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by Emma North on 11th April 2014
…and it’s not organic traffic! It’s easy to watch organic traffic climb consistently after a hefty investment in Search Engine Optimisation and automatically assume success. It’s even easier to deem a decline in organic traffic as failure. But is this really the best metric to consider when measuring SEO success?
In actuality, what does it matter how many visitors came to your website, or how that number compares to previous months or years? Would the owner of a brick-and-mortar store be celebrating success he saw steady increases in footfall but was selling less and less product? Of course not. The real measurement of success would be turnover and profit.
The same principle can and should be applied to websites. Sure, not all websites have the same goal of online sales or generating revenue, but every website has or at least should have a very clear and measurable goal. What do you want visitors to do? This should nearly always be the primary, if not only, metric you use when measuring SEO success – how many visitors from organic traffic sources are doing what you want them to do?
Before you can effectively measure the success of your SEO campaign, or any website campaign for that matter, it is essential that you understand exactly what your site is setting out to achieve.
In many cases, realising your website’s goal is fairly easy and more often than not can be put into one of two general categories:
However, for some websites it may not be as clear-cut as this. You may not be immediately sure what your website goals are or may not think you have any specific ones. The problem is; if you don’t know exactly what you want your visitors to do, how can you measure the success or failure of your SEO campaign? How do you measure or even estimate ROI? And how do you know if you’re even providing your visitors with the right information or experience?
It is essential to take stock of your website and establish exactly what you want users to do and why. If you think you want them to view a certain number of pages or stay on your site for a certain length of time, that can certainly be measured and tracked as a success – but is it a real success? What value does it provide you?
If you can answer these sorts of questions confidently and translate your website goals into clear business goals then you are ready to think about goal tracking and properly measuring SEO success.
The next step is to ensure that your website’s true goals are adequately tracked and monitored. Without this data, you cannot effectively measure or report on the progress of an SEO campaign.
Google Analytics has two main ways to track conversions; Goal Tracking and Ecommerce Tracking. If you have an Ecommerce website where people can buy and pay online, Ecommerce Tracking is the perfect way to measure your website’s purchases and related data. If your website goal is anything other than online revenue and purchases, you should use Goal Tracking to track every time a user completes a desired action.
You can track a number of actions as Goals in Google Analytics and can weight these differently by assigning optional values to each. For example, you may set up call tracking and tracking for contact form completions. If you know that phone calls are twice as valuable to your business as contact form enquiries, you could then assign a value of 2 to the first goal and 1 to the second.
Setting up goals in Google Analytics is fairly straightforward and gives you clear “conversion” data to use as a success metric. For more information on setting up Goals, please read this post or the official Google resource.
Ecommerce Tracking is slightly more complicated to set up and should be done by an experienced web developer. For more information on this, please read the official Google resource.
When you understand the true aims and purpose of your website and are tracking these goals in Google Analytics, you can efficiently measure the progress of your SEO campaign and more effectively evaluate its successes and failures.
Organic traffic alone is only a small part of the picture. A steady increase in organic traffic is great, but only when it is contributing to the bottom line, or the fundamental aim of the website. Now you are tracking that, you can measure what impact organic traffic is having on your goals or revenue and if that too is improving.
Of course, organic traffic is no longer the only traffic source resulting from an SEO campaign. You can also extend this evaluation to referral and social sources to see what impact the campaign has had on those. If you have strong new backlinks and increased social engagement as a result of the campaign, you will see this reflected in the traffic and goal/revenue statistics for your website.
Some examples of solid success metrics on which to measure and report include:
Is the organic traffic you’re receiving leading to more conversions (goal completions or sales), regardless of how many visitors you’re getting? This indicates that your site is performing well in organic search engine results pages and is optimised for relevant, targeted visitors.
Are you getting more conversions from referrals and social sources? This could indicate that off-page SEO efforts such as content marketing and brand promotion are reaching the right audience and contributing to your site’s goals.
Higher conversion rates suggest that the traffic is more relevant and/or the site is better optimised encourage users to convert and complete the desired actions.
While this may not appear to have a direct or immediate effect on conversions, the long-term value of social media engagement is undeniable. This is people commenting on your posts, sharing your updating and otherwise engaging with your brand. By engaging with them in response and nurturing strong relationships with your following, you are keeping your brand fresh in their mind and are more likely to get conversions from them in the future.
With the right insight and by paying attention to the right information, you can make informed decisions on the campaign and your investment. If conversions aren’t moving in the right direction, perhaps you need to re-evaluate your SEO strategy or reassign budget to aspects of the campaign that are working well.