Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a collection of techniques used in web design and content creation to increase your website’s reach. When done right, your search engine rankings should improve and your website’s traffic can increase. That’s why knowing to what extent your SEO strategy is making a difference is essential.
Fortunately, tracking your website’s metrics and analyzing the trends you find helps you understand how users are interacting with your content. Knowing the most crucial SEO metrics to track — such as page views, bounce rates, and conversions — helps you evaluate which strategies might need to be tweaked and which ones are hitting a home run.
In this article, we’ll share the 11 most important SEO metrics to track. You’ll learn what they mean and how to apply them to your business. We’ll also offer some helpful tips and tools for making sense of the data you collect. Let’s get started!
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Why You Need to Track the Right SEO KPIs
Tracking your SEO data and crunching the numbers so they provide you with insightful information definitely requires an investment of time and often money. However, 63% of marketers actively invest in SEO, as well as tracking the data that results.
Without identifying the right key performance indicator (KPI) for your website, your SEO strategy is “flying blind.” This is because SEO metrics tell you exactly how your campaigns are performing, what keywords are getting a response, and which tactics you can stop wasting time on.
When you track and analyze your SEO metrics appropriately, you’ll have access to specific data points that can inform your decisions and increase your leads, conversions, and more. All you need to get started is to know which numbers matter most.
The 11 Most Important SEO Metrics to Track
Websites and their users create a lot of data. To help you sort through the chaos, we’ll take a look at 11 of the most important metrics to track when evaluating your SEO effort.
1. Keyword Ranking
Keyword rankings indicate where your website appears in search engine results for specific words and phrases. For example, if you have a construction company, a search including the word building may result in your site only appearing on page three of the results. However, if you’ve used more SEO strategies that focus on the keyword contractor, your site should appear in a better position for searches including that term.
The higher your site is ranked for relevant keywords, the more visibility it will have to your audience. This means that in order to improve this metric, you’ll want to do some research to determine which terms and phrases your target audience is searching for.
To start tracking keyword rankings and other related data, there are several SEO tools you can use (check out these 15 awesome options). Google Search Console is the best place to start if you have a small (or nonexistent) budget, while the other products offer scalable pricing depending on your needs.
If you’re looking for a more robust tool, we recommend SEMrush, an SEO suite that’s trusted by 5 million marketers around the world. Its Position Tracking tool makes it easy to see how your site is ranking for target keywords and paid results each day. Plus, you get in-depth insights into your competitors’ top terms.
The good news? We’ve worked out a special two-week trial with SEMrush so you can see if this tool is a good fit for your site!
Backlinks are links to your website from another site. Many backlinks operate like citations, noting where the information came from and referring readers to the original source. Search engines tend to give preference to sites with lots of backlinks, especially if they’re coming from high-quality sources.
Building backlinks can be tricky since you don’t have direct control over who links to your site. Most of the tools out there related to backlinks are focused on tracking existing backlinks and using that information to help you build better content strategies.
For example, Linkody is a backlink-specific tool that delivers a lot of useful features.
This backlink tool enables you to not just track who is linking to you, but also identify and correct any link errors. It can also be connected to Google Analytics.
Just remember that when it comes to getting a backlink, quality matters just as much as quantity. So while it’s good to see the overall number of backlinks going up, you’ll want to make sure that as many of them as possible are coming from relevant and highly-ranked websites.
Related: 13 Simple Ways to Boost Your SEO Performance
3. Organic Search Traffic
Organic search traffic includes visitors who arrive at your website from search engine results rather than through other channels such as social media, paid advertising, or backlinks. One of the easiest ways to track this type of traffic is with Google Analytics.
Organic search is significant because users who find your site this way are typically searching with a specific goal in mind. In fact, 51% of all web traffic comes from organic search, and over 40% of revenue is generated from it.
In other words, growing this metric is one of your best options for improving conversions.
Generating organic traffic requires sharp SEO tactics and effective audience targeting. This means that tracking this metric over time is vital, so you can see immediately what strategies are working and which need to be amended.
4. Top Exit Pages for Organic Traffic
Another common analytic you can track is the last page each user was on right before leaving your website. This is called the “exit page.” Having this information at hand can be just as important as monitoring your overall organic traffic.
This is because the more you understand why users choose to leave your website, the easier it is to convince them to stick around longer. If the top exit pages share certain elements in common, such as a particular type or style of content, this can be a clue that your target audience is looking for something different.
Google Analytics is one of the best tools for tracking your site’s top exit pages. You can easily access an Exit Page report and see a breakdown of all the related data.
Related: The Top 11 Domain Best Practices to Improve Your Search Traffic
5. Breakdown of Organic Traffic from Search Engines
There’s a lot more to discover about your organic traffic data than simply how many users found you through keyword searches. In fact, Google Analytics offers a detailed breakdown of this traffic.
Under the Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels menu, you’ll find keywords displayed in context with a number of other key data points.
This includes how many new users used certain keywords, how long they viewed pages, and whether they generated revenue for your site. Learning about where your organic traffic is coming from and what they’re doing enables you to pinpoint problems to be fixed (such as a high organic traffic rate with few resulting conversions).
6. Page Views Per User
Next up: page views. Page views measure how many times the pages on your site have been viewed in a given period of time. This isn’t the same as your traffic number, since many users may visit more than one page.
This means that page views is a metric best considered in context with other numbers. For example, average page views per session or user can tell you how engaged most visitors are with your site.
You can also look at this metric in combination with the length of time users spend on your pages. This provides valuable insight into how your content is performing. Are people moving from page to page too quickly, or spending time with each new piece of content?
If any of these numbers appear troubling, reviewing your content and revisiting your market research are two steps you can take to create a more engaging experience for your users.
7. Average Time on Page
Tracking your website users’ average time on page can be tricky. This is because there are many factors that influence user behavior. For example, a tab left open but idle in a browser for hours shouldn’t really be counted as part of the user’s “time on page.”
According to CrazyEgg, 15 seconds is the average time users spend on a web page. If you find that your numbers are below this benchmark, it might be worth doing some market research to make sure you’re targeting the right audiences.
Technical issues can also lead to difficulty keeping users on your site. If you suspect this is a problem, you can try checking your page loading speed with a tool like Pingdom.
You can also use one of several optimization tactics for boosting the performance of your website.
8. New vs. Returning Users
Keeping an eye on your number of new and returning users can be a good indicator of how your audience is responding to your marketing and SEO efforts. For example, if you have more returning customers than new users, that likely means you’ve successfully built some trust and loyalty among your visitors.
However, this might also mean that while your existing customer base is steady and reliable, you may need to spend more time and resources on attracting new customers. One way to do this is to revisit your target market research and see if anything has changed, or if new markets have emerged where you can focus your SEO effort.
Alternatively, high numbers of new users are a great sign that your promotional strategies are working. However, if the number of returning visitors is low, you may need to do some work on your site to better capture the attention of those new users.
9. Bounce Rate
Your bounce rate is a metric that represents how many visitors leave your website without engaging in any content at all. A user might land on your home page, look around but not click on anything, and leave. If no other actions are taken or pages visited, that’s considered a “bounce.”
This rate is found by dividing the number of “no activity” users by the number of overall visitors to the website during the same time frame. Alternatively, you can use Google Analytics’ Behavior > Overview report to get a quick view of your site’s bounce rate.
Normal bounce rates vary by industry and website type. As a general rule, however, a bounce rate higher than 50 to 60% may indicate a problem with your site’s content. You can take a look at some of the other metrics we’ve discussed, such as the top exit pages and average time on page, to see what’s causing users to bounce away. Then you can make adjustments to your content and strategies in order to keep them around.
Related: How to Build a Lead-Generating Landing Page with WordPress
10. Page Speed
A slow page loading time can have negative consequences on your overall success online. Whether you’re running a blog or an e-commerce page, no one wants to wait around for your content to fully load.
In fact, one Google study found that a wait time of just one to three seconds increases the probability that users will bounce away from your website by 32%. The golden rule is to keep your page loading times under two seconds, but the lower they are the better.
Fortunately, you can easily optimize your website for speed. A great place to start is by testing your site’s performance with a tool like Pingdom or GTmetrix. These solutions will also help you identify aspects of your site that may be hurting its performance.
Related: 12 Reasons Why Your Website Is Slow and How to Fix Them
11. Conversion Rate
In many cases, conversion rates are the most crucial SEO metric to track.
A conversion happens when a visitor to your site completes an action you’ve prompted them to do. For example, if you have a blog, a conversion might happen when a follower signs up for your newsletter. For businesses, a conversion is often measured as a completed sale.
Whatever your goal might be, conversions are a great way to directly investigate whether your SEO strategy is working. If you’re not happy with your rates, you can use your analytics tools to look closely at your conversion data and see where improvements might be necessary.
In Google Analytics, for example, you can set up “goals” in your dashboard. These are the specific actions that will count as conversions and be tracked. This enables you to focus on your unique objectives and gather a robust and comprehensive set of conversion data.
Related: The Beginner’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
How to Keep Your SEO Momentum Going With Quality Control Checks
It’s necessary to keep in mind that your metrics are a reflection of the work you put into improving your site and growing your audience. This means there are several other elements not directly related to SEO that you’ll still need to keep an eye on.
Here are a few other elements that can have an impact on how well your website performs in search engines:
Crawl errors can mean that your site’s data is not being indexed correctly by search engines.
Pages crawled per day is information available in Google Search Console, and can be used to keep tabs on your site’s health in terms of SEO.
Duplicate titles and descriptions can hurt your rankings in search results, but you can use a tool like Yoast SEO to clean them up.
Local visibility means focusing your SEO strategy on your local area, such as by registering with Google My Business.
Click-Through Rates (CTRs) typically pertain to advertisements or email marketing efforts and are an important measure of the effectiveness of your campaigns.
All of these pieces are key parts of the SEO puzzle. Of course, the quality of your content also has a significant impact on how well your site performs in the rankings, so that’s a factor to keep in mind as well.
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Improving SEO Performance
Now that you have an idea of which metrics are most important for SEO, it should be easier to develop a solid web analytics plan. Your unique goals will also affect what numbers are most relevant to you and your site.
Google Analytics is a great place to start when it comes to navigating key data such as conversions, page speed, user behavior, and more. If you’re using WordPress, it’s even easier to integrate analytics tools right into your admin dashboard, using plugins like Google Site Kit and MonsterInsights.
Here at DreamHost, we offer many reliable WordPress hosting plans. Whether your site is big or small, we’ll handle the hosting so you can focus on your favorite SEO metric to track the data you need to succeed!
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