SEO ROI: How To Ensure Performance Tracking Matches Goals

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

However, there are multiple reasons it’s challenging to properly approximate the ROI (roi) of an SEO campaign, beginning with argument regarding 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 significance of private SEO metrics differs in between in-house, agency, and freelance SEO pros who responded to the survey.

But the leading 3 SEO campaign objectives and KPIs (key efficiency indications) from the report are the very same.

All three SEO demographics amongst report participants settle on the top 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, Browse Console, and third-party tools, making them beneficial for tracking the objectives of an SEO campaign.

While there is agreement about the leading 3 SEO metrics, there is a large difference of opinions relating to the relative value of the remainder of the metrics.

That is very important since those other metrics can represent campaign goals and KPIs.

Why Is Measuring KPIs So Difficult?

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

Personal privacy laws are sunsetting many forms of tracking.

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

“Communications with the client and their typically 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 know that it was a leader/new call. The life time value of customers can significantly vary.

The kickstart meeting is the most crucial time for SEO specialists to discover what product service offerings are used, the most regularly 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 website and triage material to the top that needs to be enhanced first. While we can track on a really granular level, I choose to focus on tracked leads, not return on advertisement invest (ROAS), for service-based operations.

For ecommerce, nevertheless, we can extremely carefully track ROAS. It is very important to understand that SEO is an investment, and like going to the fitness center, it takes some time to optimize whatever.

This understanding is why we have our proprietary triage formula for material to line up with client requirements. Lead tracking SEO is just as great as clients knowing their numbers. Some are incredible, while others are rather satisfying.

The important part is we continuously track and are accountable for outcomes. We can thus see the seasonality of SEO and when something is off that needs to be enhanced.”

The 4th Essential SEO Metric

Both the company and freelance SEOs ranked Revenue as the fourth essential SEO metric.

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

There is an interesting insight into why internal SEOs disagree about the 4th SEO metric.

The factor internal SEOs disagree on which SEO metrics are crucial is the workplace.

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

This phenomenon is plainly viewable in the 4th most important SEO metric revealed by the State of SEO Survey.

Obviously, revenue is necessary to internal SEOs. However it is not provided as a top issue in the study for factors particular to the workplace.

Profits is typically tracked beyond internal SEO. It’s the obligation of another department or layer of management.

Even in a smaller sized in-house function, the management layer might not share precise revenue numbers.

Sometimes, especially in larger business, the revenue numbers are carefully guarded and not shared with the SEO department.

Australia-based search online marketer Ash Nallawalla, who has decades of internal SEO experience, described:

“In every large company I have actually been in, Earnings was never ever my issue in a reporting sense. There were analytics teams who did that.

In some companies, the comprehensive income breakdown was concealed. e.g., which item was the most lucrative. Even conversions are not clear cut in large companies.”

The role of in-house SEO in many verticals is mainly concerned with keeping the leads rolling in.

So it makes good sense that Marketing Qualified Lead is ranked number 4 by in-house SEOs. It reflects their duties and how the workplace affects which KPI is necessary to their SEO application.

Revenue is ranked 4th crucial by company and freelancer SEOs, perhaps because that might be necessary to their client base of small and medium organizations (SMB).

The (hopefully) increased profits metric validates the work of a firm 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 discusses why:

“The problem is clients will game the income as to prevent paying more, and if they have a satisfactory front end, etc, it could lead to less earnings. Bad in-store experiences could also result in less earnings.

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

The 5 Through 10 Crucial SEO KPIs

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

There is contract as to the top three crucial SEO metrics.

The 4th crucial SEO metric is primarily a reflection of responsibilities.

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

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


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


5. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic: 6.5%.6. Backlinks: 6.1%.7. Profits: 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. Customer Lifetime Worth (CLV): 5.1.

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

Page Speed is a known ranking aspect.

However it’s also a minor ranking element and not most likely to be a direct reason that a site is top-ranked in Google’s search results page.

The study results verify what everyone knows, that Page Speed is a valuable metric to track. However it’s trivial as a ranking factor.

An interesting observation about page speed is that a higher page speed can straight assist increase conversions, and sales, enhance time on page, bounce rates, and practically all the other metrics crucial to SEO.

Offered how page speed affects the other SEO metrics, it deserves amusing the idea that page speed should be ranked as a greater top priority.

Mismatched Goals And Metrics

Aside from page speed, there is no contract on which metrics are essential.

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

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

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

The differences between the fifth and tenth-ranked SEO metrics were closer to 2 percent for the agency 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 widely disagree about which metrics are the most important.

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

For example, a freelance SEO may focus on content writing, link structure, website auditing, regional search, affiliate work, or even a mix of several.

Looked at in that way, it makes sense that the freelancer SEO demographic is virtually equally divided as to which metrics are the most important. Their survey responses indicate that all the metrics are essential.

Detach In Between Project Goals And KPI Tracking

All three 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 strongly disagree is on metrics that are understood to be contributors 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 five metrics may be uncertainty regarding which of the above contributes in Google’s algorithm and to what level.

This unpredictability about SEO aspects need to be acknowledged since it indicates the constraints of these metrics.

The reason 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 known.

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

But nobody understands what happened inside the Google black box that resulted in the rankings.

Intensifying the mystery is that no one can properly perform tests to isolate what aspects contributed to rankings due to the fact that you only see the result, not the procedure.

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

It just implies that one has to be aware of the restrictions of these type of metrics.

The fact that the different SEO demographics do not agree on the relative significance of these metrics highlights the general uncertainty of what occurs inside Google’s black box.

Effect On Tracking SEO ROI

There are numerous short articles about tracking the ROI of SEO, but the truth is that it can not be precisely tracked; it can just be estimated.

For example, we do not know if backlinks contributed in rankings. Sometimes there are no changes in rankings till months later.

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

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

But again, there is no chance to attribute the branded keyword search traffic straight and obtained links to social engagement.

Even if one could, one might still not properly verify that those links contributed in rankings because Google’s ranking procedures for each question happen in a black box.

Guarantee KPIs Assistance Campaign Goals

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

Sometimes the data is not available, such as profits or sales figures. But there are always other data, such as leads or conversion rates, that can demonstrate how well the SEO project is advancing.

Separate between real SEO efficiency metrics (rankings, traffic), metrics that relate to site experience (page speed, time on page, bounce rate), and SEO improvements (backlinks) to get a total photo of how well the different parts of an SEO project are interacting.

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

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

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Best SMM Panel