How to Measure SEO Success: Determining the Real Value of Your Strategy

Quentin Aisbett, SEO Lead, Searcht

Last updated Oct 24, 2023 Clock Reading time: 12min

Whether you’re marketing a B2B or a B2C business, organic search is likely the primary source of your website traffic. More importantly, organic traffic influences your buyer’s journey – so its impact on your growth should never be underestimated.

But we know you don’t need to be convinced to invest in SEO. Instead, we’d like to give you an insight into how we here at Searcht measure SEO success.

Yes, rankings are a factor, but they’re far from the only one. Gone are the days when SEO agencies reported solely on keyword rankings. If yours is, it’s time to start asking more questions. We know you like seeing your rankings move, but rankings don’t help you meet your KPIs. As Kevin Indig put it, ‘…executives care about: revenue, market share and growth.’

Ultimately, that’s how we at Searcht measure SEO success. We keep an eye on the revenue generated through organic means and other important KPIs – but we also track a variety of smaller metrics that act as early indicators of progress. And that’s what we’ll be looking at today.

Monitoring your leads and sales

Whether you’re using Hubspot or Salesforce, we monitor your lead funnel to closely observe the impact of organic traffic. Because while we can track conversions in Google Analytics, they’re just MQLs and they don’t influence revenue, market share and growth like SQLs, right?

The fact is, not all organic traffic contributes to your key objectives. We want to attract the right organic traffic.

For the ecommerce marketers, revenue can be tracked from within Google Analytics.

Understanding key SEO metrics

While our key priorities are revenue, market share and growth, it’s important for us to monitor and optimise for several traditional metrics used to measure SEO success. Achieving these will help ensure we’re on the right path to meeting your business objectives.

So, we also measure SEO success based on:

  • Organic traffic
  • Keyword rankings
  • Backlinks
  • Bounce rate
  • Time on page
  • Pages per session

These metrics can provide a comprehensive understanding of your SEO performance and offer actionable insights to refine your strategy.

Organic traffic

Understanding how SEO influences organic users and sessions is important to measuring success. For some clients, we’re looking for increased numbers of new users leading to conversions. For others, we’re aiming for organic traffic to encourage repeat visits. 

Ultimately, we want to see ‘quality’ organic traffic – it’s this type of traffic that leads to growth.

Monitoring keyword rankings

Yes, keyword rankings are nice. And they make a difference: one study of 4 million search results identified that position 1 gets 27.6% of clicks and positions 1 and 2 get more clicks than positions 3 to 10 combined. All brands benefit from improved search visibility. It drives more clicks and builds credibility and reputation.

But measuring rankings is more than just looking at positions. Along with rankings, we measure SEO success with search-visibility competitor analysis, rich snippets and more.

Evaluating backlinks

You’ve probably read about their demise many times over the years, but backlinks are still important. In fact, they may be more important than ever, as search evolves to deliver AI results. 

We don’t measure SEO success based on total backlinks. We want to see quality links from contextual domains and URLs. As far as we’re concerned, if they’re not relevant local or industry-related links, they don’t count. In an ideal world, we want to see backlinks that genuinely refer traffic to your website – that’s how we measure backlink success.

Analysing bounce rate, time on page and pages per session

Bounce rate, time on page and pages per session are all different metrics, of course. But what they all offer is an indication of the quality of the traffic our clients are attracting from their SEO efforts. 

It’s still all about the right traffic. Because organic traffic that’ll help you grow doesn’t bounce within 10 seconds of landing on your site.

Again, these traditional SEO metrics may not be that helpful when you’re reporting up the chain, but they’re all key indicators. Success within these metrics helps us make sure we’re on the right track to achieving the objectives that you really care about.

Understanding how organic and SEO activates other channels

You likely have a deep understanding of your audience’s buyer journey – but does your reporting reflect each step of that journey? Are you, like many, still relying on last-click attribution?

It’s a lot cleaner to use last-click attribution. And measuring SEO success based on organic traffic generated in the final, converting session paints a pretty picture. But it’s not the whole picture.

What if your content strategy worked as intended? In this scenario, it’s organic that first attracted the user to your site and led to an email subscription. But it was an email newsletter that actually converted. Few brands or businesses attribute this, but it should be understood when determining SEO success.

Knowing about first-click and last-click attribution can show you the importance of organic and SEO. But you also want to find out if other channels are playing a part in those organic conversions, so you can really get the full picture of what’s driving growth. We want to understand if it’s social driving the first visit only for a branded search to drive the conversions.

Don’t lose sight on lifetime customer value

So often, when you’re looking to understand the ROI or success of organic search, paid search and even social, we look at the direct conversion and no further. But imagine if that customer attributed to organic and SEO goes on to be a repeat customer for the next three years. How do you attribute that revenue?

Have you identified your lifetime customer value (LCV)? Have you been able to segment your audience to understand the average LCV for organic-generated conversions versus other channels? Ideally, to understand your true SEO success, you should. 

Don’t underestimate other success factors

SEO isn’t a one-trick pony. It adds business value across a range of outcomes. So, while it’s difficult to measure everything when we assess SEO success, we also like to make sure we don’t underestimate the other benefits SEO offers. These include:

  • Increased trust and credibility
  • Insight into the user and changes in behaviour (consumer and market insights)
  • Better conversion rates and UX
  • Brand reach, awareness and reputation (PR)

Increased trust and credibility

You don’t need a qualification in consumer psychology to understand that consistent, prominent ranking adds credibility. Conversely, not appearing on the first page of search results can hurt your reputation in the searcher’s mind.

Insight into the user and changes in behaviour (consumer and market insights)

With your SEO managed by a professional, you’ll gain invaluable access to data that can help you to make solid business decisions. Seasonal search volumes can influence product launches. Geographical keyword research can help support due diligence in opening up new locations. And an SEO competitor analysis can help you discover how your rivals generate organic traffic and reveal their strategies early, allowing your business to adapt and compete effectively.

Better conversion rates and UX

Engaging a responsible SEO agency or professional will lead to improved website page experience (UX) and conversion rates. UX is a ranking factor, and increased conversion rates are a natural result of these improvements. Great SEOs are as obsessed with conversion rates as anybody else – we want to see the best results possible from our work.

Brand reach, awareness, reputation (PR)

By improving your search visibility, SEOs contribute to your reach and awareness, which can improve your brand or business’ reputation. More than that, a responsible SEO agency will drive you to improve your online reputation in order to improve SEO. 

Forecasting SEO success

We know intimately that SEO is no overnight success. Depending on your competitive landscape, the industry you operate in, the age of your business and your existing optimisation, the speed with which we can demonstrate solid results will vary.

So, it’s important to approach SEO as a long-term strategy. That’s why we provide clients with SEO forecasting, which forms the basis of our planning and KPIs – all leading to you achieving growth.

Forecasting identifies milestones we need to achieve over time to ensure that we meet your objectives. These milestones also contribute to how we measure success. 

Understanding the full spectrum of SEO success

When we measure SEO success based on revenue, marketshare, and growth, it’s self-serving in many regards. We know that when budgets are crafted, SEO needs to demonstrate its true value to a business. That’s why we’re as obsessed with your revenue and growth as you are.

But we also don’t lose sight of the many other aspects of SEO success that – although they don’t need to be reported up the chain – help craft our strategy and keep everything on track.

SEO is far from dead. And with AI-based results in search, the need for support in navigating the landscape will only increase and the value of strong decision-makers will skyrocket. So, find the right team – one you can trust to help steer you forward.

Speaking specifically about enterprises, Search Engine Watch put it well: ‘SEO is without a doubt the most cost-effective channel today.’

Related articles: