It’s vital to track SEO performance to understand what activities are useful and which are not.
However, there are multiple reasons it’s challenging to properly estimate the ROI (return on investment) of an SEO campaign, beginning with argument regarding which metrics are essential.
The State of SEO report reveals some consensus regarding which metrics are useful but that there is much argument.
Leading 3 SEO Metrics
As will be seen, the relative importance of specific SEO metrics varies in between in-house, agency, and freelance SEO pros who responded to the study.
However the top three SEO project goals and KPIs (essential efficiency indicators) from the report are the very same.
All three SEO demographics amongst report participants agree on the top three SEO metrics in the very same order:
- Page views.
The above SEO metrics are tracked through Google Analytics, Browse Console, and third-party tools, making them beneficial for tracking the objectives of an SEO project.
While there is arrangement about the leading three SEO metrics, there is a broad variance of viewpoints relating to the relative value of the rest of the metrics.
That is essential because those other metrics can represent campaign goals and KPIs.
Why Is Determining KPIs So Difficult?
Even when there’s arrangement on which KPIs are essential, there is still the problem of precise measurement.
Privacy laws are sunsetting many kinds of tracking.
But there are also real-world barriers. Browse online marketer Adam Humphreys, Creator of Making 8, relates:
“Communications with the client and their typically high turnover of reception makes tracking conversions beyond our lead tracking harder. With call tracking, if the customer receptionist forgets to verify a visit lead for tracking software, we just know that it was a leader/new call. The lifetime worth of customers can drastically vary.
The kickstart meeting is the most crucial time for SEO specialists to discover what product service offerings are used, the most regularly sold, experienced with, and the greatest return offerings.
With this, I cross-examine Google sheets chances to see where they are vs. what’s on their site and triage content to the top that requires to be enhanced initially. While we can track on a really granular level, I choose to focus on tracked leads, not return on ad invest (ROAS), for service-based operations.
For ecommerce, nevertheless, we can really closely track ROAS. It is very important to know that SEO is an investment, and like going to the gym, it takes time to enhance whatever.
This understanding is why we have our exclusive triage formula for material to line up with customer needs. Lead tracking SEO is just as excellent as customers understanding their numbers. Some are incredible, while others are quite satisfying.
The important part is we continually track and are accountable for results. We can thus see the seasonality of SEO and when something is off that needs to be enhanced.”
The 4th Most Important SEO Metric
Both the agency and freelance SEOs ranked Revenue as the fourth crucial SEO metric.
Internal SEOs ranked Marketing Qualified Leads as the fourth essential SEO metric.
There is a remarkable insight into why internal SEOs disagree about the 4th SEO metric.
The factor in-house SEOs disagree on which SEO metrics are most important is the workplace.
The workplace surprisingly impacts which SEO metrics are deemed essential.
This phenomenon is plainly viewable in the fourth crucial SEO metric revealed by the State of SEO Study.
Naturally, earnings is vital to internal SEOs. However it is not offered as a leading issue in the survey for reasons particular to the work environment.
Income is generally tracked outside of in-house SEO. It’s the obligation of another department or layer of management.
Even in a smaller internal role, the management layer may not share specific revenue numbers.
Sometimes, especially in bigger companies, the earnings numbers are closely guarded and not shared with the SEO department.
Australia-based search online marketer Ash Nallawalla, who has years of in-house SEO experience, explained:
“In every large business I have actually remained in, Revenue was never ever my issue in a reporting sense. There were analytics groups who did that.
In some business, the detailed revenue breakdown was concealed. e.g., which item was the most lucrative. Even conversions are unclear cut in big companies.”
The role of in-house SEO in lots of verticals is mainly interested in keeping the leads rolling in.
So it makes sense that Marketing Certified Lead is ranked number four by in-house SEOs. It shows their obligations and how the work environment influences which KPI is essential to their SEO application.
Revenue is ranked 4th most important by agency and freelancer SEOs, possibly since that might be very important to their customer base of little and medium businesses (SMB).
The (hopefully) increased income metric confirms the work of a firm or a freelance SEO.
On the other hand, there are reasons to consider why Certified Leads might be a much better metric for tracking SEO success.
Adam Humphreys describes why:
“The problem is clients will video game the profits regarding avoid paying more, and if they have an acceptable front end, and so on, it might lead to less earnings. Bad in-store experiences might likewise result in less profits.
This is why I would say it’s not the best way to determine success. Certified leads are more what I would say is the very best metric of success. What the customer does after is up to them.”
The Five Through 10 Essential SEO KPIs
All three SEO demographics diverge totally about what the next top-ranked metrics should be.
There is arrangement as to the leading 3 essential SEO metrics.
The 4th most important SEO metric is mostly a reflection of duties.
However positions five through ten are where the top metrics appear to end up being a matter of viewpoint.
Here are how the different SEO demographics ranked the next essential SEO KPIs:
5. Marketing Qualified Lead: 5.8%.6. Bounce rates: 5.4%.7. Backlinks: 5.3%.8. Page Speed: 4.6%.9.
Customer Acquisition: 4.4%.10.
5. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic: 6.5%.6. Backlinks: 6.1%.7. Revenue: 5.6%.8. Page Speed: 5.2%.9.
Bounce Rates: 5.0%.10.
Time on Page: 4.5%.
5. Bounce rates, Backlinks, Social Engagement: 6.3.6. Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): 5.8.7. Consumer Acquisition, Page Speed: 5.7.8. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic: 5.6.9. Email Memberships: 5.4.10. Consumer Life Time Worth (CLV): 5.1.
Page Speed is the only metric that all three groups agree on.
Page Speed is a recognized ranking factor.
However it’s likewise a small ranking factor and not likely to be a direct reason that a site is top-ranked in Google’s search engine result.
The study results validate what everyone understands, that Page Speed is a valuable metric to track. However it’s trivial as a ranking factor.
An intriguing observation about page speed is that a higher page speed can straight assist increase conversions, and sales, improve time on page, bounce rates, and practically all the other metrics essential to SEO.
Offered how page speed affects the other SEO metrics, it’s worth amusing the concept that page speed need to be ranked as a greater top priority.
Mismatched Goals And Metrics
Aside from page speed, there is no contract on which metrics are most important.
Another curious result is that Freelancers were evenly divided amongst virtually all the metrics.
6.3% of freelance SEOs agreed that bounce rates, backlinks, and social engagement were crucial, a three-way tie for the number five most important SEO metric.
The number ten ranked SEO metric, Client Lifetime Worth, was ranked with 5.1% votes. That’s a difference of just 1.2% in between the 5th and the tenth most important SEO metric as voted on by freelancers.
The distinctions in between the fifth and tenth-ranked SEO metrics were closer to two percent for the agency and in-house SEO demographics.
What is clear is that freelancers might not reach any agreement. Freelancer votes yielded a three-way tie for the fifth most important metric and a two-way tie for the seventh-ranked metric (customer acquisition and page speed, 5.7%).
Freelancers were the only demographic where the votes ended in ties for any metrics.
The tied results show that freelance SEOs commonly disagree about which metrics are the most essential.
Participants who identified as freelance might be a broader market than those who determined as agency or in-house.
For example, a freelance SEO might concentrate on content writing, link structure, site auditing, local search, affiliate work, and even a combination of one or more.
Looked at because way, it makes good sense that the freelancer SEO group is practically uniformly divided regarding which metrics are the most essential. Their study responses suggest that all the metrics are important.
Detach Between Campaign Goals And KPI Tracking
All three demographics agree on 3 metrics that are each a measurement of SEO success.
- Page views.
Those three measurements are results-based KPIs of success.
Where the three SEO demographics highly disagree is on metrics that are understood to be contributors to SEO success and healthy traffic.
- Bounce rates.
- Social engagement.
- Time on page.
- Page speed.
A possible explanation for why the SEO market disagrees with the above 5 metrics might be uncertainty as to which of the above contributes in Google’s algorithm and to what extent.
This unpredictability about SEO factors need to be acknowledged because it indicates the restrictions of these metrics.
The factor for the unpredictability is that Google’s ranking algorithm is a black box.
In computing, a black box is a situation where what is taken into the box is understood (SEO), and what comes out is also known (rankings).
But what takes place inside the box is not known.
Backlinks, social engagement, time on page, page speed, and bounce rates represent what we put into the box. Rankings are what comes out.
But no one understands what occurred inside the Google black box that led to the rankings.
Compounding the secret is that no one can properly perform tests to separate what factors contributed to rankings since you just see the result, not the process.
This failure to see how the algorithm works does not suggest that social engagement or time on page, or any of the other metrics should not be tracked.
It simply suggests that one has to understand the restrictions of these kinds of metrics.
The fact that the different SEO demographics do not settle on the relative significance of these metrics highlights the basic uncertainty of what takes place inside Google’s black box.
Result On Tracking SEO ROI
There are many articles about tracking the ROI of SEO, however the fact is that it can not be precisely tracked; it can only be estimated.
For example, we do not know if backlinks contributed in rankings. Sometimes there are no changes in rankings up until months later on.
Did the links take a long period of time to impact the rankings, or was it a coincidence?
Social engagement is stated to be an indirect ranking factor in that it could lead to more branded keyword traffic and links, which in turn influence rankings.
However once again, there is no way to associate the top quality keyword search traffic straight and obtained links to social engagement.
Even if one could, one might still not accurately verify that those links played a role in rankings since Google’s ranking processes for each query happen in a black box.
Guarantee KPIs Assistance Project Goals
The State of SEO results makes it clear that picking the best metrics is important to your situation.
In some cases the data is not available, such as profits or sales figures. But there are constantly other data, such as leads or conversion rates, that can show how well the SEO project is advancing.
Separate between real SEO efficiency metrics (rankings, traffic), metrics that relate to website experience (page speed, time on page, bounce rate), and SEO improvements (backlinks) to get an overall photo of how well the various parts of an SEO campaign are interacting.
However likewise think about indirect aspects such as social engagement (where proper) because, in addition to being an indirect SEO aspect, it’s a measurement of appeal, a reflection of how well a website is growing as a brand name and a location.
For more insights about the state of the SEO market, download the 2nd yearly State Of SEO Report.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Best SMM Panel