Do you know if your SEO activity is working? SEO strategies can be complex to create and implement – and even more difficult to monitor and measure. If you are spending time, resources and money on improving your website for organic search, you need to understand the impact of your activity. Rather than focusing on a single performance indicator, we recommend a weighted approach which considers multiple metrics to give you a broader understanding of whether you are seeing SEO success.
For a clear idea of your SEO performance, consider these seven key metrics side-by-side: domain authority, number of ranking keywords, keyword ranking position, SERP impressions, organic search traffic, engagement rate and conversion rate. Below we explain each in more detail to help you develop a strategic understanding of your organic search performance. But first, it is helpful to have an overview of the process you would expect to go through when improving your website for search engines…
As you make optimisations (whether technical, onsite or offsite) your content will be more likely to be discovered and indexed by Google and other search engines. Indexed content can then begin to rank in Search Engine Results Pages for relevant keywords. If your website is considered by the search engines to be of good quality – for example, having a strong Domain Authority – you will see both the number of keywords being ranked increase as well as those ranking keywords move upwards to higher ranking positions. The quantity of SERP impressions will naturally also increase, as more people begin to see your content within the Search Engine Results Pages. This in turn will lead to higher numbers of clicks through to your website, directly providing higher volumes of organic search traffic. Providing this is high-quality and relevant traffic, you can expect to see the visitors here engage with your website and ultimately go on to complete your chosen conversions, such as making a purchase.
From this overview, you can see why it can take months for optimisations to translate to business KPIs like increased revenue. But once you reach that point, you can expect to receive high-quality and useful traffic. And that is why it is important to track progress indicators throughout the whole process. Now let’s look at our top SEO metrics and key performance indicators in more detail:
Domain Authority is a metric developed by MOZ which gives an insight into the quality of a website, and is helpful for understanding whether your content is likely to rank well for relevant keywords. But it is not the only option; other SEO software’s provide similar metrics which will also give you a sense of how trustworthy your site is considered by Google. For example, “Trust Flow” and “Citation Flow” from Majestic or “Domain Rating” from Ahrefs. Use one or all of these metrics to understand whether your site is considered to be authoritative and good-quality, especially in comparison to your SEO competitors. If you are lagging behind other competitors, improving your Domain Authority should be a key focus to help facilitate further SEO wins. To do this, work on making sure your content fits Google’s EEAT guidelines, and create an offsite content and outreach strategy to attract links from other quality websites.
This is a very useful early leading indicator for SEO activity. As with many of these indicative metrics, the number of ranking keywords does not give you the full picture when viewed alone. Afterall, some keywords may not relate to your most relevant site visitors. Or the rankings for each keyword could be languishing far below the all-important top 10 SERP positions. However, if you are working on a programme of content optimisations on your site and targeting a strategically mapped keyword landscape, an increase in the number of keywords you are ranking for will be one of the very first indicators that your efforts are having a positive impact, as your content begins to be considered by Google for a wider range of relevant topics and terms.
Once your online content is ranking for a good selection of relevant search terms, you can then focus on helping your landing pages to climb through the SERPs to reach higher places. The top spot in Google’s organic search listings will most often receive the highest share of clicks, with positions 2 and 3 also performing well. Remember that exact positions will fluctuate even for individual keywords – however, keeping an eye on the performance of your most important terms and watching these rise through the rankings will help give you a sense of your SEO success. This is also a useful metric to alert you to site issues – if you suddenly see some of your established top ranking positions drop, you will know to start investigating.
Use Google Search Console to check how the number of impressions your content receives changes over time. As your pages climb the rankings for a wider range of terms, you can expect to see more SERP impressions. That is to say, your listings are being seen within Search Engine Results Pages more frequently. This is an important step towards more people clicking through to your content, especially when combined with metadata optimisations to increase CTRs. We recommend looking at impressions from both a site-wide perspective and for specific important landing pages and search queries.
For many people, traffic is the only metric used to analyse the success of a specific digital marketing channel. And that’s because it is important! Use Google Analytics 4 to track the organic search traffic to your website (or to specific key landing pages) to get quick and easy top-level insights into SEO performance. However, it is worth remembering that SEO is a longer-term marketing strategy which can take a while to begin to send traffic to a website, which is why we recommend looking at metrics around keywords and SERP performance as useful lead-indicators when you first embark on search engine optimisation work. Finally, bear in mind that not all traffic is equal – if visitors are landing on your site before immediately bouncing away, or are unable to find the content they are looking for, there is further work to be done!
A useful metric to understand the quality of traffic that is being sent to your website, Engagement Rate in GA4 will tell you the percentage of visitors who arrive on your site and then actually interact with it. This could mean looking at additional pages, triggering a ‘conversion’ event, or spending a significant amount of time looking at content. Engagement Rate is therefore an extremely helpful metric to help you understand whether the visitors you are attracting via organic search are high-quality. This can help you to identify instances where there are mismatches between a visitor’s search intent and the content you are providing. It can also give an indication of the kinds of SEO content that perform best and should therefore be a focus in the future.
Similar to Engagement Rate, looking at Conversion Rate will provide useful information about the quality of the SEO traffic you are achieving. Within GA4, you can choose to allocate specific events as ‘conversions’. Depending on your business priorities, conversions are likely to be purchases, sign-ups or enquiries. Consider Conversion Rate in tandem with Engagement Rate to ensure that your SEO performance is driving high-quality visitors to your website who go on to take the actions which are most important to you.
Having trouble effectively understanding the impact of your SEO strategy? Not seeing the improvements you had hoped for in your organic search metrics? The expert team at Varn can help. Please get in touch to find out what we can do to support your ongoing organic search strategy. We would love to hear from you!
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