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90% of consumers used the internet to find a local business last year, and 51% of traffic for B2B and B2C sites was driven by organic search traffic. In other words, consumers are looking for products in search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
That means search engine optimization (SEO) is a critical component of any digital marketing strategy. If you’re not working hard to optimize your SEO results, you’re letting competitors get the edge they need to steal your valuable share of unpaid, organic traffic.
No matter the size of your business – ecommerce, enterprise, or small brick-and-mortar – to compete, you need to keep a pulse on your business and your industry. In this post, learn which SEO metrics to track, tools to measure them with, and how other businesses stack up in key categories.
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SEO visibility is a key performance metric (KPI) that marketers can use to figure out how well, in total, they’re showing up on search engines like Google search, Bing, Baidu, and others. It’s a critical measure of SEO performance.
SEO visibility measures how well you’re showing up on search engine results pages (SERPs) for all your target keywords, both long-tail, and short-tail. It’s a percentage of the search volume that you’re getting on all the SERPs.
SEO visibility is a critical metric because it helps you understand the effectiveness of your keyword research, content marketing, and SEO strategies. The higher your SEO visibility, the more likely you are to generate valuable organic search traffic.
Calculating SEO visibility
To calculate SEO visibility…
- Look at all your rankings for the search terms you’re targeting.
- Next, look at your estimated click-through rate (CTR) based on each ranking position with a tool like Google Analytics or Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools).
- Then add those CTRs and divide by the total of all the keywords for which you’re ranking.
This percentage is your SEO visibility.
If your SEO visibility is low, you’ll likely want to take a look at your content creation strategy and make some changes.
Though Google Search Console will give you the information you need to calculate your search visibility yourself, there’s plenty of SEO software available that will calculate this for you, like Semrush, Ahrefs, or Moz.
If your SEO visibility is between 9% and 35%, you’re getting good SEO results. If you’re below 3%, there could be a problem with your content or link-building efforts, or it could mean your CTRs are low due to low-quality title tags or meta descriptions.
A good title is going to draw the reader in by aligning with their search terms and providing value, like explaining what they’re going to learn by clicking through, for example, or addressing them with a question they’ll want the answer to. It should be between 55 and 60 characters long to avoid truncation.
A good meta description does the same thing. It makes the user want to click, is between 155 and 165 characters, has a call to action (CTA) that entices the user to learn more (and thus click), and elaborates on the title, explaining in a bit more detail what the reader is going to learn when they click.
Impressions are a metric used often in digital marketing, including social media. PPC, and SEO. In SEO, an impression is when a user has seen your link on organic search results (search results that are not paid through pay-per-click (PPC) Google ads).
That means you have appeared on a search engine results page (SERP) that a user is looking at — it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have literally seen your link because Google has no way to track what a user looks at.
Still, impressions are an important SEO metric and should be tracked carefully using tools like Google Search Console because they can help you to see what content is possibly underperforming on the SERPs.
If you have a lot of impressions for a particular keyword phrase but your click-through rate is low, that might indicate that something is wrong with your headline or meta description.
It might also mean that there’s something wrong with the content itself. Maybe you wrote a text-heavy article for a term like “how to cook fried chicken” when users were looking for a video instead. This would result in a lower CTR than other results that account for search intent.
Google Search Console will show you your impressions on both desktops and mobile devices, but other tools like Ahrefs and Semrush will show you impressions for different search queries as well.
How many impressions your website should be getting depends on your industry. Some industries are going to easily get millions of impressions while others will have to be content with the impressions in the thousands.
Do a little research and find out what others in your industry are regularly getting. But remember, your business is not their business. Worry less about beating industry benchmarks and more about improving on your previous results.
Keyword rankings show you how high on a SERP your content shows up for every keyword Google search and other search engines have determined match search queries.
For example, if someone types in the phrase, “best truck manufacturers in Texas,” and their content shows up in the 3rd organic position for that keyword phrase, then that’s their keyword ranking — 3.
However, it’s important to understand how keyword rankings work on Google and other search engines.
Because SERPs have so many factors that determine how your content ranks, and because a SERP is usually unique to each user based on factors like their search history, device, location, and other factors, even if your content ranks in the 3rd spot for one user, that doesn’t mean it will rank in that spot for another user.
Therefore, keyword rankings come in averages. If you use a tool like Google Search Console to look at your keyword rankings, you’re going to see an average ranking, like 3.2 or 1.4.
This means that sometimes your content is ranking in the 3rd position, but for other users, position, or maybe the 5th.it’s ranking in the 4th position, or maybe the 5th.
Why keyword rankings are important
Keyword rankings are important because they are a part of your SEO visibility and tied closely to organic search traffic, which is the primary measure of success for any SEO campaign. If you’re not ranking for your target keywords, your SEO campaign is potentially failing.
When keyword rankings are low, it could indicate a problem with your content, or perhaps with your titles/meta descriptions, or maybe even your website infrastructure. For example, your page load speed might be low, or your page layout might drive users away with poor layout or too many ads.
There are many tools out there to track keyword rankings with, but the simplest is Google Search Console, though you may want to check out other tools like Ahrefs or KWFinder.
Remember, keyword rankings matter. The #1 result on Google gets, on average, 31.7% of traffic.
Don’t forget about rich snippets. They can bring in 8.6% of clicks from a SERP, reducing the number of clicks the top-ranking page gets to 19.6%.
Mobile performance is how well your website performs on mobile devices. This includes a few factors, including page load speed, mobile responsiveness, and how quickly certain aspects of your website load.
For example, LCP (largest contentful paint) is a page speed metric that measures how quickly the largest object on your web page loads.
Because websites can load differently on mobile than on a desktop, you want to make sure you don’t have massive content on your website (like huge images) that can hurt this metric.
Mobile responsiveness is a measure of how well your website adjusts itself to different screen sizes (like iPads or iPhones, for example). If your website isn’t mobile responsive, you won’t rank as high as you could.
It’s also important to note that when Google indexes your website (adds it to their databases), it indexes the mobile version of your website first — this is known as mobile-first indexing.
Google prioritizes the mobile version of all websites, so it’s important that you ensure your website is mobile responsive.
You can use the Mobile-Friendly Test tool to see if your website is mobile responsive.
Your website should be 100% mobile-friendly. It should load quickly on mobile and not have tiny text or have elements on the page that cause the page to jump around (this is known as cumulative layout shift (CLS)).
Across industries, almost 24% of websites are not mobile-friendly, so getting your website mobile-friendly can help you get above your competition if they’re not mobile-friendly.
New referring domains
New referring domains are backlinks — links from another website to your website — that are coming from a brand new website (as opposed to a website that’s already linking to you).
Backlinks are extremely important to SEO. When a website links to your website, it’s like an upvote. To the Google algorithm, it means that a website is vouching for your content.
Generating backlinks is a component of off-page SEO (as opposed to content creation, which is part of on-page SEO, or improving infrastructure which is technical SEO).
Along with high-quality content, backlinks are among the most important ranking signals in all of SEO. When you get a new website linking to your website, search engines like Google and Bing perceive your content as authoritative and therefore worth ranking higher.
You should prioritize campaigns to build links given that they play such a critical role in search engine rankings. Keep in mind, it’s not just the link that matters, but the anchor text of the link as well.
Google Search Console is a great tool for tracking both your backlinks, your new referring domains, and even your internal links. You can also use tools like Ahrefs, Moz, and Semrush to track your links.
There’s no limit to the number of backlinks you should be aiming for. Just remember: backlinks from high-quality sources are always better. A link from the New York Times will do more for your SEO than one from a small independent blogger.
In fact, low-quality links can actually harm your SEO by leading to a manual penalty if Google’s algorithm deems them to be spammy.
Data shows that top-ranking pages tend to have more backlinks than lower-ranking pages.
In fact, the average top-ranking post had about 3.8 times more backlinks than rankings #2–#10
The takeaway is that building backlinks is a viable SEO strategy that can get results.
Organic traffic is website traffic that you don’t pay for directly like you would in an ad campaign. This is traffic that comes from your SEO efforts.
Organic traffic is important because it’s the most important direct SEO result. Backlinks, page speed, high-quality content — the goal of it all is to get high-quality organic traffic.
High-quality organic traffic is traffic that has the capacity to convert in some way, whether that be signing up for an email list, clicking on an ad, or making a purchase.
The reason you want to prioritize organic traffic is that, for the most part, once you start earning it, it will continue coming with little maintenance. It can even compound over time.
If that traffic is converting regularly, you’re getting SEO results without putting in additional work — it adds value without straining your business.
To track organic traffic, you can use Google Analytics primarily, though other tools like Semrush, Moz, and Ahrefs will also track your organic traffic for you too.
How much organic traffic you need depends heavily on your industry and the type of content you create. It may be the case that your industry has very low volumes for the keywords you’re targeting, so you might struggle to get over 10k views a month, while other industries might average 100k views a month (or more).
That being said, there are some averages to consider. For example, how much organic traffic goes to the top 10 positions on Google SERPs. This shows how important it is to try to get in the top 3 results.
However, what’s more important than the volume of organic traffic you’re getting is the percentage of that traffic that’s converting. Having lots of organic traffic doesn’t mean much if it’s not converting.
Again, conversion rates differ between industries and between conversion goals, so you’ll need to experiment on your own to find ways of increasing conversions.
However, there are some good benchmarks to shoot for. For example, First Page Sage found that the average conversion rate was 2.4%. This differed by page type.
Click-through rate is the percentage of traffic that clicks on a link compared to the number of people who “see” the link.
When visitors come to a SERP and “see” the link to one of your pages, that’s an impression — the percentage of those people who actually click the link is your click-through rate.
The Click-through rate doesn’t just apply to SERPs. It applies to anything in the digital marketing world where your goal is to get users to click, including social media posts or Google ads.
It also includes internal links on your website (links from one page on your website to another page on your website). It’s a way of measuring conversions — the percentage of people who are taking an action you want them to take (in this case, clicking on a link).
Google Analytics and Google Search Console will both give you data on your click-through rates for free, but you can use tools like Moz and Ahrefs to measure your click-through rates.
Click-through rates on SERPs depend heavily on your web page’s headline and meta description, as mentioned above, so make sure these are high-quality.
Whatever your click-through rates are, think about how you can increase them, by A/B testing content for example (trying two different types of content and seeing which one gets more clicks).
Sometimes even a small change, like changing the text on a button, can increase your click-through rates, so experiment as much as possible while tracking this metric to see what works best.
Here are some average click-through rates by industry.
Page speed, which is the speed at which a web page loads, is a critical ranking factor — and for good reason: it’s closely tied to usability/user experience and the likelihood that a visitor is going to stay on your website.
In fact, 53% of searchers will leave a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load, which means that you’re losing potential revenue-generating traffic if you’re not optimizing for page speed.
Page speed is a part of your technical SEO efforts and, along with regularly creating new pieces of content and generating backlinks, is one of the most critical SEO metrics you should be focusing on.
If you have high click-through rates but people are abandoning your site in droves, page speed could be part of the reason. Even if you’re on the first page of search engine results, you can’t capitalize on search traffic if your loading speeds are low. People will abandon your site and look for a faster-loading result.
Some metrics to try to hit are:
- Largest contentful paint (LCP) of 1.2 seconds or less, which is how long it takes the largest piece of content on the website to load.
- Cumulative layout shift (CLS) of 0.1 or less, which is how much the layout jumps around as the web page loads.
- First contentful paint (FCP) of 0.9 seconds or less, which is how long it takes for the first piece of content to load on your website.
- Time to interactive of 2.5 seconds or less, which is how long it takes the entire page to be completely interactive.
Average page load times are about equal to these recommendations for time to first byte (TTFB).
However, time to fully loaded is significantly longer:
If your page is loading faster than this, you’re doing pretty good.
Dwell time is how much time a user spends on your page before returning to a SERP. This is in contrast to time on page, which just shows how long a user is on a page before going anywhere else (like deeper into your website) or back to the SERP.
This is also different from your bounce rate, which is how many users went to a single page on your website and then left.
Dwell time matters because it’s likely a ranking factor, which makes sense given that the time a user spends on a page is a good indication of how well your content is working for them.
For example, if you have a long article (in the 2,000+ word range), but the dwell time for that article is only a minute, it might indicate that your content isn’t performing well, especially if you expect users to spend a lot of time on that content.
Review your content. Is it valuable? Does it answer the user query comprehensively? Is it organized in a way that makes it easy to skim?
Tracking dwell time is a little difficult because it’s not explicitly tracked in Google Analytics, but you can look at the average time on page for each of your landing pages and get a good idea of how long users are spending on the page for organic search.
What kind of dwell time to shoot for depends on your content and the purpose of the content in question. If it’s long-form, you probably want users to spend some time with it. If it’s a short landing page, on the other hand, a low time on page could be totally expected.
That being said, the average time on page across industries is about 62 seconds.
The more time spent on a page, usually the better as it means the viewer is consuming the content.
Get a complimentary SEO audit
Achieving the SEO results you’re shooting for varies (sometimes heavily) by industry, but if you focus on these metrics and try to hit these basic benchmarks, you’re going to move the needle and get closer to your SEO goals.
Of course, remember that industry benchmarks can’t tell the whole story. Your business is your business, so the best SEO goals to shoot for are ones that exceed your previous goals.
Want to see how you’re doing with SEO? Get an instant SEO audit below. Or, schedule a free consultation to see how intent SEO can boost search traffic revenue by 700%.