Chapter 6

Measuring SEO Results for SaaS Companies

When it comes to any digital marketing methodology, measurement is key, and it’s no different for SaaS SEO.
Measuring SEO Results

When it comes to any digital marketing methodology, measurement is key, and it’s no different for SaaS SEO. Unfortunately, a lot of people get it wrong when measuring SEO results for SaaS companies. In this section, I’ll provide some clarity around this inbound marketing channel and help you set up a solid workflow for measuring your SEO success.

At SimpleTiger, we’ve codified a process for measuring success as it pertains to Google. I call this process the “Trifecta of SEO Results,” which simplifies the targets and metrics we monitor.

We can organize this Trifecta into the following buckets:

  • Rankings - The position of your site in Google for a given set of keywords.
  • Traffic - The traffic coming to your site from organic channels.
  • Conversions - The conversions generated by organic traffic on your site.

There’s no need to make it more complicated than this list, particularly in the beginning. As your company grows and you want to add granular control to your efforts, you can expand each of these buckets and broaden the metrics you track. For most, these three measurements are plenty because they provide a solid indicator of how your SEO efforts are performing.

First, we’ll dive into each of these three categories and I’ll recommend some tools for monitoring and understanding their measurements. Next, I'll summarize why I consider these three metrics the Holy Grail of measuring SEO performance, as well as how to manage your expectations throughout your SEO campaign.

Rankings

As we discussed in the Keyword Research section, nailing down target keywords is a critical first step on the path to SEO success. After you gather your list, you need to understand your baseline performance, or how your site is ranking on Google for your given keyword set. To understand your baseline, you can pull your search engine keyword rankings from a variety of rank-monitoring tools.

  • AgencyAnalytics - We love this tool the most for measuring rankings because the data is accurate and the variety of features gives us the reporting power for our clients.
  • Ahrefs - As you saw in the previous chapters, we also appreciate Ahrefs for its accuracy and speed of data; even using this tool in the Keyword Research process. This tool is more viable than AgencyAnalytics for overall SEO management.
  • SEMrush - This tool is great for a variety of SEO focused research and analysis. We use SEMrush for competitive research to learn about competitors’ keyword targets, PPC budgets, and more.
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The goal of the ranking metric is to establish your baseline performance for your target keywords, enabling you to monitor monthly progress. You may choose to keep a closer watch over your rankings by following them weekly or even daily, but keep in mind the search engine results pages (SERPs) are like the stock market with volatile daily fluctuations. On the other hand, if you monitor rankings over a longer timeframe, you’ll begin to see patterns and trends emerge that give more insight into the efficacy of your content and strategy.

You’ll want to set a recurring report that’s delivered monthly, and with time, you’ll begin to see a lift in rankings as you progress through your SEO efforts. A lot of tools report on the top 100 positions in Google, which gives you plenty of insight into what’s working and what isn’t. If your site begins to show up within those first 100 positions, say around the 87th, don’t be discouraged!

Google now has your site “on the radar,” indicating that your website is relevant to the given keyword. Continuing to climb Google’s ranks is an ongoing process of further content marketing, technical optimization and link building. You’re now looking for an upward trendline from your site’s baseline rankings.

Organic Search Traffic

Organic search traffic is top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) traffic that has the highest likelihood of converting your visitors. In other words, the organic traffic you generate will typically convert better than traffic from any other channel, including paid search, paid social, organic social, display advertising, signage and referral traffic. There are unusual cases where another channel converts slightly better than organic, placing organic at a close second for generating conversions.

The reason organic traffic converts visitors so well comes down to “searcher intent,” the logic behind what an individual’s goal is when performing an online search. What does the searcher intend to find given their keyword query? Organic search traffic is powerful because people are actively searching for what your business sells and are either ready—or near ready— to buy. After discovering your site, visitors usually need more information to convince them that your product is the best option. Once persuaded, they’ll eventually convert into a paying customer.

What are the best ways to measure organic search traffic for your SaaS company? We prefer tools like the following:

  • Google Analytics - The default in all digital marketing analytics tools, Google Analytics is the defacto for measuring traffic channels and engagement on your site. It can be set up and configured to provide almost any level of insight you need within the parameters of regional standards and privacy laws.
  • HubSpot - While they offer a great suite of marketing automation and CRM products, we genuinely love their analytics tools. Unfortunately, they don’t share this data as much as Google Analytics does. I believe that keeping data proprietary is a part of their business model, locking you into paying for the subscription.
  • Mixpanel - I mention MixPanel because a number of our SaaS clients use it to gather user data from both their website and app interactions. Mixpanel does a fantastic job of connecting searchers’ data from the moment they first visit your site through the time they develop a deep engagement history with your application. If you’re looking for a more advanced option with better controls than Google Analytics, Mixpanel is the best option for you.
  • KissMetrics - Built by a fellow SEO professional Neil Patel, KissMetrics has a positive reputation amongst users. For monitoring in-app activity, this tool offers a SaaS analytics solution that looks a lot like Mixpanel and Google Analytics.

Once you choose and set up one of these tools, you want to monitor your site’s organic search traffic every month. Once your rankings begin to hit first-page territory, you should start seeing organic traffic data increase. Often clients show traffic improvements before they start ranking for any of their generic keywords because they’re beginning to rank for longer-tail keywords. It’s important to remember the traffic gained from long-tail keywords is low and slow at first.

Conversions

The most critical metric you can track for SEO is often the hardest to track accurately. Using the tools above, set up conversion metrics to measure engagements that are essential to the success of your SEO campaign. Let’s explore what conversions are, what you should consider a conversion and how you could track more tangible results from your SEO efforts.

What is a conversion?

Simply stated, a conversion is an action/engagement which someone takes that’s essential to the success of your SaaS business such as:

  • Requesting a demo
  • Contacting sales
  • Downloading an ebook or guide
  • Downloading your app
  • Signing up for a free trial
  • Registering for an account
  • Paying for your product

There are many ways to consider a conversion, and it all depends on what’s important to your particular business, industry and circumstance.

In most cases, we help our clients keep track of their conversion metrics by setting up the Google Analytics’ Goals feature. Often we use Event Tracking for monitoring form submissions, button clicks and other specific actions.

How should you track conversions?

With all of these conversion-tracking tools, how do you get the most out of your SEO efforts? Depending on your business, industry and type of SaaS product you’re selling, it often makes the most sense to drive users through a funnel of engaging with your site and content before expecting them to become a paying customer.

Of course, you want to provide an easily accessible option for visitors to become customers immediately. Still, most people will go through a process of studying your product’s function, features, use cases, pricing, and so forth before deciding to buy. They may even want to compare your product to your competitors’ to find the best fit for them.

We recommend setting up a funnel that involves multiple levels and points of conversion throughout your site. Think of these levels as stages of seriousness in the buying process. Someone who just found your website may be ready to buy or may just be browsing. Based on their level of seriousness, you need to divide them into different funneling processes to deliver them to the point of purchase.

Here’s an example funnel:

  1. A user finds your site through a blog article related to the keyword searched.
  2. They read the first article and clicked through to another related article linked at the bottom of the first to continue learning more.
  3. They see a popup or element offering to send more similar content to their email, so they sign up. You may consider this a type of conversion.
  4. Two weeks later they click through an email marketing campaign and now they’re back on your site.
  5. They download a guide on how to shop for SaaS tools like yours. In exchange for the guide, they give you more of their user-submitted information. This another level of conversion, as this person is now a more serious lead in your system.
  6. At this point, they start receiving a different type of email reserved for the more engaged leads in your marketing automation platform (like HubSpot), and this email invites them to a webinar or a demo of your product. These users are near the end of your marketing funnel and almost ready to convert into paying customers.
  7. A week after the demo, your sales team follows up with leads that have attended a webinar or product demo. The sales process entails following up and providing further information to prepare the lead to buy from you.

You can see that merely tracking conversions based on users buying your product isn’t enough. Insight into a lead's decision-making process will help you create a well-thought-out inbound marketing funnel. This method of lead-nurturing has been used for over a decade to generate sales.

Now that you understand the different stages of conversions, you can see how your SEO efforts may not immediately generate sales. In the long run, this simple and effective marketing funnel allows SEO to be the lifeblood of your business.

Why should you track all three metrics to understand SEO?

  1. By monitoring rankings, we gain our first insights into website optimization. We see the effects of adding and linking to targeted content. Rankings tend to improve first and that incremental will eventually hit a threshold to generate organic traffic.
  2. Ranking on the third or fourth page of Google SERPs won’t get you much traffic but once you get to the second or first page of Google, you’ll start to see the traffic trickle in. Eventually, you’ll get to the first half of the first page of Google, where the majority of users click. At this point, your traffic will really begin to increase.
  3. When your rankings move up enough to where your content is garnering SERP clicks, you’ll see an influx of web traffic. The initial inflow of visitors could be small and slowly climb, or it could jump up when your site ranks in a good position in Google. This trend is highly dependent on several ranking factors but mainly comes down to the quality and relevance of the content you’ve provided for a given keyword set, as well as any the quality and number of backlinks pointing to that piece of content.
  4. Eventually, your site will capture enough quality traffic that the sites’ intrinsic conversion rate will start to take effect. For example, the website may convert at 2%, meaning for every 100 site visitors, you convert two of them in any capacity. As you climb in the rankings, traffic numbers begin to grow and the conversions start to flow.
  5. Once your site is ranking for relevant keywords, you’re bringing in quality traffic and you’re building trust through your content, you’ll begin to see conversion rates improve. As the results of your efforts compound into higher rankings and higher traffic, higher conversions will follow. The compounding effect makes SEO the most successful top-of-the-funnel marketing channel. It’s easy to see why it’s such an attractive marketing methodology.

I hope this section has helped you understand how to measure SEO results with an easy-to-implement, practical framework for determining the success of your SEO campaign over time.

Simply effective marketing.