Search engine optimization (SEO) can often feel haphazard.
Doing keyword research here, discovering high-volume search queries there, running through a blog post optimization checklist and hoping for the best.
But without any clear indication of what you’re doing right, wrong and not enough of, it’s impossible to measure success and feel confident in your SEO efforts.
Enter key performance indicators (KPIs).
KPI.org defines them as “the key indicators of progress toward an intended result.” In other words, KPIs allow you to measure the progress and performance of your website’s SEO, as well as provide direction on what to do next.
But what are the most important KPIs and how do you track them? In this article, we’ll review the top five KPIs in the SEO world to track:
- Organic traffic
- Keyword rankings
- Referring IPs and backlinks
- Bounce rate
- Amount of leads and conversions
Let’s dive in!
Why Tracking Your KPIs Is the Key to SEO Success
KPIs lay the foundation for furthering SEO success. They give you signals of where to improve, what to keep doing and what to stop doing.
Furthermore, many clients directly correlate your online marketing success to your KPIs, one of the most common being keyword rankings. By achieving some impressive KPI figures, you instantly become an expert in the eyes of many webmasters.
Not to mention, great KPI results mean better chances at high rankings on Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
But if you’re using multiple SEO tools, you might be overwhelmed by the number of indicators to track.
So, which KPIs are the most crucial to SEO success, how do you track them and what do they mean?
Top 5 SEO KPIs Every Marketer Should Be Tracking
1. Organic Visits (Number of Visits)
The amount of traffic your website gets is a dead giveaway to the current progress of your SEO efforts.
The point of SEO is to become more visible on the search engines (particularly Google). The more visible you are, the more organic (free, non-advertised) traffic you’ll get.
And an increase in traffic means an increase in people seeing your website — which also means an increase in prospects (and hopefully, sales).
Most KPI tools (such as Google Analytics) report your organic traffic through “sessions” and “page views.”
A “session” begins when someone visits a site and interacts with it, then ends when they leave. However, multiple sessions can be the result of one user. Thus, the number of organic sessions isn’t the total number of people laying eyes on your site.
Growth in organic traffic can be the result of another KPI — keyword rankings. Moving up positions on the SERPs — especially when going from page two to page one — will cause an increase in traffic.
That being said, creating high-quality, fully optimized content is the best way to see growth in this KPI.
Traffic and page views come from more than search results, though. Especially if you promote your site on social media, these channels can be responsible for a large number of sessions.
2. Keyword Rankings
Keyword rankings show where your content is currently positioned on the SERPs. For most online businesses, the goal spot is number one.
This KPI is achieved by optimizing content for specific keywords while meeting the strict standards of Google’s algorithm. As of today, there are more than 200 factors Google takes into account when ranking content, many of which are unknown to even Google’s founders.
Growth in ranking position practically guarantees an increase in organic traffic (KPI #1).
The amount of traffic, though, depends on the volume of the keywords you’re ranking for. High-volume keywords receive a large amount of monthly traffic but are usually harder to rank for, whereas long-tail keywords are generally less competitive but bring less traffic.
If you see drops in your ranking positions, it could be the result of a Google algorithm update or a problem with your technical SEO, such as a slow website.
Of the 200+ ranking factors, website speed is known to be one of them. If you want a shot at a good ranking, you must have an easy-to-navigate, trustworthy and speedy website.
Don’t worry too much about moving down a position or two, though. Positions can fluctuate regularly, so make it a best practice to check your rankings about once a week.
3. Referring IPs and Backlinks
Backlinks are the number of times another website links to yours. Referring IPs are websites that have linked to yours at least once.
Your site can have multiple backlinks, but only a few referring IPs. This is because backlinks are counted each time your site is linked to, whereas referring IPs are only counted once.
For example, if you guest post on a blog five times, you’ll receive five backlinks from this site. But because you only guest posted on one site, you only receive one referring IP.
Referring IPs and backlinks are important to track because they impact your site’s domain authority (DA), citation flow and trust flow.
Domain authority was created by Moz and is a prediction of how well a domain will rank. The more high-quality backlinks a site has, the higher the domain authority.
Citation flow predicts how influential a site is based on the number of referring IPs.
And trust flow, on the other hand, focuses on link quality instead of quantity and increases when backlinks come from trustworthy, quality sources.
The two most popular ways to improve this KPI are by guest posting on other sites and through natural link building (creating quality content others naturally want to link to).
4. Bounce Rate
Bounce rate should be closely monitored by every site because, no matter how great your other KPIs are, a bad bounce rate means less conversions.
A user “bounces” when they visit a website and then leave without taking any action.
The percentage of sessions where this happens is known as the bounce rate and is calculated by the number of action-less sessions divided by the total number of sessions.
So, what’s a good bounce rate? Typically, it’s 40–60%.
Why is bounce rate such as an important KPI to track?
Because Google strives to provide the best solutions to search queries, if users click on your webpage but exit without interacting, it signals to Google that your page wasn’t what they were looking for.
As a result, you could go down a few rankings.
Plus, websites with bad bounce rates tell Google that users didn’t have a good experience on the site and can communicate untrustworthiness.
To improve this KPI, ensure your content is engaging, your website is easy to navigate and it doesn’t take longer than three seconds to load.
5. Amount of Leads and Conversions
Even if you have thousands of people visiting your site per month, if they aren’t becoming leads, those sessions aren’t helpful to your business.
Readers become leads when they take action or come into contact with you.
A few examples of leads include:
- Email subscribers
- Contact form submissions
- Free downloads
- Messages on social media platforms
- Interaction with built-in chatbots on your site
To generate more leads, it’s necessary to include effective calls-to-action throughout your content and on your website.
If you aren’t satisfied with the number of leads you’ve generated, here are a few fixes you can quickly start implementing:
- Ensure your site is easy to navigate
- Include effective calls-to-action in your content
- Create more free content offers
Keeping Track of Your Search Engine Optimization KPIs Makes You a Better, Smarter Marketer
KPIs paint a clear picture of where you are, where you’re heading and what’s holding you back. Without tracking and improving them, your SEO efforts risk becoming unprofitable, unproductive and stagnant.
By understanding these key performance indicators, you can do more of what you’re doing right and fix what you’re doing wrong.
Of course, there are many more KPIs to track. The more KPIs you measure, the more accurate understanding you have of your current SEO success.
Ultimately, keeping track of KPIs paves the path toward growth-focused, rewarding progress — whether that be with higher keyword rankings, more lead generations, a better bounce rate or anything in between.