If you are running an SEO program, you are in for a long haul. Sometimes, it takes from 6 months to a year to see a slight improvement in online visibility attributable to SEO efforts. You do not need to wait a year or longer to understand if your SEO program is succeeding or failing. How do you know if your efforts are paying off?
SEO Program Purpose
As an experienced SEO, you realize, that a successful SEO program does not just bring traffic to a website. It brings the right visitors who are interested and willing to invest in your products and services.
As a realistic SEO, you know well that only continuous effort will bring perpetual results. Checking on the health of your SEO program allows you to stay ahead of any problems and prevent a penalty disaster.
Why do you do SEO? The main goal of your SEO program is to increase your brand’s online visibility within specific topics to expand reach and brand recognition. Ranking factors are not created equal, but let’s assume that your on-page SEO is perfect. It is likely that you worked hard to make your content unique, useful, with a dash of personality. You promoted the content on the channels where your customers frequent. Some of them comment and share posts they liked.
This was a good effort and here is how you can tell if your SEO program is a success. This is how you measure your website authority, relevance, trust, engagement, and user experience. Score high at these metrics and enjoy the benefits of high rankings while tracking meaningful KPIs.
Every SEO program has a set of specific tasks to accomplish the bigger goal of better online visibility.
Increase relevant traffic through search engines and referring websites.
1. Measure organic and referral traffic in your Analytics platform. Check monthly and look for an upward trend. Search traffic share is typically the largest. If direct traffic is over 30%, you have a problem with traffic attribution. UseGoogle Search Console or Majestic to generate a list of links to your site. I suggest you use both: Search Console will show you pages with most links; Majestic will group links by topic. The more links to more pages, the better your linking strategy is. The more links from similar topical websites, the more relevant your site is to that topic. Track link velocity with Majestic. Increasing number of inbound links to specific pages will show you which content is unique and useful. Compare results from several search engines proportional to their market share. Perhaps, you can give some ideas to your paid search team.
2. In Google Search Console, check the latest queries and keywords that brought you traffic. First, look for good and bad trends. Did impressions decrease for any of the key phrases? Did the average search results position drop for any of the main keywords? Did any of the pages dramatically gain or lose impressions? Any surprises when you compare devices? Then, sort by clicks, impressions, click-through-rates, and position (highest and lowest). Any anomalies? Are you ranking for new keywords? Have you dropped from ranking? You can combine Google data with SEM Rush data for deeper insights into your ranking and top pages. Add Analytics conversion data and quite possibly you will have an “a-ha” moment. Just remember that the data will not match and that you are looking for trends, not precision. You want to pick metrics that show your topical relevancy. And hey, check out Bing Webmaster Tools as well for some different insights.
3. Search for your brand name. Use incognito mode on Chrome or add “?pws=0” at the end of Google Search URL when searching for your brand name. Your personalization (browsing history, cookies, etc.) will not influence search results. Your brand should dominate the first page of SERPs. If it does not, shift focus to brand recognition.
4. How mobile-friendly is your website? If a large percent of traffic to a website is from mobile phones, there is no excuse for that site to have a bad mobile user experience. But even if you get very small number of mobile users, it is still important to be mobile-friendly. Searchmetrics gives you an excellent overview of mobile traffic. A less expensive option is SEMRush. Google Analytics will allow you to segment data by device. Keep an eye on the pages that drive the most mobile traffic and monitor ranking.
5. Pay attention to site speed mainly because it is a ranking factor and a potential annoyance for visitors. Google Page Speed Insights is quite helpful. Track your score and combine it with site speed data from Analytics. You are looking to show that your website is getting faster, obviously. Check load times of specific pages with Pingdom Tools.
6. Check on-page SEO regularly. Technical SEO audits is a different topic entirely and I will not cover it here. Once a quarter sanity checks of your perfect site will allow you to sleep better at night, knowing that your website is a reliable well-oiled machine at your customers’ service.
7. How relevant is your traffic? Traffic only matters when it converts. By tracking revenue metrics in each traffic segment (organic, referral, direct) you will be able to determine if the visitors you are bringing to the website convert. Use metrics like conversions, bounce rate, number of pages viewed in a session, time on site, etc. to monitor traffic quality and engagement.
Increase Number Of Indexed Pages
8. A good metric to track is the number of pages indexed. Compare the number of pages submitted in the site map and the number of pages indexed. The closer they are, the better. You are looking for the number of indexed pages to rise. Check how fast your new content gets indexed, the faster y our pages are added to index, the more trustworthy your website is. Check for 404 errors with Xenu and 301-redirect them to the new destinations.
9. Increase number of landing pages. The more landing pages you have, the deeper the l inking, the better search visibility. Track the number of your landing pages as well as the share of traffic the top pages bring. Compare the data with SEMRush. As long as your top pages keep ranking high and generating consistent number of clicks, your SEO program is doing its job.
10. Can search engines crawl your website? Check for crawl errors using Google Search Console. If search engines cannot crawl your website, you will get no organic traffic. Track the number of errors – the downward trend is what you are looking for. Fetch as Google option details the log of the crawler and you can test individual pages . Most likely the reason for crawl errors are technical issues. Try ScreamingFrog to discover any problems. A quarterly technical audit is a sound way to avoid technical issues resulting in a penalty.
11. Webmaster messages. If there is a problem with your website, Google will send you a message which you can pick up in Search Console. That is how you find out that your website got penalized for some sneaky SEO moves. Even though we know it will never happen to you, it helps to know where to look if your site disappears from search results.
Increase Relevance And, Therefore, Qualified Traffic
12. Majestic as well as Searchmetrics group links to a website by topic. The more links from relevant sites, the more authority your website is gaining in that field. Track the number of topical links and their velocity if your SEO program goal is to expand influence in a particular niche. Of course, grouping is not very granular, but can still be helpful.
13. Improve conversions (leads, subscriptions, downloads, sign-ups, comments, likes, shares, etc.). Your website analytics program is your best friend in tracking conversions. I suggest you count every desirable action as conversion. You can then see how well organic traffic is converting compared to referral, for example. And if you are beating your paid search team at conversions, you are earning your pay in spades.
14. If your SEO program is aiming at Increasing engagement, use Ahrefs or Buzzsumo to check social shares for specific blog posts. There are many tools that will measure comments, reviews, ratings, etc. Do not ignore the multi-channel, multi-visit, multi-device world we live in. Social media brings traffic; organic and paid convert it. Show the dynamic in your reports. Use the right metrics to track what matters. If your time on site, average number of pages viewed and conversion rate are high for organic traffic, it means that you are doing really well at identifying visitor intent. Track number of pages ranking for informational, transactional, and navigational. If you are active on social media (and you should), track social metrics to tie them to revenue.
15. Increase stickiness of the content. Nothing indicates relevancy better than sticky content. Track return visitors, especially to your blog pages. Low bounce rate and high number of pages per visit also would indicate visitors’ interest in what you have to say.
Why Check The Health Of Your SEO Program?
Aside from the good feeling of a job well done, it helps to report that your SEO programs are doing well, the traffic is growing, the site is getting more popular, the brand is gaining authority in the relevant field, and your visitors keep giving your content thumbs up for usefulness. The only way it can be better if your boss and their boss know about it. Good thing that you know how to keep an eye on your SEO program and create meaningful reports.
Conduct regular checks that your website is crawlable and does not have technical issues. Track metrics that provide an overview of topical relevancy and structure. Obsess with user experience and usability. And check content performance. Monitor links – quality, velocity, topical relevance. Listen for social signals.
Demonstrate that you know the audience, their interests and search intent by attracting qualified traffic to your website through increasing number of relevant pages. Bring the information your visitors are looking for directly to them through easy navigation and clear messaging. Show that the visitors keep coming back for more and demonstrate better conversion because of improving quality , uniqueness, and usefulness of your content. Illustrate how being relevant and visitor-centric allowed you to improve reach and authority in main business topics.
Regular checks and adjustments based on results will keep you ahead of competition and happily employed.