SEO KPIs help us gauge search engine performance. They tell us if our strategies are working. They also tell us where we need to improve.
But what are the most important metrics to focus on? Because there are countless SEO KPIs. So we asked marketers from different industries what KPIs are most important to their business.
Keep reading and discover their unique responses.
Organic Page Rank
The goal of SEO is to improve search ranks. Higher search ranks drive traffic. And increasing rank for valuable keywords means high-quality visitors finding your site.
One of the most important SEO KPIs every marketing manager needs to track is page rank. Higher page rank for target keywords means you’re more likely to attract your ideal customer.
At Blueboard, our priority KPI is growing our page rank for high-volume keywords on Google SERPs. We’re monitoring organic page rank progress on a monthly basis. The goal is to see improvement in six months through efforts like on-page keyword optimization, new content development, and backlinking via guest posts and press. We’re also using domain authority, trust, and citation flow to measure our performance.
Organic Keyword Rank
After checking your organic page rank, move onto your SEO position for specific keywords.
The one KPI I would focus on are organic keyword rankings. Overall increases in brand visibility, traffic, and other SEO related KPIs all boil down to increases in specific keywords, and should always be the main focus of any SEO campaign.
From a marketing perspective, if a brand is currently pushing a campaign or brand image they’d like to be known for, it all comes down to increasing visibility for terms related to that campaign, which again comes down to increasing keyword rankings.
Increasing search rank boosts brand awareness. But how do you measure abstract metrics like that?
Of course, we track keyword ranking, traffic from SEO, core to business keywords, etc. But the most important KPI for us is attributed traffic.
If there is an increase in keyword rankings, that doesn’t always necessarily drive an increase in organic traffic. Overall traffic may increase though, as a cause of brand awareness created by the ranking keywords.
Increase in Direct Traffic
Today, increase in direct traffic means a lot more than someone simply entering your domain.
There are a few KPIs that are absolutely crucial for SEO experts to track. These include increases in organic traffic, increase in keyword rankings, and of course increase in conversions (whether that be revenue or leads) from organic traffic.
But increases in direct traffic should also be tracked. Direct traffic these days encompasses much more than just someone typing in your domain. It includes versions of organic and dark traffic too. Another important metric to track is click-through rate from the search results to your landing pages. That is becoming increasingly important and improving that number will help with your rankings and traffic.
Year Over Year Monthly Organic Traffic
Search engine optimization is a long term game. Sure, spikes in organic traffic happen here and there. But to understand SEO performance, you need to look at the big picture.
Identifying effective SEO KPIs can be tricky because they’re subjective. But metrics focusing on long-term increases in organic traffic make the most sense.
Year over year monthly organic traffic is by far the most effective for several reasons. First, it’s easily understandable by all internal stakeholders. This eliminates the “black box” mentality of SEO.
Second, it minimizes the volatility that comes with a shorter time frame. Looking at results on a weekly basis is an unproductive exercise and a waste of time. Year over year monthly organic traffic also minimizes the effects of seasonality. This gives you accurate organic performance insights.
Finally, it often supports related metrics such as organic revenue and ranking keyword growth to paint a consistent performance picture.
Search Volumes for Business Keywords
SEO KPIs aren’t only a look inwards. You’ll also want to track external metrics like search term popularity.
The key SEO performance indicator that we track is the visibility of our top 30 keywords. These are a group of keywords we’ve selected based on the average search volumes and relevance to our offering as a social media productivity tool.
The reason we don’t treat changes in organic traffic or conversions as a KPI is because they can fluctuate naturally throughout the years. Not because of SEO, but because of seasonal trends or changes with competitors.
The best measure of SEO would be visibility, provided you’ve got the basics right and you’re zoning in on the keywords that are most valuable to you business, and likeliest to drive conversions.
Percentage of Indexed Pages
For SMBs and Enterprise, properly indexing content is important for site health. So you have to stay on top of this using tools like Google Search Console.
For smaller sites, this KPI isn’t something they should worry about but when you get even as big as 100 URLs you should start to pay attention. The metric to monitor is what percentage of your pages are showing as indexed. This metric is especially handy prior to and after a site migration to monitor the site’s health.
Do this by going directly to Google Search Console -> Crawl -> Sitemaps and then get the number of pages submitted in your sitemap.xml and compare it to the number that is indexed.
Click-through rates show search intent alignment. And you can use this data when deciding which content to optimize. You can also use pages with high CTR as a template for future content.
One KPI that all marketing managers should consider is click-through rate. Because Marketing Managers can use this metric to understand if target keywords and content align with user searches.
Measuring CTR tells us if our content and UX are engaging site visitors. They provide data about how attractive and user-friendly the site is to potential customers.
Google’s primary concern is a positive user experience. If Google is evaluating your page for a particular search term you better have a great CTR! If not, you’ll likely fail the quality test and someone else will get chosen.
Using tools like Google Search Console you can better understand your current organic CTR, keywords, and URLs which are under/over performing. Making adjustments and optimizations can improve CTR driving more traffic and more sales.
Search Term Conversions
Go granular with SEO KPIs by tracking search term conversions. This micro approach shows you exactly how your top prospects found you.
For me, knowing which key phrases are driving traffic and conversions is the most useful KPI.
Because Google doesn’t report which key phrases are driving the traffic I reverse engineer this by going into Acquisitions / Overview / Organic Search / and looking at the Not Provided list (which will be about 98% of the total searches).
Then I add the Secondary Dimension of Landing Page (under Behavior) to filter the list. This shows me which pages are driving the SEO traffic and then I can cross reference that to the rankings for each page and get a really good idea on which key phrases are working. It’s not an exact science but it is the best way to get an educated guess that I have found so far.
Backlinks play a major role in Google’s ranking algorithm. And because backlinks play a big role in your site’s organic position, you have to keep tabs on link building efforts.
For us, it’s the number of backlinks. It is so important to know the number and quality of other sites linking to yours and actively looking to build these links. Once you’ve got into a good rhythm with backlinking, you should see your organic traffic and conversions grow.
Link building is no easy task. So when you’re building backlinks, make sure they’re delivering on your business goals.
It’s important to measure the links’ effectiveness, especially if a campaign is also active in seeking link opportunities, beyond the increase in rankings and organic traffic performance.
One of the many ways to effectively measure it is through Analytics’ assisted conversions (referrals). As this can also help justify the value of links you’re acquiring for your clients.
Active content distribution and link acquisition campaigns may also have a direct impact on branded search. So monitoring increase in branded search (via Search Console) should also help reflect the results of your content promotion and link outreach efforts.
Organic Search Result Visibility
Using SEO to increase site traffic is great. But you want conversions. After all, customers are looking for solutions. So use SEO to provide the answers.
As a company focusing on local business, A key performance indicator we monitor is local search results. We track these using campaign URLs in Google Business Pages and keyword tracking tools to make sure our clients show in the local pack for their target keywords.
It’s not enough to get just any traffic to our client’s website. We want visitors to convert. Targeting a local area with search terms, citation, and link building ensures traffic is relevant and more likely to convert once they reach the website.
Five years ago, SEOs only needed to worry about the 10 blue links on a search engine results page. Perform a Google search today and you’ll likely see a map result, tweets, videos, news stories and featured snippets on the page. This real estate is increasingly important and often overlooked by marketers. If you’re only focusing your SEO efforts on traditional organic search results, you’re missing key opportunities to drive clicks, conversions and increase the overall authority of your brand.
Most major SEO tools have capabilities to identify your website’s Total search visibility (organic + local pack + SERP features). In any instance where you’re measuring your organic search visibility, you should also include local pack and featured snippet visibility to paint the full picture of how many total impressions your website is receiving in search results.
Organic Bounce Rates
Providing an awesome experience for organic visitors is important. So find out if you’re hitting the mark by tracking organic bounce rates.
Bounce rates are the rate at which people come to your page and then leave without going deeper into the site or taking an additional step. Lower bounce rates mean your site is doing a good job of engaging visitors.
In SEO, there’s a lot of focus on high rankings and these are important. But if you’re driving traffic with higher rankings and bounce rates are not improving, those search terms or search snippet/metadata may not be attracting the right type of visitor or your message is missing the mark.
Improving bounce rates suggests that the search result, site content, and UX are having the desired effect of better communicating your product and value to customers.
When it comes to your business, sales are the name of the game. But how does SEO contribute to the bottom line?
The most important KPI for SEO is measuring sales or leads obtained from organic channels. To accomplish this, marketers must create goals (often using Google Analytics or Tag Manager) that have a defined monetary value.
For eCommerce or subscription based businesses, applying a dollar value to a successful conversion is usually pretty straightforward. In these cases, the goal is triggered on a confirmation page that follows a purchase. For B2B or service-based businesses, you often measure qualified leads rather that direct sales. Qualified leads can come from a variety of sources; including contact forms, eBook downloads, or even phone calls made after visiting the site.
The important thing for any method is to effectively isolate actions taken by organic channel visitors. More than any other metric, sales is the goal so sales are what you should track. It makes reporting on the ROI of SEO much easier.
The SEO KPI that you have to track is how organic search drives sales (or conversions). If you’re not tracking this, you will have no idea if you are seeing an ROI on your SEO efforts.
Keep in mind that your SEO campaign will not pay off immediately. Google itself says that it can take 4-12 months to see the benefits of the work you’re putting into your SEO. So look at this as a marathon. But by tracking conversions from organic search, you can see the growth of your campaign over time and get insight into what’s working and what’s not.
Return on Investment
Validating return on investment is key in marketing. And when done right, SEO is cost-effective over PPC or social ads.
One of the most important SEO KPIs to track is return on investment through conversions. Honing in on traffic and determining the value of the traffic coming into your website ultimately determines the success of the keywords you are ranking for, as well as demonstrates the engagement metrics of your website (i.e. focusing on reducing bounce rate, increasing time on site duration, and average page views).
Then, the granular details of hyper-focusing and tracking custom parameters and UTM parameters further allows you to specifically see where and how this traffic is converting.
Revenue from Organic Traffic
Tracking revenue from organic traffic shows SEO success. This data can either validate your strategy or show you where you need improvement.
There are several KPIs we track for SEO, but a significant one for our business is revenue from organic traffic. We want to see if our targets are hitting the mark. Are we finding people who are looking to buy? While they aren’t our sole target (maybe we try to find people who are higher up in the sales funnel, too), they’re definitely important to any business.
This metric is tricky though. There are instances when organic traffic contributes to a sale but not because the individual did not buy on their initial visit. Sometimes visitors return through PPC. This means the sale will be attributed to PPC, but it could have been through organic that piqued the individual’s interest in the product. So it’s actually a shared sale. This is much more difficult, if not impossible, to track.
So understanding that SEO can still be doing its job without bringing in revenue is important. But we still want to see this number grow each month. Because it tells us that our SEO efforts are still capturing the visitors we want.
Organic Search Share
When it comes down to it, you have to justify your SEO efforts. Because SEO plays a role in the bigger scheme of driving business, you need to show how search delivers on business goals.
For me, I’m able to justify the existence of my job largely through Organic Search Share. Comparing various metrics – especially conversion rates – to our organic traffic as a percentage of total volume and conversion helps demonstrate that our SEO strategy is working and that it targets customers who are likely to engage with our website and contact us regarding fulfillment services. It may not be horribly original, but it is still – in our industry – perhaps the most illuminative SEO KPI.
SEO is a great way to generate leads. Prospects are actively searching for products and solutions. This gives you the opportunity to meet their demands. But now it’s time to lead score.
One of the often overlooked, but in my opinion most important, metrics is the quality of conversions from search. Great, you’re driving more organic traffic. Those visitors are converting into leads, fantastic! However, are you capturing the right people?
One way to analyze conversion quality do this is full-funnel tracking down to who became a customer, but that’s hard (and expensive). For B2B companies, a more obtainable approach in the short term is looking at job titles captured through SEO efforts. Do these leads have buying power? You can take a similar approach for B2C by looking at other demographic data that would be important in determining their likelihood of buying.
Tracking SEO KPIs
Key performance indicators provide insights into our business. And applying the SEO lens tells you how successful your SEO strategies are and when you need to improve.
Thanks to our expert SEO contributors for sharing their top SEO KPIs. But the conversation isn’t over. There are a lot more SEO KPIs to include. Make sure to get in on the conversation using the comments below.