A question that I’ve been asked multiple times over the years, particularly from top level managers, is how to determine the success of your SEO activity. With understanding its successes also comes identifying opportunities, so it’s important that the two go hand in hand. The beauty of marketing in the digital world is the transparency that is provided through tools such as Google Analytics, rank tracking software and other third party applications.
The common mistake that is made when trying to measure your SEO success is monitoring only one factor, whether it be traffic, rankings or sales. There are a number of factors that can have an impact on your final results for a month such as seasonality, external marketing activity and a range of other influences. So as a result of this, there are 3 SEO reports below that managers should be looking at each month and should be requesting from their SEO or Marketing Managers. These reports will give you an overview of how your site is performing each month and allow you to gain further understanding of the wins and losses.
1. Organic Search Traffic
Reviewing your Google Analytics reports for Organic Search Traffic is the first report you should be looking at. The following reports are all useful when identifying what is happening with your SEO activity:
Total Organic Search Traffic
Total organic traffic is a good initial overview, and you should be comparing this month on month, as well as year on year, where appropriate. In some industries seasonality plays a large part in monthly traffic, so year on year can be a better identifier of success.
Branded Organic Search Traffic
Use the filters in Google Analytics to “Include Keyword Containing [brand]”. Use variations of your brand name, or an identifier such as the first 4 letters of your brand if it’s not a generic term. This will allow you to look at decreases or increases in branded traffic. Comparing this to non-branded and total traffic also allows you to get more insight into whether any win or loss has come from branded or non-branded terms.
Non-Branded Organic Search Traffic
Use the filters in Google Analytics to “Exclude Keyword Containing [brand]” as per the above example. Keep in mind that (not provided) results have an impact on this and may in fact be branded searches. However, this is still a good indicator of identifying how things are tracking for people that arrive without searching for your brand.
2. Top Organic Keywords Driving Traffic
In Google Analytics, underneath the traffic graph you will find the top keywords driving your organic search traffic. Depending on the size of your traffic, you may want to exclude branded terms, and expand the report to show more than the standard 10 results. This allows you to identify a few things:
1. Improvements/Losses on Keywords You Are Targeting
2. Keywords Driving Strong Traffic You Haven’t Been Targeting – OPPORTUNITY!
3. Keyword Ranking Reports
The third reports you should be monitoring are keyword rankings. Personally I find these one of the best indicators as to the success of your campaign. Seasonality might have an impact on your overall traffic, but if you are gaining rankings in the meantime, your SEO activity is making progress.
With your ranking reports you can identify the keywords that have performed well off the back of recent activity, identify keywords that have experienced decreases as something to put more emphasis on in the coming months, and also identify opportunities for keywords you might have included but not focused any specific targeting activity on. Chances are, if you’re ranking moderately well for a keyword phrase you haven’t focused your content or external strategy on, then you will be able to gain rankings quickly with a bit of work.