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It’s as true in SEO as it is everywhere else: To know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been.
That’s where SEO metrics come in. Ones like click-through rate, dwell time, and referring domains, help businesses better understand how to improve their search engine rankings. They provide webmasters with standards of comparison for goal-setting.
That said, it’s not as easy as tracking every metric available. Some are more valuable for SEO than others. Here’s what you need to know about them to start reaching your SEO goals.
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More metrics, more problems
Analyzing your SEO success is difficult for two reasons. First, there are countless metrics to track. Second, how do you know which are highly correlated with SEO success?
To make matters worse, some SEO industry leaders estimate that the Google ranking algorithm changes somewhere between and 500 and 600 times per year. It changes so often, in fact, that Moz publishes a running total of all Google updates – a history that goes back to the year 2000.
One look at the Google Analytics dashboard is enough to overwhelm anyone who needs to find a solution to a problem and doesn’t know which metrics to follow.
With hundreds of data points to choose from, it’s important to narrow down your focus to website performance data and engagement metrics that impact only the most important search engine ranking factors.
Below is a list of the top 17 SEO metrics that expert marketers use to measure SEO success and monitor, analyze, and adjust their strategies.
Each time your web page shows up in a SERP, this is called an “impression.” The number of impressions you have simply represents how many times your page appeared for relevant searches, not how many people visited it.
Keeping tabs on your impressions will tell you if your site is gaining SEO visibility. If a web page has a low number of impressions but has been published for several months, it may need on-page, off-page, or technical SEO adjustments to appear for more searches.
2. Click-through rate
Your click-through rate (CTR) is a percentage that represents how many people have clicked your search listing out of the people who have seen it in search results. This metric can reveal how enticing your search listing is to users and whether it’s effectively attracting visitors.
Track your CTR in the “Performance” section of your Google Search Console dashboard.
You will see a further breakdown of the metric that gives you more insight as to how your listings perform for different regions and keywords.
CTR by location
Understanding how different regions perceive your search listings can help you orient them towards your target market. Say you’re a bike shop in California but your highest CTR is in New York. This can be a sign that your title tag or meta description doesn’t include your location.
Use this information to come up with new ways to engage Californians and gain traffic in the primary area that you service.
CTR by keyword
When you have a page with a high CTR for a given keyword, you can use it as a reference for improving your pages with low SEO performance.
Is there a certain format, style, multimedia component, etc. that those pages have in common? Is it something you can adopt with future posts or add to existing ones?
When you want to rank highly for specific keywords but have a low CTR, understanding what’s working well for other terms may unlock the door to better optimization.
Tracking CTR this way will show you which areas need attention, but you may have to do more in-depth keyword research. Viewing top-ranking web pages for your target search terms will give you ideas on how to adjust your own approach to those keywords.
3. Dwell time
Dwell time refers to the amount of time between when someone clicks on your web page and when they come back to the search engine results page. Search engines interpret dwell time as an indicator of value. The way Google sees it, the longer someone stays on your website, the more you must have to offer them.
This is an important metric especially for bloggers who provide information-based content. A higher dwell time signals that your content satisfies search intent and deserves a higher position on the SERP.
4. New referring domains
The more backlinks you earn, the more that Google will value your website content. If those links come from high-quality domains you gain even more credibility. But search engines also recognize when you continuously earn backlinks from new referring domains.
When you earn backlinks from both established and new websites, Google sees that you provide value across the board. As a single site references your content repeatedly, it will eventually have less impact over time.
Monitor where your backlinks are coming from to determine whether your link-building strategies are working.
If you don’t have many new referring domains, consider posting more on social media, reaching out for most guest posting opportunities, or designing some cool infographics for your industry.
5. Keywords ranked in Google
Tracking your keyword rankings in Google is an easy way to assess your overall content marketing strategy.
Are you ranking for the target keywords that you intended? If not, use this information to look at individual pages that you want to rank and adjust your SEO campaign for them. Update the content, metadata, and use technical SEO on the back-end of your website. Improving your keyword usage for each specific page can make a big difference in your ranking position on search engine results pages (SERPs).
6. Page speed and Core Web Vitals
Websites that take too long to load cause users to leave before they’ve interacted with the content. This slow page load time translates to poor user experience and subsequently drops your ranking. Page speed is a Google ranking factor and should be monitored closely.
Additionally, in 2020, Google introduced Core Web Vitals, a set of metrics designed to gauge a site’s user-friendliness.
The three Core Web Vitals are interactivity, loading time, and visual stability. Along with its pre-existing measures for user experience, Google uses these metrics to determine the functionality of any given web page.
7. Domain authority
Domain authority is a metric that top SEO tools like Ahrefs, Moz, and Semrush use to describe your overall SEO performance. Your site is given a score between 0 and 100 (100 being the highest).
This is not an official ranking factor, but it does give you an in-depth look at where you need to adjust your approach. Domain authority factors in the performance of your on- and off-page SEO tactics, like link building and keyword ranking.
8. Organic traffic
One of the main goals of an SEO strategy is to boost organic traffic, or website traffic that comes directly from your ranked listing on SERPs – not from paid ads.
To know whether your efforts are working, you first need to know how much organic traffic is coming to your site. As you implement various SEO techniques, you can track whether your overall traffic is increasing as a result.
Organic traffic by location
Analyzing organic traffic by location will help you understand your audience and determine new segments. You can track organic traffic at the country, regional, and state levels using the reporting tab on your site’s Google Analytics profile.
When your traffic is coming from your target market area, then you know your efforts are on-track. Are there high-traffic areas where you can tap into an unexpected customer base? If you’re generating website traffic from an area that you can’t service (possibly overseas or in another state), you need to adjust your SEO strategy.
Organic traffic by landing page
Concentrate your efforts even further by tracking the traffic you receive to each page. By comparing and contrasting each page’s performance, you’ll know where to focus your energy and make improvements.
If you’ve taken different SEO approaches with your various pages, you might see the most effective approach reflected in the comparative rankings.
Organic traffic by device
Google Analytics will show you a breakdown of your organic traffic by device. This is helpful for determining if one version of your website is poorly optimized. If you see a major difference between your organic traffic on the mobile and desktop versions of your website, you need to address the root cause.
This is usually due to poor user experience issues unique to the device, including (but not limited to) slow load time, confusing site structure, overuse of graphics, and unresponsive web design.
9. Organic bounce rate
Your site’s organic bounce rate is the percentage of people who left after one pageview without triggering an analytics request. It is an important engagement metric that affects how Google perceives your value to users.
The lower the bounce rate, the better your overall engagement. Each industry has a different definition of a “good” bounce rate. That’s because, for example, someone shopping on an ecommerce site would likely engage more with the site than someone looking for one piece of information on a blog.
Keeping an eye on your bounce rate will help you keep your site content fresh and engaging. If you notice that this metric is really high, you might need to sit down and brainstorm or research how you can improve the user experience or enhance the overall quality of your web pages.
Organic bounce rate by landing page
You can also view the bounce rate by landing page to identify patterns in your content. This metric can tell you a lot about your site.
Have you noticed that a certain subtopic or product page has a lower bounce rate than others? Ask yourself why that might be. It’s possible your content is more engaging? Maybe it includes more internal links to get users to other pages on the site…
Try figuring out how to make your high-bounce-rate pages like your low-bounce-rate pages. What can you do to improve them?
Organic bounce rate by device
Looking at your bounce rate by device will let you know if a version of your website may need fixing. If you notice that your mobile device bounce rate is much higher than the desktop rate, use the Google Mobile-Friendly Test to find out why. The mobile version of your site could be too slow, clunky, unresponsive, or have a host of other problems.
Organic bounce rate by browser
Organic bounce rate by browser will tell you how your bounce rate compares across web browsers like Safari, Chrome, Edge, etc.
A high Safari bounce rate vs. a low Chrome bounce rate may mean that you need to reconfigure your website for Safari. There might be a problem with the way the site looks or operates for Safari users, and it’s impacting bounce rate. Consider implementing a few techniques to optimize your site for multiple web browsers.
Additionally, you can also compare different versions of the same browser. If your site does better for older browser versions, this means you may have to install some updates to improve performance on the updated software.
10. Organic visibility
Your organic visibility (also known as “SEO visibility”) is the percentage of total clicks that your website gets for all of its ranking keywords. This SEO metric is a good overall measure of how your site fares in search engines. The higher your organic visibility, the more opportunities you have to attract new customers and growing your online audience.
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11. Number of pages indexed
Sometimes you may have great content but it doesn’t rank because the search engine hasn’t crawled and indexed it yet. If the information isn’t indexed, it won’t show up in the search results.
Check your Index Coverage report in Google Search Console periodically to see the number of pages you have indexed. When it’s taking a long time for Google to index a particular page, you can request indexing by submitting the URL to the search engine.
If you have a vast number of pages that need indexing, submitting an XML sitemap will help the search engine find and crawl your content.
12. Top exit pages
An exit page is the last web page that a user visits before they leave your website. Tracking your top exit pages will tell you which pages content or experiences are driving users from your site.
Analyze these pages and look for things like broken links, outdated information, technical problems, low readability, etc. that could be contributing to poor user experience.
13. Local visibility
Local SEO visibility is an important metric for every local business to understand and monitor. At minimum, you want to secure organic search traffic for search terms specific to your local area and industry.
For example, if you own a roof repair company in Miami you’d want to rank for search terms like: “roof repair Miami” or “roof repair business in Miami.”
To monitor your local visibility, enter local search queries into Google or Bing and see whether your business ranks on the first page. A great formula for finding local search terms is:
SERVICE + in + LOCATION = SEARCH TERMS
So if you’re a roofing company in Miami, a good term to look up would be “roof repair in Miami” or “shingle installation in Miami.”
If you enter search terms like these and don’t see your business listed on the first SERP, you need to implement some specific local SEO techniques to increase your online presence in your area.
14. Pages crawled per day
Google tracks how many pages it crawls per day on your website. For most sites, the pages are crawled at a steady rate and this won’t be an issue.
When you have a large site (one with thousands of URLs), however, you may reach a cap on the amount of crawling that search engines can handle (known as crawl budget). Common issues that cap out your crawl budget include:
- Duplicate content on your site
- Spam content
- Filler and low-quality information
- Faceted navigation (which leads to duplicate pages)
- Soft 404 or 410 error pages
For more on how to address crawl budget issues, take some tips from Google.
15. Duplicate titles and descriptions
When it comes to title tags and meta descriptions, you should never duplicate them. When you use the same title and description across different web pages, the search engine will assume you have multiple pages about the same topic, which can dilute your ranking power for the keyword phrase. To ensure this doesn’t happen, write title tags and meta descriptions that use the focus search terms and are unique to each URL.
16. Crawl errors
Sometimes search engines run into crawl errors that prevent them from indexing a page.
These issues stem from either site errors or URL errors and they block the Google algorithm from ranking your content. Moz has a great guide on how to fix crawl errors in Google Search Console.
When search engine crawlers try to access a page on your website and they can’t, it’s known as a crawl error. There are two main types of crawl errors:
- URL errors: Crawlers can’t access a specific page on your website.
- Site errors: Crawlers can’t access your website.
URL errors result in issues like 404 error pages and they are usually caused by malware, incorrect internal links, or issues with responsive mobile configurations.
Site errors are especially troublesome because they prevent crawlers from indexing your entire website. You could have these errors because of server issues, a missing robots.txt file, and coding errors. When this happens, you will typically see 500 or 503 error codes on the page that actually displays.
Once you address these issues, you should see immediate improvements in the amount of pages you have indexed and will eventually see a boost in overall search volume.
17. Pages per visit
Another helpful insight is the average number of pages people view when they visit your website. This can demonstrate your site’s overall value to users, but context is important for this metric.
For example, someone searching for a word definition might go to the web page for that word, read the definition, and leave because they found what they needed. This site might have a low “pages per visit” average but still provide value to users.
On the other hand, consider an ecommerce brand like Barnes & Noble which provides a different resource for people looking for definitions: a variety of dictionaries.
Notice how they have product filters, a search bar for specific products, and ways to sort the results. All of these user-friendly elements help increase their average pages per visit and overall website functionality.
If your website is too complicated, disorganized, or slow, users might leave to look for the item on a different site. Creating a simple site structure is one of the best ways you can improve this metric.
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When it comes to SEO performance, there is a metric for virtually every area of website performance and user engagement. When you track these SEO metrics, you can identify problems faster, target specific areas of improvement, and figure out ways to better serve your audience.
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