Chapter 3

SEO Metrics

What are the SEO metrics you should track, and how do they impact your businesses bottom line?
SEO Metrics
Keyword rankings Keyword volume Keyword difficulty Page Authority of currently ranking pages Domain Authority of currently ranking pages Page Authority and Domain Authority of your own site or the page you’re trying to rank for a given keyword Traffic volume for a given keyword Conversion rate for a given keyword with respect to specific goals Lifetime value of a customer converted through organic search

For a high level overview, the SEO metrics listed above are the primary metrics every SEO should be aware of and tracking on projects for the highest impact. The impact these metrics have on your bottom line varies dramatically from a massive impact, to no impact at all - but can act as leading indicators to future revenue growth, or inform SEOs to better prioritize their actions.

Let’s dig deeper into what each of these involves.

Keyword Rankings

A primary goal for any SEO campaign is to increase the ranking for the corresponding content page on a target keyword. For the keyword in question, ranking results can be evaluated in terms of questions such as:

  • Which spot does the page hold for the target keyword on a given search engine’s results pages?
  • What page of results does the page appear on (first page, second page)?
  • How far up the page does the result appear?
  • How much has the keyword ranking improved since you started your SEO campaign?

The keyword of interest may be the primary keyword for a given page or it may be a secondary keyword mentioned on the page. Keyword rankings may be assessed for different search engines.

Keyword Volume

Keyword volume measures how often users search for a given keyword phrase over a specified time frame. Knowing this can help you estimate potential traffic which could be generated by improving your ranking on the keyword. This in turn can help you estimate potential revenue which could be generated from traffic on that keyword.

Keyword Difficulty

Keyword difficulty measures how much competition you face when trying to rank on a particular target keyword. Knowing the difficulty of a keyword tells you how hard it would be to take the top ranking for that keyword and how much resources you would need to expend to do so. This can help you determine whether to target a given keyword or focus your resources on a less difficult keyword.

Keyword difficulty can be assessed in terms of how many competitors are targeting a keyword, the authority of the competitors targeting that keyword and the quality of the content targeting that keyword.

Page Authority of Currently Ranking Pages

When assessing keyword difficulty, one measure of difficulty is the Page Authority of other pages currently ranking on that keyword. Page Authority uses a numerical scale to predict how well a given page will rank on a target keyword. It reflects the number of inbound links pointing toward a page, the quality of inbound links pointing toward a page and other factors. Knowing the Page Authority of your competition gives you a number to shoot for in your effort to improve your ranking.

Domain Authority of Currently Ranking Pages

Domain Authority is similar to Page Authority, but it applies across an entire domain or subdomain. It is influenced by the same factors which influence Page Authority, but the score is based on an aggregate of pages from a domain or subdomain rather than a single page.

Page Authority and Domain Authority of Your Own Site or the Page You’re Trying to Rank for a Given Keyword

Page Authority can be measured for pages on your own site as well as competitors’ sites. Likewise, Domain Authority can be measured for your own domain. This can help you evaluate where you stand versus the competition before an SEO campaign. It also helps you set goals for your SEO campaign and measure your progress toward those goals.

Traffic Volume for a Given Keyword

Just as you can see how many users are searching on a given keyword on search engines, you can measure how many users are coming to your site after searching on a given keyword. This gives you a baseline to build on and to measure the success of your SEO efforts. It directly impacts the amount of revenue you generate from your SEO campaigns. The more traffic coming from a given keyword, the more potential conversions and sales.

Conversion Rate for a Given Keyword with Respect to Specific Goals

Traffic sets the stage for conversions, which in turn sets the stage for sales and revenue. Conversions can be defined in terms of different goals, including:

  • Email subscription list opt-ins
  • Social media follows
  • Visits to a particular landing page
  • Product purchases
  • Subscription renewals
  • Referrals
  • Social media shares

These types of results closely impact the bottom line from your SEO results, making them important to track.

Lifetime Value of a Customer (LTV) Converted Through Organic Search

One of the most important metrics used to calculate the prospective ROI of your SEO efforts is the lifetime value of a customer (or LTV), and if possible the lifetime value of a customer specifically converted through organic search. 

If you haven’t been tracking where your customers are converting from internally you should be doing this as well. If you haven’t you likely won’t have data on the LTV of customers specifically from organic search, but sometimes LTV can change based on the origination source of the customer. Customers converted through organic search typically have the highest LTV of any channel, given this study by 86 retailers across 72 million customers.

If you don’t have data on organic customers specifically a general LTV would suffice and if you don’t have that data Baremetrics has a fantastic article on how to get your LTV specifically for SaaS that we recommend.

Knowing the user segment is also important for using the right LTV for your estimations (ie: are the keywords you’re targeting going to generate more sign-ups for an enterprise pricing variant or a freemium variant, etc.). 

This will heavily impact the numbers as well, though you could essentially calculate it in a range - first calculating your lowest LTV segment, and then calculate your highest LTV segment and know that your investment will fall somewhere in between the two. 

You could also just use a direct average across all of your customers, but specific pages that you target with content production and link building will likely appeal to one user segment more than another.

Incorporating Organic Traffic That Has Been Mislabeled as Direct Traffic

There have been experiments such as this joint venture between Groupon and Search Engine Land that show that upwards of 60% of direct traffic is mislabeled and should be labeled as organic traffic in Google Analytics.
Browsers don’t always know what bucket to place your traffic, and any traffic that doesn’t have a clear referral source (like a search engine, social network, specific page, etc.) gets dumped into direct traffic, and thus you should see direct traffic as a catch-all and not just everyone typing in your website directly. In fact if you check your direct traffic in Google Analytics it’s likely that you have many pages with long URLs getting direct traffic - it’s very doubtful people are typing in a long blog URL directly in their address bar, for example.
From the above mentioned article their findings were that on average a site getting ~50% of its traffic through mobile should expect that around 60% of their direct traffic is actually just mislabeled organic traffic. This could be higher or lower for you, especially if you have far less or far more mobile traffic (which is one of the larger culprits of this mislabeling of traffic). 

This doesn’t necessarily help for gauging the potential ROI looking forward, but can help give clarification to ROI analysis when looking back at previous growth.

Simply effective marketing.