How to Measure and Track Success of SEO Projects: The Definitive Guide
One of the achievements of any successful company is to sustain a website that brings back business leads. As we hurtle towards 2015, the importance of standing out amidst a crowd of similar companies and business entities has become ever more important. Initially, companies could get away with writing content about targeted keywords and placing strategic advertisements. Things are of course, not so easy anymore.
The importance of measuring and tracking SEO success
While there are a number of strategies that can help one to achieve SEO (search engine optimization) success, one of the most neglected or misunderstood aspects is that of measuring and tracking SEO success. Anything that confuses us or even remotely seems difficult to us creates a feeling of resistance. This resistance builds up over a period of time and we either choose all the wrong tactics or choose not to do anything at all, both of which are increasingly common among clients that we see.
In order to ensure that a website is successfully helping you to connect with the right kind of people, good SEO practices are a must. However, the most important aspect is to be able to measure if your SEO tactics and strategies have been successful. In this article, we shall discuss how you can measure the success of your SEO projects and what your success metrics must be, for the SEO investments you or your company makes.
Before we go further into tracking and measuring, make note of the 10 commandments of SEO success.
- Do not expect quick results. There are no magic results for SEO
- Nothing compares to conversion rate originating from organic traffic
- You need to participate proactively with your agency regarding website content and design alterations.
- Begin to track visits from your non-paid search
- Analyze and track the keywords that bring traffic to your website, other than your brand name
- Track all the branded keywords which bring traffic, right from the first month
- Keep track of your SEO goals
- Calculate the average price of your products and services. If you cannot do that, calculate the conversion rate from your leads
- Filter your organic search to assess if conversion tracking is working accurately
- Don’t give up. Ever.
Every business is unique and it is important to consult with an SEO agency or a search professional to arrive at the best strategy for measuring and tracking SEO success. However, if you would like to try this on your own before approaching professionals, here is a detailed guide. Remember that you are going to measure and track SEO success and not SEO rankings. Search engine ranking is not as relevant as it used to be and things have certainly changed.
- Where Is Your Traffic Coming From?
SEO professionals already know that it is important to segment and categorize from where traffic is coming. It is important to understand how each of these segments behave and how they can be improved in the future. For this, it is important to track the contribution of various traffic sources for your website every month.
- Direct Navigation: How many people are directly typing in your address to arrive at your website? Did they type it in traffic or did they arrive from a page that was bookmarked? Did they click on links within emails sans tracking codes? Analyze these visits as they probably are more interested in your brand and what you offer than anyone else. They already know you, and they are specifically searching for you.
- Referrals: How much traffic is coming from referral sources? This may include traffic that originates from links across the web. It could also be from a branding campaign that you launched or some kind of promotion or traceable email.
- Search Engines: How much of your traffic is coming from queries that were typed into search engines? Search traffic may come from all kinds of search engines. Whether they are big or small, you need to make a list of search engines that are regularly sending you traffic. This may give you important insights into the kind of demographics that are arriving to your website.
You will need to keep track of the number of traffic and also the percentage. This will help you to become alert when traffic from search engines plummets. Moreover, if your traffic suddenly increases because of referral links that are insignificant, you do not have to become excited. These insights can be particularly important to track SEO strategies and plan marketing campaigns.
- What Is the Number of Visits for Each Specific Search Engine?
The number of visits per search engine can reveal valuable information about your target audience. Much of the search traffic in North America and elsewhere comes from Google and the partnership between Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing.There are also other search engines such as Yandex and Baidu, which are popular in Russia and China respectively. People hardly use Ask, AOL and others anymore. However, it is important to know which search engine is sending you the most of number of visitors. Unless you are in China or Russia, it will most likely be Google.
- Track by each country: By tracking your traffic by country, you will understand how search engines are being used to arrive at your website. Moreover, it helps you to assess market share and compare performance. Google usually has a younger user base than other search engines, though this gap is widely closing in. Yahoo and other search engines are used by older users who have still not moved towards using Google. Yet, that could be a valuable insight in itself. If your business concerns health or retirement benefits, your traffic may very well come from Yahoo.
- Analyze traffic drops: Sometimes, your traffic will drop drastically. It is then time to check your search engine share in order to see what went wrong. If all search engines have contributed to the traffic drop, then it is probably due to an accessibility issue. However, if only Google shows a drop in traffic, it is because you have been penalized or your SEO is not up to the mark.
- Assess strategies to improve SEO: Each search engine behaves differently. If your traffic improves after making on-page optimization tactics, it is probably because Bing and Yahoo are benefitting you. It has been noticed that keyword inclusion and targeting those keywords are more favored by these two search engines than Google. Google, on the other hand, seems to like when a large number of websites send traffic through specific anchor text links. This should help you to create a better content strategy.
- Which Specific Keyword Phrases Are Driving Traffic?
As always, your content is going to matter a lot. We all know by now that writing excellent content is crucial to SEO success. However, content strategy needs to be consistently checked and modified. You need to discover which keywords are driving traffic, which keyword phrases are being specifically typed in to land on your pages and what demographic usually uses those key terms. This will help you to device a content strategy that is more suited to your SEO success.
- Keyword phrases: Ensure that you consistently play around with keyword phrases that bring a lot of traffic. By writing content that lucidly describes and explains keyword phrases will earn you brownie points when it comes to SEO.
- Seasonal changes: Keywords change with seasons. For instance, during summers, people may search for sunscreen related keyword phrases more. During a football event, people may seek to purchase sunglasses. If your keyword phrase is highly seasonal, ensure that you pay attention to more mundane but consistent keywords that will fetch you traffic. Do not just concentrate on those keyword phrases that bring high but seasonal traffic.
- How Many Pages See a Minimum of One Visit?
You will also need to know how many pages on your website receive at least one visit from search engines. This directly translates to your pages being found online on search engines. It gives you a clear picture about how your pages are indexed, and if something is amiss.If you have tens of thousands of pages, just inclusion in search index will do wonders for your website. You will need to continue building on your link acquisitions, unique content, improving site metadata, etc. All this should lead to better indexation of your pages.
- What Is the Rate of Conversions from Traffic?
This is the most important aspect of tracking and measuring your SEO success. You need to find out how much of the traffic you receive is converting. This could practically mean anything. It could mean that someone purchased what you are selling or it could mean someone just signed up to your newsletter. It could also mean that someone viewed a particular page, a form or played a certain video. If you can attach a monetary value (in your currency), calculating the conversion rate becomes easier and more useful. If your SEO is successful, your conversion rate must increase over a period of time.
Measuring SEO Success
There are a number of analytics software programs out there, which are useful to measure the success of SEO and also track the performance. In this section, let us take a look at some of the most important tools available.
Google Analytics is one of the most important testing solutions available to track conversion rates. Along with that, you could also use Google’s Webmaster Tools, Microsoft’s Webmaster Tools and Yahoo’s Site Explorer. These three tools are crucial to understanding how your website is behaving and what you should be doing to improve the performance.
Along with these three tools, there are also certain tools and queries which you could make use of.
- Google’s tool box: Google has a number of tools available for SEO professionals apart from Analytics and Webmaster Tools. Some of them are Google Site Query, Google Trends, Google Trends for Websites and Google Insights for Search. All these tools help you to assess what you should be writing about, how you should tackle your target audience and how you can improve the traffic and lead them to convert.
- Microsoft: Microsoft’s Bing Site Query, Bing IP Query and Microsoft Ad Intelligence are some of the tools that you can use to track SEO performance.
- Third Party Tools: There are a number of tools out there that promise to help you assess and measure your SEO performance. It is difficult to choose among the many available and you may benefit more from consulting with a professional SEO agency. When it doubt, it is always better to speak to professionals who have been tracking and measuring a number of clients’ SEO.
While it is great to view all those numbers and statistics that these tools may provide, you need to know how to place this data within your context. One must always be methodical in one’s approach when it comes to crunching data and using it to improve one’s conversions.
Some of the most important factors to consider while placing those numbers in context are: sudden fluctuations in numbers, a significant drop in traffic resulting from one search engine, significant drop in traffic resulting from all search engines, an increase in traffic with no explanation, and unpredictable data that do not seem to be within the norms of your usual data.
Once you take these necessary SEO measures and begin to explore tracking your website performance, you will eventually need to hire a professional agency to streamline your success. However, here are three important aspects of professional SEO projects:
- Do not fall for false promises: Genuine SEO agencies do not make false promises. They do not guarantee ranking. In fact, they cannot. As we mentioned earlier, ranking is not what you should be prioritizing anyway. You should prioritize the health of your website. A professional SEO agency makes sure that your website is healthy enough to be found by those who are looking for it and also show itself up to those who might be interested in what you are offering.
- Ranking is not a success parameter: Today, website ranking is no more a success parameter that should be vouched for. Google’s search results are affected by personalization and geo-location of users. As more and more users are beginning to login to their Google Plus accounts while searching, it is going to get more difficult to for you to analyze their keyword search behavior. It will not be impossible to track these searches but it will certainly become more difficult. Thus, you may have to depend more on content that is written well according to an ever-evolving and changing SEO strategy.
- Focus on Service Level Agreements: When you hire an agency, make sure that you enter into an SLA in order to increase organic traffic. There is nothing more important than organic traffic when it comes to quality conversions. Advertisements and promotions will certainly help you to increase conversions but organic traffic is always more superior.
Have realistic goals and aspirations
SEO is not a cure-for-all. It will not fix every problem that your website maybe having. Some of these problems maybe technical, some more related to content and some related to the way you look at things.
It might actually help you to become more philosophical about approaching your website’s SEO performance, and seek the help of professionals when you cannot do it alone. SEO will certainly help you to identify problems and give you scope and opportunity to fix those problems. The only consideration that you need to make is to consult with professionals and act in time.