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Using Analytics Tools to Measure SEO ROI: A Comprehensive Guide

How to track SEO ROI Effectively

SEO & Business Metrics Working Together

When you promote your business website online, keeping track of the right things is key to success.

SEO can be tricky because many get caught up focusing on vanity metrics, so they fail to properly track ROI. There are so many tools that allow you to track all kinds of metrics, figures, and KPIs, that it’s easy to lose site of what important — leads and money. 

You need to remember why you are tracking what you are tracking, what your ultimate goals are, and how your analytics setup takes you closer to these goals.

With that said, there are SEO-specific metrics that you can track, and there are business-focused metrics that are interconnected with SEO.

SEO-specific metrics are keyword rankings, impressions per page, amount of indexed pages, amount of backlinks, domain authority, and other similar numbers.

Business metrics and KPIs – calls, form submissions, sales, and so on, that is anything that is directly tied to your revenue.

So when you put together the analytics part of your strategy, don’t limit yourself to KPIs and metrics that are strictly SEO. Add business-centric metrics to your SEO tracking efforts.

Setting up SEO Analytics to Measure ROI

With search engine marketing, literally everything you can think of can be tracked, measured, and reported on. So take a business-primary approach, not a tool-primary one. Don’t measure things just because a tool you have can measure them. Measure things that make sense for you and your business. 

Don’t worry about learning curves that much, you can always hire a contractor to build an analytics dashboard at any point. Get in touch with us and we can help you with the most common analytics. 

The most common practical reasons for setting up and using analytics to track your SEO ROI are to find out:

  • what links work the best
  • what type of content performs best
  • what topics sell the most
  • what organic keywords convert the best,
  • etc.

Seo Success Measurement By Tool Type

Rank Tracking

Tracking Google rankings for your keywords is probably the “most SEO” metric one can imagine.

There are many rank trackers on the market. Despite all the different bells and whistles that rank tracking tools have, they all come down to doing the same thing — checking and recording the exact position your website comes up on Google for your search queries.

Tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, SE Ranking all have a rank-tracking module within them. Normally when you set up a rank-tracking project you add a list of keywords to track and a URL to look for in SERPs. The better your rankings the more effective your SEO efforts are.

Tracking rankings is a good way to see if you’re doing your SEO right, and it’s always rewarding to see your dream keywords get closer and closer. However, you need to be careful and avoid putting too much focus on rank tracking.

One of the downsides of rigorous rank tracking comes from the fact that the information on your rankings is only as good as the keyword. When you adopt the keyword-centric approach to your site’s performance, you miss out on a lot of other metrics.

First and foremost, you can be mistaken about a keyword and its intent. We’ve seen businesses pursue generic and non-commercial search queries time and time again only to realize later that their audience is looking for something simpler, more specific, and, in fact, easier to rank for.

Second, when your website works well, you get most of your traffic for keyword combinations and variations, related keywords, and completely unexpected longtails. In fact, that would probably be your goal with blogging and content creation. 

You need to be as narrowed down and personal as possible with every SERP impression because that helps you SELL. That’s actually why you need to produce very detailed and focused content for your website, centered around topics that speak exactly to your customer’s interests.

Some SEOs skip rank-tracking altogether, and while it may seem like a controversial idea, there are other metrics that make up for it.

A solution to all the rank-tracking challenges described above would be to track rankings for a few selected commercial keywords as a general benchmark, without putting too much emphasis on them. If your rankings are going up — great, make sure that results in more revenue. If the rankings are not rising — figure out if there is any negative effect on sales. If your general traffic and sales are gradually going up then the stalling rankings are probably irrelevant.

If you’re working with an SEO agency that’s charging you for keyword ranking, consider switching to a more meaningful KPI, like organic traffic or goal completions from organic traffic.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console (GSC) presents a ton of information about your website’s performance in a very simple and usable way. The data from your Google Search Console can have several major uses, from shaping your technical SEO and local on-page tactics to getting content marketing ideas.

The beauty of Google Search Console is in how simple it is. You can always log in to run a quick health assessment for your website and see how well your pages perform. Unlike Google Analytics, you won’t be able to set up complex goals or reports — and that’s fine!

Search performance

GSC solves all the issues that rank tracking has by applying different logic to your Google performance analysis.

Instead of just tracking the keywords you’ve put into the tool, Search Console shows you all of the search queries you are visible for on Google. This ranking data can be presented either for your whole domain or for any specific page.

You can sort and filter your view by page or a group of pages and see how they perform.

Alternatively, you can filter by search queries or search query parts, and see if the right pages rank. Again, you get to see what the “right” pages for each keyword are, according to Google.

This allows you to get insights on topics and page groups to better understand your audience.

Page indexing

You can access the page indexing report in this section — and it’s a great way to pinpoint technical SEO issues.

The report gives you a list of pages that have trouble getting indexed, and a list of reasons why their indexation failed.

Mobile experience & usability

These reports assess how usable your pages are and why.

Considering that Google evaluates all new websites from a mobile-first indexing perspective, fine-tuning your mobile version is vital.

Links to your site

See what pages are growing and match that with your efforts.

This can help sculpt page authority with internal links and find the strongest donors for your internal linking campaigns

Pro-tip — you can export all data from Google Search Console into Excel or Google Sheets. If you want to follow the dynamic results of your SEO efforts without investing in high-end tools — export the GSC data regularly and store it in your master document to get insights later.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics (GA) is the largest and most complex analytics product that lets you track SEO ROI from different angles.

The best part about Google Analytics is that it’s a versatile tool that can be set up to combine both SEO-specific and business-related data and KPIs. If you are running paid ads on Google you will be able to set up advanced tracking for them and use that info together with your SEO data. What many businesses do is run paid ads to accumulate analytics data and then use that data to shape an SEO strategy.

There are many angles you can approach measuring SEO metrics in Google Analytics, let’s take a look at a couple of the most obvious reports used by SEOs:

Organic sessions by landing page

This report shows you which landing pages have been getting the most organic clicks from Google.

The table is organized by metrics like total users, new users, sessions, pages/sessions, avg. sessions duration, bounce rate, and goal completions.

Users and new users are important metrics — these are the people that have interacted with the landing page over a set period of time. Obviously, if a person visits the page again in another time period or uses a new device, or clears cookies in their browser, they will be counted as a new user.

Sessions — the amount of interactions the user has with your landing page within the specific timeframe (the default value for this is 30 minutes). A user can have several sessions, and the relation between users and sessions can give you an idea if your website is being used the way you meant it to.

Pages/sessions — the number of pages each user interacts with during their session on average. There are no good or bad values here, because it all depends on the type of website you run and your goals. If each of your pages offers a chance for a reader to convert into a customer, and your conversion rate is OK — there’s nothing to worry about with a low pages/sessions number.

If, on the other hand, your revenue depends on ad units displayed, you’d be interested in increasing your pages/sessions numbers.

Average session duration is pretty self-explanatory — again, make sure your measurements align with your business goals, don’t just measure things because you can. If a user fills out a contact form after just a couple of seconds on the website, that’s not a problem at all.

Organic goal completion by landing page

This report could be the most valuable one out of all SEO analytics reports, but only if you set it up right. There are many tutorials on setting up goals in GA online — you can start with Google’s official how-to.

Build a keywords report

If you connect Google Analytics with Google Search Console you will be able to see the keywords that get you traffic, their position, and keywords that have a lot of potential that you can use for your posts or pages.

This is pretty much the same thing you’d be getting in the Google Search Console interface but in a more detailed and advanced display mode.

Backlink Tracking

Once you start building links and running off-page SEO campaigns you will have to use backlink analysis and tracking tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, SEO SpyGlass, and others.

You can track these if you have an in-house team or a freelancer building backlinks and running outreach for you. Having a clear idea of the number of backlinks that stick could be useful if you correlate it with your keyword rankings and sales. However, you may not want to turn backlinks into one of your main KPIs.

For most local businesses, having synchronized local listings and citations is already a great foundation for their off-page strategy. You can use Direction Local to set it all up with a minimal learning curve.

Domain Metrics

These are the metrics put together by third-party tools, like DomainRank, DomainAuthority, TrustFlow, MozRank, and a bunch of others. These metrics take into account the amount and quality of inbound links to the site.

These can be fun to track but in reality, they are the most detached ones from your business goals. These metrics matter mostly for informational websites and blogs that sell link placements and ad space, so most businesses can do without paying attention to them at all.

Analytics Dashboards for SEO Metrics and Data

If you need to take your SEO to the next level and maximize ROI on all the activities you are paying for, you should really consider building an advanced analytics dashboard for SEO campaigns.

Put together a list of SEO metrics that make the most sense for your business and have someone build a dashboard for you with these metrics. There are multiple dashboard tools that make it relatively easy to put together, like Databox.com.

You can also use Google Analytics to create a dashboard — do so in Customization -> Dashboards -> Create.

If that’s a bit over your head you can import ready SEO analytics dashboards:

These metrics can be useful when combined into a single dashboard:

  • Total Organic Visits
  • All Organic Visits Over Time (Timeline)
  • Top SEO Landing Pages by Entrances and Bounce Rate
  • Top SEO Landing Pages by Goal Completions
  • Top SEO Landing Pages by Average Page Load Time
  • Top Organic Keywords by % of New Visits
  • Pages per Visit by Organic Keyword
  • Keyword phrases sorted by goal completions
  • Most Successful Keywords by goal completions

Again, focus on your business goals and conditions and do what makes sense for you.

Keep Your SEO Analytics Evolving

Make sure to check your analytics regularly, not just the data but the way you set it all up. 

These things can get overwhelming so start slow, with simple metrics like organic traffic to landing pages and top queries.

Please keep in mind that pro work with analytics is a complex full-time job with a steep learning curve. As a small business consider delegating as much as possible to contractors, employees, and local SEO software.

If you need help setting up your SEO analytics for your local business, interpreting data, or actionable suggestions for your SEO campaigns — get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to share our expertise.

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