“You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” said the great father of business management, Peter Drucker.
Truer words were never said. No matter your industry or role, tracking SEO KPIs, analytics, and data is a crucial component to success.
They tell you whether your efforts in marketing, sales, UX, and customer service are working effectively, how you can improve your strategies, what your competitors are doing, and other external influences on the market.
But which are the best KPIs to measure? And how do you ensure your analytics data is actionable? We turn to experts in search engine marketing to share their thoughts on evaluating SEO KPIs.
Keep reading to uncover their top 20 SEO KPIs tracking tips.
Table of Contents
1. Conversion rates are king
That’s according to Vinny La Barbera, founder and CEO of imForza, a full-service agency based out of El Segundo, CA. He says: “Conversion rate and top mediums for conversions tell you the most and affect your company’s bottom line more than anything else.
“You can set up specific alerts on these meaningful KPIs so that you’re notified whenever there’s any type of unusual data. This helps you recognize and spot trends almost before they happen and plan for future ones more proactively.”
2. Track keyword ranking positions
After conversions, freelance search engine optimization consultant, Brett Bastello focuses on monitoring keyword ranking positions. He explains why:
“I like to track keyword ranking positions, both the number of keywords ranking and at what position. This is important because, based off historical conversion rate data from the client, we are about to loosely gauge how much profit or loss is obtainable with a shift in ranking positions.”
3. Bounce rates help you improve your pages
Bounce rate is the percentage of people who leave your web page rather than stick around to view other pages on your website.
Rebecca Stickle of WebpageFX advises how measuring bounce rates “provides a great opportunity to go back and revise a web page to keep more people on your site, especially if it has high amounts of traffic as well as a high bounce rate.”
Curtis Boyd, CEO and founder of Future Solutions Media, also advocates measuring bounce rates: “It really shows you whether your web page’s presentation is off. Depending on which keyword or paid source brought visitors to the page, their expectations are always different.
Looking at bounce rate, you can effectively tailor landing pages and your service offering pages in hopes of enhancing sales conversion goals.”
4. Drive organic traffic using keywords
Anna Daugherty, product marketing manager at Sincro, shares her SEO strategy for raising organic traffic via relevant content:
“I check AuthorityLabs to see where my chosen keywords are ranking. These rankings help me determine which keywords need more attention through content or outreach.”
“If I want more organic traffic for a certain search query, I will devise a content marketing plan for that keyword. This involves establishing a few pieces of content around that keyword (blog posts, whitepapers, eBooks, etc.), creating those pieces, publishing them over a few weeks’ time, and performing outreach and distribution.”
5. Tracking exit percentage improves sales
Exit percentage is the number of page views divided by the number of exits on a page. Here’s why (and how) Aaron Watters, CEO of Leadhub, tracks this KPI:
“If the exit percentage is higher on one page than on others, that tells us that the UX is lacking. We then take action by making front-end changes designed to keep the user on the website longer and promote sales.
“You can improve exit percentages by adding similar products on the page, restructuring the layout, and adding information you feel is more relevant to the prospective buyer.”
6. Monitoring website traffic reveals the overall health of your SEO
“Monitoring website traffic helps you determine if there’s something drastically wrong with the website, such as the server going down,” says Brian Thackson, content writer at WebMechanix.
“The next most important marketing KPI to monitor is leads. This lets you know if our SEO efforts are actually creating revenue for the client (hint: they want to know that too!). You also want to determine if there is something you did recently that is really paying off and performing well. If you can uncover this, it’ll help drive strategy in the future.”
7. Three core KPIs are needed to tell the whole story of SEO results
Tim Lavelle of U.S Interactive Media identifies these KPIs as Keyword Rankings, Organic Traffic Statistics, and Organic Conversation Rates. He explains these in detail below:
“SEO MUST be guided by comprehensive keyword research and a specific keyword targeting strategy. Keyword rankings must be tracked for each of the terms identified as being relevant to the campaign. Without tracking keyword rankings, it’s impossible to tell how well SEO is working, especially since Google Analytics’ introduction of organic keyword encryption.
He concludes that: “At the end of the day, SEO is not about rankings or visits, it’s about revenue. SEO campaigns that aren’t effectively measuring organic conversions (including dollar-pegged conversions) can’t prove that they’re providing positive SEO ROI.
What do C-level executives want to get out of their SEO reports? Simple: ROI (Profit/Cost).”
8. Monitor rankings weekly to grow authority and attract new leads
“Competitors run campaigns and improve their sites regularly,” explains Randy Milanovic, entrepreneur, author, and blogger of online marketing, SEO, and social engagement. “We also know that Google and Bing update their Algorithms constantly. And, people change their search patterns.”
“As a result, no matter how well a site ranked yesterday, nothing will keep it top search more easily than maintaining activity and monitoring rankings weekly. To achieve this, keep an eye on keyword rankings, tweak content to leverage changing search patterns, and continuously deploy new blogs and offers on topic to grow authority and attract new prospects.”
9. Create SEO goals based on what you need to accomplish
“If an SEO metric is not attached to an immediate marketing or business goal, there’s no point wasting hours looking at analytics,” says Josh Ledgard of KickoffLabs. “Tools like KISSmetrics and Google Analytics are good for deep dives, but using a KPI dashboard, daily updates, or system alerts can be a time-saver and help make your most important metrics more accessible to you and your team.”
While Rebecca Stickler, content writer at WebpageFX, advises how, “These organizational goals will depend on your business model (for example, eCommerce sites should focus on sales KPIs, while B2B companies should focus on new leads), but should give you a clear picture of how well your site is performing overall.”
Marcus Miller, head of search and digital marketing at Bowler Hat, concurs: “If you understand your business’ goals and ensure you’re reporting on all major and micro goals in Google Analytics, you can ensure you have the data to analyze across each step of the buying cycle.”
10. Make KPI tracking and measuring goals simple
“Tracking and measuring goals should stay as simple as it needs to be,” urges Rob Watson, digital marketing consultant at Click to Sale.
He explains this further: “If you’re a relatively low-traffic site, there is probably no point in creating complicated multi-step funnels, which don’t yield much data. For example, on a freelance consultant’s site, you could simply measure how many people come to the contact page and how many of those convert into inquiries.
Whereas on an established e-commerce site with a lot of traffic, you would need more in-depth analysis to break down the steps in the sales process and see where people are dropping out.”
11. Set up alerts to spot issues as they arrive
“Nothing’s worse than reading the analytics of a site and discovering an issue that began occurring some time ago,” says Orun Bhulyan, founder at Agency Undone. “Weeks or even months go by with many issues lurking in the background, undiscovered. Unfortunately, this is the norm in most companies’ analytics suites.
“This can be resolved by setting up alerts. Google Analytics alerts can be triggered when a particular KPI changes drastically and unexpectedly. And the best part is you can configure these alerts to send to emails, notifying you of changes in real-time.”
12. Data isn’t always immediately actionable
Rather, “data highlights something that needs investigating, and then an action emerges from that,” says Joel Stein, search and media manager at award-winning Manchester agency Code Computerlove.
“For example, if the bounce rate has suddenly increased on a specific page, I’d be testing the load speed of the page and looking for other potential issues that could have caused this.
“Reporting isn’t just about churning out some numbers – it’s about spotting data insights and opportunities for improvement, learning from successes, and mapping out a list of actions off the back of this.”
13. It’s not always necessary to track KPIs on a daily basis
A lot of SEO strategists follow daily metrics like a hawk. But is this always wise?
James Rice, head of SEO at Picked says, “doing so might cause you to panic or make a knee-jerk reaction, and it’s important to remember that SEO is at heart about investment for medium-to-long-term performance.
“Weekly reporting is fine (though I’d say monthly is best), and on that basis, you should check organic traffic by landing page, as well as the contribution of organic traffic to the bottom line. Those two key metrics (growth and profit) are ultimately the only ones that will always be under scrutiny, so focus on them above all else.”
14. Compare SEO campaign data month vs. month presents a bigger picture
“You get a better picture of the ongoing status of the sites SEO performance,” advises Sam Raife, offsite strategy manager at Blueclaw, a search marketing agency. He continues, “this way you can monitor the increase of traffic, revenue and rankings as the campaign is being delivered.
“Any changes you need to make can be identified with enough time to make small but positive increases. This might be something small like adjusting the target niche slightly or focusing on specific products because they are performing better.
Anything less than a month on month comparison and you run the risk of reading too quickly into data that is being affected by external factors you can’t control”
15. Leverage A/B testing to action data
“Actionable analytics often begins with an action. These often take the form of A/B testing,” explains Andrew Nevelos, department head of SEO at WebMD.
Andrew expands on how he uses A/B testing: “We use tools such as Optimizely to randomly serve two different versions of the page. We are always trying to draw a correlation or better yet causation between the action we have taken or not taken and a change in the KPIs we monitor.
The analytics should be a tool to test and guide your optimization effort rather than stand-alone source information.”
16. Ensure Google Analytics is configured properly
This tip comes from Tim Lavelle, director of SEO & social media at US Interactive Media.
He expands: “You need to make sure that Google Analytics is collecting data from every page on the site and that you’re collecting the right types of data using things like: advanced segments to separate out traffic to certain pages from certain; filters to remove internal traffic; annotations to mark when major SEO updates are rolled out to the site; event tracking and specific goals to measure conversion behaviors at the granular level (clicks on specific buttons, form submissions, cart abandonment, purchases, etc.).”
17. Keep tabs on your competitors through the competitor rankings KPI
Knowing how your competitors’ sites and blogs are ranking helps you spot trends, assess the market, and sharpen your competitive edge. Dan Shure, co-owner of Evolving SEO, elaborates:
“We like to keep an eye on how competitors are doing in search. If our client slips, but competitors slip as well, we know maybe it’s turbulence in that keywords space in general. If we see competitors slowly gaining in the ranks, it can alert us to something they are doing we may want to know about and stay on top of.”
18. Generate a total “link power” rather than count links for content
“We don’t count the number of links because we’ve found that simply getting links doesn’t correlate well with rank increases,” advises Niaw de Leon, senior marketing lead and SEO specialist at Azeus Convene.
She continues: “Instead, we came up with a total “link power” for the backlinks we generate. That way, even if we only built one link but with high authority, then we get a high link power, which means that our link building is in a healthy state.”
19. Start with a Google search when looking at the customer journey
Martin Milanov, marketing manager at Tavex Gold&Exchange, focuses on measuring core keywords, keyword phrases performance measurement, visitor bounce rate per channel, and time on page. When it comes to the customer journey, he advises how:
”Starting with a Google Search ensures you can provide relevant high-quality content and unique business proposition for each stack of keywords. This will not only provide better user experiences, but it is the main way (par quality backlinks) to achieve higher trust, and by proxy, ranking in SERPs.”
20. Use analytics to make data actionable
“Creating insights from analytics is key to changing data so it has context and meaning,” informs Mae Demdam, vice president of marketing strategy at Digital Edge.
She gives the following example: “If the bounce rate is high on a particular landing page with little to no content, analyze the landing page and see where continuous improvements can be made. Create more content, add images or interesting information, and monitor that landing page in analytics to watch for improvements.”
We hope these KPI and data analytics tips have inspired you to make better use of your data and level up your SEO and marketing efforts. But we’re curious – can you add to the list? If you’re up for the challenge, comment with your tip below!