The Definitive SEO KPI Guide: 23 Vital Metrics to Tie Business Goals to Clicks, Links and Signups
Stats or it didn’t happen.
It’s part of your job to know things.
It doesn’t matter how much of a major performance disaster the website achieved thanks to your hard SEO work.
If you can’t prove that the SEO led to the sales, your boss won’t believe it.
Your client won’t believe it.
You might not even believe it.
If you’re not measuring your SEO performance with KPIs, there’s no way to show what you’ve accomplished.
Having knowledge of SEO performance also improves your ability to do great work. With data, you get a real sense of what gets results.
Alternatively, without data, you could be on the brink of a major performance disaster without even realizing it. You could be blowing money on strategies that yield nothing.
This is where SEO KPIs come in.
KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator, and an SEO KPI is any metric that’s used to gauge the performance of a website’s search engine optimization efforts.
Consider KPIs your flashlight in the dark, dangerous world of online marketing.
Here’s a list of 23 SEO KPIs worth tracking, how to choose which KPIs are right for your business and how to track them.
Why Your SEO KPI Matters
Establishing and measuring a set of KPIs can be a herculean task for any business endeavor.
Even harder if you’re tying your SEO strategies to your business goals and objectives.
SEO, you see, can be a little mysterious.
In fact, SEO KPIs are so tough to track that 52% of B2B marketers can’t justify their SEO spend. In another study, as many as 74% of marketers couldn’t prove that they had achieved any tangible ROI.
Despite the challenges, if you don’t your SEO KPI, you won’t even have a chance to prove that your work has paid off.
An SEO KPI helps you
- Demonstrate the value of your SEO to clients
- Spot and cut off failing marketing efforts early
- Discover and do more of what works
- Tie your SEO activities to business objectives
To get you started, I’ll show you 23 SEO KPI worth tracking, and then I’ll guide you to choose what’s best for you. Let’s dive in!
How to Choose Your SEO KPI Based on Business Goals and Objectives
Nope! Not all these SEO KPIs will be relevant to you. For example, you won’t need to track in-store visits if you don’t have a physical store.
Part 1: Which SEO KPIs to Measure
The four broad SEO KPIs that you should endeavor to measure are:
- Direct business SEO KPIs
- KPIs based on costs and ROIs
- On-page SEO KPIs
- Off-page SEO KPIs
Direct business SEO KPIs
When you think direct business SEO KPIs, you think obvious results.
That’s exactly what these KPIs stand for. The results should be visible and impactful to your business for the SEO strategy to get a pass-mark.
For instance, if I were to measure the return on my SEO investment and I don’t have a bunch of analytics software to aid me, there’s one place I’ll look.
My business records.
If business was plummeting before I engaged the services of an SEO company, then it better be growing markedly after the SEO strategy is executed. By growth I mean, improved sales, increased customer inquiries, better, bigger clients and generally a boost in my business operations.
These KPIs are the easiest to measure in terms of the obvious outcomes they carry. But, from an SEO’s standpoint, they’re tough to track because of the complexity of tying website metrics to eventual leads and sales. Albeit, direct business SEO KPIs are critical to business success.
KPIs based on costs and ROIs
As long as you’re in business, cost-cutting is a goal for every project.
But more important than cutting down on your overhead, is improving your returns on business moves.
Who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to spend a million dollars in business and get 10 million in returns after a short while?
Spending more money isn’t the issue. Getting juicy returns is the problem.
But the risk is obvious: How do you justify this massive spending? In fact, how do you justify any spending at all?
That’s where cost-based KPIs come into play. This form of KPI sets targets that measure your costs of business against its direct benefits and returns in the long run.
For different businesses, these KPIs can differ. For instance, a business that specializes in selling products will measure their advertising costs against an increase in customer base. This increase in customers is the KPI.
On-page SEO KPIs
The days of offline businesses that have no online footprint are fast fading into oblivion. Almost every brick-and-mortar business now has some online presence.
This is why on-page SEO is important. Unlike the early years of the internet, competition for customer attention is fiercer today. To stand out, you must have the hang of SEO, whether you implement the strategies or outsource to capable hands you have to know what’s going on.
On-page SEO KPIs track the activities that happen on the page. Why?
It’s those little changes that make all the difference! You don’t want people leaving your site as soon as they arrive there, or scan your site and leave without taking any actions that might benefit you. Setting an on-page SEO KPI helps you do more of what can influence business success; you can say that on-page SEO KPIs work directly with business KPIs.
Off-page SEO KPIs
Just like on-page SEO KPIs, off-page metrics support your direct business KPIs.
An off-page SEO KPI measures how well your users are engaging with your site’s content outside of your website.
Are they linking back to the content? Talking about it on social media and forums? Recommending your business to their friends? Clicking through frequently from your search engine rankings?
Part 2: Choosing the Right KPI Metrics for Your Business
How do you cherry-pick the right set of SEO KPI metrics for your business? The right SEO KPIs for your business will be dictated by your:
- Business model
- Type of business (i.e., industry)
- Business goals
- Stages of your business
Albeit, you’ll use KPIs from all four categories where and when necessary. You’ll choose the most relevant pieces of direct business and cost/ROI KPIs to track.
Regardless of your business model, goals, industry, and stage, you’ll need all SEO KPIs from the on-page and off-page metrics outlined here. But when deciding the SEO KPIs to track for your business and costs/ROI, you can just ask yourself if the KPI in question provides any insights or value for your business.
Your first mission is to establish what KPIs suit your business the most before you start tracking them. If you haven’t established a connection between these categories and your business goals you might be tracking a mirage.
The Definitive SEO KPI Guide: 23 Vital Metrics to Tie Business Goals to Clicks, Links and Signups
Direct Business SEO KPIs to Measure
Direct business SEO KPIs are key performance indicators that address leads generation and sales. I’ve identified and explained six of them here:
- Number of leads generated
- Increase in sales
- Increase in in-store visits
- Increased landing page conversion
- Increased lead magnet download/use
- Increased percentage of email subscribers
1. Number of leads generated
If you’re like most marketers, then lead generation is one of your top reasons for doing SEO. If you haven’t started measuring how many leads your SEO effort is driving to your business, you want to start now. And don’t just track any leads, but also track qualified leads (who are more likely to convert to paying customers).
This is probably your most important business objective and thus your most important KPI.
Of course, you’ll want to know other important information about the pages that are drawing leads, like their Google SERP rankings and click-through rates (CTR) from the SERPs.
You can track leads by setting up acquisition goals in Google Analytics.
2. Increase in sales
What’s a business without sales?
If you’re running a venture and need to make money from it, then you want your search engine optimization to convert to a sale. Or sales. You need an SEO KPI to connect your revenue growth to your website’s SEO strength.
Sales are tough but not impossible to track. You can use Google Analytics goals to track sales, and you can also use GA’s e-commerce Settings if you sell multiple products.
Note that sales are easier to track online. Offline tracking requires a lot more grit. See the next SEO KPI.
3. Increase in in-store visits
If you think tracking a sale via your website is tricky, then attributing in-store purchases to your SEO effort isn’t from this universe.
But in Google’s estimation, 95% of all retail sales happen in brick and mortar stores.
Making the attribution between your in-store sales and your SEO is vital. You want to track the impact of your SEO in driving visitors to your store.
A rather obvious SEO KPI, isn’t it?
But most webmasters ignore SEO-in-store-relationships because tracking them is a tough nut to crack. Google is working hard to make in-store tracking easier, you have three options here:
The old method of tracking in-store sales require that you manually feed data into your Google Analytics. But Google’s new approach is trying to use proximity and other data points to derive this essential SEO KPI. You should note that in-store tracking works best when you have an active AdWords campaign.
4. Landing page conversion rate
What’s a landing page if it’s not converting?
You can track your landing page conversions using Google Analytics goals and referral reports. I’ve shown you earlier how to set up goals in Google Analytics.
To do this on Google Analytics you must set up a goal. A goal in this sense is a title to help you uniquely track this activity.
Then the next step is to create a custom report. Custom reports will tell you specific details about the item you want to track. These details give insight on how to follow up with your KPI measurement.
Here’s how to set up referral reports to track your landing page conversions:
Go to your Google Analytics account and follow Customization > Custom Reports as shown below.
Give your custom report a title, and then a name. Keep the “Type” as “Explorer” and name the metric group if you wish; you may choose to call it “Landing Pages.”
Click on the “Add Metric” button and choose “Behavior” from the drop-down menu as shown below.
Scroll down to “Goal 10 (Site Search Goal 10 Conversion Rate)” and click it. This conversion report shows the percentage of site search visits that converted to the goal.
Next, click on “add dimension” and then “Behavior.” Scroll down and click on “Landing Page” as seen on the screenshot below.
Click the “Save” button.
If you’d love to dive deep into tracking your Landing Pages here’s a video to help.
5. Lead magnet download/use
Since over 95% of your site visitors will leave without making a purchase, you want to keep in touch with them. That’s where a lead magnet comes to play.
What’s the goal?
Getting visitors to download your material or signup for a demo. This not only gives them something of yours so they can see the real value you provide, but it also gives you their email address and other vital information.
So, you may also want to track your lead magnet download or subscriptions as a KPI.
You can manage this SEO KPI using GA goals. The more engaged your audience, the more likely they’ll convert to buyers, so you want to increase and monitor completed downloads and signup sessions.
6. Percentage of email subscribers
According to 59% of B2B marketers, email has produced the most revenue for them. In fact, welcome emails have grown revenues by as much as 320% for some businesses.
In short, email signup growth is a vital KPI. You can create goals to track in your GA account and then create custom reports to help you track these goals.
KPIs Based on Costs and ROIs
Running a business comes with costs. And those costs should come with returns on them. Tying your SEO KPI to your expenses and returns makes sense.
Which SEO KPIs would you set here? Those that rely on Smart Goals!
Smart goals help you improve your site conversions, using machine learning. Google uses anonymized data from thousands of websites to improve your conversions.
Here’s a small tutorial on how smart goals work:
You can leverage smart goals, regular Google Analytics goals and custom reports to
- Lower your PPC cost and determine where your SEO pays the most dividend
- Determine your marketing cost per lead acquired
- Increase customer LTV
- Increase ROI due to geographical targeting
7. Percentage reduction in PPC spend due to SEO success
Not many businesses have an infinite marketing budget. And you’re probably one of those businesses.
You want to see your PPC costs drop. The more you know about your audience and how they find you on search engines the better you get at targeting them and the less you’d spend on PPC.
A smart goal makes this task less onerous. As you generally understand your audience and rank better on search engines, you’ll spend less on pay per click marketing to reach them.
8. Cost per acquisition for leads and customers
Another vital SEO KPI to track is how much leads and customers cost you to acquire them. This cost will include how much you’re spending on:
- Link building
- Social media campaigns
- email campaigns
- Content creation
- Content distribution
- Lead capture
- Lead magnet
And even technical costs like web hosting, and the like. You want to track the keywords that get your leads or customers in the door and then focus on maximizing their impact. Your goal here would be to bring your acquisition costs down.
9. Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) from SEO
Your customer lifetime value is the total amount of money a customer will spend for the period of time they remain your customer. Let’s take an example.
You offer a Software as a Service that requires a monthly subscription. And your customers stay an average of 18 months and pay $200 monthly, your LTV would be:
18 months X $200 = $3,600.
That’s it, your LTV is $3,600.
But not all businesses are subscription based. Josh at Netmark gives a nice and quick way to calculate your LTV if you’re not using the SaaS or subscription business model. See the video here:
The more you target the demographics that pay you the most money, the better your LTV.
You want to get clear on where your best customers come from and optimize better based on that data. For the purposes of SEO evaluation, you should be looking specifically at the LTV of customers who arrive at your site via organic search traffic.
Once you know who your best customers Neil Patel’s tactics for increasing your LTV becomes useful.
10. ROI from SEO spend targeting specific regions
Have you ever noticed that you’re getting a ton of organic traffic from an unexpected region of the world?
The next step is to calculate their LTV compared to the average (from all regions) and compared to other regions.
After all, you may be getting a ton of traffic from a region but better conversions and revenue from another region.
This might mean that you need to improve how you’re targeting visitors from that region of the world. You might, for instance, want to translate your content into their native language, or have a dedicated landing page or CTA for these visitors—something with a special appeal to people in their neck of the woods.
If you’re already targeting a number of regions with your SEO, you’ll want to see how much value you’re getting from that SEO investment.
Calculate the amount spent on regional SEO targeting the given region, and then calculate the response (pageviews, conversions, signups, revenue) from that region’s site visitors.
On-page SEO KPI
These are micro goals. They don’t necessarily generate your business any revenue (and in some cases don’t influence costs or ROI). But in most cases, they’re critical to your success.
You want to track and improve these SEO KPI metrics because they directly or indirectly influence your lead generation and sales.
11. Dwell time
This SEO KPI is how long your visitors linger on your site. The longer a visitor hangs around, the better for your business. The chances of making a purchase or converting increase with an increase in dwell time.
You can set goals to track your site’s dwell time and then optimize them better. Dwell time is how long visitors stay on your site. May sound similar to Bounce rate, but they’re not the same.
We have actual bounce rate and then bounce rate. Google needs two clicks to determine your bounce rate; the entry and exit clicks.
Without that all-important second click, Google may record a 35-minute visit—where the visitor left your site without clicking away—as a bounce.
So a site may have a high dwell time and a high bounce rate at the same time. Keep your visitors on your site, and you’re fine.
12. Bounce rate
How long do your visitors spend on your site?
For your SEO campaign to run smoothly, the bounce rate is one KPI you don’t want to overlook.
A page’s bounce rate is the percentage of people that leave your site either immediately on arrival to your website or without going beyond your landing page. As I’ve noted earlier, you have absolute and non-absolute bounce rates.
A high bounce rate shows that your website is unable to retain its visitors. Unhealthy bounces can be attributed to any of the following:
- You don’t offer what you claim to offer
- No call to action (CTA) on the page
- Your site loads too slowly
- Your design is poor
- Your content is outdated
The list can go on!
What’s the real-life implication of a bounce rate to a business?
Your site should be able to lead visitors to other pages on it. A high bounce rate shows that this isn’t happening.
The result? No conversion.
Albeit, a high bounce rate isn’t always a bad thing. If the page’s conversion rate is high, then a high bounce rate may be OK, depending on your niche.
According to KissMetrics, on the average
- Service sites, portals and retail sites have low bounce rates in the range of 10% to 40%
- Lead capture sites and Content website have bounce rates of about 30 to 60%
- The highest bounce rates of about 70% to 90% are experienced by landing pages
How to reduce your bounce rate
To reduce your bounce rate,
- Make your titles engaging
- Use bucket brigades
- Give visitors a reason to buy by leveraging testimonials, pictures or short videos
- Add related topics for your visitors to read more content
- Use internal links to other pages on your site
An engaging topic ensures that your visitors spend more time on the page. Whereas, the last two points make sure that they move to other pages of your site.
13. Average number of pages visited per visit
The more pages a visitor clicks to on your site the better engaged they are with your content. You want to monitor this metric. You can track page visits using Google Analytics.
14. Page engagement
The more comments, shares, subscriptions, click through to commercial links/pages you have the better.
The more you get users to engage with your content the more rankings you get because Google perceives you provide a superior user experience. You can set goals in Google Analytics to track your user engagement.
15. Site speed
Faster sites keep more visitors. With more visitors, they generate more leads and then sales. About 30% of visitors expect pages to load in a second or less.
You can test your site’s load speed using Google’s PageSpeed Insights. The tool also gives you recommendations on how to improve your site’s speed.
16. Number of indexed pages
Your pages won’t get found if they aren’t indexed by search engines. So you want to monitor what pages are indexed or not. And if your content or commercial pages are indexed, you want to submit them manually or improve your site structure if that’s getting in the way.
Off-Page SEO KPI
Off-page SEO KPIs are useful for indicating competitiveness and authority.
17. Net Promoter Score (NPS)…
Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures customer loyalty. In short, your NPS is the answer your customers give to the question, “How likely is it that you would recommend [brand] to a friend or colleague?”
Google gives priority to brand authority over content relevance (because reliable brands are less likely to spew off false or weak content). Google factors in reviews and rating in their rankings and your NPS can provide you with helpful insights.
You can use tools like AskNice.ly, Promoter.io or Wootric to automate the process of your NPS survey. Ultimately, keeping track of your NPS helps you lower your attrition rate.
18. Citation Flow
This KPI measures the weight of your website’s authority based on the number of links it gets from other websites. It uses a scale of 0 to 100, where any score above 30 is a good one. You can track this score using Monitor Backlinks.
Although citation flow is focused on the number of backlinks you have, you want your citation coming from authoritative sites.
19. Trust Flow
This KPI is also measured on a scale of 0 to 100, like Citation Flow.
What’s the difference?
The quality of your website is measured by the reputation of the sites that link back to you. This is based on the popularity or trustworthiness of the site. You can also use Monitor Backlinks to tack your Trust Flow score.
If you know your competitors’ trust flow range, you’ll know what threshold to match or beat. Luckily you can also track your competitor’s Trust Flow using Monitor Backlinks.
20. Page Authority, Domain Authority and Spam Score
Page Authority, Domain Authority, and Spam Score are SEO KPI metrics from Moz. You can grow these metrics by creating highly useful and engaging contents, and then earn backlinks from authoritative sources to those contents.
You can monitor your backlinks quality using Monitor Backlinks (available for FREE 30 days trial). And you want to control your anchor texts and spammy links too.
You can track your page authority pretty easily. Download and install the MozBar extension for Chrome and then turn it on with the page open in your browser.
21. Organic Click Through Rate (CTR)
According to WordStream, Google’s organic click-through rates (CTR) for the number one position on the SERP has fallen by 37% in two years. Although there are different reasons for this drop in organic CTR of the #1 spot, the chief cause is the stiff competition on the SERP.
You can improve your organic CTR by crafting better meta titles and meta descriptions. Among other factors, searchers rely on your meta descriptions to make the decision to click through to your content.
22. SERP Rankings
It’s never been more important to be on the page one of the Google SERP than it is today. Almost no one looks at links on page two. A recent report says that 95% of all searchers don’t go past the first page of the SERP.
Since 93% of all online experiences start with search, your SERP rankings carry plenty of authority. You can track your search rankings using Monitor Backlinks.
23. Backlinks Profile and Site Traffic
Winning credible backlinks is one of the most effective Off-Page SEO strategies you can leverage. It gives your site credibility and lures search engines to rank you higher.
In fact, your site’s backlinks profile influences almost every SEO KPI metric. So you should learn to monitor
- The number of links acquired from niche sites
- The number of links acquired from high authority sites
- The total number of backlinks earned
- The link acquisition growth rate
You generally want to keep these metrics growing. So how do you achieve that? Use link building best practices and also leverage Google Analytics to track your link building ROI.
Your link building ROI would be the quantity and quality of visitors your site is gaining due to the links you’ve built.
For this process, Google Analytics is a great tool. All you need to do is create a custom report and configure your metrics and dimensions to measure for the sources of your visitors. This effectively tracks your backlink strategy and give you enough insight to develop a KPI. This KPI can then be used to decide if the strategy was valuable or not.
Here’s a quick guide to determining your link building ROI using Google Analytics. Go to your Google Analytics account. And then to Customization > Custom Reports
Give the report a title, like “Link Building ROI Custom Report” and then name the report tab. Next, click on “add metric” and then “Users.”
You can choose any metric you’d want to analyze from the drop-down menu.
Next, click on “add dimension” and then “Source.”
Now click “Save.”
Now you should see your report displayed depending on what metric you’re tracking. In this case, I chose to track the average time on pages from different sources.
Here’s what I got for the site I used in my test. You’ll notice that direct visitors spent more time on that site than visitors from Google search, at 2 minutes 27 seconds, and 1 minute 15 seconds respectively.
You can set up different variations of these custom reports to suit your traffic and link building KPIs. Some of the traffic KPIs you can track include
- Percentage Increase in site traffic over time
- Percentage of site traffic that become leads (and then customers)
- Percentage of site traffic that contribute to other business objectives apart from leads generation
- Percentage increase in traffic from desirable referrals
- Increase in traffic due to branded search
- Increase in traffic due to non-branded search
- Percentage of site’s pages that generate traffic
For a thorough understanding of how to utilize Google Analytics for this process watch the following YouTube video.
Time for Action
Now you know what SEO KPI metrics to set and track. How to choose what KPIs are right for your business. Useful insights on how to track these SEO KPIs.
Nothing to scare you anymore.
The beast is tamed. It’s time for action!
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