Performance tracking is a crucial part of any SEO strategy, as tracking gives you valuable insights into what’s working and what isn’t. The right insights will help you tweak and perfect your strategy over time.
In this article, we’ll get into the details of monitoring your SEO campaign efficiently, starting with the basics - understanding everything the term SEO performance covers.
What is SEO performance?
SEO performance refers to the effectiveness of your search engine optimization (SEO) activities that aim to improve the ranking of your page on search engine results pages (SERPs) and the volume of organic traffic you get.
But it would be oversimplifying to say that’s all there is to it.
Numerous factors contribute to your SEO success, and you should measure and monitor each of them to evaluate whether you are hitting the marks.
These measurable indicators of particular data tied to your SEO results are known as metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs). You can think of them as the lighthouse that steers your ship in the right direction.
In addition to SERP ranking and organic traffic, crawlability, keyword rankings, visibility, click-through rate (CTR), conversion and bounce rates, and page speed are important SEO metrics to monitor. I will go back to these in greater detail when we talk about the 12 SEO metrics to track performance.
Since most KPIs can be measured and tracked quite accurately and over any given period of time, you can use them to identify opportunities for improvement. With that, KPIs can help you decide your next SEO step.
Why you should track your SEO efforts
Setting up and implementing a search engine optimization strategy is a laborious process; even when done right, it takes a while to yield results. Let’s explain this with an example.
Suppose that the wheels of your SEO strategy have been set in motion:
- You have identified clear SEO goals in line with your niche audience’s search intent and your business objectives;
- You have created a good amount of insightful and exciting content in line with your content strategy; and
- You have built a network of quality backlinks and internal links.
Still, your page rank and return on investment (ROI) are not what you initially expected.
Don’t worry - that does not mean your SEO strategy is flawed, but it may need a gentle nudge in the right direction.
You'll need data and real numbers to know what action to take to fine-tune your strategy. This is where SEO performance monitoring comes in.
Note that Google accounts for about 92% of the search engine market. Because of this and the fact that SEO aims to improve your website's ranking on search engine result pages (SERPs), all SEO efforts are efforts to optimize your content for Google's algorithm.
However, Google’s algorithm is subjected to constant changes and updates. SEO tactics that worked wonders just a week ago might hurt your rating this week if the algorithm changes. Tracking your SEO performance gives you an opportunity to identify such changes and take immediate action to ensure you reach your ultimate goal.
Here are a few additional examples of the benefits you’ll reap with SEO tracking:
- Monitoring your page’s/site’s ranking will help you track your performance at all times and make the necessary adjustments to stay on top of the latest SEO trends. It can help you ensure your page/site has the desired search visibility on search engine result pages.
- Monitoring which keywords you rank for is also vital for your site’s performance. Knowing your audience’s search intent and choosing the right keywords is just the beginning. You need to regularly check your keywords rankings to see if you're gaining or losing position on SERPs. Then you can make necessary adjustments to your keywords to ensure you stay ahead of the competition. For more info on the importance of keyword ranking monitoring, read How to monitor SEO Performance with metrics that matter.
- Content creation is a very competitive business, so monitoring your content score is another helpful performance indicator if you want to be ahead of the game. You may already have quality content that can further benefit from SEO. If that is the case, check out the content score feature in Dashword.
The quantity of tracked metrics in SEO is separate from quality results. Research by Moz shows that focusing on fewer yet highly relevant performance indicators over a prolonged period yields better results.
However, advances in the SEO field have contributed to a mind-boggling number of trackable SEO performance indicators. Because of this, the first step is determining which metrics are crucial to your site’s performance goals.
Once you have a clear idea, you need to set your trackers and regularly monitor, compare, and improve where necessary.
To help you find the right SEO performance indicators for your business, we’ll go over the 12 most relevant SEO KPIs.
The 12 SEO metrics to track performance
When monitoring your site’s performance, you want to pay attention to the following groups of important metrics:
These metrics influence how well your page will do among organic search results and, consequently, its visibility and profitability.
So, let’s see what each of these metrics indicates and how to improve them.
Organic search metrics
Since SEO is about organically ranking high on SERPs, we’ll start our list with important metrics related to organic search.
Crawlability measures how accessible your page is to search engines. You might already know this, but search engines find pages with the help of web crawlers (also known as spiders or spider bots). These bots are automated programs that continuously “read” through the web’s content to discover and index new pages.
As Google explains: “Crawlers look at web pages and follow links on those pages, much like you would if you were browsing content on the web. They go from link to link and bring data about those webpages back to Google’s servers.”
Since crawlability is one of the KPIs crucial to your website’s SEO, make sure to:
- Remove broken links. It’s important for crawlability that your page has no broken links or other dead ends. This makes the page easily crawlable by bots and, thus, increases its ranking.
- Submit a sitemap. To make your website’s content easily accessible to Google, you could also submit a sitemap. A sitemap is a file in the root folder of your domain containing direct links to every page on your site. These links are forwarded to Google's search engine through Google Search Console, making any updates to your site readily available to crawlers.
- Make efforts to improve your site’s structure. The structure of your site is also crucial for good crawlability. The pages on your site should be connected with internal links because a good internal link network allows bots to swiftly find pages that are not easily accessible just from your site’s structure.
- Improve your backlink profile. Backlinks (links leading to your site from other websites) are one of the biggest ranking factors regarding domain authority. Ensure you have many backlinks from reliable, authoritative websites with high SERP rankings. We will come back to this in Domain backlinks.
Other things you could do to enhance the crawlability of your site are to continually update and create new content, avoid duplicate content, and quicken your page’s loading time.
There’s also the possibility of blocking web crawlers’ access to your content if you have created a page with restricted public access. However, pages with restricted access are out of the scope of this article. Our main goal is to help you improve your SEO performance and drive even more traffic to your website, which brings us to, possibly, the most important SEO metric: organic traffic.
Organic traffic, i.e., website traffic coming from organic, unpaid search results, is a vital metric, if not the ultimate goal of SEO.
Keeping a close eye on organic traffic is a good way to measure the impact of your SEO strategy, as this reflects the number of site visitors that have reached your site using a search query and not through a backlink or by clicking on an ad.
You can use SEO monitoring tools to gain organic traffic insights and understand which aspects of your website’s SEO can be improved. Most tools can help you track a variety of SEO KPIs related to organic traffic, such as:
- Organic search traffic volume
- Traffic sources
- Keyword performance
- Number of visitors
- Bounce rate
- Average pageviews
- Pages per session
- Session duration
- Average time on page
- Device source
- Interactions per visit
- Exit pages, and many more.
Knowing the keywords related to your business and industry that web users most commonly use in search queries is essential for showing your content to those interested in it.
Keywords are what you use to tell Google’s algorithm what your page is about so that the algorithm can link it to the correct search queries. Choosing good target keywords is key.
Once you have done that, tracking your keyword rankings to see how your content performs is the best way to confirm that you’re targeting the right keywords.
Keyword rankings represent your page’s position in SERPs for a specific keyword query. The same page can rank for multiple relevant keywords and phrases, and search results change according to what Google considers relevant for a specific search keyword or phrase.
Monitoring your keyword rankings can help you to:
- Identify keywords or phrases with high search volumes and rank your page(s) for these specific keywords or phrases;
- Identify a drop in the traffic or ranking fluctuations that you can fix by using keywords or phrases with higher ranking;
- Understand your competitors’ keywords ranking and use this insight to tune your content and improve your rankings.
A keyword tool can help you with content quality by letting you see which content is performing the best and which is the worst.
SEO visibility indicates how visible your webpage or website is in the organic search results on the SERPs. This is an index that makes it possible to identify and analyze potential issues and find ways to remedy them.
An SEO visibility score uses your rankings to calculate your website’s visibility in Google’s search results.
The visibility score is a ranking KPI calculated per keyword for keywords ranking in the top 30 search engine results. This metric reflects your website’s progress in search results, considering all used keywords and search engines.
A higher visibility score indicates better website visibility. A low visibility score means that you might need to have another look at your:
- target keyword ranking positions;
- estimated number of impressions, and
- estimated clickthrough rate (CTR) for each keyword.
By improving your page’s visibility score, you move closer to having a higher click-through rate and more site traffic.
The next thing to pay attention to when monitoring your SEO impact is engagement metrics. These metrics give you insight into web users’ behavior once they have visited your page/site.
Click-through rate (CTR)
Your clickthrough rate (CTR) refers to the percentage of users who visit your page after finding it in Google search results. It is calculated as the number of clicks divided by the number of impressions multiplied by a hundred. For example, if 50 searchers typed in a query in Google’s search bar and saw your page, but only ten clicked on the link and visited your site, your CTR would be 20%.
This metric is among the best indicators of your page’s effectiveness at getting search engine users’ attention. It also lets you in on the quality of your title tags and meta descriptions. Low clickthrough rates might mean that your title tags and meta descriptions could use a retouch.
The conversion rate is an SEO KPI that tells you about the percentage of web users performing a desired action on your page while visiting it. This could be:
- Purchasing a product;
- Signing up for a service, such as a mailing list;
- Subscribing to your channel;
- Creating a user account;
- Filling out a form;
- Clicking on a link and visiting a page.
The conversion rate is obtained by dividing the number of conversions (users who performed the desired action) by the number of unique visits (total number of people who visited your page). Checking your conversion rate with SEO performance tracking tools like Google Analytics or Google Search Console can help you evaluate your ROI.
Bounce rate is the percentage of web users who have landed on a page and left without performing a specific action. In most cases, you want to lower this number because a high bounce rate often points to SEO issues such as:
- Poor loading speed;
- Poor mobile optimization;
- Poor web page design; and
- Inconsistency between content and keywords.
A lower bounce rate is often an indicator of good content quality.
Average session duration
The average session duration tells you how much time people usually spend on your page.
If users visit your blog page but stay only for a few seconds, meaning they cannot finish the 2,500-word article on that page, you might have a content quality problem.
Nevertheless, there is another angle to this: if your page’s average session duration (aka time spent on the page) metrics are low, it might be a good thing. It depends on the intent of your content. For example, it’s perfectly OK to have a low average session duration on the “Contact Us” pages.
Pages per visit
Pages per visit (or pages per session) is a metric in web analytics that measures how many web pages a user views on a particular website.
The pages per visit metric is usually displayed as an average number obtained by dividing the total number of page views by the total number of visitors.
If your goal is to engage readers with your content and interest them in your brand, products, or services, then pages per visit is an invaluable user engagement metric.
If your page-per-visit numbers are high, you are on a good track.
Technical metrics show the impact of your technical SEO efforts or whether your website is sufficiently optimized for search engines to crawl it easily and index it so that it shows up higher among organic rankings. But that is not nearly all there is to it.
Other examples of technical SEO that you should pay attention to include the following:
- building structured data for your page/website;
- website architecture;
- URL structure;
- thin content;
- duplicate content;
- XML sitemaps;
- canonical tags;
- 404 pages;
- 301 redirects; and
- page speed.
Many entrepreneurs rely on technical SEO to enhance their site’s ranking in the SERPs. Monitoring technical SEO KPIs helps identify areas for growth. For more details on the above-listed elements of technical SEO, see Technical SEO: The definitive guide.
Out of the various technical SEO metrics, if we had to choose one, we’d say that page speed is something you do not want to overlook.
Page speed is the time it takes for a page to load fully after the user clicks on its link. It’s an essential aspect of user experience (UX) and, hence, one of the determining factors for how well your page will rank among search engine results.
It’s not difficult to imagine that if a user needs to wait for a page to load for more than 5 seconds, they will not hesitate to press the X button and move on to the next search result.
So, not only does page speed have a direct impact on your ranking, but it also increases your bounce rate and decreases your average session duration.
Geekflare recommends nine web-page speed monitoring tools for optimizing page speed, but you can also use PageSpeed Insights free tool and see if your page's speed needs to be optimized. This tool will provide website performance insights using data from Lighthouse Audit and Chrome User Experience Report.
Domain metrics are another KPI you should pay attention to. They are credible indicators of a site’s ranking potential in search engine results. Plus, they reflect how relevant, and influential your content can become, so optimizing your site’s domain metrics will directly impact your SERP ranking.
Larry Page’s famous algorithm PageRank was the first ever domain metric that Google used. It was designed to predict a page’s value and, subsequently, its SERP ranking by considering the number of backlinks from other sites.
Today, PageRank is not the only algorithm used to systemize search results. There is a colorful variety of domain metrics you can track to assess your website. In this article, we’ll look at two key domain metrics: domain authority and domain backlinks.
Domain authority is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz, which predicts the likelihood of a website ranking in SERPs. The score can range between one and 100, and the higher your score, the better your chances of ranking.
Domain authority scores are calculated considering a multitude of factors. Still, essential data is obtained from Moz’s Link Explorer web index, which means that domain authority, similarly to the PageRank, uses backlinks to your site to predict how well it will rank. Tools like Website Authority Checker make it easy to see where you are at.
Another important SEO performance metric is the total number of backlinks directing users to your website.
You should focus on link building as an integral part of your SEO strategy and monitor how your website is doing in terms of backlinks. The quality of the backlinks and linking root domains that lead to your site directly impact your domain authority, ranking, and overall online success.
Usually, the best way to increase the credibility of your website and improve your search engine ranking is by building a network of high-quality backlinks from reputable sources without resorting to spammy tactics.
Best SEO tools to track SEO performance
Now that you know what SEO metrics to monitor let’s see how you can automate that process with some of the best tools to track SEO performance - Dashword Monitoring and two of Google Suite’s free tools: Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
Dashword is an SEO content optimization software that uses artificial intelligence and natural language processing (NLP) models to identify important attributes in written content. It offers an easy-to-use content optimization platform that facilitates researching and writing high-quality content.
Dashword monitoring tracks the content of your page and notifies the writer if it needs to be updated. Some of the perks of this tool include the following:
- Identifying underperforming pages;
- Delivering automated weekly keyword reports;
- Offering a keyword rank tracker so that one can quickly identify and optimize what’s necessary;
- Having automated page import.
Dashword monitoring provides easy-to-grasp visual and measurable data on pageview trends, keyword rankings, and content scores.
Pageview trends reflect the number of organic traffic a page gets. It helps you see if your page’s organic search traffic is increasing or decreasing.
When your page gets more traffic, the trend is up. Conversely, when your page loses traffic, the trend is down.
This metric helps you see if you're gaining or losing your SERP position and can give clues on optimizing your content to rank better.
Dashword’s keyword feature gives you the average number of target keywords with high search volume used in web articles similar to what you are writing about. Then, you can top that number and improve your ranking.
You can also use keyword rank tracking to learn how your competitors rank for specific keywords. Then you can modify your content and rank higher in SERPs.
Read Best SERP trackers for accurate keyword monitoring for more information on keyword ranking and SEO performance tracking tools.
The content score is another helpful feature that can improve your content strategy. It represents the score Dashword gives to content based on how optimized the content is.
A low content score means your page's content could be improved, while a high score means your content is on track with SEO trends.
Google Analytics offers several free tools to analyze your SEO data and act accordingly to improve your impact. It’s a versatile SEO tracking tool for everything that happens after someone has visited your website/web page. Trackable SEO metrics include time on site, conversion rate, exit rate, events, and many more.
Google Analytics is also a rare SEO performance tool that allows you to track your organic traffic for free. To do so, click on Acquisition in the left sidebar of the homepage, then click on Overview and Organic Search. This last link will take you to a page where you can find detailed information about the performance of each keyword, including metrics such as the bounce rate, pages per session, and goal completions.
To check your average session duration in Google Analytics, click on Audience on the main dashboard, choose Overview, and then scroll down to find Average Session Duration.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console (GSC) is another excellent free tool that you can use to monitor your site's SEO performance.
You can sign up for a free Google Search Console account and verify your website to get many reports useful for detecting website errors and growth opportunities.
You can use this SEO monitoring tool to track the following:
- organic search traffic
- top queries
- top keywords
- top pages
- user engagement
- click-through rate (CTR)
- core web vitals
- keyword rankings, and many more.
To check your keyword rankings for free in Google Search Console, go to Performance > Search Results, click on Average CTR and Average Position, scroll down, and sort by click-through rate (low to high). The keywords that rank well but are not getting many clicks can get better ratings and more clicks through metadata and on-page copy edits.
By now, it becomes clear that SEO is an ongoing process, and you must continuously keep up with the latest SEO trends to stay ahead of the game.
However, maintaining a top position in the SERPs is highly rewarding. High rankings will help you bring in more traffic, establish brand awareness, increase brand credibility among your target audience, and get higher conversion rates.
But to be able to achieve all this, SEO needs good content.
Quality content is essential for successful SEO, and tools like Dashword can assist with this by providing insights, keyword recommendations, and content scores through its natural language processing (NLP) technology.
With just a few clicks, you can set up a Dashword account, generate informative keyword reports, and optimize your content for better SEO results - it’s that easy.