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SEO Basics 7. How to measure SEO effectiveness

In the final instalment of the SEO Basics series we look at how to measure SEO effectiveness to keep your strategy on track and working hard.

Measuring the success of your SEO strategy will help you know what works, what doesn’t and where to go next. In this final instalment of the SEO Basics series, we’ll show you how to measure SEO effectiveness so you can boost your reach and your ROI, with tools to use and the metrics you need to track.

Table of contents

  1. Why measure your SEO content’s effectiveness?
  2. How to measure SEO effectiveness
    1. Know the key metrics to look for
    2. Know what tools to use
    3. Start measuring your content
    i. Measure traffic
    ii. Measure engagement
    iii. Measure authority and competitiveness
    4. Revise your strategy
    5. Work out your ROI
  3. How often should you measure your SEO effectiveness?

Why measure your SEO content’s effectiveness?

All strategies need to start with a goal, so there comes a point where you need to measure how well you’ve met that goal.

The primary goal of SEO is to get your content in front of as many people as possible. In order for an organisation’s website or blog posts to rank highly on search engines, it needs high-quality content optimised with relevant keywords and a host of other elements we’ve already mentioned in this series.

Although you might have done your best to create SEO optimised content, is it outranking your competitors and being found on page one? Is it actually getting clicks? Are those people actually engaging with your content and converting into customers?

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At base, measuring SEO effectiveness means monitoring how effective your content is at ranking highly in the SERPs for your chosen keywords.

But there are other metrics around engagement you will want to know about.

Without following some key metrics, businesses are unable to make informed decisions about their investment, whether that be financial, application or time-based resources.

If you don’t know what your SEO strategy’s return on investment is, then you can’t accurately judge if it’s a worthwhile strategy to keep pursuing.

Measuring your SEO effectiveness will prove useful in meeting your business’s KPIs, so read on to find out how to do it.

How to measure SEO effectiveness

Follow these steps to measure your SEO effectiveness:

1. Know the key metrics to look for

There are a number of ways you can measure the success or failure of an SEO strategy. We suggest taking a ‘big picture’ approach and looking at how your SEO strategy is performing on the whole before you drill down into individual pieces.

Metrics typically fall into three categories:

Organic traffic: How many searches are delivered to you via the organic search results (i.e. not paid ads). These metrics can include:

  • Amount of traffic from organic search
  • Most fruitful channels/devices
  • Click-through rate

Engagement: User behaviour when they reach your site. These metrics can include:

  • Time spent on site/page
  • Bounce rate
  • Conversions
  • Scroll depth

Authority: This can be determined by how well your content is received by other websites. These metrics include:

  • Domain authority
  • Number of backlinks
  • Keyword positioning
  • SERPs features

2. Know what tools to use

There are a number of SEO tools that can help you evaluate the success or failure of your SEO strategy. Here are just some of the most popular:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console
  • SEMrush
  • Ahrefs Site Explorer and Domain Checker
  • Moz Domain Authority

We share some insights into how to use each of these to measure your content in the next section.

3. Start measuring your content

Now you need to run some data on how well your SEO content is performing. Here are some key reports and areas to measure the effectiveness of your SEO strategy:

Measure traffic

In Google Analytics:

Total organic traffic volume: Head to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels and select ‘Organic Traffic’. You can even compare this versus last year’s figures for a time period. Did it go up or down? What was the average number of sessions in the same period over the past year? Check if there is an upward trend in page views per session, which would indicate that users are becoming more engaged with your content.

Top-performing pages for traffic: Look at the pages that are bringing in the bulk of your traffic and what keywords they are ranking for. Is there something that is preventing other similar pages from getting more traffic?

Traffic by campaign: You can set up specific campaigns in Google Analytics so that you can determine how much traffic is being delivered by them. For this to work, you need to set up a UTM code on your links associated with the campaign and set your source, medium and campaign.

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In Google Search Console:

Click-through rate: CTR has an impact on your ranking, so it’s an important metric. In ‘Performance’, you can view the number of times users clicked through to your site and the average click-through rate (%). You can view this for each landing page or specific query term. Read Larry Kim’s advice on raising your CTR here.

Traffic from keywords: The ‘Queries’ report will help you see which pages are receiving traffic from a particular keyword; this will show you which areas you need to brush up on in your SEO strategy.

Other tools:

Ahrefs’ Site Explorer also allows you to compare organic vs paid traffic, while SEMrush’s Domain Overview tool and Traffic Analytics tool provide this overview and allow you to drill down into the sources.

SEMrush also allows you to see a metric called Traffic Cost. This puts a monetary value on how much it would cost to buy that traffic via ads and is an essential metric for ROI (more on that later).

Measure engagement

In Google Analytics:

Dwell time: Dwell time is how long users are spending actively engaged on your site before they leave. You can check this by sorting by Landing Page and reviewing the Average Session Duration column. If you have invested in longer-form content and your pages have a duration of a few seconds, you may want to look at the content to work out why.

Bounce rate: This is an easy way to see how engaged people are with your content. If a lot of people are bouncing from your site after viewing one page, that could be a sign they’re not finding what they want and aren’t sticking around for long even if you’ve done the hard part of ranking highly.

Conversion rate: If you have goal tracking set up in Google Analytics then you can measure conversions such as Transaction and Revenue. This measures those who convert from page views to purchases, opt-ins or downloads.

You can also head to Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions and compare the organic traffic data with a previous period. If your traffic has declined despite placing heavy investment inyour SEO strategy for a set of keywords, you need to review this; if it’s improved then your strategy is working.

In Google Search Console:

Mobile-friendliness: Run the Mobile Usability report to see if your site is catering to mobile users. You’ll see a green score for mobile-friendly pages and a red for those which don’t render well. From September 2020, Google moved to 100% mobile-first indexing, so failing to optimise for mobile could severely hamper your visibility in search results.

Impressions: Under ‘Performance’ you’ll be able to see how many impressions you’ve made – that is the number of times users saw your links when searching for specific keywords, an important metric to measure for visibility.

You can find most of these metrics available through paid tools such as SEMrush and Ahrefs too.

It also pays to research how your web content is being shared and engaged with across social media, for which Buzzsumo is an excellent tool to show you your most successful content (see screenshot below):

Screenshot of Buzzsumo results - How to measure SEO effectiveness - Copify blog

Measure authority and competitiveness

There are several other tools you can use to help you measure your authority across the web based on your content. This is usually built on the back of great SEO-optimised content, so gains in these areas will help you identify whether your strategy is working:

Keyword positions: One of the biggest markers of authority is where you rank in the SERPs for given keywords. Ahrefs’ Site Explorer tool and Ranking Report offer a great way to show you where you rank for each keyword, as is SEMrush’s Positions report which also allows you to set up position tracking to see how this changes.

SERP features: The SERP features filter in SEMrush’s Organic Search Positions report shows you how many SERPs features you have, such as Featured Snippets or Knowledge Panels. Bagging one of these can give you a privileged spot at the top of the results and identifies you as an authority in your field.

Backlinks: Knowing which pages received the most backlinks from other sites and how many referring IPs you have can help you measure how trusted other sites think you are.

Authority scores: Several tools give your overall site a score. This is based on different parameters. For instance, you can use Moz’s Domain Authority Score. It calculates this based on three factors: Domain Authority, Page Authority and Backlink authority.

SEMrush offers something similar in their Authority Score which you’ll see in the Domain Overview report. This ranges from 1 to 100 with a higher score meaning you’re more likely to rank in Google. In Ahrefs, this is called the Domain Rating.

These readings are useful to keep an eye on, but take them with a pinch of salt. However, if your score is increasing, you’re obviously doing something right with your SEO content strategy.

4. Revise your strategy

Rarely is an SEO strategy set in stone. Your reports will likely show where content can be improved upon to increase your position or areas of your keyword plan that aren’t being hit.

For instance, you may decide to focus on ranking for a small group of keywords by doing some keyword research into long-tail variations. This is a good place to start to build up your content and your SEO profile gradually.

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From here you will need to tweak your content plan to create more content around those areas that are being overlooked and update content that is old and simply isn’t well-optimised.

Depending on the analytics tools you use, setting up campaign tracking or position tracking may be useful so that you can easily report on changes in the future or how successful specific campaigns are.

The purpose of revising your strategy and your content is to build incremental gains in your ranking through quality content that also signals to Google and other search engines that you are an authority.

5. Work out your ROI

As Investopedia state, your return on investment is usually a percentage or ratio amount of what you get back for what you put in:

To calculate ROI, the benefit (or return) of an investment is divided by the cost of the investment. The result is expressed as a percentage or a ratio.

Essentially, you can get a true measure of your ROI by subtracting your financial investment (which includes tool fees and cost of labour) from money raised via conversions to get your net profit. Then divide your net profit by your financial investment and multiple by 100 to get your ROI percentage.

Quantityfing your traffic value

Another way of measuring the financial worth of SEO activity is to quantify the value of your organic search traffic:

  1. You’ll want to pull a spreadsheet of keywords that are directing traffic to your site and their respective number of clicks from Search Console.
  2. Next, use a tool like AdWords, SEMrush, Ahrefs or Ubersuggest to find the estimated cost per click (CPC) value of each keyword and enter that into its own column.
  3. Multiply the CPC by the number of clicks each keyword earns. The total gives you a rough idea of the financial value of that traffic.

Check out this article from Search Engine Land and this one from SEMrush for more insight into putting a value on your search traffic.

While you want to make sure that your results are worthwhile, remember that SEO takes time – around 6-12 months to start seeing results. So you might need to expect a higher initial outlay for the first year than what you get back.

How often should you measure your SEO effectiveness?

Similar to performing a content audit, you need to measure your performance often.

You may want to keep an eye on your overall positioning and traffic on a daily or weekly basis. If your website is suddenly losing traffic, this will be a big indicator that something is wrong. Is your site down? Are your page links broken? Perhaps there has been an algorithm update that has caused you to lose your position?

Try not to worry too much about dips as that is natural and trends will emerge over time, but do be mindful of sudden drastic changes.

Remember that with a well-thought-out SEO strategy and well-written content, you’ll be on your way to getting found in the search results and increasing your exposure.

✏️ If you enjoyed the SEO Basics series, why not learn how cultivating a strong brand online can drive more business with our Brand Awareness Essentials series.

Also in the SEO Basics series…

1. What does SEO content writing mean?

2. How to write SEO optimised content that gets you ranking in Google

3. Learn how to create an effective Google SEO content strategy [with template]

4. How to perform an SEO content audit

5. Learn how to update website content online to boost your rankings

6. What are some common SEO mistakes in digital content production?


Header image: Diana Polekhina

Embedded images: Vitaly Taranov, Austin Distel, screenshot from Buzzsumo, Campaign Creator

Wendy Woodhead

Wendy is the Account Director at Copify and a qualified copywriter and proofreader. She has spent six years copy editing and copywriting for B2B and B2C clients and has experience in freelance and in-house arts marketing and digital content creation. Wendy likes to write about language and literature, digital marketing, history, current affairs, and arts and culture. In her spare time she enjoys yoga, reading and writing fiction.

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