A reputable and experienced SEO professional will tell that you if you can measure something, then you can find ways to improve it. That certainly applies to your SEO campaigns, since initial optimization efforts may not bring the results you were hoping to get.
Marketers and business owners who are new to search optimization tend to fall into a common trap where they get stuck on a single metric, like staring intently at search rank and wishing for it to move. A narrow focus on just one or two metrics will blind you to other areas where a campaign could be doing well, or on the flip side, not performing at all.
There’s a lot of data within your reach on ranking, traffic sources, links, and user behavior that you should pay attention to as you launch and manage campaigns.
There’s no single metric that provides all the answers, and every website prioritizes different metrics based on the brand’s goals and the types of campaigns going on. Tracking multiple metrics at the same time has become a standard procedure for online marketing campaigns, so don’t fall behind the competition by focusing on too few metrics.
Here are six metrics that you should definitely be on the lookout for, and you can pick and choose which metrics to ultimately incorporate into your SEO campaigns:
1. Monitor Time On-Page
Every piece of content you create has a purpose, and you’ll typically have a few goals related to that content:
- Increase organic visibility for the content
- Keep a visitor engaged when they land on the page where the content is published
- Get the visitor to take action after they finish reading it
You probably know from personal experience that landing on a page that doesn’t match your search intent or provide any answers makes you want to leave that website immediately. This is how most people react online.
On the other hand, when you find exactly what you’re looking for on a page, then you’re going to spend more time there until you find an answer or you finish reading. When you create high value, compelling content with the right conversion message, you’ll have a more satisfied audience that lingers to see what you can offer them.
Extended engagement can help your site’s organic visibility and rank, so you need to pay attention to the time-on-page metric for any content that’s not performing up to snuff.
Don’t waste time looking at the average time-on-page stat for your site. You want to drill down into the page-specific times so you can discover opportunities to improve engagement on poorly-performing pages.
2. Track Your Site’s Usability
The time-on-page metric is an important one because you want visitors to reach the end of your content. But what do they do after the finish reading? Have you created a call-to-action that will encourage them to stick around and read more?
There’s a simple metric you can use to check if your audience is remaining on your website. In your Audience Overview in Google Analytics, you’ll see a segment called Pages/Session. This number should be monitored regularly so you can get it as high as possible while you run campaigns and build out your on-site content.
If you have a relatively new website and your traffic count is low, then this number will likely be low as well. Give it some time and make some tweaks to try to lift the numbers. Here are some ideas for improving usability:
- List related or most-popular posts at the bottom of your other content. This can encourage your readers to check out another article that will catch their attention
- Create a more consistent internal linking strategy: every page and every post should link to another relevant page within the content or through a call-to-action at the end
- Use sidebar widgets or segments to showcase content and create a compelling call-to-action to gain clicks
- Use exit-intent popups or messaging that encourage users to stay on your site for a special offer, great piece of content, etc.
If you find that visitors are still bailing despite improvements to your internal linking structure and higher-quality content, then there may be another usability concern that is driving them away. It would be worthwhile to conduct usability tests on different browsers and devices while also checking for load time issues to maximize your site’s performance.
3. Monitor Traffic By Device
Mobile traffic makes up a majority of online traffic for many businesses. Monitoring both mobile users and incoming traffic by device is important because those users have very different experiences from those who browse on desktops.
Google recognized the mobile trend early on, including tech barriers that made the user experience slower on mobile and updated their algorithm accordingly. Now, load speed and mobile-friendliness are factored into ranking considerations. As more users switch to mobile devices as their primary devices for browsing and searching the web, the emphasis on mobile-friendly accessibility is likely to increase.
It’s important to remember that your on-page optimization efforts should target users first and search engines second. You should make it your goal to monitor mobile-specific analytics to see if there are any issues with usability.
You can view this metric in your Google Analytics by going to Audience > Mobile and then to Overview. Compare your mobile metrics and desktop metrics. You can expect some variation between the two and mobile is usually a little worse, but if there are significant differences, then these should be addressed right away.
Here are a few resources to help with tracking and addressing mobile compatibility issues:
4. Set Completions and Track Conversions
Driving traffic to your website with SEO campaigns is a great start, but what you really want to aim for is targeted traffic that will actually take action after they arrive on your site. You can get a general idea of conversion rates if you look at opt-ins or sales figures, but you can get a more accurate picture by setting up your Google Analytics to set and track goal completions.
A goal is just a simple event that you want to track. For example, you want to measure the number of people who reach a confirmation page after opting-in to your newsletter. A goal can be anything, like tracking the number of visitors who read your “About Us” page or purchase something.
To create a goal in Google Analytics, go to the Overview segment under Goals in the left navigation sidebar. If it’s your first time here, you’ll have to click the “Set Up Goals” button to get started once it appears.
There are available templates with pre-filled configurations or you can create your own custom goals.
Once Google Analytics has had time to collect data, you’ll be able to revisit this overview tab to see general information on your goal completions. If you click on the Source/Medium segment under Goals, it will divide your goal completions/conversions by the traffic source.
If you assigned a value to your conversion, then Google Analytics will display that here as well, presenting you with an estimate on what those conversions were worth.
5. Keep an Eye on Your Crawl Data
In your Google Search Console you’ll be able to monitor the way Google crawls your website. The more effective your campaigns are at building links and relevant inbound traffic, the more frequently Google will crawl your website.
Likewise, the better you are at delivering a good experience to a search user (fast load times, engaging content, extended time-on-page, and increasing pages per visit), the more Google will want to crawl your site to ensure the freshest content is being delivered to its users.
In your Google Search Console, you’ll see a menu item called “Crawl.” Click there and select Crawl Stats. These will provide you with three reports that show the total number of pages crawled per day; the kilobytes downloaded per day, the time spent downloading a page.
Each of these charts displays data over the last 90 days and there’s no way to adjust the date range, so it’s a good idea to regularly monitor it.
For the sake of simplicity, this is what you should look for while tracking your crawl stats:
- Total number of pages crawled should be high; you want as much of your content indexed as often as possible
- Time spent downloading a page should be as low as possible: this reflects on your site load time, which factors into rankings
- If the load time stat increases, then something is impacting site load speed and needs to be addressed
- If the number of pages crawled drops, then you may have crawl errors or there might an issue preventing your content from being indexed
6. Audit Campaign Effectiveness with Returning Visitors
Most SEO campaigns are content-driven, including offsite content marketing that drives traffic back to you as well as the content on your website that brings in new traffic.
Acquiring new visitors is important, but you also want to regularly measure your returning visitors. This metric is a clear indication that your content is good enough to keep people coming back for more. There are two ways to analyze new and returning visitor stats in your Google Analytics.
For a broad overview, you can look under the Audiences tab and click on Overview. This will present general info on your audience along with a graph that shows you the ratio of new users to returning visitors.
You can also look under the Behavior tab and click on Site Content. In the Landing Pages segment, you can see what percentage of traffic to your top landing pages are new users or returners.
If you’re consistently growing your site and creating high-value content, then the totals for your new and returning visitors should continue to grow monthly. If these figures are stagnant or decreasing and your returning visitor stats are not increasing as much as your new visits, then you’ll need to examine the content you’re sharing to ensure there’s real value there. Don’t forget to improve the user experience along the way to ensure you’re not driving visitors away from your site.
The metrics you track are important indicators of your site’s growth, and they also help you measure the value of your SEO campaigns. The right metrics will validate your efforts while also providing insight into opportunities for improvement. Set reasonable goals for your campaigns and monitor the necessary metrics accordingly to keep your finger on the pulse and quickly recognize when it’s time to take action.
Which metrics do you think are crucial for measuring the success of your SEO and marketing content campaigns? Share your thoughts with me in the comments.