Key Performance Indicators for SEO

Some time ago, SEO wasn’t a very well-known term outside the industry, even though it had been in use since the 1990’s. The public at large still thinks of SEO as simply keyword rankings. But times are changing.

In the past two years traditional SEO has taken hit after hit. Google updates like Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and (not provided) have all made SEO work more complicated. The old style of SEO is becoming a thing of the past. The problem isn’t that organic SERP rankings are less effective. It’s that by focusing on just SERP rankings for a few keywords, you’re seriously undervaluing your work.

Many industry pundits have proposed additionally focusing on several Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are also meaningful. These are some metrics that really matter, but what do they mean to a small or medium sized business?

So let’s review KPI’s and why they are important.

KPIs are tied directly to a company’s business objectives. With that in mind, you should start by defining your objectives. For news or blog websites it might be to generate ad revenue, but for most SMBs it’s to increase sales. With an ecommerce business, your website can be tied directly to your bottom line with precision. But with many local small businesses the point of sale is offline. In these cases, the goal is lead generation.

Once you have defined the objectives, it’s time to turn them into measurable, achievable goals. So if your objective is to generate more sales leads, your goal might be to increase calls by 30% over the next quarter. Below are the goal categories offered by Google Analytics.

Goal Types

  • Revenue (completed purchase, payment, etc.)
  • Acquisition (created an account, sign up for emails, updates, etc.)
  • Inquiry (submitted contact form, viewed directions, downloaded brochure, etc.)
  • Engagement (shared to social network, emailed, subscription to newsletter, etc.)

Himanshu Sharma took this a step further breaking KPI’s into “Internal” & “External” in his excellent guide on KPIs. Internal KPIs are usually included in most SEO reports. It’s a good way to assess the effectiveness of your strategy, but it’s not necessarily tied to the business’s goals.

External KPIs

External KPIs impact the business’ primary goals. Here are just a few examples:

  1. Conversion Rate (a prospect becomes a customer)
  2. Revenue
  3. Goal Completions
  4. Average Order Value

Beyond this you can start talking about sales, profits, customer retention and other important datasets. Understanding what these KPIs represent will help align your financial objectives to SEO in a way that makes more sense. Once you have established your goals, you can start thinking about how to best achieve them through your SEO practices.

Internal KPIs

SEO tends to focus on internal KPIs. These may not necessarily indicate an important goal for the business, but they are things we can use to gauge whether our tactics are having the impact we want them to.

Impression Data:
Impression data from Search Console shows you hundreds, or thousands of keywords you’re appearing in results for that you might not even be aware of. This can even include personalized results, which are impossible to view through standard rank check methods.

Organic search traffic is typically the first thing we look at to measure performance. It’s a good way to demonstrate the value of the keywords you’re optimized for.

Content Consumption
Metrics like pageviews and average time on site/page are great for quantifying how effective your blogs, FAQs and article sections are at keeping users interested.

KPI’s show ROI to your customers and keep you focused on efforts that count. When you connect SEO’s goal goals with your business’ goals, you demonstrate the real value of SEO in a way that rankings alone can’t. That’s the real value of SEO, and the best way to look at your campaign performance outside of simply rankings.