Measuring the results of an SEO campaign can be tricky, especially if you don’t know what to look for. However, you need to evaluate your campaign to make sure it is progressing the way that you want and helping instead of hindering. It’s also the only way to justify the ongoing expense to your superiors.
In this article, I outline the 6 steps you can use to effectively measure and report the success of an SEO campaign.
1. Set Proper Expectations
No amount of reporting matters if you aren’t measuring the numbers that matter to you, your superiors, or your clients. Decide which metrics are the most important to, whether it’s keyword rankings, traffic, conversions, or something else. After you determine the metrics, make sure every party is on the same page and agrees.
If you care about keyword rankings, what timeframe do you expect to achieve the desired results? Typically you can measure keyword rankings and first-page search results 6–9 months after you begin tracking a campaign.
If you care about traffic, how many visitors do you expect—hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands? What is realistic? If a website is brand new, offers local services, and has a $200 budget, hundreds of thousands of unique visits is probably not realistic.
If conversions are the most important metric, then you don’t have to report traffic as often. Specific niche keywords should take priority.
Realistic expectations are important. When the expectations and goals are too lofty from the start, any campaign can look like a failure.
2. Track Metrics That Matter
At some point, you need to justify every campaign expense to continue.
It becomes difficult to justify and accurately measure the results of a campaign when you report nonessential metrics. For example, an organic SEO campaign is not going to focus on Adwords or pay-per-click ads, so don’t report on those. You don’t want to confuse and muddy the metrics that are important to your campaign.
3. Use Google Analytics and Search Console
No matter what metrics you choose, Google Analytics and Search Console help measure the performance of a campaign.
Google Analytics breaks down a website’s traffic by the source of that traffic (search engines, referrals, social media, direct clicks, or somewhere else). Search Console, on the other hand, gives you a wealth of information. It allows you to see, among other things, what technical errors are affecting Google’s ability to read your website, see what keyword searches on Google are bringing up your site, see what the click-thru rate is for those keywords, and get notifications from Google of any penalties your site has incurred.
4. Perform an Initial Audit
Some issues on your website will negatively impact the effectiveness of an SEO campaign. These issues include a large amount of duplicate content, 404 errors, a lack of relevant content, server issues, sitemap errors and coding issues.
Perform a basic audit to find outstanding issues before you begin your newest campaign and determine who will make the changes.
5. Watch Your Overall Keyword Rankings
Keyword rankings will fluctuate as Google and other search engines decide the best placement for a website. Do not get hung up on temporary dips in rankings or changes from hour to hour. Think of SEO a little bit like the stock market—there will be a lot of temporary ups and downs. You want to stay focused on the overall trends in keyword rankings, which should gradually inch upward.
SEO is a long-term investment and should be reported in a way that reflects overall performance. By tracking your starting rank, current rank, and overall rank, you can effectively show the true performance of keywords.
Take this example with the keyword “wagon wheels for sale.” As shown in the graph, the keyword is in a better place than where it started, even with the temporary ups and downs.
6. Show Your Action Items
SEO is an industry where transparency is essential. That means you need to show what you’re doing on the campaign to improve SERPs.
For example, if you are building links in order to increase a site’s authority, what are those links and where are they being built? How much did it cost to do? If someone made changes to an onsite page, what are they? How do your reports reflect these? Different companies will charge different amounts for link activities.
However, while it is important to see what work was done, never lose sight of your main goals. Make sure to monitor the overall performance of your most important metrics.
Effective SEO reporting takes time to set up, but when done correctly with set goals and transparency of action, it will foster long-term success and positive relationships with the parties involved.
This post was originally published in July 2016. It was last updated in February 2018.