Joel Klettke is a Search Engine Optimization specialist at Vovia. Joel's also an experienced writer and local marketing expert.

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Measuring SEO Campaign Results: What’s Meaningful?

MeasureWhen undertaking an SEO campaign, It’s important to know how you’ll measure success. Google Analytics can provide a wealth of data and information – but how can you know if your SEO is really doing the job?

A lot of data is “interesting” but won’t necessarily help you understand how well your SEO is performing. Other metrics might make you feel warm and fuzzy (we call those “vanity metrics”), but have very little to do with how your campaign is performing.

To assess whether or not your SEO campaign is paying dividends, here are four core metrics important to every SEO campaign:

1. Conversions

Tracking whether sales are increasing is the ultimate way to know if your SEO is doing the job. For more insight, segment conversions to see which phrases are converting from organic search. Keep in mind that unless your product is an impulse buy, paths to conversion will be multi-faceted. Watch for “organic” contributions in your multi-channel funnels.

Don’t forget about “conversion bleed”. Customers may find you online, but then pick up the phone and call. Consider ways you can ascertain what portion of offline leads actually come from search.

2. Unbranded, Organic Traffic

Organic traffic may appear to be increasing, but if that traffic comes from branded phrases then improvements are probably being generated by other marketing efforts.

Filter out phrases containing your brand name and common misspellings. Unless your brand is something generic (like “Calgary Carpets”), these are queries you should rank well for without SEO. Use custom reporting to divide unbranded traffic into meaningful segments (for example by service or city). Be careful with attributing “(not provided)”, as this contains both branded and unbranded phrases. For most sites the majority of this traffic is branded, but inevitably a portion will have come from unbranded queries as well.

While it can be helpful to monitor monthly fluctuations in traffic, year over year comparisons allow you to see movements and trends under similar circumstances.

3. Number of Unique, Traffic-Driving Phrases

Searchers are will arrive on your site using a huge variety of unique phrases related to your niche beyond those you explicitly track.Tracking the number of distinct phrases that bring in traffic can help you understand if you are more visible on the whole. The more robust your content and authoritative your site, the greater the number of phrases you ought to be found for.

Similar to unbranded organic traffic, year over year comparisons are typically the most meaningful here.

4. Trends in Rankings Over Time

Search results change an awful lot from day to day – and in competitive niches, hour to hour!

While it can be easy to get hung up on momentary increases, watch overall trends over longer time frames. Are you generally moving up? Which verticals are improving? Which are dropping off? Where in the buying cycle might someone who searched that phrase be?

Group keywords by themes or verticals to get a sense of which areas could use more attention.Chart trends over 3  to 6 month periods and make yearly comparisons when possible. You’ll want to combine this information with conversion data to know whether you’re targeting the right kinds of phrases, as rankings in and of themselves mean nothing unless they help drive a sale.

Vanity Metrics: Be Careful!

Here are a few examples of vanity metrics that can distract you from more important indicators:

  • Total # of Links: One great link can be worth hundreds of weak ones a when it brings qualified traffic and leads. Watch your referring sources and monitor referral channels in your multi-channel funnels.
  • Page Rank: Having an approximate understanding site authority is interesting, but can’t help you make business decisions.
  • Time on Site: Earlier this year Vovia owner Cameron Prockiw explained why average time on site isn’t an accurate metric.
  • Total Overall Traffic: This isn’t specific enough to judge your SEO impact.

You Are What You Measure

While there are other metrics that are useful depending on your campaign (total indexed pages, referring sources and number of landing pages to name a few), these four metrics are the must-know numbers for every SEO project.

What do you think? Are vanity metrics stealing your attention? Did we miss a metric you think is important?