The Myth of One Metric to Judge SEO Success

The Myth of One Metric to Judge SEO Success

Clients often ask what the best metric is for judging the success of their SEO efforts. Wouldn’t we all like to have a single, reliable metric to put on our reports and be able to point to it and say definitively that our SEO tactics are or are not working? I know I sure would!

Unfortunately, there just isn’t a single metric that gives you the full picture when it comes to SEO. Rather, there are multiple metrics, that need to be looked at together, along with an understanding of your business goals and objectives.

Here are four of the sources/metrics I like to use to judge SEO success, along with the pros and cons of each.

Rankings

PROS:

  • It really is a nice, easy metric to understand.
  • Several tools available that allow you to track and analyze keyword trends over time (SEMRush, Moz)

CONS:

  • Difficult to accurately measure. Because Google personalizes the search results listings (based on search history, Google Account login status, geographic location, the device you’re using, and more), you can’t ever really know where your site ranks on Google.
  • In order to measure keyword rankings over time, you need to know the keywords being used and input them into your tracking tools. If you haven’t thought of a phrase that is sending traffic to your site, then you won’t have the data.

Google Search Console Data

PROS:

  • Easy to set up, easy to understand.
  • Gives an “Average Position,” as well as impressions, clicks, and click-through rate.
  • Can dig out Image Search and Video Search data, in addition to “Regular” Search.

CONS:

  • Data only available for 90 days, and only starts collecting after you set up your account.
  • There is much concern over the reliability of Google Search Console data. (If you want more details, see the study Moz did at the beginning of the year.)

Organic Traffic from Website Analytics

PROS:

  • Great, free tools like Google Analytics are available and easy to set up.
  • Easy to understand.

CONS:

  • Doesn’t account for the quality of the traffic. If you are getting traffic that really isn’t interested in what you offer, then how successful is a big traffic gain?
  • At least a portion of what is “Direct” traffic in Google Analytics is actually Organic, but missing the referral information.

Organic Conversions from Website Analytics

PROS:

  • Gets right down to the bottom line – sales or conversions.
  • Can be easily tracked in Google Analytics (most of the time).

CONS:

  • Attribution models can show extremely different pictures, especially for businesses with long or complex sales cycles. Most use a “last-click” model, so if a visitor came to your site twice from organic search, then comes in from a paid ad after that and converted, then your paid ad will get the credit for the conversion.
  • Cross-device issues can also be an issue for tracking users who shop on their phone but then go to their desktop to make a purchase.
  • Doesn’t account for the lifetime value of a customer, the value of brand awareness, or other factors.
  • If there are issues on your website like a poor checkout experience, broken forms, or similar, then you can send loads of qualified traffic and still not have conversions.

As you can see, there isn’t a single, perfect metric for measuring SEO success. But, if you look at multiple metrics, along with your business goals, you can get trends that are more accurate.

What other metrics do you use to judge SEO success?

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