Do you think that SEO/SEM projects today can be effective without measurement and targets ? What metrics do you measure and what are the tools you are using for that ?

measuring seo results

Steve Lock, Analyticsseo (iseo)

I am a big fan of Avinash Kaushik and his approaches to analytics. I believe it is wise to have access to a broad range of data and not only use the best data you can get for each project, but to also focus on a small number of key KPIs that are ideally the most actionable.

For SEO some of my favourite KPIs are organic conversions, organic traffic, ROI versus acquiring traffic from different sources such as PPC, average pageviews, average time on site, number of referring keywords over time, number of referring landing pages over time, technical issues over time and various link metrics including mainly Majestic SEO (and, in particular, referring domains over time). These metrics focus on not only traffic and links, but also on the quality of traffic and ROI.

I am not the biggest fan of keyword rankings; however, I am yet to work on a project or with a key stakeholder that isn't very interested in rankings. I also know agencies are often forced to focus on keyword rankings more than they would like.

In terms of tools I mainly use Analytics SEO, Google Analytics, Majestic SEO and Libre Office (to automate repetitive tasks with raw data). There are many tools I use – too many to mention – but the above are definitely the main ones. Innovation in SEO software now means it’s much easier to focus on a solid platform, removing the need for using many of the tools I used when I first started out.

Neil Walker, SEO Mad

No, I think the beauty of online marketing is that it far more track able than traditional offerings, however without tracking and measurement you can not analyze the success of a campaign. We particularly look at the following measurements:

• Keyword rankings (In house tool)
• Organic Traffic (Unbranded) & (Branded) (Google Analytics)
• No. of keywords driving traffic (Google Analytics)
• No. of pages receiving traffic (Google Analytics)
• No. of sales / conversions / downloads etc. (Google Analytics)
• Bounce rate / time on site (Google Analytics)
• No. of pages cached (google)
• No. of back links (Opensiteexplorer & Majestic SEO)

The above is top line information which may be drilled down further dependant on a client spend, some clients we look at attribution of conversion, other a simple ranking report will suffice.

Sam Crocker,

I think they can be effective if you’ve got the right person on the account, but I don’t see why anyone would invest in something that they cannot track progress against or see the direct value added by the SEO/SEM team. I think (particularly in SEO) we’re going to have to get better at measuring/estimating value added and audiences grown without keyword level data (thanks Google), but for the time being if I were a client I would never hire an SEO team that didn’t work with me to set some ambitious goals with meaningful metrics of success.

As mentioned above, if it’s an ecommerce site I like to use revenue from non-brand search (and/or referrals from links/citations that I’ve built) as a good benchmark. If the account is more interested in branding or reputation management I would look at share of voice for the relevant terms and increases in traffic around this.

We’re in the process of building some more advanced econometric modeling at a keyword level to make better forecast (that impact our targets and predict highest return channel of investment) but my growing concern is that with the loss of non-brand keyword tracking and accountability (through the switch to SSL) forecasting and measuring success is going to be increasingly difficult.

For the time being we use a lot of data sources (including PPC data, previous sales data, GA data, Google AdWords keyword tool) etc. and tend to look at average predicted uplift across an account. It’s hard with so many potential sources of sampling error (especially when most of the previously mentioned data is sample) but so far, our forecasts have been considerably more accurate than I might have guessed.

My final piece of advice on this is for folks to be VERY careful in making promises to increase sales/revenue if they will not have control over the site or scope for CRO – even more so if keyword data will be harder to come by. Be aware of the things that you can and cannot control before setting the targets or putting your fee at risk. Sometimes all you can do is estimate traffic rather than sales… unfortunately.

Adam Melson, SEER Interactive

If there are no measurements & targets, you can't pay your bills with good feelings about a project. Performance needs to be measured in some way to make sure both the SEO and the client are on the same page when establishing what is a win. Driving traffic might be the single goal for a site that makes their money mainly off advertising. Checkouts might be the only item that matters to an online retailer. We'll monitor everything from visits, lead form completions, checkouts, revenues, white paper downloads & more so long as it's a realistic goal that makes sense for us & the client. Rankings are an indicator that there may be successes and we track them, but making sure they convert is the most important part.

A client could rank #1 for numerous keywords, but if they don't convert it's bad traffic. Keywords would need to be re-evaluated and we might send them to a usability expert if we think it's solid traffic, but the website causing issues.

Some of the tools we use daily are Raven, OSE, Majestic & GA.

Jane Copland, Ayima

Targets and measurements are vital. What we track depends on the project. We report heavily to clients too. I would say that if you’re not receiving regular reports from your SEO agency, you should be asking questions. It always surprises me when I hear that some SEO providers don’t report activity to their clients terribly often.

Tom Critchlow, Distilled

I don’t think anything can be effective without measurement and targets. How do you define effective otherwise? Most of our reporting comes from analytics, either Google Analytics or an enterprise platform (like Omniture etc). Where possible we aim to report on revenue not traffic, links or rankings.

Will Critchlow, Distilled

Under certain circumstances, a project could be effective with neither measurement or targets. If the client has blocked the whole site in robots.txt, you don't need measurement or targets to tell you what to do next… Of course most projects are more complicated and most require more sophisticated thinking.

We measure different things for different projects – common favourites (at least until (not provided) changed the playing field) were number of unique referring keyphrases and number of pages receiving organic traffic. Both of these metrics are under-used on large sites in my opinion. At the management level, the metrics I pay the most attention to are simple Red / Amber / Green indicators on client happiness, the effort we have put in so far and the results achieved versus expectations. We track that in a simple home-grown system.

Dixon Jones, Majestic SEO

Sales and/or Lifetime value attributed to organic search broken out into Brand and Generic terms. The challenge remains how to attribute revenue between multiple touch points, and analytics systems are starting to work on this. Where the search phrase is not identified, this is no reason not to track revenues from these routes.

Barry Schwartz, Rusty Brick/ SMX

There is a debate on how to measure results. Is it about keyword ranking and showing your site's position for a specific keyword? The problem with that is the results differ by user and there is no true ranking for a page. Traffic and conversions should be the ultimate measure for SEO/PPC success. Rankings lead to traffic, but it is incredibly hard to measure these days.

Grant Whiteside, Amber Green

Search positions have meant nothing for a few years now, apart from touching peoples vanity. They have very little to do with understanding business objectives and business intelligence. We wouldn’t touch any e –com campaign unless we could address metrics first.

Google Analytics is the standard tool. Metrics are related to business objectives.

Peter Handley, The Media Flow

How could you possibly know if a project had been successful without measuring it?

Its absolutely essential to have a benchmark of the performance and visibility at the start of a campaign, and the more historical data the better to be able compare improved performance against. I typically have found that many projects I have started work on have had no real conversion tracking in place, and are not able to measure effectively what elements of what campaigns (be it organic, paid, social etc), so often one of my first tasks has been to get that up and running so that you can see what is working. Whilst it is possible to get paralysed over analysing data, I would rather that there is too much rather than not enough intelligence to inform decisions.

Core metrics that I would typically include when reviewing would be approximate rankings for top traffic driving keywords (although with the flux due to universal search results, and personalisation of the SERPs, this isn’t something that I get too hung up on for “exact” measurements), traffic driven to sites, conversions and revenue. I have worked on some campaigns that have had slightly different goals to those, but those are the main things that I would typically review to assess the importance of a campaign.

In terms of other areas that I would look at, one of the main ones is looking at the number of keywords that drive a websites organic traffic – I find this to be a major measure of the success of increasing a websites visibility. There have been occasions where there were issues with how a website converted that I had issues in resolving, but there are ways to show the impact of a campaign through this even when conversions themselves have been unmeasurable for whatever reason.

In terms of tool, historically, I’ve looked at these with a number of analytics tool, most frequently Google Analytics with our own internal tools to complement these. Having recently changed jobs, the tools that I use for these sorts of tasks is likely to evolve over time.

Shaun Anderson, Hobo-web

Of course there needs to be measurement and targets. I lose some business in the past because I am brutally honest about timescales for instance. People don't want to hear it will take 6-months to a year – or longer – to capture a dominant position, bending rules rather than breaking them, getting the most of the best keywords for a niche.

I measure rankings, traffic, conversions, leads and phone calls. I do measure just everything actually. You never know when the information will come in handy. In the end, it is how often your client phone rings or their contact-form is pinged which most savvy business owners know these days. If I know my client got more phone calls or sales this month than last month, the rest is a bonus.

Paul Rogers, GPMD

I think that monitoring campaigns is hugely important, as it allows you to see the ROI of the work you're doing, adapt activity to generate better results and also improve the work you do on similar projects in the future.

Different projects will have their own individual objectives and KPI's, but generally I will look at branded and non-branded organic traffic, conversions and conversions paths, new attributed links and improvements in rankings.

I also think that one of the biggest problems with SEO campaigns is false attribution of traffic and revenue, and this is most commonly caused by lapse or lack of monitoring.

Nickolass Jensen

No. I use GA, Analytics SEO, Woopra and sometimes Clicktale. I measure time on site, bouncerate, number of pages visited per source, Returning users, and of course referrers. I compare Goals and Ecommerce transactions with referer data and more off course.

I have a nice list of best converting keywords – I compare this with keyword rankings in the searchengines. So If I have a keyword that gives great conversion and they are not well ranked, then I work on getting higher via both PPC and SEO efforts. Referrals to blog posts via Twitter is also of importance as it shows what the users like and would like to spread among other peers. I gives a great idea about who likes what.

Neil Pursey, Web Growth

No, if no targets and objectives are in place then managing client expectations becomes very difficult. The two most popular metrics we have found clients to use are:

1. if they are focused on brand awareness, then it's volume of traffic.
2. If they are consumer facing, you will need to focus on conversions, which ultimately does correlate to traffic volume but it's also the quality of traffic you are getting. So keep an eye on keywords used to find the website.

Hamlet Batista


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