Tracking results for SEO campaigns can be one of the most important things you can do. Understanding if what you are doing is working, or not is crucial to efficient and effective optimisation.
SEO is full of different metrics, but which are the most important? Spend too little time investing in tracking results and your campaigns will suffer, spend too much time worrying about this you may spend too little time working on the campaign itself.
In this series we will consider the question of SEO results in the following parts:
- Overview – SEO Results, and Tracking Them
- What is a ‘good SEO result’?
- How and when do you track SEO results?
For part one we will look specifically why tracking is important and where you need to start, which metrics are most important and what the difference between a SEO goal and a business goal is.
Video: Lily Ray on getting started with SEO performance measurements
Why you need to track your SEO results and where you should start.
It is fundamental in core principles of SEO that tracking is crucial – to optimise you need to understand how results change. Without tracking results you are optimising blindly – which when you consider search engines in the age of machine learning, could be counter-intuitive and at worse pretty damaging.
You need to establish what has happened, and based on which, what you need to do differently. At its core, it doesn’t get much more complicated than that.
Where you start with this process is important, as you need to establish the methods of tracking to ensure you record what you need to. These can be broken down into the following areas:
- Web analytics – Software that will track visitor usage on the website. Google Analytics is effectively the de facto standard for many websites.
- Google (or Bing) Search Console – Services such as Google Search Console (but also offered by other search engines such as Bing, Yandex or Baidu) give you a ‘direct line’ to the search engine and provides technical information about your website and its performance.
- Google trends – You can use this to analyse broader search trends data, for example investigating if the number of people searching for your brand is increasing.
- Page Speed & Mobile Usability Tools – Tools such as Google’s Page Speed Insights or Mobile Friendly test can rank/assess how usable your website is.
- Third-party rank tracking or search visibility tools – There are hundreds of tools out there which track performance of websites within search engines to see ranking positions, the number of backlinks and more besides.
Based on this list you could need to set up 10+ different tools, all of which have their uses, but are not essential for starting out.
For those looking for just the essentials:
- Google Analytics – Ensure this is correctly installed and tracking on your website.
- Google Search Console – Verify your domain (or entire web property)
- Page Speed Insights – Run monthly tests of your key pages
The added bonus is that these three are free and you can set these up now if you are not using them already.
Which metrics are important to track for your SEO campaigns?
Finding a core set of metrics to track your SEO campaigns is essential. There are potentially hundreds of metrics you could select and – whilst none are wrong – many of them could be distracting or overcomplicate the vast majority of campaigns.
The most important metrics will often depend on the nature of the business/campaign, however, the following table contains some of the most universal SEO metrics which are great to start out with.
|Metric||Where to Find it||Why?|
|Organic Traffic||Google Analytics||One of the most direct ways to measure the success of the SEO activity|
|Organic Sales / Goal completions||Google Analytics||Traffic from search engines is good, but understanding whether that traffic is commercially valuable is also crucial|
|Search Query Avg. Position||Google Search Console||Seeing which queries you rank for in Google and where they rank on average is a great way to see whether your performance is getting better or worse|
|Impressions||Google Search Console||Impressions do not equal traffic, but they’re often a leading indicator of traffic to follow. If the amount of times you’re seen in search increases your clicks will follow.|
|Clicks||Google Search Console||Clicks and organic traffic are a similar metric, reported by two different tools and have some subtle differences. What’s important here is that you monitor which pages/queries have the most clicks and whether that increases/decreases over time|
|Click Through Rate||Google Search Console||Click through rate is great to see how many people see and click on your results, taking into account how appealing the listing|
|Largest Contentful Paint||Google Search Console or Google Page Speed Insights||There are many different ways to measure speed (it’s hard to just pick one), but LCP is the best indicator of whether the slowness of your site is likely to put off users or not|
|Keyword ranking||Third party rank tracker||If you’re running more targeted SEO efforts, tracking the positions of your priority keywords in third party software is the most logical|
In this table we have suggested the most likely place to locate these metrics. However, even if you chose to use different software/sources for this data, the comparable metrics will work just fine.
When you start to run your campaigns you will learn which metrics are more useful to you – which indicate success and which help you prioritise your efforts – do not be afraid to change/modify these over time.
Google Analytics, Google Search Console and the other tools mentioned are incredibly versatile and contain so much useful data. As new questions arise, you will have new avenues to explore. The most efficient way to use software like this is to approach with a question first – a purpose, or an objective – and then learn where to find the answers.
Setting and monitoring results is not always reviewing success, sometimes it involves reviewing declines in performance too. Just remember that the most damaging thing to happen to your campaigns is for performance drops to happen without your knowledge. Do not fear negative results, be the expert of your website’s performance.