4 handy metrics for organic search & SEO in 2015
If you have been participating in digital marketing for long enough, you are well aware of the various metrics and performance indicators that you can use to measure the success of your campaigns. From an Organic perspective alone, there are a plethora of metrics and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that you can report on to show the progress of your campaign. In a slightly simplified manner there are really three areas of measurement that directly measure organic search/SEO performance:
- Traffic – or more importantly how people arrived on your website. SEO is about driving traffic to your web properties. (#omg)
- Engagement – that is how people are interacting with your content after arriving on the site.
- Conversion/Goals – consider this the “endgame” that is the action that you want the user to take after and upon visiting your website? Are you looking for them to register for a newsletter, make a purchase, call a call center or download a PDF?
For those users of Google Analytics, Google refers to these three segments as Acquisition, Behavior and Conversions. In a recent post, Analytics Guru, Avinash Kaushik discussed the core elements of the Digital Analytics Ecosystem where he defined KPIs as a “special type of metric”:
“A KPI is a metric that helps you understand how you are doing against your objectives”.
So to define a true KPI you need to know what your objectives are. Ultimately the KPIs you set should measure against your business objectives. Avinash refers to some key metrics as the “primitive six” consisting of: page views, revenue, time on site, % of search traffic, # of likes, # of installs”. He states that we should not turn these metrics into KPIs “…Because none of these six metrics incentivize optimal behavior or business outcomes”. I respectfully disagree with this when it comes to Organic Search, because again at the core, organic search and SEO is about driving traffic (and more importantly driving qualified traffic) to a web property. Metrics such as page views are important if for example you are trying to measure the number of eyeballs on your site for the purposes of generating advertising revenue. So a metric like pageviews becomes a key measurement piece. Herein lies the problem with analytics, quite often you can make the numbers say anything that you want. You are only as good as your data right? The data can be sliced and diced a number of different ways and can be open to interpretation. That said, there are still some fundamental metrics that you should be monitoring.
Four metrics that are still important for organic search & SEO in 2015
It is worth mentioning that the need to establish baselines is important for measuring your SEO campaigns. You need to be able to measure against something. If you lack the accuracy of historical data, now is the time to fix that issue and is time to establish a baseline. While some of these items may seem simple in nature, they still provide a level of insight that is critical for measuring the success of your SEO efforts.
Organic Sessions / Traffic – at the heart of SEO campaign is traffic. This is one of the few metrics that can directly show cause and effect if recommendations have been properly implemented and are live on your site. As a metric for monitoring the success of your SEO campaign, knowing how much traffic is coming from organic (relative to other channels) is critical. In addition to gaining insight to how organic is performing relative to other channels, you can also gain insight into which pages are performing best from a traffic perspective. This can help you redefine your content strategy so that you are putting effort in content marketing in topics/areas that you know will drive results and traffic.
Tip: For those using Google Analytics, use the Acquisition > Channels > Organic > Landing Page report to gain insight into page performance of your website. Compare date ranges to see the impact of seasonality or industry events on specific pages. Use this data to improve or enhance your existing content efforts.
Conversion Rate – especially for ecommerce sites, setting up goals and understanding the percentage of visits/sessions that translated into an e-commerce transaction is critical. This is one of those “special metrics” that Kaushik refers to that should actually become a KPI to measure against business objectives. Setting up goals in GA, allows you to measure how often users complete a specific action as a result of visiting your website. More on setting up goals in Google Analytics.
Keyword Level Metrics – yes I get that Google and the other engines are not sharing this data as they once were, but what I am referring to here may shock many. I am referring to keyword ranking metrics. Yes I know that focusing on keyword rankings has always been somewhat taboo, but understanding your visibility on the SERP is something that you can use to measure the success of your optimization efforts. For example, establishing baselines and measuring against them in terms of the following metrics can again help communicate the cause and effect of the SEO efforts that are happening:
- # of keywords ranking on page one
- # of keywords ranking on pages 1-3
- Average rank of your keywords
Keyword Level metrics can highlight when changes were made to the website as rank trends will reflect the impact as either positive, negative or no change.
Content Engagement Metrics – ok so there are really three fundamental metrics that I am referring to here which are Page Views, Time Spent and Bounce Rate. These metrics let you know which content or what type of content that your audience is consuming when arriving on your site. Having a deeper understanding of how people interact with your content can help you focus on which areas of the site might need attention. If you have high bounce rate for example, is that a result of a poor page with a lack of engaging content or are people simply finding what they need and are “bouncing” from the site? Are your blog posts receiving a lot of page views? If not, then perhaps consider better optimizing your posts or identifying more engaging topics to communicate. Or perhaps your content promotion strategy needs work?
In 2015, SEO should still be part of your core digital strategy. While it has changed dramatically in recent years, organic search and being able to measure your organic campaigns can help tell the story as to the digital success or lack-there-of that you may be experiencing. In late 2013, Avinash Kaushik created a “Digital Marketing: Ladder of Awesomeness/Sustainable Success”. At the core of the foundational bottom rung on the ladder was SEO. The first thing you need to do is have a well optimized website with great content. The next step in the ladder of digital success is to “create the world’s greatest mobile experience”. These foundational steps have never been more important than now.
Being able to measure the success of your SEO campaign only shapes part of the story. SEO is but one channel that many businesses use to generate revenue, to be successful and remain competitive. How well you communicate that success story is, in part, dependent on how you define and measure your success metrics and KPIs.