How Should You Measure the Success of your SEO?

I accept the limitations of those who sells SEO as ready-to-eat packages to their clients, so for them, let the answer be Monthly Ranking Reports. Period. For the rest, I would like to discuss other better possibilities to measure your SEO campaigns. I am not going to talk about the ROI, I believe, SEO alone is not responsible for that.

Understanding Goals – Is that only a Keyword Ranking Report?
Not only for SEO, but for all promotional activities, there should be a clear understandings about the goals to achieve. The accepted primary goal of SEO is to get a website ranked for its targeted keywords, but I must say the story doesn’t end there. Let me explain it.

For e.g. We all know Keyword Research and Analysis is a vital part of SEO and all other activities we plan based on that. What is it exactly? Identifying relevant search words capable of driving potential traffic to a website. So, the real goal of a keyword analysis must be potential traffic from those selected keywords and not just getting them ranked. Your Ranking report doesn’t contain the details about traffic gained from your target keywords and thus IT FAILS TO MEASURE THE SUCCESS OF IT.

Jill Whalen at SearchEngineLand has once posted ‘5 Reasons Why Rankings Are A Poor Measure Of Success’ and that gives you some more points to support. Now the question remains about, if not the Ranking reports what else could be?

What to measure: Understanding the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) of SEO
Measuring your traffic is not so simple but with the right tools and understandings even a novice can do that. There are several known free/paid tools are available in the web, but before choosing any tool, first to get a clear idea about what to measure.

For a normal SEO campaign, I believe the followings could be the KPIs:

  • Search Engine Traffic
  • Traffic from Google
  • Traffic from Yahoo!
  • Traffic from Live Search
  • Search Phrases
  • Keyword Ranks


There can also be even more deeper or specific data as the KPI depending on your actual goals. Suppose if you have identified your main Theme keywords, you can include the traffic details from those in your dashboard. That gives you an opportunity to study how the gain/drop of your main theme keywords affects the total traffic of your website. Also how important they are in your campaign and how much efforts you can invest to target them better.

Another section can be the search engine bot tracking. Certain tools provide you the details about the search engine bot visits, on which all pages, what date, how frequent and more. If you are publishing new pages frequently – say 5 pages a week – by tracking the bot visits, you can easily find out how fast search engines crawl your new pages. And according to this, you can easily build your internal navigation to ensure better search engine crawl throughout your website, no matter how big it is.
Bot Report
ClickTracks is one tool which I personally use for tracking Bot visits. Most of the Log file analyzers provides this and tools like Google Analytics can’t provide these data since they use Page Tagging method. – The difference between Page Tagging and Log File analyzers are explained here.

There are some more deeper insights you can find here:
Measure Effectiveness Of Your Web Pages
Measuring Success for a Support Website: A Point of View
How To Measure Success of a Blog (120 Days in Numbers)
The KPIs of SEO
Beneath the Surface of Search
Tracking 404 error pages

How to Measure – Which All Tools Provide the Data You Want?
There are several tools available in the web, which can provide these data. Before choosing one, make sure your technical support, budget and time matches with it. Different tools uses different terminologies and methods to generate these data, so make sure you understand them well. Also use the filters they suggest to exclude the traffic from your own and your non-audience circles.

The following post from Avinash Kaushik is an excellent one which will give great information on How to Choose a Web Analytics Tool:

A Word from the Author:
Hopefully all of you guys have understood why I said, Ranking reports are not the measure of SEO success. If you are an in-house SEO working on your own websites, these information are vital to your routine. Those who sells SEO, it’s pretty hard for them to provide all these detailed reports but of course you have an option of Beginners/Pro/Enterprise ;), sell it for double. I would really love to hear from you all about your own opinions on this, feel free to comment.

2 thoughts on “How Should You Measure the Success of your SEO?

  1. Hi Jaan

    I mentioned that in the very first paragragh itself. Personally I don’t think conversion is just a SEO alone responsibility. As you might have aware, there are lot other factors come to to the scene when we talk about conversion.

    The above post is just to spread the awareness on, just keyword ranking report is not the main KPI of SEO and probably measuring ranks alone is a wrong way of doing it.

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