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SEO KPI's - Use the Right Search Engine Optimization Key Performance Indicators

Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are financial and non-financial metrics used to help an organization define and measure progress toward organizational goals. The problem is that too many SEO clients and SEO consultants are focused on the wrong ones.

  • Specific rankings and ranking reports like web position gold - a bad KPI

Ranking reports like the ones from WPG are not only against Google's terms and conditions but because of the introduction of Universal search (now experiencing its first birth day) they don't return the value they once did. Google is focused on personalization, and localization. This means what you see in SF isn't what I might see, and it certainly isn't what a searcher is seeing in Miami. IE that ranking your are so focused on, might only be there because you love your own site so much, or your query is deemed to be relevant to your location.

  • Toolbar page rank - another bad KPI

This one drives a lot of clients crazy. Why did my PR drop, what have I done wrong. Or on the flip side, look how great I am, my site is a PR 7. Well here it is, toolbar page rank doesn't matter at all anymore. It's a gimmick and has very little value. You could argue that it is an indicator of quality but that's it.

What KPI's should you use?

For SEO light weights

  • Total organic traffic - not the best KPI in the world because there are so many factors that can influence this, but if your just starting out in search it is an easy KPI to understand. If organic (non paid) traffic is going up and to the right - good work.
  • Total number of pages indexed in Google. Google will report this in your Google webmaster tools or you can do a simple query at Google site:www.yourdomain.com. If Google keeps adding more of your pages to their index - good work. This is an even better KPI if you measure it as a percentage of your total pages. If the percentage keeps improving, your going in the right direction.

For SEO middle weights

  • Number of visitors per keyword phrase - take your most valuable keywords or keyword phrases, if the the ratio of visitors to keyword phrases is improving, then so is your SEO.
  • Brand search terms vs non branded search terms - break out your branded traffic from your non branded traffic. If the percentage of branded traffic to non branded traffic is high, then you have more work to do. You should expect to get a lot of traffic from your brand, but good SEO is about bringing in new traffic that may not have heard of you before. Caution, this indicator doesn't work for everybody and only has value if your site has an established presence.

For SEO heavy weights

  • Yielding pages - percent of pages driving traffic vs total pages. As more of your pages get top rankings, then the percent of pages driving traffic vs total pages on your site will get bigger.
  • SEO reach - look at the total number of possible queries for a search term. What percent are you getting, is that percent improving?

The focus of this post was to open your eyes to what matters and doesn't matter. My list will always be incomplete, but I encourage you to send me your SEO KPI so I can add it.

Comments (Comment Moderation is enabled. Your comment will not appear until approved.)
Finally someone who agrees with me that PR is useless. Now if you only learned the difference between your and you're... ;)
# Posted By Icheb | 5/28/08 6:12 AM
Web optimization is a must, Link exchange is very important!
If your interested in web optimization for your site, th?ere is a free site for uploading video ads for your business, they also have image uploads if you are not yet up to videos. The more sites you can link to the greater you?r market will be. They have a free link exchange as well.
# Posted By Jonathan | 6/25/09 8:41 AM
Great info, very informative and helpful
# Posted By Jeff | 7/2/09 9:34 AM
2 questions:
1) Number of visitors per keyword phrase: this metric changing could just be an indicator of a particular phrase becoming more (or less) popular over time as opposed to better rankings, couldn't it?

2) For the last point, how do you go about calculating the total number of possible queries for a search term when those search terms are long tail and there is not enough volume in Google Insights to register meaningful data?
# Posted By Michael Freeman | 1/29/10 6:29 AM
Hi Michael,

1) There are different reasons for keyword phrases being more or less popular over time – seasonality, temporary hype around particular topic, off-line marketing campaigns, etc. It’s important to understand what could be possible reason for increased or decreased organic traffic. Just go beyond your web analytics tool and provide a quick research.
For example, let’s take a look at seasonality factor. It is easy to find this factor by looking at Google Insights for Search or Google Trends reports. Then make sure you analyze right data in web analytics tool - compare the same time period (season) over time (e.g. January 2010 vs. January 2009).

It’s always important to look at your web analytics stats in combination with other available information to understand trends. It will help you put together correct actionable insights.

2) Google Insights is not the perfect tool for this type of research. It’s better to use available keyword research tools (for example, Google Adwords Keyword Tool - https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExter...). They could help you find related long tail keywords and estimate volume of searches.
# Posted By Alex T | 1/29/10 1:14 PM
Thank you for sharing the information.
# Posted By Steven Yaniz | 11/2/10 11:58 PM