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November 1, 2013

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?


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