Your carefully crafted SEO strategy is in motion, and now it’s time to see if you’re on track to hit your goals. By keeping an eye on essential SEO KPIs, you can see where your campaigns are gaining ground and where they need extra work to have a bigger impact on the search results pages.
While there are seemingly endless search KPIs you could use, start by getting a big-picture overview. In this article, I’ll introduce 14 vital metrics that provide a well-rounded look at SEO performance. As you see how the pieces of your strategy are coming together, you can expand your reporting to add additional key performance indicators.
1. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
Customer lifetime value (CLV) is the amount of revenue the average customer is likely to bring to your business over time. As your CLV increases, each customer you acquire becomes more valuable to your bottom line.
You can track this SEO KPI for different audience segments to find your most profitable customers. You might find that a customer who clicks on a paid ad spends less on average than one acquired through organic traffic, for example. These types of comparisons can help you decide which customers generate the most revenue so you can prioritize your marketing strategies.
To dig into this data, generate the User Lifetime report in Google Analytics (GA). You can see the value of customers acquired during specific periods so you can align activity with a campaign date. The new GA4 report provides historical data as well as predictive metrics like purchase and churn probability.
2. Keyword Rankings
Keyword rankings tell you where your website is positioned on search engine results pages (SERPs) for a specific search term. The first organic search result (not including the featured snippet) is position one. You might rank number three for “hotel near Seattle airport” and number seven for “Seattle hotel,” for example.
If your keyword ranking is steadily climbing for a particular search term, you’ll know your SEO efforts are effective. If a page seems to have plateaued with a ranking of 20, you’ll need to adjust your tactics to gain visibility.
Higher rankings are associated with more click-throughs, so be sure to track this search KPI for keywords that are the most important to your business. Search results are constantly shifting depending on algorithm changes and your competitors’ tactics, so this metric will also help you keep tabs on where you stand.
To track keyword rankings, use a free SEO tool such as Google Search Console, which you can also connect to GA. Paid tools, such as Semrush and Ahrefs, can also provide detailed insights into search engine ranking.
Conversions are actions you want customers to take on your website, such as buying a product, downloading a white paper, or signing up for a free trial. This is an important KPI in SEO because attracting visitors isn’t enough — you need to turn them into leads or customers.
A low conversion rate on key pages may indicate the content is confusing to the reader or there’s a usability issue. It could also mean you’re attracting the wrong target audience.
4. Cost per Acquisition (CPA)
Cost per acquisition (CPA) tells you how much you spent to land one new customer. You can measure this KPI for different channels, such as pay-per-click, social media, and organic search.
To calculate CPA, calculate how much you spent on your search engine optimization efforts. This may include fees paid to an agency or consultant, software and tools, and content creation costs.
Divide the total amount spent on SEO by the number of conversions from organic traffic. Ultimately, you’ll want a lower CPA while your CLV rises. Keep in mind that your search engine optimization efforts can take at least six months to begin gaining traction.
To use GA to track CPA, assign a cost to each conversion and customize a metric in your reporting that divides the cost by the relevant conversions.
5. Organic Visibility
Organic visibility is a measure of how prominent your website is in search engine results for your target keywords. The higher you rank for important keywords, the more visible your site is.
SEO visibility is the estimated percentage of clicks your site receives based on your rankings. This metric is a favorite KPI among SEO marketers when gauging a website’s discoverability in search results.
You can track organic visibility using tools such as Moz’s Search Visibility Score or Ahrefs’ Visibility metric. Just be sure to use the same tool when comparing performance over time.
6. Return on Investment (ROI)
Return on investment (ROI) assesses the impact of your SEO spending in terms of revenue generated. You can calculate it by dividing net revenue (revenue minus expenses) by the cost of the SEO strategy.
I’ll give you a simplified example. A florist spent $1,000 to optimize a website for local SEO. These efforts resulted in $5,000 in sales. Divide $4,000 (revenue minus expenses) by $1,000 to get an ROI of four. This means every dollar spent on SEO generated four times the return.
The impact of SEO is cumulative, so you won’t see an immediate return. Further, if there’s a competitor running an aggressive SEO campaign, it’s going to be even more difficult to get in front of customers. It takes time for SEO tactics to work, but as your website gains visibility, you can expect your ROI to improve.
7. Organic Traffic
Organic traffic measures the number of website visitors who found your business in unpaid search results. They may have clicked on a featured snippet, regular search result, your Google Business Profile, or a search result in maps. Organic traffic is one of the most valuable SEO KPIs because it shows your optimization efforts are sticking, generating visibility without the cost of paid advertising.
Not all visitors will convert, but measuring organic traffic along with bounce rate and user engagement provides insight into whether you’re building relationships with visitors and laying the foundation for future conversions.
Google Search Console measures organic traffic separately from paid traffic and gives you data for the last 16 months. Link your Search Console account to Google Analytics for more insights, such as the users’ countries of origin, devices, and landing pages.
8. Backlinks & Referring Domains
Backlinks are the links other websites use to send their readers to one of your web pages. These inbound links may drive some traffic to your site but are especially important for SEO as they signal to Google that your content is a reliable source of information.
Monitor your website’s backlink profile with the goal of increasing the number of quality backlinks and unique referring domains. Four inbound links from four different referring domains carry more ranking weight than four links from the same domain.
Growth in your backlinks and referring domains will help your site rank better. You can run backlink profiles through Google Search Console as well as third-party tools such as Semrush and Ahrefs.
9. Click-Through Rate (CTR)
Click-through rate (CTR) is the percentage of users who click on your website link in organic search results compared to the number of people who see it. It’s a KPI SEO specialists use to determine how effective your search result listing is at generating website traffic.
A low CTR may suggest a need to improve search visibility or adjust your page title, meta description, and structured data to better inform readers about the content of the link.
You can expect your CTR to be low unless you rank on the first page of search results, as only 0.63% of users navigate to the second page of results. Monitor your site’s impressions, clicks, and CTR using Search Console reports in Google Analytics.
10. User Engagement
If your SEO efforts are paying off, visitors are flowing to your site to explore your offerings. User engagement is one of the key SEO KPIs that shows the depth of user interaction with your content.
For example, Google Analytics provides insight into engaged sessions, which are sessions that meet one of the following criteria:
- Lasts 10 seconds or more
- Includes at least one conversion
- Includes at least two pageviews
GA also tracks average engagement rate, which is the percentage of engaged sessions out of all sessions, and average engagement time, which is the time the page is in focus in a browser.
If your engagement metrics are low, work on improving your linking strategies and calls to action to draw users into your marketing funnel. Keep in mind that user engagement doesn’t always result in conversions. Some readers may read your content and not take further action, while others may return later.
11. Branded Traffic
Branded traffic refers to the visitors landing on your site because they searched for keywords with your company’s name or products. For example, “grocery store near me” creates unbranded traffic and “Trader Joe’s” results in branded traffic.
Branded traffic is valuable because users typically know what they’re looking for and are more likely to make a transaction. Create a list of branded keywords for your business, including variations, and track their performance to see if your brand awareness is growing. You can run a query in Google Search Console for these terms to monitor impressions and clicks.
12. New & Returning Users
It’s useful to measure how well your SEO efforts are attracting new visitors. If you’re not receiving a steady stream of fresh traffic, you may need to adjust your SEO strategies to improve visibility or generate more backlinks. Similarly, if visitors aren’t returning, perhaps your content needs to provide more value.
New and returning users aren’t always accurate metrics. Some people may clear their cookies or use a different browser, which will cause the site to count them as new instead of returning visitors.
These common SEO KPIs can be found in GA’s Retention Overview report as well as in other tools that track website performance.
13. Bounce Rate
Bounce rate tells you the number of visitors who arrive on your website and then leave without clicking a link to complete an action, learn more about your business, or read additional content.
Consider bounce rate in the context of the page itself. A page with business hours will have a high bounce rate as users quickly get the information they need and leave. Slow-loading pages can also cause users to bounce, so regularly assess your site’s technical SEO health. In other cases, the page may be confusing or doesn’t contain information that the searcher expected to find.
You can usually track bounce rate with engagement data such as page views. In Google Analytics, you’ll find bounce rate under Engagement Reports for Pages and Screens.
14. Metrics on Google Business Profile
When you rely on local customers, it’s important that you put your Google Business Profile to work. Google will feature your business in its own panel and may also display it in local packs and maps.
Your Business Profile provides key information like your address, contact information, reviews, and business hours to potential customers directly on the search results page. It can also send potential customers through to your website.
The Business Profile platform has performance data built-in, so you can simply log into your account to access Insights. You can see the search terms people are entering to find your business and the devices they are using, which is valuable intel for shaping your SEO strategies. You can also track the number of reviews, direction requests, website clicks, menu clicks, and bookings made from the profile.
Start Tracking Important SEO Metrics Today
Every business is different, so it’s crucial to customize your KPIs to your specific needs. With a dedicated SEO partner, you can get insider recommendations, set data-backed goals, and track your KPIs for SEO with a powerful and personalized strategy driving your every move. Reach out for a free consultation to learn how our team can help you dive into the data to exceed your SEO ambitions.