SEO ROI: How To Make Sure Performance Tracking Matches Goals

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It’s important to track SEO performance to understand what activities work and which are not.

Nevertheless, there are numerous reasons why it’s difficult to properly estimate the ROI (return on investment) of an SEO campaign, starting with argument as to which metrics are essential.

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

Top 3 SEO Metrics

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

But the top 3 SEO project goals and KPIs (key efficiency indicators) from the report are the exact same.

All three SEO demographics amongst report participants agree on the leading 3 SEO metrics in the exact same order:

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

The above SEO metrics are tracked through Google Analytics, Search Console, and third-party tools, making them useful for tracking the objectives of an SEO campaign.

While there is contract about the leading 3 SEO metrics, there is a large variance of opinions regarding the relative importance of the rest of the metrics.

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

Why Is Measuring KPIs So Difficult?

Even when there’s agreement on which KPIs are crucial, there is still the problem of accurate measurement.

Personal privacy laws are sunsetting numerous types of tracking.

But there are likewise real-world obstacles. Search online marketer Adam Humphreys, Creator of Making 8, relates:

“Communications with the customer and their frequently high turnover of reception makes tracking conversions beyond our lead tracking harder. With call tracking, if the customer receptionist forgets to confirm an appointment lead for tracking software, we just know that it was a leader/new call. The lifetime value of clients can considerably differ.

The kickstart conference is the most essential time for SEO experts to learn what product service offerings are provided, the most frequently sold, experienced with, and the greatest return offerings.

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

For ecommerce, however, we can really carefully track ROAS. It’s important to know that SEO is a financial investment, and like going to the fitness center, it takes time to enhance everything.

This understanding is why we have our exclusive triage formula for content to align with client needs. Lead tracking SEO is just as good as customers understanding their numbers. Some are fantastic, while others are quite satisfying.

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

The 4th Crucial SEO Metric

Both the firm and freelance SEOs ranked Revenue as the fourth crucial SEO metric.

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

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

The factor in-house SEOs disagree on which SEO metrics are most important is the workplace.

The work environment surprisingly effects which SEO metrics are deemed most important.

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

Obviously, revenue is vital to internal SEOs. However it is not given as a top concern in the survey for factors specific to the work environment.

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

Even in a smaller sized internal role, the management layer might not share precise profits numbers.

In many cases, particularly in bigger business, the earnings numbers are closely secured and not shared with the SEO department.

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

“In every big business I have been in, Income was never ever my problem in a reporting sense. There were analytics teams who did that.

In some companies, the comprehensive revenue breakdown was concealed. e.g., which product was the most successful. Even conversions are not clear cut in big companies.”

The function of internal SEO in lots of verticals is primarily concerned with keeping the leads rolling in.

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

Revenue is ranked 4th crucial by firm and freelancer SEOs, perhaps since that may be essential to their customer base of little and medium companies (SMB).

The (ideally) increased income metric verifies the work of a firm or a freelance SEO.

On the other hand, there are factors to think about why Certified Leads might be a better metric for tracking SEO success.

Adam Humphreys explains why:

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

This is why I would state it’s not the very best way to measure success. Certified leads are more what I would state is the very best metric of success. What the client does after depends on them.”

The Five 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 regarding the top three crucial SEO metrics.

The 4th crucial SEO metric is mostly a reflection of duties.

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

Here are how the various SEO demographics ranked the next crucial SEO KPIs:


5. Marketing Certified 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. 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. Consumer Acquisition, Page Speed: 5.7.8. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic: 5.6.9. Email Memberships: 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 recognized ranking aspect.

However it’s also a small ranking factor and not likely to be a direct reason a site is top-ranked in Google’s search results.

The survey results verify what everyone knows, that Page Speed is a valuable metric to track. However it’s not important as a ranking aspect.

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

Given how page speed impacts the other SEO metrics, it deserves captivating the concept that page speed should be ranked as a greater top priority.

Mismatched Goals And Metrics

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

Another curious result is that Freelancers were equally divided amongst practically all the metrics.

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

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

The distinctions between the fifth and tenth-ranked SEO metrics were closer to 2 percent for the firm and internal SEO demographics.

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

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

The connected results suggest that freelance SEOs extensively disagree about which metrics are the most essential.

Respondents who recognized as freelance might be a wider demographic than those who determined as agency or in-house.

For instance, a freelance SEO may concentrate on content writing, link building, website auditing, regional search, affiliate work, or perhaps a combination of one or more.

Looked at in that method, it makes good sense that the freelancer SEO demographic is essentially equally divided regarding which metrics are the most essential. Their study responses show that all the metrics are essential.

Disconnect 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 industry disagrees with the above five metrics may be unpredictability regarding which of the above plays a role in Google’s algorithm and to what extent.

This uncertainty about SEO elements should be acknowledged because it indicates the restrictions 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 situation where what is put into package is understood (SEO), and what comes out is likewise understood (rankings).

But what occurs inside the box 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 understands what happened inside the Google black box that resulted in the rankings.

Compounding the secret is that nobody can accurately perform tests to separate what factors contributed to rankings due to the fact that you just see the result, not the procedure.

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

It simply indicates that one needs to be aware of the limitations of these sort of metrics.

The truth that the various SEO demographics do not agree on the relative value of these metrics highlights the basic unpredictability of what occurs inside Google’s black box.

Effect On Tracking SEO ROI

There are many articles about tracking the ROI of SEO, however the reality is that it can not be properly tracked; it can just be estimated.

For example, we do not know if backlinks played a role in rankings. In some cases there are no changes in rankings till months later on.

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

Social engagement is said to be an indirect ranking factor in that it might result in 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 directly and obtained links to social engagement.

Even if one could, one could still not accurately validate that those links contributed in rankings since Google’s ranking processes for each question take place in a black box.

Ensure KPIs Support Project Goals

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

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

Separate in between real SEO efficiency metrics (rankings, traffic), metrics that refer 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 collaborating.

But also think about indirect aspects such as social engagement (where proper) because, in addition to being an indirect SEO element, it’s a measurement of appeal, 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 market, download the 2nd yearly State Of SEO Report.

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Best SMM Panel