One of the most difficult aspects of search engine optimization is measuring the success of a campaign. Historically, SEO providers give their clients a list of “valuable” keywords and the position of the client’s website for each keyword.

Unfortunately, this kind of ranking data provides a comparatively narrow view of search engine activity because it only measures expected results. In order to get maximum insight into an SEO campaign, key performance indicators (KPIs) need to be established to capture the complete picture.

Keeping Score

Search engines include more than 300 data points when they are calculating the score or rank of a page. Measuring how your site, page or campaign will perform based on a specific request is a very challenging problem.

A good starting point is to begin by recording and measuring a variety of on-site and offsite indicators in order to develop a custom SEO solution based on the competitive landscape. You’ll need to test and develop metrics that provide relevant insight into your site’s ability to rank versus competing sites currently ranking for targeted traffic.

On-site Measurements

On-site measurement starts by scoring the content of your website based on quantity, quality and structure:

  • The quantity is the number of pages of unique content and the rate that new pages are added to the website.
  • The quality score is more subjective, but relates to the relevancy of the content to questions being asked by the target demographic.
  • The structure score looks at items like URLs and HTML tags to determine the ease in which the content could be indexed.

All of these measures are then combined into a content score, which is compared to top ranking competitors. The content scoring also identifies gaps in subject matter and opportunities for new topics.

User experience is scored by measuring bounce rate, pages per visit and time on your site. This data is evaluated on a device-type basis in order to make sure that all visitors have a similar experience. It is also important to understand your site’s performance by checking PageSpeed and Yslow scores. In addition, the actual response time of each page and supporting assets determine a speed score.

Offsite Measurements

Search engines rely extensively on outside factors to determine website relevance. Measuring several leading metrics to identify potential opportunities can expand the online reach of your site.

Begin by evaluating incoming links to the website (follow and no-follow) to determine the number and quality of external websites linking to your site. During the backlink analysis, links that should be disavowed because of potential penalties related to Google Panda must be identified for future action. Finally, check your social media activity to determine what content is being shared and/or discussed and the overall reach of your site on social media platforms.

Business Factors

In order to measure the return on investment (ROI) for any online marketing activity, it is important to have well-defined goals for your website and visitors. Start by developing a value for each type of conversion. On an e-commerce site, it is very easy to define the value because the visitor has put items into a shopping cart and either completed the purchase or abandoned the cart. If your website supports a large brand or collect leads, the definition of value is more difficult. However, value always exists and it is important to agree on a value in order to report on the business success from web activities.

Once the business goals are defined, you’ll need a method for segmenting different online marketing activities so each channel can be measured independently. SEO traffic can be defined as a website visitor who arrives from organic search results and didn’t include a brand name in the search terms. However, with Google’s update to secure search, the availability of keyword data has been reduced significantly and the exclusion of brand name keywords has become more difficult.

In order to compensate for the lack of keyword data, you should now consider an SEO visitor as any visitor who enters your site from organic search with a landing page that is not the home page (and possibly a few other pages). This is when the fun begins. You can now measure visitor traffic from SEO and compare it to other marketing activities. The ability to show a financial return on SEO is possibly the most important factor to business stakeholders and executives.

Measuring the Success of Your Campaigns with KPIs

Using the metrics outlined above can provide a clear picture of where SEO effort is being applied and how it impacts your business financially. The reporting also identifies successful strategies that you can expand on based on your KPIs.

It is important to remember that measurement and execution of an SEO campaign never ends. Search engines are testing changes to their ranking algorithms on a daily basis. New content, links, and social media content activity are also constantly in flux, and without continuous monitoring even successful SEO campaigns may fail if they are discontinued.