If you want your business to have an online presence in any capacity, you need to know basic SEO. Search engine optimization is absolutely vital for marketing in the modern world. However, despite the importance of this subject, it’s one which can easily baffle the uninformed. Knowing which SEO metrics to focus on and how to optimize them takes a bit of time to confidently master. But fortunately, various tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, and Screaming Frog make managing them a bit easier.
So, if you’re new to the world of online marketing, you’ll want to get your site in front of as many people as possible. And the best way to do so is making sure you optimize and measure these SEO metrics.
SEO Metrics to Track for Online Visibility
1. Organic Traffic
According to Evenbound, organic traffic is any traffic coming to your website naturally from search engine results. This includes visitors who end up on your pages from links on other websites. For example, if someone searches for “dog toys” on Google and they click the top result, that’s organic traffic. Direct traffic, on the other hand, indicates those who navigate to your site without clicking a link from another source. In other words, they have a direct URL. As such, organic traffic is probably the most important SEO metric to track. After all, it represents the success or failure of your entire SEO strategy.
Ultimately, the goal of search engine optimization is gaining more organic traffic by putting relevant content in in front of your audience. But one thing to keep in mind is that higher organic traffic doesn’t automatically translate to increased sales. It simply means that more interested individuals click through to your site. And if you’re successful, you’ll drive them to specific pages that push them along in the buyer journey.
The simplest way to accurately track organic traffic is with Google Search Console, noted as total clicks. Here, you can narrow in on specific date ranges, pages, and keywords to determine your site’s organic traffic.
2. Total Impressions
Similar to organic traffic or total clicks, you can find the number of total impressions in Google Search Console. This SEO metric represents the number of times one of your pages appeared in search results. So, even if the searcher didn’t scroll far enough to see your page in SERPs, it still represents an impression.
Ultimately, impressions help measure the efficacy of an overall SEO campaign. For example, they let you know whether your pages are ranking within SERPs for a given keyword. Even if pages don’t obtain any organic traffic, impressions tell you you’re on the right track. So, you can continue optimizing those posts and pages so that they make their way higher in SERPs.
3. Average Click-Through Rate (CTR)
Click-through rate is the percentage of impressions in search results that generated organic traffic. So, if 2,000 searchers saw your page and 500 clicked through, your CTR is 25%. Again, you can view this metric in Google Search Console, under the Performance tab. It applies to pages and queries alike. So, you can easily determine whether your title tag and meta descriptions have proven effective.
If you match search intent with your title, you’ll likely draw a larger CTR. After all, people want to click through to results that appear able to answer their questions. Alternatively, if your titles appear too nebulous or abstract, readers may avoid your pages in SERPS. Even if they rank higher. Furthermore, if your title appears the same as all other pages, readers may skip over yours. So, the trick is matching search intent while also making your titles stand out. Since the top three positions in Google get 75% of traffic, ranking high and standing out are paramount.
4. Indexed Pages
Because Google only shows indexed pages in search results, if your pages aren’t indexed, they won’t stand a chance. So, the first thing to do whenever you publish a new page is make sure you request indexing. This can be done through Google Search Console as well. Simply paste the URL in the top search bar, and click the corresponding button.
You can also use GSC to determine the overall number of indexed pages under your site’s domain. If Google fails to index a page, you can also determine why. It could be one of several pertinent reasons, including:
- 301 Redirects
- 404 Error Pages
- Duplicate Page Issues
However, there are many other reasons why Google might not index a page. Knowing how to solve these issues when necessary is key to getting your content in front of your audience. So, make sure to pay attention to the number of indexed pages alongside the other SEO metrics.
Note, too, that at times, you could prefer Google not to index a specific page. For example, if content appears outdated, it could negatively impact your rankings. In such a case, you might want to tell search engines to ignore those pages.
5. Ranking Keywords
The generating force behind a robust SEO strategy is a strong focus on keywords. So, ranking keywords naturally represent one of the most important SEO metrics. Determining which keywords users search for helps you know which questions to answer in your content strategy. For example, the search term, “photography classes”, carries an estimated monthly search volume of 16,000. So, it would make sense to write a post telling people how to find the best online photography classes. That way, you target a high-volume keyword.
Now, in order to determine your success, you should pay attention to the number of keywords that page ranks for. Ahrefs is a great tool for this sort of analysis, but you can similarly use GSC. If, after a bit of time, your page on the topic ranks for no keywords, you’ll want to edit it. Alternatively, you may determine that the copy is fine and you need to garner more high-quality backlinks.
Of course, when determining keywords, you have to take into account the difficulty of ranking well. High-volume keywords are often extremely hard to rank well for, especially for smaller, lesser known sites. But lower volume, long-tail keywords can sometimes present a goldmine. It all comes down to the overall SEO strategy you want to employ.
However, the overall point is the same. If you’re not measuring keyword rankings in your SEO metrics, you should be. Because it helps you know whether your pages are doing what you created them to do.
6. Competitor Keywords
At first, measuring competitor keywords might seems strange. Especially since tracking SEO metrics typically applies to your own site, not others. But understanding where successful competitors move in terms of their content strategies can help you know where to go as well. After all, some of the best SEO strategies aren’t those that reinvent the wheel. Instead, they look at what already works, and they try to do it better.
So, if your main competitor ranks well for the keyphrase, “inexpensive rain boots”, you might should target it as well. Particularly if you notice that their page gets a decent amount of traffic off of that phrase. It shows that the audience you share is interested in knowing more about it. So, failing to take it into account constitutes a missed opportunity. When doing keyword research, always make sure to take into account what your competition is doing. You might find some surprising results.
7. Backlinks and Referring Domains
Site authority is an indispensable part of SEO, and a prime way of enhancing it is through backlinks. These are links leading back to your site from other sites. The reason backlinks and referring domains are such important SEO metrics is that they help afford credibility to your content. Many SEO experts disagree on whether the quality or quantity of backlinks helps build authority more. But Neil Patel notes that there’s a place for both quality and quantity backlink strategies.
Of course, the goal should generally be to have as many high-quality backlinks as possible. Because doing so affords a great deal more authority to your site through link juice. But, generally speaking, sites can make either strategy work. And there are multiple link building strategies that have proven effective for online marketers. What’s effective for one might not be for another, and vice versa.
Consequently, you should invest in a tool to help find and monitor backlinks. After all, the return in organic traffic often justifies the price.
8. Site Speed and Core Web Vitals
In Google Search Console, core web vitals have to do with three SEO metrics related to page and site speed. They are:
- Largest Contentful Paint – The time between a user initiating a page load and the largest image or text block displaying.
- First Input Delay – The time between a user interacting with a page and when the browser responds to the interaction.
- Cumulative Layout Shift – How elements move around on a page or the stability of that page.
Generally, Google attempts to rank pages that provide an exceptional user experience. So, if load and response times are bad, your site could suffer a penalty in rankings. Addressing the three core web vitals above is important to guaranteeing a positive user experience.
GSC itself shows you these SEO metrics. However, you can also assess them with free online tools like PageSpeed Insights.
9. On-Page Optimization Scores
The way a search engine optimizer calculates their on-page optimization scores might vary. For example, Yoast has a helpful SEO plugin that measures different aspects of on-page optimization. Then, it provides helpful advice on how to increase “okay” or “poor” scores. Tools like Moz also have measurements for SEO metrics like on-page optimization. But no matter the chosen tool, you should pay attention to these scores.
Writing for SEO is unlike other forms of content creation. Because rather than writing simply for a human audience, you must also write for search engine crawlers. Knowing how to appropriately straddle the line and have a foot in both worlds is paramount to rankings. Because, at the end of the day, search engines want to prioritize content that’s good and helpful for humans. And especially for new SEOs, understanding the intricacies can be quite difficult. So, using a plugin or tool to help generate on-page SEO scores can help provide a baseline.
10. GSC Errors
Always pay attention to GSC errors. After all, when Google itself is telling you something is wrong with your site, you need to fix it. Otherwise, you might end up suffering different SEO penalties and find it difficult to recover.
Fortunately, search console makes it clear when these errors occur. It will send you an email, as long as you’re an admin for the site. Depending on the issue, it will let you know the page(s) affected. Then, once it’s fixed, you can begin the verification process with a simple click. But don’t let the “easy” process fool you. If these errors do appear, make sure to address them as quickly as possible.
Learn How SEO Metrics Impact Marketing
Of course, there are plenty of other SEO metrics you should pay attention to and measure. But, ultimately, they number too many to list here. So, start out with the ten we’ve mentioned and move on from there to determine how to best craft your organization’s SEO strategy.
And if you’re looking for information the overall marketing process, consider checking out our course on the topic. Members of SHRM and HRCI can claim credit for completing it, so it’s a perfect fit for business professionals looking to gain more experience and knowledge.
Article written by Braden Norwood
Last updated March 17, 2023