for your SEO monitoring. Below, I’ll discuss four key areas that will give you a good picture of website performance:

  • Search visibility
  • Organic traffic
  • Audience engagement
  • Conversions

Google’s free tools — Google Search Console (GSC) and Google Analytics 4 (GA4) — can help you track metrics in these areas. (Make sure to link GSC to GA4 to generate more powerful data.) Then, as you begin working with the data and finding ways to incorporate the findings into your tactics, you can expand your SEO KPIs and toolkit as needed. Just remember to give your strategies time to gain traction.

Measure Search Visibility

The first step in tracking SEO is to assess search visibility, which measures your presence in the search engine results pages. This is an important performance indicator because if your brand isn’t visible, you’re missing out on customers when they’re searching specifically for information about your niche.

SEO visibility centers around keywords and search ranking:

  • The more target keywords you rank for, the more search results you appear in.
  • The higher your search ranking for each keyword, the more visible your brand.

It goes without saying that you should land as high in the SERPs as possible, as the pages at the top of the search results claim the most clicks. Research consistently shows a drop in click-through rates as pages fall further down in the SERPs.

How To Track Search Visibility

When tracking visibility, measure keyword growth over time to:

  • Ensure your search position is improving for target keywords.
  • Discover ranking drops so you can investigate possible causes and adjust your strategies accordingly.
  • Monitor the number of keywords you rank for to stake a larger piece of the SERP pie.

You can use Google Search Console and third-party SEO tools to help you assess your presence in the SERPs.

Google Search Console

Use Google Search Console to track impressions, which is how often a link to your site appears in search results. GSC captures impressions of your web pages when they appear as search snippets. It also counts views of other search features, such as clicks to open the “People Also Ask” dropdowns or scrolls through a carousel.

SEO Tools

Set up tools such as Ahrefs, Semrush, and Moz to track the keywords your site ranks for. These platforms will help you monitor your search position for each keyword and the change in ranking over time.

One advantage of these tools is that they automatically calculate your search visibility as a metric, making it easy to quantify your presence in the SERPs. The value is based on where your page ranks for a given keyword and the estimated click-through rate for that position. Each tool has its own proprietary formula for calculating search visibility, so always use the same tool when comparing changes in the metric over time.

Measure Organic Traffic

Organic traffic tells you how many visitors are clicking your link in the SERPs and visiting your site. This is a key measurement as each of those visitors is a prospective lead that you can nurture into a paying customer. To rate your SEO traffic, you need to separate organic sources from those arriving via paid ads, social media, email marketing campaigns, and other channels.

You can monitor organic traffic in a couple of ways, including:

  • Clicks. Google Search Console’s Performance report will tell you how many clicks your site generates from Google SERPs. It also provides a click-through rate, which is the number of clicks divided by the number of impressions.
  • Users. Google Analytics’ Acquisition Overview report will tell you how many users visited your site and how they found you. You can compare the number of users who arrived through a search engine to those who clicked on paid ads, social posts, or links from referring domains. You can also see how many new and returning users you have or even users from a specific country or to a specific page.

Understanding Organic Traffic

Obviously, you want your organic traffic metrics to increase over time. If you’re not seeing improvement, backtrack to see why. Is your search visibility impacting clicks? Are you targeting the right keywords, or do you need to diversify them to widen your reach? Perhaps you need to inspire clicks by optimizing your page title or description or adding schema markup for rich snippets.

You can also look at different scenarios depending on your business goals and/or audience. If you’re targeting customers in specific regions, filter your data to see organic traffic by country. You might also look at traffic to landing or service pages that are important for conversions and focus on driving traffic to those core pages. This can help ensure you’re focused on the right traffic and not just traffic for traffic’s sake.

Finally, organic traffic is also useful for insights into the type of content users are interested in. Identify your most popular pages and leverage those topics to help bolster your SEO strategy.

Measure Engagement

Now it’s time to examine what happens once you attract traffic to your site. Here’s where things get interesting. Engagement metrics give you a glimpse into how users interact with your web pages and the time they spend on the site. If users are bouncing away instead of engaging, your site isn’t meeting their expectations or successfully drawing them into your sales funnel.

A bounce is a single-page session where someone doesn’t navigate further or take action on your site. However, this metric doesn’t account for how long someone spends on your site — they could read a blog post and leave yet still be considered a bounce. As a result, GA4 has introduced metrics to better assess engagement. These include the following:

  • Engaged sessions: The number of user sessions lasting 10 seconds or longer, involving a key event, or consisting of at least 2 page views
  • Engagement rate: The number of engaged sessions as a percentage of total sessions
  • Average engagement time: The average time your website was in focus in a user’s browser
  • Average engagement time per session: The average time a user was engaged with your website during their visit
  • Views per session: The number of pages viewed by a user per session
  • Scroll depth: How far users scroll on a page

Understanding User Engagement

It’s important to look at these metrics in the context of your goals and what you’re trying to accomplish. Users might not engage for long if they’re simply visiting a location page to check your address or business hours. They’ll get the information they need and be on their way.

However, if you have an ecommerce site, you’ll want visitors to stay and browse your products. You might set a goal of improving views per session with on-page product recommendations. Or, you might want a higher engagement rate for conversion pages and use scroll depth as a key metric. If users aren’t scrolling far, you’ll know you need to improve your value proposition or move your call to action higher.

If the data shows audiences aren’t interacting with your website, look for ways to convince them to stay. This might include improving:

  • Content quality.
  • User experience.
  • Site design and aesthetics.
  • Ease of navigation.
  • Page loading time and other technical SEO metrics.

Track SEO Conversions

That brings us to the most telling indicator of SEO success: conversion rates, or how well your site is turning visitors into leads and/or customers. This is a key enterprise SEO metric to follow as every missed conversion is potential lost revenue.

To determine SEO conversions, track the number of desired actions taken on your site. Most people consider a conversion a sale, but a conversion is any action that draws your customer along the buyer journey. You can move top-of-funnel customers to the middle stage by encouraging them to sign up for promos and discounts or move middle-of-the-funnel visitors closer to paying customers through a free trial.

Examples of conversions are:

  • Subscribing to a mailing list.
  • Registering for a webinar.
  • Requesting an estimate.
  • Downloading an ebook or other lead magnet.
  • Clicking on a call to action that leads to a landing or conversion page.
  • Booking an appointment.
  • Purchasing a product or service.

Identify the conversions that align with the goals you set for your SEO strategy. For example, if your goal is to build out a mailing list, you’ll want to count each new subscriber as a successful conversion.

Calculating Conversion Rate

Ideally, your conversion rate should increase over time to help maximize your return on investment. To calculate conversion rate, divide the total number of users who complete a desired action by the total number of visitors for a specific period. Multiply this by 100 to get your conversion rate.

How To Track SEO Conversions With GA4

You can track SEO conversions by designating certain actions as key events in Google Analytics. GA4 then counts each time a user completes one of these events. For example, you might track leads generated by counting how many users successfully submit a form for a free estimate and are directed to a confirmation page. You can set up your analytics so that GA4 counts views of this confirmation page as a successful conversion.

To designate actions as conversions, set up an “event” in Google Analytics. You can do this in the Admin section of GA4 by navigating to Data Display and clicking “Events.” Then, follow Google’s instructions for creating or modifying a key event. You can also assign a dollar value to each of your events.

Once you create the event, instruct Google Analytics to track it. Return to the Admin section and click “Key Events.” You can then mark the event you’ve just created as a key event. A count of these actions will appear as part of your key events in various Google Analytics reports.

Google Analytics Conversions Report

To see your conversion data, head to the Reports section of Google Analytics. Click “Engagement” and “Custom Events.” This will break down each of your conversion events. You’ll see how many users trigger each event, the value of the events, and which ones occur most often. To help you put these into context, the conversion metric also appears in User and Traffic reports and any reports that you customize.

Understanding and Optimizing Conversion Rates

Google Analytics enables you to measure SEO conversion rates in different ways. Let’s say your goal is to improve revenue from returning customers. You can filter the data to see conversions by new and returning visitors and then explore where each audience type is converting and what they’re interested in.

If your conversion rates are stalled, there are obstacles to your conversion process. Look for ways to improve your conversion rate.

  • Consider where in the buyer journey your audience is and whether you’re providing appropriate calls to action.
  • Strengthen your calls to action or make the next step clearer.
  • Create more compelling content and/or drive emotion.
  • Simplify your forms to request the minimum amount of information.
  • Consider gathering feedback from users or conducting A/B testing.

Watch Your SEO Success Skyrocket

Tracking SEO performance is critical to your success — you can’t crush your goals if you don’t know how you’re performing and where you want to be. Plus, the data you collect can help you to correct problems, build on successes, and continue refining your strategy.If you’d like a trusted partner to help you gather actionable data and customize your SEO strategies, reach out to our team at Victorious. Schedule a free consultation and learn how we can improve your search visibility, spark traffic and conversions, and give you the SEO momentum to drive sustainable growth.

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