It’s important to track SEO performance to comprehend what activities work and which are not.
However, there are multiple reasons it’s difficult to properly approximate the ROI (return on investment) of an SEO project, beginning with difference regarding which metrics are essential.
The State of SEO report exposes some consensus regarding which metrics are useful however that there is much dispute.
Top 3 SEO Metrics
As will be seen, the relative significance of specific SEO metrics differs between internal, company, and freelance SEO pros who responded to the survey.
However the top 3 SEO project objectives and KPIs (key performance signs) from the report are the very same.
All three SEO demographics amongst report participants agree on the leading 3 SEO metrics in the same order:
- Page views.
The above SEO metrics are tracked through Google Analytics, Browse Console, and third-party tools, making them useful for tracking the objectives of an SEO campaign.
While there is agreement about the top three SEO metrics, there is a broad variation of viewpoints relating to the relative significance of the remainder of the metrics.
That is essential since those other metrics can represent project goals and KPIs.
Why Is Determining KPIs So Difficult?
Even when there’s agreement on which KPIs are crucial, there is still the concern of precise measurement.
Personal privacy laws are sunsetting many types of tracking.
However there are likewise real-world obstacles. Browse marketer Adam Humphreys, Creator of Making 8, relates:
“Communications with the client and their often high turnover of reception makes tracking conversions beyond our lead tracking harder. With call tracking, if the customer receptionist forgets to validate a consultation lead for tracking software, we only understand that it was a leader/new call. The life time worth of customers can considerably differ.
The kickstart conference is the most essential time for SEO specialists to discover what item service offerings are used, the most frequently offered, experienced with, and the highest return offerings.
With this, I cross-examine Google sheets opportunities to see where they are vs. what’s on their site and triage material to the top that requires to be optimized first. While we can track on a very granular level, I choose to concentrate on tracked leads, not return on advertisement spend (ROAS), for service-based operations.
For ecommerce, however, we can extremely closely track ROAS. It is essential to understand that SEO is an investment, and like going to the fitness center, it requires time to optimize whatever.
This understanding is why we have our proprietary triage formula for content to line up with client requirements. Lead tracking SEO is only as great as clients understanding their numbers. Some are amazing, while others are quite acceptable.
The important part is we continually track and are liable for results. We can hence see the seasonality of SEO and when something is off that requires to be optimized.”
The Fourth Crucial SEO Metric
Both the company and freelance SEOs ranked Profits as the 4th crucial SEO metric.
In-house SEOs ranked Marketing Qualified Leads as the fourth essential SEO metric.
There is a fascinating insight into why internal SEOs disagree about the fourth SEO metric.
The reason internal SEOs disagree on which SEO metrics are most important is the workplace.
The workplace surprisingly effects which SEO metrics are considered crucial.
This phenomenon is clearly viewable in the fourth most important SEO metric exposed by the State of SEO Survey.
Obviously, profits is important to in-house SEOs. But it is not offered as a leading issue in the survey for reasons specific to the workplace.
Income is normally tracked beyond in-house SEO. It’s the duty of another department or layer of management.
Even in a smaller sized internal function, the management layer might not share specific profits numbers.
In some cases, especially in bigger business, the earnings numbers are carefully protected and not shown the SEO department.
Australia-based search marketer Ash Nallawalla, who has decades of in-house SEO experience, described:
“In every big company I have been in, Income was never ever my issue in a reporting sense. There were analytics groups who did that.
In some companies, the detailed earnings breakdown was kept secret. e.g., which product was the most successful. Even conversions are unclear cut in big business.”
The role of internal SEO in lots of verticals is generally concerned with keeping the leads rolling in.
So it makes sense that Marketing Certified Lead is ranked number 4 by in-house SEOs. It shows their duties and how the workplace influences which KPI is vital to their SEO implementation.
Revenue is ranked fourth essential by company and freelancer SEOs, perhaps because that might be very important to their client base of little and medium businesses (SMB).
The (hopefully) increased earnings metric verifies the work of a firm or a freelance SEO.
On the other hand, there are factors to consider why Certified Leads may be a better metric for tracking SEO success.
Adam Humphreys explains why:
“The problem is customers will video game the profits regarding prevent paying more, and if they have a satisfying front end, and so on, it might result in less income. Bad in-store experiences might also lead to less earnings.
This is why I would state it’s not the best way to measure success. Qualified leads are more what I would state is the best metric of success. What the customer does after is up to them.”
The 5 Through 10 Essential SEO KPIs
All 3 SEO demographics diverge entirely about what the next top-ranked metrics ought to be.
There is agreement as to the leading three essential SEO metrics.
The fourth essential SEO metric is mainly a reflection of obligations.
However positions 5 through ten are where the top metrics appear to become a matter of opinion.
Here are how the various SEO demographics ranked the next important SEO KPIs:
5. Marketing Qualified Lead: 5.8%.6. Bounce rates: 5.4%.7. Backlinks: 5.3%.8. Page Speed: 4.6%.9.
Customer Acquisition: 4.4%.10.
5. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic: 6.5%.6. Backlinks: 6.1%.7. Income: 5.6%.8. Page Speed: 5.2%.9.
Bounce Rates: 5.0%.10.
Time on Page: 4.5%.
5. Bounce rates, Backlinks, Social Engagement: 6.3.6. Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): 5.8.7. Customer Acquisition, Page Speed: 5.7.8. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic: 5.6.9. Email Subscriptions: 5.4.10. Client Lifetime Value (CLV): 5.1.
Page Speed is the only metric that all three groups agree on.
Page Speed is a known ranking aspect.
But it’s likewise a minor ranking factor and not most likely to be a direct reason a website is top-ranked in Google’s search engine result.
The study results confirm what everyone knows, that Page Speed is a valuable metric to track. But it’s not important as a ranking aspect.
An intriguing observation about page speed is that a greater page speed can directly assist increase conversions, and sales, enhance time on page, bounce rates, and basically all the other metrics important to SEO.
Given how page speed impacts the other SEO metrics, it deserves entertaining the idea that page speed need to be ranked as a higher priority.
Mismatched Goals And Metrics
Aside from page speed, there is no contract on which metrics are essential.
Another curious outcome is that Freelancers were equally divided amongst practically all the metrics.
6.3% of freelance SEOs concurred that bounce rates, backlinks, and social engagement were vital, a three-way tie for the number 5 essential SEO metric.
The number 10 ranked SEO metric, Client Life time Worth, was rated with 5.1% votes. That’s a distinction of just 1.2% in between the 5th and the tenth crucial SEO metric as voted on by freelancers.
The differences between the 5th and tenth-ranked SEO metrics were closer to two percent for the agency and internal SEO demographics.
What is clear is that freelancers could not reach any consensus. Freelancer votes yielded a three-way tie for the 5th most important metric and a two-way tie for the seventh-ranked metric (client acquisition and page speed, 5.7%).
Freelancers were the only market where the votes ended in ties for any metrics.
The tied outcomes show that freelance SEOs commonly disagree about which metrics are the most important.
Respondents who identified as freelance might be a broader group than those who identified as agency or in-house.
For example, a freelance SEO might specialize in content writing, link structure, site auditing, regional search, affiliate work, or even a combination of one or more.
Taken a look at because method, it makes good sense that the freelancer SEO market is virtually equally split as to which metrics are the most crucial. Their survey answers show that all the metrics are important.
Disconnect Between Project Goals And KPI Tracking
All 3 demographics settle on 3 metrics that are each a measurement of SEO success.
- Page views.
Those 3 measurements are results-based KPIs of success.
Where the 3 SEO demographics highly disagree is on metrics that are understood to be factors to SEO success and healthy traffic.
- Bounce rates.
- Social engagement.
- Time on page.
- Page speed.
A possible description for why the SEO market disagrees with the above five metrics may be uncertainty regarding which of the above plays a role in Google’s algorithm and to what extent.
This unpredictability about SEO elements must be acknowledged due to the fact that it indicates the restrictions of these metrics.
The factor for the uncertainty is that Google’s ranking algorithm is a black box.
In computing, a black box is a situation where what is put into the box is known (SEO), and what comes out is also known (rankings).
However what happens inside the box is not known.
Backlinks, social engagement, time on page, page speed, and bounce rates represent what we put into package. Rankings are what comes out.
However nobody knows what took place inside the Google black box that led to the rankings.
Compounding the secret is that nobody can properly perform tests to isolate what elements contributed to rankings since you only see the outcome, not the procedure.
This inability to see how the algorithm works does not imply that social engagement or time on page, or any of the other metrics should not be tracked.
It simply means that one needs to know the limitations of these kinds of metrics.
The truth that the various SEO demographics do not agree on the relative importance of these metrics highlights the general unpredictability of what occurs inside Google’s black box.
Result On Tracking SEO ROI
There are many short articles about tracking the ROI of SEO, however the reality is that it can not be accurately tracked; it can only be estimated.
For instance, we don’t understand if backlinks played a role in rankings. Sometimes there are no changes in rankings till months later.
Did the links take a long period of time to affect the rankings, or was it a coincidence?
Social engagement is said to be an indirect ranking consider that it might cause more branded keyword traffic and links, which in turn affect rankings.
But again, there is no way to attribute the top quality keyword search traffic directly and acquired links to social engagement.
Even if one could, one could still not precisely verify that those links played a role in rankings due to the fact that Google’s ranking processes for each inquiry take place in a black box.
Guarantee KPIs Support Project Goals
The State of SEO results makes it clear that choosing the very best metrics is important to your circumstance.
In some cases the data is not available, such as profits or sales figures. However there are always other information, such as leads or conversion rates, that can show how well the SEO campaign is advancing.
Separate in between actual SEO performance metrics (rankings, traffic), metrics that relate to website experience (page speed, time on page, bounce rate), and SEO improvements (backlinks) to get a total picture of how well the various parts of an SEO campaign are working together.
But likewise think about indirect factors such as social engagement (where proper) because, in addition to being an indirect SEO aspect, it’s a measurement of popularity, a reflection of how well a site is growing as a brand name and a destination.
For more insights about the state of the SEO market, download the 2nd annual State Of SEO Report.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Best SMM Panel