What SEO Metrics Should You Be Tracking?

- Posted by Seb Atkinson in

Typically, an SEO report contains a lot of different metrics to offer a detailed look at how a website is performing. However, due to this complexity, it can be hard to understand exactly what you should be looking at to get an at-a-glance overview of how your website is doing. With that in mind, in this article we’ll look at some of the key metrics you need to understand to discover how well your SEO campaign is going.

Organic Traffic

The first metric you should know about is organic traffic. If you have Google Analytics installed on your site, you can check this by going to ‘acquisition’, then ‘channels’ in the left hand navigation. Organic traffic will be listed here as ‘organic search’.

Organic search traffic is all the traffic, or number of visitors, that have reached your site through a search engine, excluding PPC traffic. Essentially, this includes any visitors who have reached your site through the work of of an SEO company or through blogging.

Why should you track this metric? In the past, one of the only ways to track the effectiveness of your SEO campaign was via keyword rankings. However, since the launch of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm, Google is able to understand a deeper meaning behind search terms. The result is that people could be landing on your website through a hugely broad range of keywords, including keywords that you maybe hadn’t considered. As a result, blogging can really help you increase your site’s organic traffic over a broad spread of keywords.

This means if you’re only tracking keyword rankings, you could be missing out on the bigger picture of how your site is performing. Your keyword rankings may appear low, but you could be getting a lot of traffic through long tail searches.

Total Traffic And Other Traffic Sources

Measuring the total number of website visitors is also a good idea. You can measure this yourself using Google Analytics by going to ‘audience’ then ‘overview’ in the left hand navigation.

Google has recently renamed the metrics here, making it a little bit easier to understand for the uninitiated. ‘Sessions’ represents the number of individual website visits. This includes anyone who returns to your site multiple times. Meanwhile, ‘users’ represents the amount of people who have had at least one ‘session’ on your site.

It’s also worth looking at direct traffic under the channels data (click on ‘acquisition’ then ‘channels’). If you’ve had an SEO company working on your website for a while, or have engaged in a lot of offline marketing and PR, you should expect your direct traffic to increase over time. Direct traffic represents the number of people who have visited your site by typing in your website URL.

This can help give you an idea of how strong your brand awareness is, but also whether you should be investing more in SEO. If the majority of your traffic is direct traffic, then that could suggest new users aren’t finding your site. It may even suggest you’ve been hit by a Google penalty. This could cause problems for your business in the future as if new users can’t find your site, your potential for growing your business is diminished.

Finally, under the channels data you can also track referrals. Referrals track the number of people who have followed links from external pages onto your site. If you click on the referrals button in Google Analytics under the channels data section, you can even see which websites are sending you traffic.

This is really helpful for you to understand whether any of your other online marketing efforts are working. For example, if you are a local business with a Yell listing, you can see whether people are clicking through onto your site. Alternatively you may have written a guest blog post for another website. With the referral data, you can see whether anyone has followed the link through to your site.

Keyword Rankings

At the start of this article I recommended looking at organic traffic rather than keyword rankings. However, this doesn’t mean that keyword rankings are redundant just yet. While they don’t tell the whole story, they do provide an indication of how good your site’s SEO is. By combining organic traffic data with your keyword rankings, you can tell where you need to improve in order to drive more sales.

For example, you may have high keyword rankings for a number of search terms, but low traffic. That could indicate your keywords have low search volume (you can check this with Keyword Planner), and so you’ll need to make some changes to your strategy to get more traffic. This could include changing your keyword targeting or by writing some quality articles on your blog that will be of value to your readers.

Seb Atkinson
Seb Atkinson

Seb is the head of Social Search at Square Social. Seb has a wealth of experience across social media marketing, content marketing and search engine optimisation. Seb has helped SMEs, startups and large corporate clients achieve their online marketing goals.