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Paddy Moogan shares ways to measure your search traffic (SEO).
It goes without saying that you need to measure your marketing efforts so that you’re aware of what’s working and not working. This allows you to make adjustments as you go and put your budget into the areas that are working best.
SEO is no different. Organic traffic from search engines can send huge amounts of visitors to your website, and it is all totally measurable. The one thing that can make things confusing is that there are a plethora of metrics available to you. Below I’ll talk about the primary metrics we use at Aira to measure the success of client campaigns and share a few tools that you can use, too.
Primary metrics for SEO campaigns
Let’s start with the most important metrics to measure.
At the end of the day, the one key metric that you have to measure is conversions. This is what drives the business forward and are what make the difference when it comes down to generating more website traffic. A conversion can differ for every company but typically, it’s one of the following:
- Sales – this is usually the primary conversion for e-commerce websites
- Leads – generally more for B2B companies but also used by B2C, a lead for a potential customer can be a conversion and there are various types of leads such as those below
- Product downloads – perhaps you’re trying to increase interest in your company by giving away an eBook / whitepaper, etc
- Email addresses or phone number – this allows a company to then follow up with a potential customer with a personalised approach
These are the things that add value to a business and can generate direct revenue; therefore they must be measured. We’ll cover some tools on how you can do this below.
To stand a chance of getting conversions from your website, you need traffic. Therefore this is critical to measure too and, when it comes to SEO, measuring the amount of traffic you get from organic search engines such as Google and Bing is very important. To give you the bigger picture, traffic to your website usually comes from one of the following areas:
- Direct traffic – this will usually be people who have typed your website address directly into their browser or have your website bookmarked
- Paid advertising traffic – this will be people who have arrived at your website via paid adverts such as paid search or display advertising
- Organic traffic – as mentioned above, this is traffic from search engines where people have clicked on your result in the organic listings (not the paid ones)
- Social – this will be people who have clicked through from a social network such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc
- Email – this covers people who have arrived after clicking on a link in an email which is usually your email marketing campaigns
- Referral traffic – this includes people who have clicked on a link on another website which has taken them to yours
With all of these different channels, it’s important not to look at your traffic as a whole but know exactly what channels are sending you the most traffic. Here is a screenshot of how this is reported in Google Analytics which we will come back to shortly:
As you can see, the traffic to the website above is very diverse and looking at the total number of visitors doesn’t tell the full story.
Secondary metrics for SEO campaigns
I don’t want to understate the metrics below; they are necessary to look at. But you can’t look at them and ignore the primary metrics above because even if the metrics below are performing amazingly well, it may not be making a difference to your business.
These metrics are more indicators that you’re moving in the right direction and should lead to increases in organic traffic and conversions – but they’re not guaranteed to.
While ranking well for a range of keywords should lead to good traffic and conversions, it isn’t always that simple. Many of the larger search engines, in particular, Google, personalise search results based on a range of things including a person’s browsing history and location. This makes it hard to get reliable numbers of where you rank for particular keywords.
Because of this, it’s best to use ranking data as a broad indicator of how you’re performing and not focusing too much on individual keywords.
One way that ranking data can be useful is when you launch a new website. This is because you won’t instantly jump onto page 1 of Google, but you may start gaining traction in the lower pages of results which show that you’re moving in the right direction. If you can see yourself moving from page 7 to page 6, then to page 5, etc, you are unlikely to be getting traffic yet but you know you’re getting there.
Another way rankings can be useful is seeing which page is ranking for a given keyword and adjusting your on-page SEO if it’s not the best page.
I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest fan of this metric, but it can be useful. It’s a bit like rankings in that it’s not a good idea to get too granular when looking at it, instead use it as an indicator.
Bounce rate is a measure of how many times someone arrives at your website, views one page and then leaves. For some websites, this isn’t a bad thing – blogs tend to have high bounce rates because someone arrives to read a particular piece of content and then may leave. If they spend 10 minutes reading the content before leaving, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
One useful way to use bounce rate though is comparing the bounce rate of your different channels:
We can see from the line highlighted in red that the bounce rate for traffic from social networks is higher than other channels. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the fact it’s an outlier warrants further investigation. If you’re putting lots of time and money into social, you want to make sure that you’re happy with the bounce rate.
Bringing us back to SEO, if you see a very high bounce rate for organic search traffic compared to other channels, then you may not be ranking for the right keywords which should be reviewed.
Tools for measurement
Now that we’ve covered the key metrics let’s look at a few tools for measuring them,
This is a must-have and best of all; it’s free. Installing Google Analytics on your website will give you a core set of metrics and start giving you an understanding of where your traffic is coming from and how visitors behave.
It should be noted that there is a lot more to it than just installing the code, you need to learn to interpret and segment data to get the insights you need to make decisions. I’d recommend starting to learn more about how you can do this by reading this blog by Avinash Kaushik and if you want to get into the details, go through this Google Analytics course.
One area you should look at is the custom reports and dashboards sections which can be customised only to include the metrics you care about.
Google Search Console
This is primarily used for finding and fixing technical issues with your website, but there is a section called Search Analytics which can give you some data about the traffic that comes to your website:
One thing to note is that this data isn’t as accurate as Google Analytics, so try not to worry about the finer details and use the information in the aggregate to get an idea of how you’re performing in organic search.
If you do want to track rankings, this is our tool of choice and we use it for all clients. It’s pretty accurate and super fast. Plus it does a good job of clearly displaying what page is ranking for a particular keyword along with giving you an overview of all of your rankings:
If you work in an agency or want to have a dashboard that removes lots of the extra data provided by Google Analytics, Dashthis may be a good solution for you.
The tool allows you to link your Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts and then just display the metrics that you really care about. It then automatically updates them every day so that you can just leave it running.
Here is an example from one of our client dashboards:
This allows you to focus on key metrics and get a top level summary quickly. You can then decide to dive into the data if you want to.
The metrics you track are an important indicators of your site’s growth and they’ll help you to prove to seniors and clients that their financial investment in SEO has been a worthwhile cause. If you set reasonable goals for your SEO campaigns, and monitor your metrics closely, you’ll be able to recognise what is working and what isn’t so you can react to it quickly.
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