SEO ROI: How To Make Sure Performance Tracking Matches Goals

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It’s vital to track SEO efficiency to understand what activities are useful and which are not.

However, there are multiple reasons why it’s challenging to accurately estimate the ROI (return on investment) of an SEO project, beginning with argument regarding which metrics are most important.

The State of SEO report reveals some agreement regarding which metrics are useful however that there is much difference.

Leading 3 SEO Metrics

As will be seen, the relative significance of individual SEO metrics differs in between in-house, firm, and freelance SEO pros who reacted to the study.

However the leading three SEO campaign goals and KPIs (crucial efficiency indicators) from the report are the exact same.

All 3 SEO demographics amongst report participants agree on the leading 3 SEO metrics in the same order:

  1. Rankings.
  2. Page views.
  3. Conversions.

The above SEO metrics are tracked by means of Google Analytics, Search Console, and third-party tools, making them useful for tracking the objectives of an SEO campaign.

While there is contract about the leading three SEO metrics, there is a broad variance of opinions regarding the relative importance of the rest of the metrics.

That is essential because those other metrics can represent project objectives and KPIs.

Why Is Measuring KPIs So Difficult?

Even when there’s agreement on which KPIs are crucial, there is still the concern of accurate measurement.

Privacy laws are sunsetting lots of forms of tracking.

However there are also real-world barriers. Search online marketer Adam Humphreys, Founder of Making 8, relates:

“Communications with the customer and their often high turnover of reception makes tracking conversions beyond our lead tracking harder. With call tracking, if the customer receptionist forgets to validate a visit lead for tracking software, we just understand that it was a leader/new call. The lifetime value of customers can drastically differ.

The kickstart conference is the most important time for SEO experts to discover what product service offerings are used, the most frequently offered, experienced with, and the greatest return offerings.

With this, I cross-examine Google sheets opportunities to see where they are vs. what’s on their website and triage material to the top that needs to be enhanced initially. While we can track on a very granular level, I prefer to focus on tracked leads, not return on advertisement invest (ROAS), for service-based operations.

For ecommerce, nevertheless, we can very carefully track ROAS. It is very important to know that SEO is an investment, and like going to the fitness center, it takes time to enhance everything.

This understanding is why we have our proprietary triage formula for material to line up with customer needs. Lead tracking SEO is only as good as customers understanding their numbers. Some are remarkable, while others are rather acceptable.

The vital part is we continually track and are responsible for outcomes. We can therefore see the seasonality of SEO and when something is off that requires to be optimized.”

The Fourth Essential SEO Metric

Both the company and freelance SEOs ranked Revenue as the 4th most important SEO metric.

In-house SEOs ranked Marketing Qualified Leads as the fourth crucial SEO metric.

There is a fascinating insight into why in-house SEOs disagree about the 4th SEO metric.

The factor in-house SEOs disagree on which SEO metrics are most important is the workplace.

The work environment surprisingly effects which SEO metrics are considered essential.

This phenomenon is clearly viewable in the fourth crucial SEO metric revealed by the State of SEO Survey.

Obviously, earnings is vital to internal SEOs. But it is not offered as a top concern in the study for factors specific to the work environment.

Profits is usually tracked beyond in-house SEO. It’s the duty of another department or layer of management.

Even in a smaller sized in-house role, the management layer may not share specific revenue numbers.

In many cases, especially in larger companies, the earnings numbers are carefully secured and not shown the SEO department.

Australia-based search marketer Ash Nallawalla, who has years of internal SEO experience, explained:

“In every big company I have remained in, Earnings was never ever my problem in a reporting sense. There were analytics groups who did that.

In some business, the detailed revenue breakdown was concealed. e.g., which product was the most lucrative. Even conversions are unclear cut in big business.”

The function of in-house SEO in numerous verticals is primarily interested in keeping the leads rolling in.

So it makes sense that Marketing Qualified Lead is ranked number four by in-house SEOs. It reflects their obligations and how the workplace influences which KPI is essential to their SEO execution.

Revenue is ranked fourth crucial by company and freelancer SEOs, potentially since that may be very important to their consumer base of small and medium services (SMB).

The (hopefully) increased income metric validates the work of an agency or a freelance SEO.

On the other hand, there are factors to think about why Certified Leads might be a much better metric for tracking SEO success.

Adam Humphreys describes why:

“The problem is clients will video game the profits as to prevent paying more, and if they have an acceptable front end, and so on, it could lead to less income. Bad in-store experiences might also lead to less revenue.

This is why I would state it’s not the very best way to determine success. Certified leads are more what I would say is the very best metric of success. What the customer does after depends on them.”

The Five Through Ten Essential SEO KPIs

All three SEO demographics diverge totally about what the next top-ranked metrics must be.

There is arrangement regarding the top three crucial SEO metrics.

The 4th essential SEO metric is mainly a reflection of obligations.

However positions 5 through ten are where the leading metrics appear to become a matter of viewpoint.

Here are how the different SEO demographics ranked the next crucial SEO KPIs:


5. Marketing Qualified Lead: 5.8%.6. Bounce rates: 5.4%.7. Backlinks: 5.3%.8. Page Speed: 4.6%.9.
Client Acquisition: 4.4%.10.
Social: 4%.


5. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic: 6.5%.6. Backlinks: 6.1%.7. Revenue: 5.6%.8. Page Speed: 5.2%.9.
Bounce Rates: 5.0%.10.
Time on Page: 4.5%.


5. Bounce rates, Backlinks, Social Engagement: 6.3.6. Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): 5.8.7. Client Acquisition, Page Speed: 5.7.8. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic: 5.6.9. Email Subscriptions: 5.4.10. Client Lifetime Value (CLV): 5.1.

Page Speed is the only metric that all 3 groups settle on.

Page Speed is a recognized ranking aspect.

However it’s likewise a small ranking element and not most likely to be a direct reason that a site is top-ranked in Google’s search engine result.

The survey results validate what everyone knows, that Page Speed is an important metric to track. However it’s trivial as a ranking element.

A fascinating observation about page speed is that a higher page speed can straight help increase conversions, and sales, enhance time on page, bounce rates, and pretty much all the other metrics important to SEO.

Given how page speed affects the other SEO metrics, it’s worth entertaining the concept that page speed should be ranked as a greater concern.

Mismatched Goals And Metrics

Aside from page speed, there is no arrangement on which metrics are crucial.

Another curious result is that Freelancers were uniformly split amongst practically all the metrics.

6.3% of freelance SEOs agreed that bounce rates, backlinks, and social engagement were important, a three-way tie for the number 5 essential SEO metric.

The number 10 ranked SEO metric, Consumer Lifetime Worth, was rated with 5.1% votes. That’s a difference of just 1.2% between the 5th and the tenth essential SEO metric as voted on by freelancers.

The distinctions between the 5th and tenth-ranked SEO metrics were closer to two percent for the company and in-house SEO demographics.

What is clear is that freelancers might not reach any consensus. Freelancer votes yielded a three-way tie for the 5th most important metric and a two-way tie for the seventh-ranked metric (consumer acquisition and page speed, 5.7%).

Freelancers were the only demographic where the votes ended in ties for any metrics.

The tied outcomes indicate that freelance SEOs widely disagree about which metrics are the most necessary.

Respondents who determined as freelance might be a broader demographic than those who determined as agency or in-house.

For instance, a freelance SEO may specialize in content writing, link structure, site auditing, local search, affiliate work, and even a combination of one or more.

Looked at because method, it makes good sense that the freelancer SEO demographic is virtually uniformly split as to which metrics are the most crucial. Their survey answers show that all the metrics are important.

Disconnect In Between Project Goals And KPI Tracking

All three demographics settle on three metrics that are each a measurement of SEO success.

  • Rankings.
  • Page views.
  • Conversions.

Those 3 measurements are results-based KPIs of success.

Where the 3 SEO demographics strongly disagree is on metrics that are comprehended to be contributors to SEO success and healthy traffic.

  • Bounce rates.
  • Backlinks.
  • Social engagement.
  • Time on page.
  • Page speed.

A possible description for why the SEO industry disagrees with the above 5 metrics might be unpredictability regarding which of the above plays a role in Google’s algorithm and to what degree.

This unpredictability about SEO aspects need to be acknowledged because it points to the limitations of these metrics.

The factor for the unpredictability is that Google’s ranking algorithm is a black box.

In computing, a black box is a scenario where what is taken into the box is known (SEO), and what comes out is also known (rankings).

But what occurs inside the box is not understood.

Backlinks, social engagement, time on page, page speed, and bounce rates represent what we put into package. Rankings are what comes out.

However no one understands what occurred inside the Google black box that resulted in the rankings.

Intensifying the secret is that no one can accurately carry out tests to isolate what factors added to rankings because you just see the result, not the process.

This inability to see how the algorithm works doesn’t mean that social engagement or time on page, or any of the other metrics need to not be tracked.

It just means that one needs to understand the restrictions of these type of metrics.

The reality that the various SEO demographics do not settle on the relative significance of these metrics highlights the general unpredictability of what happens inside Google’s black box.

Effect On Tracking SEO ROI

There are many posts about tracking the ROI of SEO, but the truth is that it can not be precisely tracked; it can just be approximated.

For example, we do not know if backlinks played a role in rankings. Sometimes there are no modifications in rankings until months later on.

Did the links take a very long time to impact the rankings, or was it a coincidence?

Social engagement is stated to be an indirect ranking consider that it could result in more top quality keyword traffic and links, which in turn affect rankings.

However once again, there is no chance to attribute the branded keyword search traffic straight and acquired links to social engagement.

Even if one could, one might still not precisely validate that those links played a role in rankings since Google’s ranking procedures for each question occur in a black box.

Guarantee KPIs Support Project Goals

The State of SEO results makes it clear that choosing the best metrics is vital to your situation.

Sometimes the information is not readily available, such as earnings or sales figures. However there are constantly other information, such as leads or conversion rates, that can demonstrate how well the SEO project is progressing.

Separate in between actual SEO efficiency metrics (rankings, traffic), metrics that refer to website experience (page speed, time on page, bounce rate), and SEO enhancements (backlinks) to get a total photo of how well the different parts of an SEO campaign are collaborating.

However also consider indirect factors such as social engagement (where appropriate) because, in addition to being an indirect SEO aspect, it’s a measurement of appeal, a reflection of how well a website is growing as a brand name and a destination.

For more insights about the state of the SEO market, download the second annual State Of SEO Report.

Included Image: Paulo Bobita/Best SMM Panel