Defining your SEO KPIs is a fun exercise. The KPIs should be slimmed down and made as concrete as possible in order to give effect. It’s about understanding what information is needed to develop the business. The goals of the KPIs are helping you understand, giving insights and providing a basis for future decisions.
An important part of this is also to understand how these key figures are related to the organisation’s sales funnel. If something goes well, we need to understand why so that we can apply that SEO insight in more places. If something doesn’t go well, we need to know the reason in order to reverse the trend.
Of course, all companies are different and unique and obviously, so are their KPIs. But when it comes to SEO KPIs, there is a general rule to consider before you get started: What product or service is the driver of the company’s business? As an SEO specialist, it’s in our greatest interest that the company’s revenue and visibility increase through our efforts.
Here are five different SEO KPIs that you should monitor.
1. Unique organic sessions on your website
The number of unique organic sessions on your website gives you a direct answer to how many visits you get through search engines. Organic traffic growth is the single most important performance indicator, as it is directly linked to the number of visitors to the site. In other words – it tells you how many people find you organically.
It’s highly relevant to continuously follow organic sessions to see how traffic procurement is developing. It will also be extra interesting when you can compare with the same period last year and, in some cases, last month, as this indicates how your SEO work is actually going.
A rising curve is an indication that you’re taking up more space in your sector and industry, and this is super easy to follow in Google Analytics (GA). Follow these steps in GA to see this: Acquisition, All Traffic, Channels, and Organic Search. There you can then see the number of organic sessions for the time interval you’re interested in.
Another dimension of this KPI is how many of the organic sessions are brand-related and non-brand-related. That is, how many of the visitors used a search phrase containing the name of your brand. If you see an increase in non-brand traffic, it is a positive signal, as it means that you have content on your site that matches the search phrases used by the target audience to find the product or service.
2. Rankings – which positions have your most important keywords in the search results
What positions do your most important keywords have in the search results? Do you appear on the first page of the search result, or does the user need to click further to page two or three? It’s important to look at, as 85% of all clicks that come from Google happen on the first page. The consequence to not be there is, your competitors will take that traffic.
Positions are a clear indicator of how well landing pages have been optimised and are performing – the higher up in the result, the better. But how do you know what keywords are important?
Your most important keywords are the keywords that drive your business forward. For an e-commerce business, for example, it can be a specific product or category, for another, it could be a service. You should strive to have high positions (1-3) on keywords with high search volume. If you’re not visible at all – the first page is a good first goal.
By looking at the company’s Google Search Console, you can get a clearer picture of which keywords drive traffic to the site today. Remember that there are different kinds of keywords. You are probably already well-aware of brand searches. It’s the non-branded keywords with high competition and high commercial intent that will ultimately make an impact! Enhancements to positions should be defined as a first starting point in order to reach other important goals, e.g. more traffic, leads and sales. A good way to evaluate this KPI is through Google Search Console, where you can see how many impressions and clicks the keywords generate. Tools such as Ahrefs, SEMRush, AWR and BrightEdge among others can give you even more data.
Now you’re probably thinking: “how often should I check this?”. The answer is: on a weekly basis, and in some cases, daily. A downturn can be an indication of a technical problem with your website, a competitor that has done something clever – or something else that you’d like to investigate. Having said that – don’t panic if you see minor movements. Over-optimisation can be just as bad as under-optimisation.
3. Leads and conversions from organic traffic
Bang for the buck! My personal favourite. Okay, you know you have organic traffic on the site, but do you know whether the traffic is giving you leads or conversions?
If you succeeded in getting them to the site, then you obviously want to be able to convert them. This is what you need to know if you want to continue investing in SEO. So what do you need to look at? For example, you should check what goals the visitors complete. Do they come via mobile or desktop? Does goal execution differ depending on device usage? Does purchasing behaviour differ in relation to, for example, paid traffic or direct traffic?
An increase in direct leads and conversions means two things:
1. You’re probably attracting more visitors to the site.
2. These visitors carry out the company’s desired action to an increasing extent.
Based on that result there will be follow-up questions. Do your visitors understand what to do when they come to the site, are your CTAs clear, is the content they’re met with reliable and compelling, is it easy for the visitor to complete a purchase or sign up?
You may also follow this KPI via Google Analytics. If your goals are defined in GA, this will be a simple exercise, in Google Analytics, select the following:
1. Conversions, Goals, Overview.
2. When you have the view in front of you, select “+ add segments” and then Organic Traffic.
You can also check this by clicking down as follows:
1. Acquisition, All Traffic, Channels, click Organic search
2. On the far right, you will see “e-commerce: eCommerce conversion rate, number of transactions and revenue.
To sum up, this is an important KPI because it’s so clearly linked to the company’s interest – to increase the customer base and sales.
4. Page speed - how fast or slow does the content load
There are two important things to keep in mind. First, «mobile-first» applies. Today, Google judges you based on mobile – not desktop version. Number two, think about your own behaviour. If a site takes ages to load, you’ll probably turn around and go back to the search results page and try another site. If the site you visit is slow, the chance of you staying there and clicking further on that site decreases dramatically. This reduces conversions. Today, website speed is a ranking factor, so, for this reason, this KPI should also be considered important.
Bonus: if you’re wondering whether your site is “mobile-friendly”, you can test it here.
The page speed gives you insight into the site’s performance. If a website takes a long time to load, it creates a poor experience for your visitors and thus becomes a negative ranking factor.
There are two good ways to keep track of speed. The first is via Google Pagespeed Insights – a free tool. The great thing about this is that you get tips and advice on improvement areas. What is the recommended and ideal loading time? The goal is staying under 2 seconds. If the page takes more than 5 seconds to load, the probability of the visitor leaving is 90%.
The other option or complement is Google Search Console, which has a feature called Speed (experimental) that you will find under Enhancements.
So every time you make changes to the site, whether it is a new page type to be developed or a new gallery of product images to be implemented – keep in mind how this will affect the pages peed. I often think of the emergence of checkout or self-scanning in stores: people don’t want to wait or to queue, and they won’t like it when they visit your site either.
5. Do crawling errors occur?
Googlebot and other search bots must be able to view and access your website content in order to assess its value and content. If your site has crawling errors or problems, it means that the bots will not be able to access your content and thus not be able to present you in the search result. You want to avoid that.
The easiest way to keep track of this is through Google Search Console. There you can get useful data quickly. And you can test a specific URL at any time to find out if everything works as it should. To do this, simply paste the URL into the search box called “Inspect a URL”.
Another way to detect errors on the site is to click on Coverage which you will find under Index in the menu on the right-hand side.
Now that you’re about to define, customise and start following up on your SEO KPIs, the ambition is to see an increase in the long run, month by month, quarter by quarter, year over year. Don’t overwork this process or overload your report with additional KPIs – stick to these five at first. With a successful SEO effort, you’re also likely to see an increase in the number of customers, profits and ROI. Use the power of your tools. How can you simplify their functions and learn how to cherry-pick? Stick to what clearly shows the direction toward achieving your business goals. Fewer and more concrete data is often better, as well as more effective and useful when it comes to monitoring and reporting. It will also be easier to correct the weaknesses on your website.
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