The world of SEO is ever-evolving and always changing. When a new SEO metric arrives on the scene, it’s understandable to feel uneasy about using it. The last thing you want to do is spend weeks or months building content designed around specific metrics only to find you’ve achieved zero results and wasted your time.
While new metrics can be scary, we can all agree you have to have a way to track your results. If not, there is no way to evaluate if what you’re doing is working. While you may feel comfortable using one metric, such as keyword ranking, over another, one single metric can not describe your results as a whole.
If you want to be successful, you have to track multiple metrics. Metrics, also referred to as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), are hard numbers obtained from your website data. This data comes to you directly through analytics tools such as Google Analytics.
The topic of SEO metrics is very detailed. I want to make sure I give you all the insights necessary to be successful in SEO so this post is Part 1 of 2. Today, I’m going to discuss 7 of the 14 most important SEO metrics, how to use them and why they matter. Next week, I’ll discuss the other 7 to give you a complete guide to SEO success. It’ll then be your job to determine which, if not all, you choose to incorporate into your tracking.
One quick note before we begin, these are not exact measurements of your success. Metrics are simply indications used to evaluate your site’s health and growth.
1) Keyword Rankings: Where is your traffic coming from?
Keyword rankings are a great way to measure specific terms you’re trying to rank for. When you measure keyword rankings, you can determine if you’re using the right keywords to target your audience and how your site ranks among your competition.
While traffic from keywords only represents about 9% of your potential traffic, you can still learn a great deal from measuring keyword rankings. You can learn:
⦁ If you’re targeting the right keywords: If your blog posts aren’t ranking for their target keywords, you need to consider using other, less competitive keywords.
⦁ If you’re growing over time: As you become a more trusted site and gain backlinks, your keywords should improve in rank. This growth may be slow but you should see gradual improvement. If not, you need to reconsider your SEO plan.
When you’re ready to begin tracking keywords, select 1 to 5 keywords for each blog post or important page on your site. Select a tool such as Pro Rank Tracker (which is free) and follow the steps for adding and tracking keywords. You should continuously add new keywords to track and export your results to see how you’re doing.
2) Links: Who is linking to your site and why does it matter?
Backlinks, which are basically any link received by a web page from a web page, are important factors in rankings and will continue to be in the future. One of the ways to grow your site is to acquire backlinks. You can measure your success with backlinks by measuring both the quantity and quality of the backlinks you acquire.
Two of the most popular backlink trackers are Ahrefs and MajesticSEO. Both start with free options but eventually require you to upgrade. Let’s look at an example from Ahrefs.
You start by putting your site URL into the search bar. Once you’ve clicked search, you’ll see a graph that shows the number of backlinks and linking root domains. The linking root domains should be more than the backlinks and the graph should trend upwards. Next, you can use the navigation menu to select “Inbound Links” and then “New”. This will show the new links to your domain. You can see who has linked to your site and visit those pages.
All link-tracking services are built on a system of scores. The higher the score, the better the quality of link. When you use one of the backlink trackers mentioned above, you will receive these results. Similar to the rest of the results, you should monitor and record these frequently.
Tracking backlinks is important. When you do this regularly, you’re able to evaluate the cost of links and your link-building strategies and tactics. You’re also able to see the success of your link-building tactics and find potential relationships. If someone links to your content frequently, it’s a great opportunity for you to send them an email and begin building a relationship.
3) Organic Search Traffic: How are people finding your site?
Organic search traffic is something we all strive for in SEO and it is another one of the metrics you should be tracking to measure your success. Like the other metrics we discussed, you should track it monthly and make sure it’s increasing. Seasonal changes can affect traffic so when you’re measuring this, consider searching over the course of a few months.
In order to track organic search traffic, open Google Analytics for your site and go to “Audience Overview”. A graph will appear and show your traffic for the last 30 days (note: you can adjust it to make the time period longer). Next, click on the “Add Segment” button and add “Organic Traffic”. Once you do this, you’ll be able to see your organic traffic as well as your overall traffic. You can even break down your search traffic by specific search engines and the traffic by day.
4) Time Spent Per Page: How long do users spend on each page?
Another metric to consider is the time people spend on your page. When they land on your page do they stick around because they’re interested or immediately leave? Your goal should be to provide information that will make readers stay, which will help improve your page ranking.
You can uncover this information in Google Analytics. Simply go to “Behavior”, then “Overview” and in the bottom right hand corner, click “View Full Report”. This will show you a full report outlining traffic volume. The column you’ll want to look for is the “Avg. Time on Page” column. You have the option to export these results into a spreadsheet, which will allow you to further analyze them.
Like the other metrics, record your results and monitor them over time. When you improve your content, check your results again and see if there has been an increase in volume.
5) Pages per Session: How much of your site do users explore?
When a visitor is on your site, you not only want them to read the content that led them there, you want them to stick around and visit other pages. You can track this using Google Analytics.
In the “Audience Overview” dashboard, it shows “Pages/Session”. If you just started your blog or site, it’s understandable to have a lower number. However, the goal is to get this number to increase over time. Record the initial number and the date you checked it, improve your content and recheck the data.
6) Return Rate: Are users returning?
If you’re not trying to create engaging content, you’re doing something seriously wrong. Engaging content is the reason people return to your site. If you’re content is sub-par, people won’t return and you’ll have missed out on an opportunity to add them to your email subscription and form a relationship with them. You want visitors to return.
Again, using Google Analytics, on the main screen of the “Audience Overview” in the bottom right is a graph. The graph identifies the new to returning visitor ratio. When you hover your mouse over the graph, you can see the actual number of visitors.
You should record these numbers at least once a month with your goal being to see an increase in both categories. Returning visitors are extremely valuable. If they’re returning, they know you, they trust you and they are more likely to buy from you.
7) Bounce Rate: Why do visitors leave so soon?
Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who go to your website and them immediately leave after viewing only one page. Google wants users to be able to access the correct information when they search so if people click on your site and continuously don’t find the results they’re looking for; your ranking will drop.
It’s important to view the bounce rate for each page on your site. You can once again do this in Google Analytics, under “Behavior”, click” Overview”. At the bottom right hand corner, click “View Full Report”. The report will have a column specifically dedicated to bounce rates. It’s important to note that when looking at bounce rates, a big sample size is important.
The bounce rate will also depend on the topic. If someone searched a straight-forward question such as, “how many inches are in a foot?” and you provided the short, simple answer, you’ll have a higher bounce rate. People will get the answer they need and move on. If it’s a more open-ended question or topic, you want your bounce rate to be below 50%. Like the other metrics, monitor your bounce rate monthly and record the changes.
To Be Continued…
Finding the right metrics for SEO success is a comprehensive topic and I want to be sure to explain each metric in detail. Join me next week as I discuss 7 more of the most important metrics for SEO success.
In the mean time, try incorporating the metrics above into your SEO strategies. Leave me a comment and let me known what metrics work particularly well for you and why?