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How to Measure SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), measurable results are critical to success. But the marketing discipline does not end when you get to page one or a thousand clicks per day.

SEO professionals continuously look at metrics to adjust, refine, or even overhaul strategies. Because while metrics are important, how these numbers translate into meaningful developments is even more essential.

Here are four focus areas to help you accurately measure the effects of an SEO campaign:

1. Overall keyword footprint

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At the core of any search engine strategy is the keyword. Whether consumers are typing on their devices or asking Google or Alexa via voice search, understanding the phrases used to search for specific information is the goldmine of SEO.

Keyword footprints are essentially a series of keywords where clients see a lot of value and would like to rank in. These keywords could come from an initial metric called the search volume. Keyword search volume reflects the monthly number of searchers on average that is specific to a location.

A Christmas tree seller, for example, will want to capitalize on broad keywords used for Christmas that present great value during the holiday season.

Additionally, they’ll want to also consider keywords with a higher “buyer intent” that may have lower volume, but a much higher conversion rate.

Having this data about the words consumers use regularly, or which are in demand for a time, helps clients establish the goals that determine how they will evaluate an SEO campaign.

As a metric, this means measuring how many keywords you are ranking for in Google. This footprint tracks the direction of any existing optimization efforts, or informs businesses about where to improve in.

Measuring the conversions (which we’ll explain shortly) from your overall keyword footprint can also reveal critical issues affecting your SEO campaign – site optimization or load time problems that increase bounce rates and negatively impact your ranking.

2. Page 1 Keyword Footprint

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How many keywords does your business have ranking on Google’s most valuable real estate? What keywords are being used by your competitors to achieve first page visibility? As an indicator, page one keyword footprints help clients benchmark their SEO efforts.

When measuring page one footprints, don’t solely focus on the keywords. Look into whether or not domains and URLs match, or if title tags even incorporate the keywords you used to search. What kind of content is ranking, or who is being featured in Google’s knowledge graph or in the featured snippet?

Competition is stiffer when it comes to the top ten results, and often demands additional metrics like keyword difficulty. How many referring domains does your site have, and how does it influence your position in Google’s search results?

Measuring the client’s page 1 keyword footprint helps clients analyze the competition, review their keyword research practices, and conceptualize the content they want to publish.

3. Traffic from search

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Content is at the core of what drives traffic to your site. Organic search traffic then is an effective indicator of SEO success because it refers to website visits coming from search engine results, excluding branded keywords or Google AdWords placements.

The data from organic search traffic reflects consistent search behavior as opposed to ad placements, which are more volatile since advertisers change their bids all the time.

Nevertheless, the traffic you get from ad placements is also a useful indicator of what kind of content, language, or keyword will work best for your business or brand.

Measuring both organic and paid traffic from search help businesses create content that match what searchers are looking for. Are blogs doing better than your podcasts? Is the article on finance tips getting more traffic than your content on starting a business?

Traffic from search clearly illustrates the topics and keywords that have been most effective in delivering traffic, the most popular landing pages, and the value of your website traffic.

4. Conversions from search

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Your keyword rankings and organic search traffic are useful indicators of SEO performance. But how meaningful is it if conversion rates are low?

This often happens when people pursue SEO “trophy keywords” that have an extremely high search volume but aren’t remotely connected to driving revenue for a business.

The ultimate goal of a client’s SEO strategy is for people to take action. At the bottom line, organizations want to see how much value SEO is adding.

For many service based businesses, the desired action is filling up forms on a website. But conversion rates may also be measured by the number of visitors who sign up to your newsletters, make purchases, engage with your online chat, request a quote, or subscribe to a recurring software service.

Actions will vary across clients, industries, and traffic quality. But if you’re running a business with an online shop, conversions from search could mean how many products you’re selling, or how many people are calling to inquire about your services.

If you’re a writer running a blog, you would like to see more people subscribing to your updates or newsletters, or simply registering in your site.

Ultimately, the success rate will depend considerably on your business type and marketing campaign. However, if the marketing strategy includes taking full advantage of various metrics to measure your SEO performance, chances are you’ll be creating meaningful outcomes for your business that’s evidence-based, and data-driven.

Brendan Hufford is a marketing and business veteran who, since his first project in 2011, has founded and sold multiple businesses. He currently runs HUFF Media, and the 100 Days of SEO project. Brendan is is passionate about helping businesses get more revenue and profit from their website through SEO.