SEO ROI: How To Make Sure Performance Tracking Matches Goals

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It’s essential to track SEO efficiency to understand what activities work and which are not.

However, there are several reasons that it’s hard to properly approximate the ROI (return on investment) of an SEO project, starting with argument as to which metrics are most important.

The State of SEO report exposes some agreement as to which metrics are useful however that there is much disagreement.

Top 3 SEO Metrics

As will be seen, the relative value of individual SEO metrics varies in between in-house, agency, and freelance SEO pros who responded to the study.

However the leading three SEO project objectives and KPIs (essential efficiency indications) from the report are the very same.

All three SEO demographics amongst report respondents agree on the leading three SEO metrics in the same order:

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

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

While there is arrangement about the top three SEO metrics, there is a large variation of viewpoints regarding the relative value of the remainder of the metrics.

That is necessary due to the fact that those other metrics can represent project goals and KPIs.

Why Is Determining KPIs So Difficult?

Even when there’s arrangement on which KPIs are essential, there is still the problem of precise measurement.

Personal privacy laws are sunsetting numerous kinds of tracking.

But there are also real-world obstacles. Browse marketer Adam Humphreys, Creator of Making 8, relates:

“Communications with the customer and their often high turnover of reception makes tracking conversions beyond our lead tracking more difficult. With call tracking, if the customer receptionist forgets to verify a visit lead for tracking software, we only understand that it was a leader/new call. The lifetime value of customers can dramatically vary.

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

With this, I cross-examine Google sheets opportunities to see where they are vs. what’s on their site and triage material to the top that requires to be optimized initially. While we can track on a really granular level, I prefer to concentrate on tracked leads, not return on ad spend (ROAS), for service-based operations.

For ecommerce, however, we can very carefully track ROAS. It is essential to understand that SEO is an investment, and like going to the fitness center, it requires time to optimize whatever.

This understanding is why we have our proprietary triage formula for content to align with client needs. Lead tracking SEO is just as great as customers understanding their numbers. Some are incredible, while others are quite acceptable.

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

The Fourth Essential SEO Metric

Both the firm and freelance SEOs ranked Revenue as the 4th essential SEO metric.

Internal SEOs ranked Marketing Qualified Leads as the fourth essential SEO metric.

There is a remarkable insight into why in-house SEOs disagree about the fourth SEO metric.

The factor in-house SEOs disagree on which SEO metrics are crucial is the work environment.

The workplace remarkably effects which SEO metrics are considered most important.

This phenomenon is plainly viewable in the fourth most important SEO metric revealed by the State of SEO Survey.

Obviously, profits is essential to internal SEOs. However it is not given as a top concern in the survey for reasons particular to the work environment.

Profits is normally tracked outside of internal SEO. It’s the responsibility of another department or layer of management.

Even in a smaller sized internal function, the management layer may not share exact revenue numbers.

In many cases, especially in larger business, the earnings numbers are closely guarded and not shared with the SEO department.

Australia-based search marketer Ash Nallawalla, who has decades of in-house SEO experience, explained:

“In every large company I have actually remained in, Income was never my problem in a reporting sense. There were analytics teams who did that.

In some companies, the comprehensive profits breakdown was concealed. e.g., which item was the most rewarding. Even conversions are unclear cut in large business.”

The role of internal SEO in lots of verticals is primarily interested in keeping the leads rolling in.

So it makes sense that Marketing Certified Lead is ranked number 4 by internal SEOs. It reflects their responsibilities and how the workplace affects which KPI is important to their SEO application.

Revenue is ranked 4th crucial by firm and freelancer SEOs, potentially since that might be essential to their consumer base of small and medium businesses (SMB).

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

On the other hand, there are reasons to consider why Qualified Leads might be a better metric for tracking SEO success.

Adam Humphreys describes why:

“The issue is clients will game the profits regarding prevent paying more, and if they have a satisfactory front end, and so on, it might result in less income. Bad in-store experiences could also result in less earnings.

This is why I would say 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 client does after is up to them.”

The 5 Through 10 Most Important SEO KPIs

All 3 SEO demographics diverge totally about what the next top-ranked metrics need to be.

There is agreement as to the top 3 essential SEO metrics.

The fourth crucial SEO metric is mainly a reflection of obligations.

However positions five through 10 are where the leading metrics appear to end up being a matter of viewpoint.

Here are how the various 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. Consumer Acquisition, Page Speed: 5.7.8. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic: 5.6.9. Email Subscriptions: 5.4.10. Consumer Lifetime Worth (CLV): 5.1.

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

Page Speed is a known ranking factor.

But it’s likewise a minor ranking aspect and not most likely to be a direct reason why a site is top-ranked in Google’s search engine result.

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

An intriguing observation about page speed is that a greater page speed can directly help increase conversions, and sales, enhance time on page, bounce rates, and pretty much all the other metrics important to SEO.

Offered how page speed affects the other SEO metrics, it’s worth entertaining the concept that page speed should be ranked as a higher top priority.

Mismatched Goals And Metrics

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

Another curious outcome is that Freelancers were equally divided amongst essentially all the metrics.

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

The number 10 ranked SEO metric, Customer Lifetime Value, was rated with 5.1% votes. That’s a distinction of only 1.2% between the fifth and the tenth most important SEO metric as voted on by freelancers.

The differences in between the 5th and tenth-ranked SEO metrics were closer to two percent for the firm and internal SEO demographics.

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

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

The connected outcomes indicate that freelance SEOs commonly disagree about which metrics are the most essential.

Participants who identified as freelance may be a wider demographic than those who identified as agency or in-house.

For instance, a freelance SEO might specialize in content writing, link structure, website auditing, regional search, affiliate work, or even a mix of several.

Looked at because method, it makes good sense that the freelancer SEO group is practically equally split as to which metrics are the most important. Their survey responses suggest that all the metrics are important.

Detach In Between Project Goals And KPI Tracking

All 3 demographics settle on 3 metrics that are each a measurement of SEO success.

  • Rankings.
  • Page views.
  • Conversions.

Those 3 measurements are results-based KPIs of success.

Where the three SEO demographics highly disagree is on metrics that are comprehended to be factors to SEO success and healthy traffic.

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

A possible explanation for why the SEO market disagrees with the above 5 metrics may be unpredictability as to which of the above contributes in Google’s algorithm and to what extent.

This uncertainty about SEO elements need to be acknowledged due to the fact that 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 likewise known (rankings).

However what takes place inside package is not understood.

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

But no one knows what took place inside the Google black box that led to the rankings.

Compounding the mystery is that no one can accurately carry out tests to separate what elements added to rankings because you only see the result, not the process.

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

It simply indicates that one needs to understand the limitations of these type of metrics.

The truth that the various SEO demographics do not settle on the relative importance of these metrics highlights the basic uncertainty of what happens inside Google’s black box.

Effect On Tracking SEO ROI

There are lots of posts about tracking the ROI of SEO, but the truth is that it can not be accurately tracked; it can just be estimated.

For instance, we don’t know if backlinks contributed in rankings. Often there are no modifications in rankings up until months later.

Did the links take a long period of time to affect the rankings, or was it a coincidence?

Social engagement is said to be an indirect ranking consider that it could lead to more branded keyword traffic and links, which in turn influence rankings.

But again, there is no other way to attribute the top quality keyword search traffic straight and obtained links to social engagement.

Even if one could, one might still not precisely validate that those links played a role in rankings due to the fact that Google’s ranking processes for each inquiry happen in a black box.

Ensure KPIs Support Project Goals

The State of SEO results makes it clear that picking the very best metrics is important to your circumstance.

In some cases the data is not readily available, such as profits or sales figures. However there are always other information, such as leads or conversion rates, that can demonstrate how well the SEO campaign is advancing.

Differentiate between real SEO performance metrics (rankings, traffic), metrics that refer to website experience (page speed, time on page, bounce rate), and SEO improvements (backlinks) to get an overall photo of how well the different parts of an SEO project are working together.

However likewise consider indirect elements such as social engagement (where suitable) because, in addition to being an indirect SEO factor, it’s a measurement of appeal, a reflection of how well a site is growing as a brand name and a destination.

For more insights about the state of the SEO market, download the 2nd yearly State Of SEO Report.

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Best SMM Panel