It’s important to track SEO performance to understand what activities are useful and which are not.
However, there are several reasons that it’s hard to precisely approximate the ROI (return on investment) of an SEO campaign, starting with disagreement as to which metrics are crucial.
The State of SEO report exposes some consensus regarding which metrics are useful but that there is much difference.
Leading 3 SEO Metrics
As will be seen, the relative value of individual SEO metrics varies in between internal, company, and freelance SEO pros who responded to the study.
However the leading three SEO project objectives and KPIs (essential performance indications) from the report are the very same.
All three SEO demographics among report respondents agree on the top 3 SEO metrics in the exact same order:
- Page views.
The above SEO metrics are tracked by means of Google Analytics, Browse Console, and third-party tools, making them useful for tracking the objectives of an SEO campaign.
While there is arrangement about the leading 3 SEO metrics, there is a broad difference of viewpoints regarding the relative importance of the rest of the metrics.
That’s important due to the fact that those other metrics can represent campaign goals and KPIs.
Why Is Measuring KPIs So Difficult?
Even when there’s agreement on which KPIs are most important, there is still the issue of accurate measurement.
Personal privacy laws are sunsetting lots of forms of tracking.
However there are likewise real-world barriers. Search online marketer Adam Humphreys, Founder of Making 8, relates:
“Communications with the customer and their typically high turnover of reception makes tracking conversions beyond our lead tracking more difficult. With call tracking, if the client receptionist forgets to verify an appointment lead for tracking software, we just know that it was a leader/new call. The life time value of customers can drastically differ.
The kickstart meeting is the most vital time for SEO professionals to discover what product service offerings are used, the most regularly offered, experienced with, and the greatest return offerings.
With this, I cross-examine Google sheets opportunities to see where they are vs. what’s on their site and triage content to the top that needs to be enhanced initially. While we can track on a very granular level, I choose to focus on tracked leads, not return on ad spend (ROAS), for service-based operations.
For ecommerce, nevertheless, we can very closely track ROAS. It is very important to know that SEO is an investment, and like going to the fitness center, it takes some time to optimize everything.
This understanding is why we have our exclusive triage formula for material to line up with client requirements. Lead tracking SEO is just as great as customers understanding their numbers. Some are amazing, while others are quite acceptable.
The important part is we constantly track and are accountable for results. We can thus see the seasonality of SEO and when something is off that requires to be optimized.”
The 4th Crucial SEO Metric
Both the company and freelance SEOs ranked Income as the 4th essential SEO metric.
In-house SEOs ranked Marketing Qualified Leads as the fourth essential SEO metric.
There is an interesting insight into why in-house SEOs disagree about the fourth SEO metric.
The factor internal SEOs disagree on which SEO metrics are essential is the workplace.
The work environment remarkably impacts which SEO metrics are deemed most important.
This phenomenon is clearly viewable in the fourth crucial SEO metric exposed by the State of SEO Study.
Obviously, profits is important to internal SEOs. However it is not given as a top concern in the study for reasons specific to the work environment.
Earnings is normally tracked beyond in-house SEO. It’s the responsibility of another department or layer of management.
Even in a smaller internal role, the management layer might not share exact profits numbers.
In many cases, especially in larger companies, the earnings numbers are carefully secured and not shared with the SEO department.
Australia-based search marketer Ash Nallawalla, who has years of internal SEO experience, explained:
“In every big business I have actually been in, Earnings was never my issue in a reporting sense. There were analytics teams who did that.
In some companies, the detailed revenue breakdown was kept secret. e.g., which product was the most rewarding. Even conversions are unclear cut in big business.”
The function of in-house SEO in numerous verticals is mainly interested in keeping the leads rolling in.
So it makes sense that Marketing Qualified Lead is ranked number 4 by internal SEOs. It reflects their duties and how the work environment influences which KPI is vital to their SEO implementation.
Profits is ranked 4th most important by agency and freelancer SEOs, perhaps since that may be important to their consumer base of small and medium companies (SMB).
The (ideally) increased earnings metric verifies the work of a company or a freelance SEO.
On the other hand, there are reasons to consider why Certified Leads may be a better metric for tracking SEO success.
Adam Humphreys describes why:
“The issue is clients will game the income regarding prevent paying more, and if they have a satisfying front end, and so on, it could result in less income. Bad in-store experiences could also result in less profits.
This is why I would say it’s not the best method to determine success. Qualified leads are more what I would say is the best metric of success. What the client does after depends on them.”
The 5 Through Ten Crucial SEO KPIs
All 3 SEO demographics diverge totally about what the next top-ranked metrics ought to be.
There is contract regarding the leading 3 essential SEO metrics.
The fourth most important SEO metric is mostly a reflection of duties.
But positions 5 through 10 are where the leading metrics appear to become a matter of opinion.
Here are how the various SEO demographics ranked the next essential SEO KPIs:
5. Marketing Certified Lead: 5.8%.6. Bounce rates: 5.4%.7. Backlinks: 5.3%.8. Page Speed: 4.6%.9.
Consumer Acquisition: 4.4%.10.
5. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic: 6.5%.6. Backlinks: 6.1%.7. Profits: 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 Certified Lead (MQL): 5.8.7. Customer Acquisition, Page Speed: 5.7.8. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic: 5.6.9. Email Memberships: 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 element.
However it’s likewise a minor ranking aspect and not most likely to be a direct reason a website is top-ranked in Google’s search results.
The survey results validate what everyone understands, that Page Speed is an important 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 straight assist increase conversions, and sales, improve time on page, bounce rates, and basically all the other metrics essential to SEO.
Given how page speed impacts the other SEO metrics, it deserves entertaining the idea that page speed should be ranked as a greater concern.
Mismatched Goals And Metrics
Aside from page speed, there is no agreement on which metrics are essential.
Another curious result is that Freelancers were evenly divided among essentially all the metrics.
6.3% of freelance SEOs concurred that bounce rates, backlinks, and social engagement were critical, a three-way tie for the number five essential SEO metric.
The number 10 ranked SEO metric, Customer Lifetime Worth, was ranked with 5.1% votes. That’s a difference of just 1.2% in between the fifth and the tenth most important SEO metric as voted on by freelancers.
The differences in between the 5th and tenth-ranked SEO metrics were closer to 2 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 fifth essential metric and a two-way tie for the seventh-ranked metric (client acquisition and page speed, 5.7%).
Freelancers were the only demographic where the votes ended in ties for any metrics.
The tied outcomes indicate that freelance SEOs extensively disagree about which metrics are the most essential.
Respondents who determined as freelance may be a wider demographic than those who recognized as firm or in-house.
For instance, a freelance SEO may concentrate on content writing, link building, website auditing, local search, affiliate work, or even a combination of several.
Looked at in that way, it makes good sense that the freelancer SEO group is virtually equally split regarding which metrics are the most essential. Their study responses suggest that all the metrics are vital.
Disconnect Between Campaign 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 three SEO demographics highly disagree is on metrics that are comprehended to be contributors to SEO success and healthy traffic.
- Bounce rates.
- Social engagement.
- Time on page.
- Page speed.
A possible explanation for why the SEO industry disagrees with the above 5 metrics might be uncertainty regarding which of the above plays a role in Google’s algorithm and to what degree.
This unpredictability about SEO aspects should be acknowledged due to the fact that it indicates the limitations of these metrics.
The reason for the uncertainty is that Google’s ranking algorithm is a black box.
In computing, a black box is a circumstance where what is put into package is known (SEO), and what comes out is also understood (rankings).
But what takes place inside package is not known.
Backlinks, social engagement, time on page, page speed, and bounce rates represent what we put into the box. Rankings are what comes out.
But nobody knows what happened inside the Google black box that led to the rankings.
Compounding the secret is that nobody can precisely carry out tests to separate what elements contributed to rankings due to the fact that you just see the result, not the process.
This inability to see how the algorithm works does not mean that social engagement or time on page, or any of the other metrics must not be tracked.
It simply suggests that one needs to understand the restrictions of these kinds of metrics.
The fact that the various SEO demographics do not settle on the relative significance of these metrics highlights the general uncertainty of what occurs inside Google’s black box.
Effect On Tracking SEO ROI
There are numerous posts about tracking the ROI of SEO, but the truth is that it can not be accurately tracked; it can only be estimated.
For instance, we don’t understand if backlinks contributed in rankings. Often there are no changes in rankings till months later on.
Did the links take a long period of time to impact the rankings, or was it a coincidence?
Social engagement is said to be an indirect ranking consider that it might lead to more top quality keyword traffic and links, which in turn influence rankings.
But once again, there is no chance to associate the top quality keyword search traffic directly and acquired links to social engagement.
Even if one could, one could still not precisely confirm that those links contributed in rankings due to the fact that Google’s ranking processes for each inquiry happen in a black box.
Make Sure KPIs Support Project Goals
The State of SEO results makes it clear that selecting the very best metrics is crucial to your scenario.
Often the information is not offered, such as revenue or sales figures. But there are always other information, such as leads or conversion rates, that can show how well the SEO project is advancing.
Separate between real SEO efficiency metrics (rankings, traffic), metrics that relate to website experience (page speed, time on page, bounce rate), and SEO enhancements (backlinks) to get an overall photo of how well the various parts of an SEO campaign are collaborating.
But also consider indirect elements such as social engagement (where suitable) because, in addition to being an indirect SEO factor, it’s a measurement of appeal, a reflection of how well a website is growing as a brand and a location.
For more insights about the state of the SEO industry, download the 2nd yearly State Of SEO Report.
Included Image: Paulo Bobita/Best SMM Panel