By OLIVER ANDREWS
What Is the Best Way to Track Progress With SEO?
You’ve probably asked yourself a dozen times whether your SEO strategy is actually working. After all, the results don’t exactly show right away, and you need a way to monitor your SEO progress.
But what’s the best way to track progress with SEO? What metrics do you use? And what software provides that data? We asked SEO specialists those 3 questions, and here’s what they had to say to help you get more than a partial snapshot of the results of your SEO efforts
What we will cover in this article
What is the best way to track progress with SEO?
The responses revealed that there’s no one-size-fits-all way to track SEO progress; rather, there are many ways! But first, David Zimmerman, SEO Consultant at Curious Ants, debunked the myth that it’s all about rankings.
“The best way to track progress on SEO isn’t rank (contrary to popular belief). The real way to measure SEO progress is how many new customers are you getting from organic search? Once you know that – whether a customer is a sale of a product or a sales lead, you know if your SEO campaign is progressing. ”
For some others, it’s about the business goals. “To track SEO performance for a particular website, first, you have to set benchmarks. Your objectives ought to be clear and quantifiable,” said Ankit Saxena, Co-Founder of KonvertKlicks. In other words, conversions aren’t necessarily sales.
“Someone could submit a lead to set an appointment or make a purchase on your website. These are the best indicators that your campaign is generating direct revenue,” explained Sep Niakan, Managing Broker at Condoblackbook.
Accordingly, Alan Spurgeon, Founder and Director of Hedgehog Digital, emphasized “working backwards from your overarching business goals. For example, if your goal is to increase enquiries from your website, you should be tracking conversions from organic search traffic.”
When agencies are involved, Joe Baker, Founder & CEO of Boots Empire, relies on reports. “Reports not only help you demonstrate the outcomes of your efforts, but also assist you to alter your SEO strategy for the next month.”
On that note, Viktoria Altman from BSP Legal Marketing emphasized that with clients, “as SEOs, we have access to a lot of data. I always think it’s best not to get trapped in the data and worry about new business coming in for the client instead.”
Likewise, Rachel Lindteigen, President and Founder of Etched Marketing, affirmed that “if you can’t show success/ROI, the client doesn’t continue with you,“ and John Leo, SEO Specialist at Infizius, recommends “reporting to your client by bringing them into a live session and explaining to them what you have improved so far.”
What metrics do you use?
Following the discussion on the foundations of tracking SEO progress, it was time for the how-to.
Sebastian Schaeffer, CTO and Co-Founder of Dofollow, suggested that “Defining your SEO KPIs depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your SEO, but metrics that are universally respected and provide good insight into how your SEO is progressing include leads, website visitors, brand awareness and signups.”
Reiterating that, David A., Author and Marketing Strategist at Net Influencer, said that “active users, conversion rates, and new leads and clients are among the key metrics to analyze.”
One repeatedly stated metric was also bounce rate. “Bounce rates should be between 40 and 60%, depending on your industry. If the proportion is excessively high, the page is unrelated to the search query,” said Darshan Shomashekar, Founder & CEO of Spider Solitaire Challenge.
Jason McMahon, Digital Strategist at Bambrick, also finds bounce rate a behavioural indicator of SEO performance but combines it with Average Time on Page. “In general, a higher bounce rate is a bad sign. However, combining this with the Average Time on Page measure is a fantastic idea. Is it a success or a failure? For example, if you have a long guide article with a high time on a page AND a high bounce rate?”
Stewart McGrenary, Director of Freedom Mobiles, additionally factors in Average Session Duration. “It’s an important indicator to consider when gauging user engagement on your website. You’ll be able to examine the quality of your site and determine whether any modifications to its structure are required.”
Speaking of engagement, William Cannon, CEO of Signaturely, finds it one of the most important, coupled with conversion metrics. “First, you need to evaluate how people are engaging with your site. What is the most efficient way they engage, and how is that engagement further elevated via any form of content? Second is the conversion rate which you are getting out of those engagement-enhancing tactics.”
Expectedly, organic traffic and click-through rates occupied the lion’s share of responses. Tony Kelly, Founder & CEO of CameraGroove, finds CTR to be “an important metric to keep track of because it informs you more than simply how highly your sites rank in the SERPs. It also indicates how appealing the information is to people.”
By the same token, Pranchil Murray, Head of Customer Success at Malwarefox, believes that rankings and CTR are tied. “High rankings won’t help you attract more people if your search snippets aren’t appealing enough. As a result, your CTR falls short of expectations.”
As for organic traffic, it’s commonly tracked. “Our SEO efforts come down to one thing: organic traffic. This is what we spent money on when it came to SEO, and it’s all that really matters to us,” said Lindsey Allard, CEO and Co-Founder of Playbook UX.
Steve Scott, CTO of Spreadsheet Planet, also perceives organic traffic as “one of the most significant metrics to evaluate because its rise indicates that you’ve achieved your key SEO goal”. Similarly, Miranda Yan, Co-Founder of VinPit, finds it “vital since it aids the site’s functionality and can help it grow in popularity.”
Coupled with these metrics, keywords rankings are essential. They’re “everyone’s favourite SEO measure,” as Sam Browne, CEO and Founder of Find a Band, puts it. “The keywords you rank for will reveal a variety of information to you!”
“Tracking your rankings helps you measure if your SEO efforts are having an impact,” explained Seth Richtsmeier, Associate Director of SEO at Champ Internet Solutions.
Based on the results, Miklos Zoltan, CEO & Cybersecurity Researcher at Privacy Affairs, recommends using the Keyword Opportunity KPI. “By comparing current positions to Google’s predicted search traffic volume and competitiveness rating, the Keyword Opportunity KPI determines whether there’s room for improvement in search ranks.”
Putting it all together, Jack Shepler, Founder of Ayokay, concluded that “Rankings in Google and site traffic are great indicators of your SEO progress. The better your SEO, then the better your rankings. And the better your rankings, the better your site traffic. At the end of the day, you’re just looking for a boost across the board – better rankings, more traffic, and more overall keywords that your site is showing up for in Google.”
Accentuating that, Ben Richardson, Director of Development Academy, said that “SEO is frequently seen as a distinct endeavour when, in fact, it should be seen in the context of your website’s overall performance and marketing activities.”
And, of course, backlinks weren’t forgotten. “Concentrate on increasing the quality and quantity of your backlinks, and Google will reward you handsomely,” advised Edward Mellett, Founder/Co-Founder of WikiJob.
Chris Zacher, Content Marketer at Intergrowth, also tracks backlinks and domain rating or authority to “determine which sites we have a realistic chance at ranking for by using the amount and quality of your backlinks to predict how Google will perceive your site.”
Farhin nazMondal, Intern at HireCream, equally perceives domain authority as crucial. “One of the most important goals of any SEO strategy is to improve the site’s level of authority in Google’s eyes.”
On a micro level, other performance metrics were discussed. Tayyab Akram, Digital Marketing Manager at Analytify, mentioned “the performance of your website pages in term of page loading speed”, while Michael Robinson, Security Expert at Cheap SSL Security, recommended tracking “keyword click-through-rate with alongside the target goal completion rate metric for a holistic picture of your digital marketing success.”
Finally, mobile traffic was mentioned by Adam Garcia, Founder and Owner of The Stock Dork. “Tracking your mobile SEO performance is more important than ever. You have a problem if your organic traffic on mobile is trailing behind desktop.”
What software do you use?
As far as software is concerned, several tools rose to the top. Taking the lead were Google’s SEO tools.
“Essentially everything you’d need to start working on improving your rankings can be found in GSC,” said Dylan Houlihan, Founder of Swift Salary.
Echoing the sentiment, Brock Cooper, SEO Manager for No to the Quo Marketing and Cigarketing, stressed that “Google Analytics may be a pain to work with and figure out, but once you know it, you can’t live without it.” Indeed, Cary Haun, Technical SEO Specialist at Twelve Three Media, relies on Google Analytics for a “generalized overview report of a site’s monthly traffic and activity.”
Even with clients, Peter Prestipino, Director of Integrated Marketing at Antenna Group, suggests “using Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools, or any system really that’ll enable an SEO to track the holy digital trinity – clicks, impressions, and average position.”
Yet, the visible pattern was that most experts complemented Google tools with other software.
“I use Ahrefs and Google Search Console to check my SEO progress. Instead of using a complete SEO tool for auditing/measuring my success, I like to use only those two tools, which gives me enough data, and more importantly, the required data to analyze,” said Vignesh Wadarajan, Serial Entrepreneur & Marketer.
Agreeably, Brian Robben, CEO of Robben Media, said that “Ahrefs and Google Analytics are really all you need to do a very efficient job tracking your online traffic. Plus, both are simple to add to your site for tracking.”
Others use Ahrefs for specific purposes. “Ahrefs is essential for tracking rankings and monitoring the improvement of pages in terms of rankings, domain rating, keyword volume (and almost any other measurement you can think of),” asserted Michael Steele, CEO of Flywheel. In contrast, Nick Chernets, CEO of DataforSEO, relies on it to “check website’s DR, new backlinks as well as individual keyword rankings.”
Mostly, Ahrefs was showcased as an all-in-one tool. “The best advice I can give about tracking a website’s SEO progress is to use Ahrefs,” commented Hugo Germon, Owner of The Tool Scope.
Then, there was SEMRush. “I use SEMRush for my off-page SEO tracking and Google’s bounce rate analytic to measure how many visitors I lose on a weekly basis and what tweaks influence the direction of my bounce rate,“ shared Bryce Welker, CEO of CPA Exam Guy.
“SEMrush is possibly one of the most useful tools I use to track everything from keywords the site or page is ranking for to checking the backlink toxicity,” further said Rob Swinburne, Digital Marketing Apprentice at Surge Marketing Solutions.
More tools were mentioned, including “Hunter.io for email scraping and outreach, BuzzSumo for content ideas, Yoast SEO for article SEO optimization, and Grammarly and Hemingway App content quality,” shared by Luat Duong, SEO Lead at Scandinavian Biolabs.
Lastly, Tom Shivers from Capture Commerce preferred Analytics Edge for its ability to “import data from Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and other data sources, making it easy for me to marry it all up.”.
If there’s one takeaway from the different inputs of the industry experts we’ve spoken to, it’s that there’s no one best way to track SEO progress for everyone. At the end of the day, it all comes down to your goals.
Once they’re narrowed down, it’ll be easy for you to take it from there to determine the KPIs to focus on and choose the right software to report on them and inform your steps moving forward.
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