Key performance indicators (KPI) are the only means by which any Web professional should be measuring SEO success.
So, what are the right KPIs to use when measuring how well the techniques and tactics employed by in-house SEOs or consultants/agencies actually work? Today let's look at a few important KPIs to monitor, whether on the front line or in the executive suite.
Before you begin digging deep into your analytics and working to understand the most essential SEO KPIs, recognize that their best use will ultimately be for learning what works and where a site/domain can be improved. The role of having (setting up and establishing) KPIs at all should be to provide empirical data as the site moves closer to the desired result. The goal is to disseminate meaningful information through the business/organization to facilitate communication and provide a basis for analysis and decision-making across all levels of the organization.
Do you need to be a master of analytics to understand these essential SEO KPIs? Not at all. While it will prove helpful to know your way around the analytics solution deployed for your enterprise, many will be able to simply ask for reports related to these topics. In many cases, analytics vendors ensure that their products put this class of information front and center for their clients.
The Essential SEO KPIs
Keep in mind that different KPIs are appropriate for different types of organizations. All sites are different, so the KPIs used to measure the success of an SEO campaign will vary by website.
The Totals - Pages & Traffic: Perhaps the most straightforward of the essential KPIs for SEO, the total number of pages in search engine indices and the total amount of natural/organic traffic (and which way it is moving), are also the most obvious – and simplest to understand. Knowing the number of pages that rank and are being found by search engine users provides insights into not only a website's overall exposure but also reveals changes occurring in broader and even niche markets.
Pages/Categories with the Most Traffic: Understanding which pages and categories already deliver the most search engine visitors provides SEOs and website owners with insights into what can be optimized (if not producing desired results) and which type of content can be expanded. For example, say that your website provides a forum for users to discuss topics related to your business or products. If the content from that forum is being found through the search engines and driving a good percentage of traffic to your site, ask yourself how that content can be improved to generate even more.
Average Number of Keywords (and type) per Page: Discover how well developed the "long tail" is by determining the average number of keywords per landing page. It is also key to dig deeper to understand the popularity of the topics and information needs of users interested – explore the conversion rate for top keywords and identify areas of improvement.
Length of Keyword Queries: Knowing the length of the keyword queries is a key indicator of the performance of long-tail SEO campaigns. Knowing the average number of words per query helps decision-makers understand the characteristics of the traffic. If more complex phrases bring more visits, then it is safe to assume that long-tail SEO performance is high.
Bounce Rate per Search Engine / Keyword: Search engines tend to have different demographic user profiles. Taking this into consideration when analyzing bounce rate per keyword may help to understand how the website content is perceived by these different segments of people. Bounce rates on the keyword level specifically tell a lot about the quality of the keyword analysis phase.
Average Length of Visit / Visit Duration: Both the duration and the average length of visits are high-quality benchmarks for organic/natural traffic. If you can identify the pages and content types/categories that have the lowest average length of stay (and want to improve that), many powerful conclusions can be drawn about the SEO process.
New Visitors / User Loyalty: This is another essential key performance indicator for SEO as it provides information on the characteristics of the organic traffic. The rate or percentage of new visitors is particularly important for community-based websites and shows if SEO is in line with other business and marketing goals. Consider analyzing keywords by visitor type as well so that the “loyalty” of users is examined on a granular keyword level.
There are many more KPIs that could be considered for a website, and as mentioned previously, one set will likely be very different from another. What key performance indicators are most important (and most closely monitored) within your enterprise?