SEO ROI: How To Ensure Performance Tracking Matches Goals

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It’s vital to track SEO performance to comprehend what activities are useful and which are not.

Nevertheless, there are several reasons that it’s difficult to precisely estimate the ROI (return on investment) of an SEO project, beginning with dispute regarding which metrics are essential.

The State of SEO report reveals some consensus as to which metrics are useful however that there is much argument.

Top 3 SEO Metrics

As will be seen, the relative significance of private SEO metrics varies in between in-house, agency, and freelance SEO pros who reacted to the survey.

But the top three SEO campaign objectives and KPIs (crucial efficiency signs) from the report are the exact same.

All 3 SEO demographics amongst report participants settle on the leading three SEO metrics in the very same order:

  1. Rankings.
  2. Page views.
  3. Conversions.

The above SEO metrics are tracked through Google Analytics, Browse Console, and third-party tools, making them beneficial for tracking the goals of an SEO campaign.

While there is arrangement about the top 3 SEO metrics, there is a large variation of opinions concerning the relative significance of the remainder of the metrics.

That’s important because those other metrics can represent project goals and KPIs.

Why Is Measuring KPIs So Difficult?

Even when there’s contract on which KPIs are crucial, there is still the concern of precise measurement.

Personal privacy laws are sunsetting many kinds of tracking.

However there are likewise real-world obstacles. Browse online 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 harder. With call tracking, if the customer receptionist forgets to confirm a consultation lead for tracking software, we just know that it was a leader/new call. The life time value of customers can dramatically differ.

The kickstart conference is the most essential time for SEO experts to discover what product service offerings are offered, the most regularly sold, experienced with, and the greatest return offerings.

With this, I cross-examine Google sheets opportunities to see where they are vs. what’s on their website and triage content to the top that requires to be enhanced first. While we can track on a really granular level, I choose to concentrate on tracked leads, not return on ad invest (ROAS), for service-based operations.

For ecommerce, nevertheless, we can very carefully track ROAS. It is essential to understand that SEO is an investment, and like going to the health club, it takes time to optimize everything.

This understanding is why we have our exclusive triage formula for content to align with customer requirements. Lead tracking SEO is just as good as customers knowing their numbers. Some are remarkable, while others are quite satisfying.

The vital part is we continually track and are accountable for outcomes. We can hence see the seasonality of SEO and when something is off that requires to be enhanced.”

The Fourth Most Important SEO Metric

Both the agency and freelance SEOs ranked Revenue as the fourth most important SEO metric.

Internal SEOs ranked Marketing Qualified Leads as the 4th most important SEO metric.

There is an interesting insight into why internal SEOs disagree about the fourth SEO metric.

The reason internal SEOs disagree on which SEO metrics are most important is the work environment.

The workplace remarkably effects which SEO metrics are deemed most important.

This phenomenon is plainly viewable in the fourth crucial SEO metric exposed by the State of SEO Study.

Naturally, earnings is vital to in-house SEOs. However it is not provided as a top issue in the survey for factors specific to the work environment.

Earnings is usually tracked outside of in-house SEO. It’s the duty of another department or layer of management.

Even in a smaller internal function, the management layer may not share specific earnings numbers.

Sometimes, especially in bigger companies, the profits numbers are carefully guarded and not shown the SEO department.

Australia-based search marketer Ash Nallawalla, who has years of in-house SEO experience, discussed:

“In every big company I have remained in, Earnings was never ever my problem in a reporting sense. There were analytics groups who did that.

In some business, the detailed revenue breakdown was concealed. e.g., which product was the most profitable. Even conversions are unclear cut in large companies.”

The role of in-house SEO in many verticals is primarily interested in keeping the leads rolling in.

So it makes good sense that Marketing Certified Lead is ranked number 4 by internal SEOs. It shows their responsibilities and how the workplace influences which KPI is essential to their SEO implementation.

Revenue is ranked 4th essential by company and freelancer SEOs, potentially since that might be very important to their customer base of small and medium businesses (SMB).

The (hopefully) increased revenue metric validates the work of a firm or a freelance SEO.

On the other hand, there are reasons to think about why Qualified Leads may be a better metric for tracking SEO success.

Adam Humphreys discusses why:

“The issue is clients will video game the profits regarding avoid paying more, and if they have an acceptable front end, etc, it could result in less earnings. Bad in-store experiences might likewise result in less earnings.

This is why I would state it’s not the best way to measure success. Certified leads are more what I would state is the best metric of success. What the client does after depends on them.”

The 5 Through Ten Most Important SEO KPIs

All three SEO demographics diverge entirely about what the next top-ranked metrics need to be.

There is arrangement regarding the leading 3 essential SEO metrics.

The 4th crucial SEO metric is primarily a reflection of duties.

But positions five through ten are where the leading metrics appear to become a matter of viewpoint.

Here are how the various SEO demographics ranked the next crucial 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.
Social: 4%.


5. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic: 6.5%.6. Backlinks: 6.1%.7. Income: 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. Consumer Acquisition, Page Speed: 5.7.8. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic: 5.6.9. Email Subscriptions: 5.4.10. Client Lifetime Value (CLV): 5.1.

Page Speed is the only metric that all three groups settle on.

Page Speed is a known ranking factor.

However it’s also a small ranking aspect and not likely to be a direct reason that a site is top-ranked in Google’s search results.

The study results validate what everyone knows, that Page Speed is an important metric to track. However it’s not important as a ranking aspect.

An interesting observation about page speed is that a greater page speed can directly help increase conversions, and sales, enhance 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 amusing the idea that page speed must be ranked as a greater concern.

Mismatched Goals And Metrics

Aside from page speed, there is no contract on which metrics are crucial.

Another curious result is that Freelancers were uniformly split amongst 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 5 crucial SEO metric.

The number ten ranked SEO metric, Consumer Lifetime Value, was rated 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 agreement. Freelancer votes yielded a three-way tie for the 5th most important metric and a two-way tie for the seventh-ranked metric (customer acquisition and page speed, 5.7%).

Freelancers were the only group where the votes ended in ties for any metrics.

The tied outcomes show that freelance SEOs commonly disagree about which metrics are the most essential.

Participants who identified as freelance might be a more comprehensive market than those who recognized as firm or in-house.

For instance, a freelance SEO might focus on content writing, link structure, site auditing, regional search, affiliate work, and even a combination of several.

Taken a look at because way, it makes good sense that the freelancer SEO demographic is virtually uniformly split regarding which metrics are the most essential. Their study responses indicate that all the metrics are necessary.

Detach Between Campaign Goals And KPI Tracking

All three demographics settle on three metrics that are each a measurement of SEO success.

  • Rankings.
  • Page views.
  • Conversions.

Those 3 measurements are results-based KPIs of success.

Where the three SEO demographics highly disagree is on metrics that are comprehended to be contributors to SEO success and healthy traffic.

  • Bounce rates.
  • Backlinks.
  • Social engagement.
  • Time on page.
  • Page speed.

A possible explanation for why the SEO industry disagrees with the above five metrics may be uncertainty regarding which of the above contributes in Google’s algorithm and to what extent.

This unpredictability about SEO elements need to be acknowledged because it points to the limitations of these metrics.

The reason for the uncertainty is that Google’s ranking algorithm is a black box.

In computing, a black box is a circumstance where what is taken into the box is understood (SEO), and what comes out is likewise understood (rankings).

However what happens inside package is not known.

Backlinks, social engagement, time on page, page speed, and bounce rates represent what we took into the box. Rankings are what comes out.

However no one understands what happened inside the Google black box that resulted in the rankings.

Compounding the mystery is that nobody can properly perform tests to separate what factors contributed to rankings because you just see the outcome, not the process.

This inability to see how the algorithm works doesn’t imply that social engagement or time on page, or any of the other metrics must not be tracked.

It simply suggests that a person has to be aware of the constraints of these kinds of metrics.

The truth that the various SEO demographics do not agree on the relative significance of these metrics highlights the basic unpredictability of what occurs inside Google’s black box.

Result On Tracking SEO ROI

There are many articles about tracking the ROI of SEO, but the reality is that it can not be precisely tracked; it can just be estimated.

For example, we don’t know if backlinks played a role in rankings. In some cases there are no changes in rankings till months later on.

Did the links take a long period of time to affect the rankings, or was it a coincidence?

Social engagement is said to be an indirect ranking consider that it might result in more top quality keyword traffic and links, which in turn affect rankings.

However again, there is no other way to associate the branded keyword search traffic directly and acquired links to social engagement.

Even if one could, one might still not precisely verify that those links played a role in rankings because Google’s ranking processes for each question occur in a black box.

Ensure KPIs Support Project Goals

The State of SEO results makes it clear that selecting the best metrics is important to your situation.

In some cases the information is not available, such as revenue or sales figures. However there are always other data, such as leads or conversion rates, that can demonstrate how well the SEO project is progressing.

Distinguish between actual SEO performance metrics (rankings, traffic), metrics that pertain to site experience (page speed, time on page, bounce rate), and SEO enhancements (backlinks) to get an overall photo of how well the various parts of an SEO project are interacting.

But also consider indirect elements such as social engagement (where appropriate) because, in addition to being an indirect SEO aspect, it’s a measurement of popularity, a reflection of how well a website is growing as a brand and a location.

For more insights about the state of the SEO industry, download the second annual State Of SEO Report.

Included Image: Paulo Bobita/Best SMM Panel