How to Track the Success or Failure of Your SEO

SEO Targeting
Photo Credit: Augur Marketing via flickr

As you make changes to your organic SEO strategy via keywords or on-site updates, it can be challenging to know whether you efforts are actually generating positive results. Because organic SEO can take weeks and months to show tangible movement in your search engine rankings, it is essential to know how to accurately track successes and failures as early as possible. Educating yourself about the key metrics that point to the overall health of your SEO efforts can save tremendous time, money, and headaches.

Accurate measurement of any SEO campaign varies significantly based on the actual business focus and its key objectives. There are, however, a few key performance indicators (KPIs) that quickly reveal the effectiveness of any SEO strategy. Read on for detailed tips on how to become an expert at reading your SEO analytics.

The KPI Trifecta

Within hours or days of an SEO campaign launch, start paying attention to the following KPI’s:

  • Rankings
  • Traffic
  • Conversions

These metrics point to the overall success of your campaign, and any movement within them after an SEO launch can start indicating long term expectations of success or failure.

Never Underestimate the Power of Keywords

There’s no understating it; keywords are a critical KPI. Correct selection and utilization of keywords can help manifest a page one Google listing, which studies show can garner you up to 92 percent of the potential traffic. Your first step is to meticulously select your perfect keywords. Then, after integrating them into your site, social media profiles, and marketing materials, start measuring their impact. Here’s how to break it down:

Let’s pretend you’re tracking a total of 10 keywords. Two of your choices are landing you on Google’s first page. The other 8 need additional optimization. You’ll need to examine your on-site and off-site strategies to find ways to improve these results. Or you may determine that those particular keywords are too competitive, and/or not applicable enough to your website to bring you the results you’re after.

Tracking Traffic

Understanding the power of your keywords involves far more than monitoring rankings. The impact of keywords on traffic is also essential. Always measure the quality of traffic you’re getting, and, of course, the volume. Remember that landing on the first page of Google for any search results is meaningless if the traffic you’re generating doesn’t convert.

To determine how your keywords are affecting your traffic, watch the metric that measures the amount of your traffic that is generated from organic search. Your individual business and SEO targets will help you determine how much volume can be expected. As an example, if you’ve launched a national campaign, you’ll obviously expect more volume than if you’ve targeted a smaller geographic region.

So how do you quantify the quality of your website traffic? Pay attention to key website metrics like bounce rates and pages per visit. Bounce rate is really the biggie – if you’re getting a double digit bounce percentage, or if you notice it increasing after a campaign launch, it’s a safe assumption that your traffic quality has diminished.

How Good is Your Website at Converting Visitors?

Cash is still king, and conversions are the easiest way to measure how successful your marketing and website efforts actually are. Don’t assume that conversions are black and white by definition, however, as this too can be a multifaceted metric.

Here’s an example: Many SEO campaigns have the goal to increase overall leads. Remember that conversions aren’t just tracked via the web, but also through any other communication channel, like phone calls, appointment or quote requests, and related correspondence. If all your business does is sell tangible goods, a conversion is a sale. Most sites, however, have diversification with conversions, so make sure you’re considering the big picture.

Additionally, as you know, marketing is not always a real-time action. Since not all of your traffic will be ready to commit after the first visit, measure conversions by other metrics like newsletter sign-ups, social media fandom, media downloads, and any other action that indicates engagement. All of these point to a sincerely interested visitor, and could certainly equate to revenues in the very near future.

How to Quantify Your ROI

Because conversions can be abstract and, in essence, without revenue out of the gate, it’s a super smart strategy to map out the value of a conversion before you launch any related campaigns. This is obviously very unique to your business, and you may also have cost structure tiers to help determine actual ROI too.

Always factor in the customer’s lifetime value as you consider ROI. This equates to the expected profits you can receive per converted customer over their life long relationship with your business. Limiting your calculations to a single transaction conversion is a narrow focus and won’t reveal your actual ROI.

It’s obvious that tracking SEO campaign success is not necessarily a cut and dry process, but if you rely solely on something like search rankings, you’ll be missing a good portion of the story your metrics are telling you.

What other metrics do you use to accurate track the success of your SEO tactics? And how soon do you start watching your analytics after a new campaign is launched?

About the author


Tina Courtney

Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile


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  • Very informative article on Tracking SEO results. This shown me the different dimension I should be working to track my SEO results. I like Sitepronew, since I have signed up for newsletters, I was being updated on many important aspect of SEO that I should mind while working with my site.

    Kiran Vadagam

  • indeed learn SEO takes time and experience. When you already have skills in the use of good SEO then organic visitors from search engines to increase our website

  • “Cash is still king”
    I really like that statement. It doesn’t really matter how good your content and site is. It doesn’t matter how much traffic you have. If there is no conversion, it is a loosing game. The thing is lots of us are good in SEO but most of us are not good marketers.

  • indeed learn SEO takes time and experience. When you already have skills in the use of good SEO then organic visitors from search engines to increase our website. BTW, thanks for the article. Please keep sharing with us.

  • Thanks for this post on how to track the success or failure of your SEO effort. SEO is demanding and time consuming and as such it is worthwhile that people track the results of their efforts to ensure that their work is yielding positive results, and make changes if need be.

  • Yes that’s right, all these 3 terms are needed to optimize the success of any business. If you have rankings but are not getting business then you must see where you are lacking.

    Conversions also play a great role in the success of getting leads. Everyone should follow the above mentioned rules to analyze their SEO practices.

  • Hi,

    Very Good and Informative article. It was really a query in mind that how can we measure the success of SEO whether only through Ranking or what. Thank you for the input.

  • I have just completed the google analytics academy, it is like opening Pandora’s box, I now have information that I can use and act upon

    Time will tell if I have got it right

  • Hi
    Nice post. Can we increase visits of a website from 200 per day to 1500 per day in 2 months .
    Is it possible, need your suggestions.

    • Hi Sanah –
      It’s definitely possible, but you’ll really need to work with an SEO professional to map out your strategy. Since I have no knowledge of your industry and specific needs, my suggestions would be general, but include – narrowing down your keyword strategies, a solid content marketing plan, and doing all the on-site SEO you possibly can. You can do this yourself, but it will take some time to get up to speed on tactics too. I truly wish you good luck – it’s doable!

  • Yes..!! SEO is must for online success.But recently keeping in mind SEO strategy,I modified some of my posts slugs.Now Google has indexed post with different URLs but pointing to same content.. How to get rid of that old URL .Any idea? Thanks in advance.

  • Hi, good article,

    However I can’t help but think there are some issues that proponents of the “don’t focus on ranking #1” crowd keep missing.

    1) Given a system where the public conducts a search query that results in a list of links pointing to pages on sites that are ranked according to relevancy, it’s only natural that the searchers focus on those top search results. (it is an organic search after all)

    2) Given that, “the top listing in Google’s organic search results receives 33% of the traffic, compared to 18% for the second position, and the traffic only degrades from there.” http://searchenginewatch.com/a

    3) Given that the “I just want people to know that if the only goal and KPI is rankings, then they’re setting themselves up for failure” can be said about any other metric (be it bounce, CTR, conversion, etc.) however we never see same argument for not focusing on those other KPIs.

    4) Something that nobody else seems to cover, which is opportunity cost with respect to organic traffic market share. If we are not in that #1 slot, then our competition will be. Not a pleasant thought, especially for ecommerce.

    It just seems like a strawman to keep bringing up the “don’t focus on #1 spot” argument. Yes, if it were THE only metric, sure, but with all of these SEO sites, articles, posts, blogs, etc., I’m not seeing that as THE only focus. A major focus, yes, but not the only focus. Do we obsess? Yes. But we obsess on all of the metrics . Heck, I’ve spent days focusing on just title, H1 and meta description alone and now we have Social (all umpteen) along with LSI (not_provided) to worry about as well.

    From what I gather, the trick is to make them all work, for if you let any one of the metricses (metricki?) fall, then you’re still not optimizing results.

  • Thanks for sharing this post. Tracking your website with SEO is a most important method. This will definitely help others to watch on their website.