measuring SEO

Let’s talk about SEO Key Performance Indicators (more commonly referred to as KPIs).

To create is good for the soul, and sometimes it is that by itself that wills us to create. But if we had built, for instance, a model of a Spitfire wouldn’t it be just as awesome to watch it fly?

Building SEO content is a bit like building the Spitty…

We’ve laboured for days (weeks?) to finish the build: we’ve added the decals and the branding, and we’ve ‘painted’ it. It looks great. Now we want to see it fly!

But whereas we can watch a model plane soaring through the clouds, how can we tell that our content and SEO efforts are ‘flying’?

And how can we keep a track of the influence our SEO strategy has on the performance of our site?

Enter: SEO KPIs – the sure way to find out how much of an effect your SEO efforts have on your site.

KPIs are a great way to measure a company’s performance from an objective point of view.

In other words rather than us saying to our people or our external customers ‘the company is doing really well’ (even if it’s not) we can use KPIs to point to hard facts that prove how well the company is performing.

And if it isn’t doing well, then this too is evident from the KPIs we track.

Knowing how best to manage and use your SEO KPIs to inform your business isn’t a hard task to get right but knowing the most important KPIs is sometimes difficult.

We’ve laid out here seven of the best SEO KPIs in the business. The ones that will reveal the performance of crucial elements of the business and give clarity to the effect your SEO content is having on progress.

1. Keyword ranking

Track your keyword rankings as part of the process of identifying business development opportunities, increasing sales, awareness and the general practice of driving traffic to your site. Use tools such as SEMRush to find out which short- and long-tail keywords are performing well – for you and for your competitors – and which ones are letting you (both) down.

Of the ones that aren’t doing so well, tweak or get rid. Redundancies clutter up the place.

Some keyword searches may already yield a positive search of your business. If a user has been specific or targeted in their search, your business may well appear near to the top of the results.

But that’s not the whole story. 

Relevance of the keywords and intent behind them (a search for ‘running shoes’ versus ‘best shoes for running’ have very different intent behind them, with the latter being far more likely to yield a sale).

Thereafter, it is the keywords that are useful to you that aren’t hitting the front page of Google that you must work on. Focusing your attentions on these words to drive forward your business’s rankings should be part of the long-term online content strategy.

We mostly associate the success of SEO strategies by way of keyword rankings. It is the most immediate SEO KPI to yield results, and it is those results which will inform you and guide you. 

Improvements in your rankings lead to an increase in the number of site visitors, more leads, more connections, more interest from others in the industry…

And ultimately more sales.

Check your keyword ranking every week. Sometimes updates to Google can alter search results from one day to the next. Just be mindful of the fact that this is a KPI for long-term use.

2. Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is a measure of the number of times a user arrives on and then exits a page of your website without performing an action. It is calculated by dividing the number of inactive sessions by the total number of sessions.

In terms of an informative KPI this one is is very telling, but can also be misleading.

For the most part, a high bounce rate is to be avoided because it will reflect poorly on your ability to rank well, as this is one of the element Google RankBrain takes into consideration. An SEO KPI bounce rate can tell you much about what users think of your content and how well your SEO strategy is performing.

The caveat here is that a user who finds the information they leave may very well ‘bounce’ from the site having been satisfied, and for that reason this KPI should be closely monitored but further investigated if high numbers are common on some pages but not all. Factoring in the average session duration metric aids this process considerably.

Bounce rate is often seen at around 50%. In other words, for every one person who interacts with a page another will ‘bounce’ and continue their search for something more relevant. 

In order to have enticed the user to your page in the first place, Google will have carefully selected what it considers the website that best matches the users initial search term. Generally speaking, it is your job to keep them glued to your page!

Thus, if a user after visiting your page returns to search results to seek an alternative resource, it could point to them considering your website to lack relevance, appropriateness, trust, appeal and/or usefulness.

Keeping tabs on your bounce rate (as well as previously mentioned related KPIs) will allow you to see what parts of your strategy are causing clients and customers to feel disappointed by what they find and shoot off to pastures new. 

3. Leads and conversions

Here we are concerned with how visitors interact with your website once they arrive.

Ideally, your SEO strategy will involve ways in which you may entice the user to participate in some form of action, such as joining your newsletter, entering a competitions, participating in a scheme, and so on.

And each such execution of your desired Call to Action (CTA) should result in you acquiring some info on the user, thereby turning them from a visitor into a lead.

And it is these leads that we hope to convert into real sales.

To set up leads and conversions testing as an SEO KPI you can head to Google Analytics. Here you will find ways to add performance markers across a specified time-line, allowing you to measure the various elements. 

Instigating more clinical measures of client leads will result in you being able to find out how well your site works for your desired outcomes in general, how the desktop performs versus the mobile version, what pages perform best, what are the demographics of your audience etc. etc.

In other words, this SEO KPI shows, not so much how your site attracts customers, but how appealing and enticing it is to them once they arrive.

To ensure the very best user experience, you must make sure:

  • The website is easily navigated and fully functional
  • The content is clear, concise and well-written
  • The content is trustworthy, enticing and appealing
  • The CTAs all function the way you intend
  • The layout structure looks exactly the way you’d expect it to on both desktop and mobile versions of the site

4. Crawl Errors

Checking for crawl errors and attending to them is a great way for you to make sure your site is correctly indexed by Google and thus ensures that Google is aware of your presence.

Google’s Webmaster Tools has recently updated its crawl error monitoring. Enhancements to the tool now allow it to detect many more errors of site algorithms and URLs. Furthermore, Google will inform you of its findings in order for you to take action. 

‘Site errors’ are considered by Google to be generalised problems with your website. These are the type of errors that will affect the cool running of your site, and they include errors of connectivity and DNS resolution. Google relays to you whatever errors it picks up. 

‘URL errors’ are specific to a page. For whatever reason, a URL request may yield a problem which can indicate an issue with the background coding of the page. Again, Google notifies you of the problem and suggests ways to tackle it.

When Google is able to properly index your site without its efforts being thrown back by an unseen error, your site will sit more comfortably within the index. Hence, why you checking the index of pages is an important SEO KPIs.

5. Organic Sessions

The core purpose of your SEO strategy is to draw more organic traffic.

To do this, it must be findable and reachable. An important indicator of whether your strategy has succeeded in its aim comes in the form of the monitoring of organic online sessions. 

Visitors that have reached your page by an organic method (i.e. not clicked on a paid ad) have done so because your SEO strategy is working at least a little bit as well as you’d hoped!

Users need no longer search for your business name verbatim (that s a branded search such as ‘Nike’) or for your specific industry provisions in order to find you.

You are out there and visible via the keyword terms you’ve targeted.

There can be a number of causes of an increase in organic visitors:

  • Traditional marketing measures may be boosting online popularity
  • User time optimisation may be improving the trustworthiness of the site
  • Expected click-through-rate (CTR) may be increasing due to search results promotion

Growing organic sessions are a visible determinant of the value of your business to online users. Your value and reputation will in turn spur on more organic use.

6. Pages per session

‘Pages per session’ does almost exactly what it says on the tin.

This is a measure of how many pages a single user looks at it within a defined session. It is also a measure of how often a user views a page, and in what way they do so.

The benefit accrued from using pages per session as a KPI is an increased knowledge of the value of the page to the reader. In other words, what it is about the page that the user finds so enticing.

The number of pages per session relies, of course, on the nature and architecture of your site. If you own an e-commerce site with numerous pages of products then you will expect a reasonably high page per session measure, although it does not necessarily equal high performance.

However, if you have just ten pages of web content then a healthy page per session count is telling, since it arrives as a result of your visitors spending more meaningful periods of time studying your site and visiting several pages in one session.

7. Page Load Time

Page load time is one of the most important aspects of good user experience in today’s market.

People’s attention span is a fraction of what it used to be. Consumers are not so much demanding as they are downright impatient. However, irrespective of the cause of their itchy feet we must cater for them by optimising our site’s load speed. 

Use a tool such as GTMetrix for insights into how quickly your site loads. In doing so, you will receive recommendations about various techniques to employ in order to improve load time.

If your site does no load fast then you may have issues with the content, server, coding or some other aspect of technical SEO.

If a user thinks a site is loading too slowly they are less likely to explore any more than one page. And they may not even stick around long enough to view even that first page!

Their experience of the site will be poor and they will be less likely than others to want to make contact with you. Thus, leads and conversions are easily lost by slow speeds.

The majority of users will leave a site that takes longer than 2-3 seconds to load.


These SEO KPIs are just some of the dozens of others that are designed to check the performance and effectiveness of your SEO strategy.

They are not just markers of how well the website is flying; they also direct us to make certain improvements to enable it to fly faster and higher than it does right now.

A great strategy buoyed by an equally great KPI manifesto will undoubtedly benefit your business in 2019.

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Michael Winter

Skilled marketing specialist with expertise in planning and delivering SEO strategy, Social Media campaigns, Content Marketing management.