Blogging, optimizing keywords, building backlinks, content promotion… there are so many tasks involved in content creation.
But that’s not the end for the SEO practitioner, one of the most important tasks is SEO tracking and it can be an even Herculean task.
After all, if you’re going to invest the time and budget to create and maintain an SEO plan, you want to make sure your investment is worth the results.
For that, what metrics you are looking for and the tools used to gather them is important.
What is SEO Tracking?
For many site owners, you might be wondering why not rank tracking?
Thing is you cannot always rely on search engine rankings to track your progress, because it can take weeks, even months to update SERPs.
Even if they do, ranking improvements are seldom according to your exact keyword but distributed uniformly across your targeted keywords.
However the problem isn’t accessing enough information, rather it’s determining which metrics to focus on.
In this blog post, I’ll show you which are the most important SEO metrics that you need to track and exactly how and why you are tracking them.
1. Monitoring Weekly/Monthly Organic Traffic
Nothing else matters more to SEO than traffic.
That’s the first reason you did SEO in the first place. That’s why tracking your organic sessions is one of the strongest indicators of SEO performance.
A month-over-month increase in visitors through search engines is a natural indicator that your rankings are improving even if you’re not tracking your rankings.
Organic traffic is the most direct and quantifiable proof that your SEO efforts are working in the right direction and actually bringing in more visitors.
The quality of the traffic in terms of being hot or cold leads, will, of course, depends on which keywords you are ranking for.
How to Track Your Organic Traffic
Tracking organic traffic is easy. All you need is to set up Google Analytics and just log into your dashboard and click on your audience overview > add an organic user segment.
You’ll now be able to see your organic traffic as a percentage of total traffic.
For organic traffic, it’s best to keep track of it both weekly and monthly.
Keeping track of it weekly will let you know if your SEO efforts are progressing on the right path, especially if you have recently made changes to optimize a blog post or made some improvement on your structured data.
Comparing it month-to-month is also important to let you know if your monthly content efforts are gaining Google’s attention.
2. Track What Keywords You Are Ranking For?
With RankBrain implementing personalization and continuously shifting search results, should you even bother tracking your keywords rankings?
Yes, and please do.
Even though search results are not the same for everyone, and can differ within the day itself or with a minor update to Google algorithm, tracking your keyword rankings lets you know:
Your overall keyword optimization efforts
Better rankings for one keyword is usually a signal for improved rankings overall, especially for related long-tail keywords.
Tracking your keywords will show you how effective your keyword optimization plan is, and if you are answering the search intent on point.
Keyword Selection is On Point
If you don’t see an improvement in target keyword rankings, it could mean a poor keyword selection.
Google might not see you as an expert on the subject yet, and in such a case you should choose less competitive and long tail keywords and try to rank for it first.
Watch out for the competition
If you are not tracking your keywords rankings, I betcha your competitors are. Keeping an eye out on your rank trackings can let you keep an eye out if there’s any new rivalry coming up the ranks.
How to Track Keywords Rankings?
Tracking keywords can be done using Google Search Console. You just simply need to click on page performance, and you’ll be able to see what keywords that page is ranking for.
However take note, this is just a representation of the data. Do not rely on Google’s data alone, try using rank tracking services like RankReveal to let you uncover and hidden keywords that you are actually ranking for.
Keeping this metric in track can let you know if there are any low hanging fruits, like for example if you’re ranking number 1 but not on the snippet.
You can then optimize your content to try to get the rank snippet or simply move up the SERP results.
Better yet, you can also keep an eye on non-performing content and see how Google are perceiving them. Some tips on reoptimizing your content, make sure to look at your:
Page Engagement Metrics
Something extra that you’d want to take note for newly written content or content that you have been trying to optimize is their engagement metrics.
This includes bounce rates, time-on-site, and pages per visits which are important metrics in the post-Panda world.
The theory is simple – the more time users spend on your site, the more likely they love your content.
Lower Bounce Rate = Better Rankings
You need to have a clear understanding of the before and after of how each page is performing.
If anything, you need to look at this to even decide if it is an opportunity to put in extra effort to work on it and increase the ranking for this high-performing page.
For example, if you’re working on building backlinks to a specific page or improving that page’s content, you need to look at its traffic to evaluate your SEO effort.
How to Track Your Engagement Metrics
Tracking your engagement metrics is easy with Google analytics. Simply click on pages and select the content you’d like to see.
3. Number of Backlinks and Referring Domains
On-page optimization aside, backlinks are still one of the most important factors determining the SEO result of a website.
Between two pages with similar on-page metrics such as bounce rate, time-on-site, content quality, the one with more backlinks from higher quality domains will win.
A study by Backlinko showed that there is indeed a strong correlation between a higher number of backlinks and higher rankings.
The same goes for internal linkings, more densely internal linked content is showed to have better rankings and there’s a better effect when one content goes up, so does the other.
Though both linking strategies do not immediately lead to better rankings, but in general they do show a positive impact on your SEO efforts.
How to Track Backlinks and Internal Linking
You can also use Google Search Console for your backlink tracking, simply click on your site name and move to search traffic > links to your site.
This however is inaccurate, as the list isn’t updated frequently nor is it terribly accurate. That’s why our go-to link tracking software is Link Vector.
It’s a much faster and accurate alternative to track both backlink and internal links for your website.
4. Domain/ Page Authority Metrics
As an SEO, you’re most likely already familiar with domain and page authority.
It is one of the metrics we look at when we’re measuring the quality of the backlinks we’re building, but often do we missed it out for our own site.
A term coined by Moz to gauge the authority of a domain name on a scale of 0 to 100, your domain authority takes into account your links, brand mentions
It’s a comprehensive metric to gauge your overall SEO effort and the higher your domain authority is, the more authority the site has or the more trust it represents to Google eyes.
Page authority, on the other hand, is similar to domain authority but instead of looking at the whole website, it is a gauge of the page authority.
An upwards movements in these metrics is a sign that your SEO efforts are bearing fruit.
However, take note that it will require much more effort to go from DA80 to DA90 than it does to grow from DA10 to DA20.
How to Track Your Domain and Page Authority Metrics
These metrics can simply be attained through Moz website or through adding the Moz add-on tool which will let you know the domain authority when you are googling itself.
5. Mobile Traffic and Rankings
Is your site ranking well on mobile search or on the desktop search?
With Google’s announcement of switching to a mobile-first index, optimizing for mobile is more important than ever.
Plus, between 51 to 60% of searches are all done from mobile. So keeping track if your content is getting mobile traffic can let you know if you have:
It’s no secret that Google prefers mobile-friendly sites. So if your website is mobile search friendly, Google is more likely to feature you, and if that’s not the case, it might be time to look for issues with mobile-friendliness.
Mobile-only search terms
Mobile search terms are different from desktop search.
For instance, you’d be asking how “What are the key performance indicators for SEO?” instead of straightaway typing SEO key performance indicators.
That’s why tracking mobile traffic can let you know if you’re ranking for these mobile-only search terms.
6. Local Visibility and SEO
If you are a business with a physical store, this is a metric that is especially important.
You need to track metrics to make sure you are out-ranking your competitors and attracting organic traffic from the right audience.
It would be irrelevant for you to be getting traffic from India when you are operating an ice cream parlour in the States, right?
You can do this by tracking a few key local SEO metrics.
7.Google Maps Ranking
See where do you rank when you Google your business with keywords like near me or if you google ice cream parlor in New York
Google My Business Insights
Set up Google My Business Insights to track how often your GMB page appears in the search results, number of calls, and directions.
See the exact cities where your web sessions are to evaluate the amount of local traffic your website receives.
How to Track Local Visibility
You can always measure your top session locations in Google Analytics by simply going to Audience > Geo > Location to get conversions, sessions and key metrics by location
8. Organic Click Through Rate
While the above metrics measure engagement of visitors once they’re on your site, tracking organic CTR (click-through rate) measures engagement level when they are still on the SERP.
Organic CTR indicates how well your content appeals to your audience. If they see your article while scrolling through the search engine results, but don’t click, ask why.
Is the content irrelevant for the search term? Do your titles and meta descriptions do a good job of summarizing the content of each page?
Tracking organic CTR will allow you to measure the relevance and appeal of your content. Honestly, these are low hanging fruits.
Pay attention to pages with low CTR – you should optimize them according to your impressions and you will get more traffic fast.
9. Conversion Traffic
What do you want people to do on your website?
While we might be aiming for traffic, ultimately its conversion that every business is targeting.
Probably one of the most important SEO metrics. In comparison, other metrics don’t matter unless you can get conversions (leads or sales) from your traffic.
This can be done by setting up goals on your Google analytics. Each business has its own defined conversion goals – subscription, sales, leads, or other actions it wants site visitors to take.
How to track your conversion traffic.
In Google analytics, you can set up conversion goals to be measured.
Choose admin from the top navigation and select goals in the right-hand column, you can then choose what would signal conversion traction for example.
You can then set up goals at every step along your conversion path so you can see exactly where you’re losing people in your sales funnel.
Google Analytics also lets you assign monetary values to conversion goals, which enables your analytics data to track the revenue per transaction, per page.
Well, as SEO has become more complicated, measuring your SEO results have become more difficult as well.
You can no longer rely on a single metric to tell the story of your SEO efforts. Instead, you need to track multiple metrics in order to tell the whole story of your SEO.
More importantly, search engine optimization requires data and analytics to make a more informed decision.
Without tracking your SEO metrics, you would be driving in the blind.
If anything, your SEO effort should start with your tracking as there’s nothing like data that will let you make a more informed decision.
Remember, if you can measure something, you can improve it.