It’s necessary to track SEO performance to understand what activities are useful and which are not.
However, there are numerous reasons why it’s difficult to accurately estimate the ROI (roi) of an SEO campaign, starting with difference as to which metrics are most important.
The State of SEO report exposes some agreement as to which metrics are useful but that there is much dispute.
Leading 3 SEO Metrics
As will be seen, the relative importance of specific SEO metrics differs in between in-house, firm, and freelance SEO pros who responded to the survey.
However the top three SEO project objectives and KPIs (crucial efficiency signs) from the report are the exact same.
All three SEO demographics among report respondents agree on the top three SEO metrics in the same order:
- Page views.
The above SEO metrics are tracked through Google Analytics, Search Console, and third-party tools, making them useful for tracking the objectives of an SEO campaign.
While there is contract about the top three SEO metrics, there is a broad difference of opinions relating to the relative importance of the rest of the metrics.
That’s important due to the fact that those other metrics can represent campaign objectives and KPIs.
Why Is Determining KPIs So Difficult?
Even when there’s agreement on which KPIs are essential, there is still the concern of precise measurement.
Personal privacy laws are sunsetting numerous forms of tracking.
But there are likewise real-world barriers. Browse marketer Adam Humphreys, Founder of Making 8, relates:
“Communications with the client and their often high turnover of reception makes tracking conversions beyond our lead tracking more difficult. With call tracking, if the client receptionist forgets to verify a visit lead for tracking software, we only know that it was a leader/new call. The life time value of clients can considerably differ.
The kickstart conference is the most crucial time for SEO professionals to learn what product service offerings are provided, the most frequently offered, experienced with, and the highest return offerings.
With this, I cross-examine Google sheets chances to see where they are vs. what’s on their website and triage material to the top that requires to be optimized initially. While we can track on an extremely granular level, I prefer to focus on tracked leads, not return on advertisement invest (ROAS), for service-based operations.
For ecommerce, however, we can very carefully track ROAS. It is essential to know that SEO is an investment, and like going to the fitness center, it takes some time to optimize whatever.
This understanding is why we have our proprietary triage formula for material to line up with client requirements. Lead tracking SEO is only as great as customers understanding their numbers. Some are amazing, while others are rather satisfactory.
The fundamental part is we continually track and are liable for results. We can hence see the seasonality of SEO and when something is off that requires to be optimized.”
The 4th Most Important SEO Metric
Both the agency and freelance SEOs ranked Revenue as the 4th essential SEO metric.
Internal SEOs ranked Marketing Qualified Leads as the fourth essential SEO metric.
There is a fascinating insight into why internal SEOs disagree about the 4th SEO metric.
The factor in-house SEOs disagree on which SEO metrics are most important is the work environment.
The workplace surprisingly impacts which SEO metrics are deemed crucial.
This phenomenon is plainly viewable in the fourth crucial SEO metric revealed by the State of SEO Survey.
Obviously, income is essential to internal SEOs. However it is not offered as a leading issue in the study for reasons particular to the work environment.
Earnings is usually tracked outside of in-house SEO. It’s the obligation of another department or layer of management.
Even in a smaller sized internal function, the management layer might not share specific income numbers.
Sometimes, especially in bigger business, the revenue numbers are carefully guarded and not shared with the SEO department.
Australia-based search marketer Ash Nallawalla, who has decades of internal SEO experience, described:
“In every big business I have actually been in, Income was never ever my issue in a reporting sense. There were analytics teams who did that.
In some companies, the detailed profits breakdown was kept secret. e.g., which item was the most rewarding. Even conversions are not clear cut in big business.”
The function of internal SEO in numerous verticals is mainly concerned with keeping the leads rolling in.
So it makes good sense that Marketing Certified Lead is ranked number four by in-house SEOs. It reflects their obligations and how the work environment affects which KPI is important to their SEO execution.
Income is ranked 4th crucial by firm and freelancer SEOs, possibly because that may be essential to their customer base of little and medium companies (SMB).
The (hopefully) increased earnings metric confirms the work of a company or a freelance SEO.
On the other hand, there are factors to consider why Certified Leads may be a much better metric for tracking SEO success.
Adam Humphreys discusses why:
“The problem is customers will video game the earnings as to avoid paying more, and if they have a satisfactory front end, etc, it could result in less revenue. Bad in-store experiences could likewise result in less income.
This is why I would state it’s not the very best method to measure success. Certified leads are more what I would say is the very best metric of success. What the client does after depends on them.”
The Five Through 10 Crucial SEO KPIs
All 3 SEO demographics diverge totally about what the next top-ranked metrics ought to be.
There is arrangement regarding the top 3 most important SEO metrics.
The fourth most important SEO metric is primarily a reflection of responsibilities.
However positions 5 through ten are where the leading metrics appear to end up being a matter of viewpoint.
Here are how the various SEO demographics ranked the next essential SEO KPIs:
5. Marketing Qualified Lead: 5.8%.6. Bounce rates: 5.4%.7. Backlinks: 5.3%.8. Page Speed: 4.6%.9.
Client Acquisition: 4.4%.10.
5. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic: 6.5%.6. Backlinks: 6.1%.7. Earnings: 5.6%.8. Page Speed: 5.2%.9.
Bounce Rates: 5.0%.10.
Time on Page: 4.5%.
5. Bounce rates, Backlinks, Social Engagement: 6.3.6. Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): 5.8.7. Client Acquisition, Page Speed: 5.7.8. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic: 5.6.9. Email Memberships: 5.4.10. Customer Life Time Value (CLV): 5.1.
Page Speed is the only metric that all 3 groups settle on.
Page Speed is a known ranking aspect.
However it’s likewise a minor ranking element and not most likely to be a direct reason a site is top-ranked in Google’s search results page.
The study results confirm what everyone understands, that Page Speed is a valuable metric to track. But it’s trivial as a ranking aspect.
A fascinating observation about page speed is that a greater page speed can directly help increase conversions, and sales, improve time on page, bounce rates, and pretty much all the other metrics important to SEO.
Given how page speed affects the other SEO metrics, it deserves entertaining the idea that page speed should be ranked as a greater top priority.
Mismatched Goals And Metrics
Aside from page speed, there is no contract on which metrics are most important.
Another curious result is that Freelancers were uniformly split among virtually all the metrics.
6.3% of freelance SEOs agreed that bounce rates, backlinks, and social engagement were important, a three-way tie for the number five essential SEO metric.
The number 10 ranked SEO metric, Client Lifetime Value, was ranked with 5.1% votes. That’s a difference of only 1.2% between the fifth and the tenth essential SEO metric as voted on by freelancers.
The differences between the fifth and tenth-ranked SEO metrics were closer to two percent for the company and in-house SEO demographics.
What is clear is that freelancers could not reach any consensus. Freelancer votes yielded a three-way tie for the fifth essential metric and a two-way tie for the seventh-ranked metric (client acquisition and page speed, 5.7%).
Freelancers were the only market where the votes ended in ties for any metrics.
The tied results show that freelance SEOs widely disagree about which metrics are the most vital.
Respondents who determined as freelance may be a more comprehensive market than those who recognized as agency or in-house.
For example, a freelance SEO might focus on content writing, link building, site auditing, local search, affiliate work, or perhaps a mix of several.
Looked at because method, it makes sense that the freelancer SEO demographic is practically evenly split as to which metrics are the most important. Their survey answers show that all the metrics are essential.
Disconnect Between Project Goals And KPI Tracking
All 3 demographics agree on 3 metrics that are each a measurement of SEO success.
- Page views.
Those three measurements are results-based KPIs of success.
Where the three SEO demographics strongly disagree is on metrics that are understood to be factors to SEO success and healthy traffic.
- Bounce rates.
- Social engagement.
- Time on page.
- Page speed.
A possible description for why the SEO industry disagrees with the above five metrics may be uncertainty regarding which of the above plays a role in Google’s algorithm and to what extent.
This uncertainty about SEO aspects should be acknowledged because it points to the limitations of these metrics.
The reason for the unpredictability is that Google’s ranking algorithm is a black box.
In computing, a black box is a circumstance where what is put into package is understood (SEO), and what comes out is also known (rankings).
However what occurs inside the box is not understood.
Backlinks, social engagement, time on page, page speed, and bounce rates represent what we put into the box. Rankings are what comes out.
However no one understands what occurred inside the Google black box that resulted in the rankings.
Intensifying the secret is that nobody can accurately carry out tests to isolate what elements contributed to rankings since you only see the result, not the process.
This inability to see how the algorithm works doesn’t indicate that social engagement or time on page, or any of the other metrics should not be tracked.
It simply implies that one has to be aware of the limitations of these kinds of metrics.
The reality that the various SEO demographics do not settle on the relative importance of these metrics highlights the general uncertainty of what takes place inside Google’s black box.
Result On Tracking SEO ROI
There are many short articles about tracking the ROI of SEO, however the reality is that it can not be precisely tracked; it can only be estimated.
For instance, we don’t understand if backlinks contributed in rankings. Sometimes there are no modifications in rankings up until months later on.
Did the links take a long period of time to affect the rankings, or was it a coincidence?
Social engagement is stated to be an indirect ranking consider that it could result in more branded keyword traffic and links, which in turn affect rankings.
However again, there is no way to attribute the top quality keyword search traffic directly and gotten links to social engagement.
Even if one could, one could still not accurately confirm that those links played a role in rankings since Google’s ranking processes for each inquiry occur in a black box.
Ensure KPIs Support Campaign Goals
The State of SEO results makes it clear that choosing the very best metrics is vital to your situation.
In some cases the information is not offered, such as earnings or sales figures. But there are always other information, such as leads or conversion rates, that can demonstrate how well the SEO campaign is advancing.
Distinguish between real SEO performance metrics (rankings, traffic), metrics that refer to site experience (page speed, time on page, bounce rate), and SEO improvements (backlinks) to get an overall image of how well the different parts of an SEO project are interacting.
However also think about indirect aspects such as social engagement (where appropriate) because, in addition to being an indirect SEO aspect, it’s a measurement of appeal, a reflection of how well a site is growing as a brand name and a destination.
For more insights about the state of the SEO industry, download the second annual State Of SEO Report.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Best SMM Panel