We’ve come to the last part of my five-part series on the basics of SEO. As usual, if you’ve been reading the series up until this point, feel free to skip down to the “importance” section. My first four parts covered how to plan a strategy, the basics of on-site SEO, the importance of an ongoing content marketing strategy, and most recently, link building and off-site optimization. These are fundamentals of campaign planning and execution, but now it’s time to look to reflection with part five — measurement and analysis.
The Importance of Measurement and Analysis
Measurement and analysis might seem like an afterthought; the campaign is done, or running, so why is it important to measure your results in such detail? There are three motivations for measuring your results and drawing conclusions from that data:
· Evaluating your progress. First, you’ll want to track how your campaign is developing. Are you earning more traffic now than you were before? Did your content experiment bear the results you thought it would?
· Finding new improvements. Interpreting your data may help you take your campaign in more informed new directions. For example, if you notice one of your content posts outperforming the others by a landslide, you can use it as the basis for a new wing of your strategy.
· Proving your value. Careful measurement and analysis can also help you prove the return on investment (ROI), or relative value of your campaign.
So how do we go about achieving these goals?
What to Measure
There are four broad categories of metrics I recommend tracking for your SEO campaign, and they have some overlap with peripheral strategies like content marketing and social media marketing:
1. Rankings. Your rankings used to be the single most important factor to track in an SEO campaign, but I wouldn’t say that’s true anymore. Google’s semantic search capabilities make it so keyword-based queries don’t return keyword matched results on a one-to-one basis; instead, Google searches for sites that contextually appear to be the most relevant. Still, it’s valuable to select strategic groups of keywords for your strategy and monitor your ranking performance. Google provides this information via Google Search Console, but only for keywords for which your pages are already receiving organic search traffic in Google. If you want to track keyword rankings for other keywords, you’ll need to use an alternative keyword rank tracker to get this information. I recommend Agency Analytics or AuthorityLabs for these purposes.
2. Traffic. In my opinion, traffic is the most important factor to track to determine an SEO campaign’s success; keyword rankings don’t matter much if those keywords aren’t leading users back to your site. You’ll want to track organic traffic here, the measure of all the visitors who found your site through search engines — but don’t forget about referral traffic and social traffic, both of which generally come from inbound links and content you’ve published elsewhere. These figures should increase steadily over time. You can find them in the Acquisition tab of Google Analytics.
3. Engagements. Engagements are more qualitative measurements of your performance, but they’re important to determine how good your content is and how good a job you’re doing of catering to your readers. These include likes, shares, comments, and inbound links. You can find most engagement figures using your social media platform analytics tools, and you can find inbound links through a tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer or Ahrefs.
4. Conversions. Finally, there’s conversions; these aren’t directly related to your SEO strategy (in fact, I suggest using a separate conversion optimization strategy to make the most of it), but they’re still important because they can help you figure out the true value of your campaign — more on that in the next section.
Personally, I recommend taking a pulse of these metrics on a weekly basis, with a full-fledged analysis once a month. Remember, SEO is a long-term strategy, so measuring your progress any more frequently than that could lead you toward unreliable conclusions.
Calculating ROI demands using and interpreting several different metrics at once. You’ll start by calculating the average value of a conversion and multiplying that by the total number of conversions you received in a given period. Divide this value by the total number of visitors you received, and you’ll get the average value of a site visitor. Then, the last thing you have to do is figure out how many visitors you received as a result of your campaign efforts, and you’ll have a solid estimate of how valuable your campaign really is — compare that to how much you’re spending to get a feel for your effectiveness.
Most of this article has covered how to measure and interpret your data, but the most important step is what you do with that data and those interpretations. All your measuring, analyzing, and scrutinizing should end in the form of actionable results. What can you do to be better? What can you do to sustain this momentum? These are the questions that will drive your campaign forward, so always tie your conclusions back to a practical value.