A key part of finding success in any SEO campaign is determining the metrics you will track and report back to your client. There’s plenty of different variables for you to choose from, but precisely which metrics will become your key performance indicators (KPIs) depends on your client and the specifics of their campaign. Good SEOs know that a business’s rank on Google isn’t always an effective KPI (even if most clients will demand seeing number one ranks). That’s because rank alone won’t be enough to help every client’s site succeed. Search engine optimization is, after all, the art of increasing organic traffic from search engines, not the art of getting a site to rank well. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to prepare yourself to choose the most effective KPIs for any SEO campaign.
Know Your Client
The first step to choosing the right KPIs is to know your client, forwards and backwards. For most SEOs, it’s easy to jump right into the technical side of optimization so you can start seeing improved rankings. This is almost never the best choice.
Meet with your client. Call them on the phone. Shoot them an email. However you prefer to communicate, just get it done! Learn the history of your client. Meet or talk to the people that work there. Find out a bit about their local area. Get to know their business’s previous and current struggles. Discover the ways in which their business has had success in the past.
With this information at your disposal, you can better pinpoint exactly what metrics will tell the most compelling narrative of success to your client. In most cases, your client won’t know the technicalities of SEO, so it’s up to you to break things down in a way that still makes sense to them. Typically, that means turning to less technical KPIs and adopting more business or sales focused ones. On the off-chance that your client has previous SEO knowledge, your options are certainly more ample, but just because they have some knowledge doesn’t necessarily mean that a technical KPI is best.
Know Your Options
Once you’ve gotten to know your client and their business objectives, it’s time to better understand the various KPIs you have at your disposal. SEOs have a fairly sizable pool of metrics to choose from when deciding on a KPI, and these metrics each tell a different story. A good KPI helps tell a compelling narrative of success, so knowing how to utilize each of these different metrics is essential. Normally, the objectives of an SEO campaign can be divided into different categories: product/brand awareness, customer engagement, conversion, and many more. Depending on your client’s business goals, it may be useful to focus on one of these categories or multiple, but what’s important is understanding how different metrics help each of these categories.
Note: the metrics discussed below don’t exclusively belong to any of these categories.
Whether your client is a small business looking to bring more customers into their store or an emerging brand looking to become a household name, getting your client in front of more eyes is key. One great way to demonstrate that your client is being seen by more and more prospective customers each month is through organic impressions. With the help of Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, you can get an accurate representation of the amount of times your client has shown up in the SERPs, otherwise known as their number of organic impressions. These tools also provide you with data around the average position at which your client’s site appears in the SERPs, which when combined with the number of organic impressions can tell a pretty convincing story.
Another great metric to track in order to tell a compelling narrative about brand awareness is the organic referral traffic from branded keywords. Improving referral traffic from organic search is a key component of SEO, but not all keywords are created equal. For example, if your client is a roofing contractor, they don’t care about organic traffic that comes from the query “what are the symptoms of shingles?”. If brand awareness is what your client is after, then having their site rank highly for branded terms and increasing traffic from those branded terms is a great way to show your client that more people are aware of their brand than before they started the SEO campaign.
Sometimes your client may be more interested in improving engagement with their customers than with how they rank. In that case, it may be more beneficial to focus on user experience metrics than traffic data or keyword rank. Google Analytics and other tools give you easy access to data that describes how users are interacting with your client’s site. Metrics like the average amount of time a user spends on your site, the average amount of pages they visit, and the site’s bounce rate (the percentage of users that leave your site without interacting with it) can all help paint a vivid picture of increased customer engagement.
These may not be your standard SEO metrics, but they’re a useful addition to any SEOs toolbox. We all know that content is king when it comes to SEO, so chances are you’re already building out content for your campaigns, whether that comes in the form of blog posts, social media posts, or static page content. It’s important to show your client that this content isn’t just affecting rankings, but also affecting the way that visitors are interacting with the site.
There will come a time in every SEOs career when they have to deal with a client that’s solely focused on sales. For sales-focused clients, tracking conversions is a no-brainer. Showing your client that sales have increased is great, but showing them why sales have increased is even better. One way to do that is by using tracking links. Tracking links allow you to prove to your client that certain actions occurred from certain buttons or UI elements you’ve added to their site; combined with other data like a heat map, you can very clearly demonstrate that the site changes you implement have positively impacted your client’s sales.
The Right KPIs Make All The Difference
Choosing the wrong KPIs can have disastrous effects for a new SEO campaign, so it’s crucial to take time at the start to narrow down what the most effective KPIs will be. Remember: a good SEO is a good storyteller. Your job as a search engine optimization specialist isn’t to improve rankings; it’s to demonstrate to your clients that your making a quantifiable difference for their business. With the right KPIs, telling a compelling story of success can be easy!