This post was originally written for Alberon. I have reproduced it here because the original post is no longer live.
How do you know if your SEO campaign is working? You track your progress over time in several key areas, analyse the results and adjust your strategy as necessary.
Search engine position
One of the key goals of SEO is to improve your ranking for particular keywords and phrases, so naturally you want to track your position in the search results over time to see what effect your changes have.
However, this is not as simple as it sounds – your position varies based on many factors including which user is logged in, their location, type of device (desktop or mobile), search history, and even the time of day. This means it’s best to use a tool such as Keyword Rank Checker which is able to mask these to give more consistent results.
It is also common for your position to fluctuate. This means you need to check your position on a regular basis – daily if possible – to give you a more accurate picture. If you only check once a month, you can’t be sure whether the change is permanent or just a random fluctuation.
Another goal of SEO is to build up incoming links, both to increase your PageRank and bring in more traffic. To measure this, you need to look at how many pages are linking to you, and the quality of those links – there are several tools that can help with this.
Your on-site analytics (e.g. Google Analytics) will also help you see how many visitors each link brings and how well they convert, which may influence your future link building strategy.
Pay per click (PPC) advertising
PPC adverts also allow you to experiment with different keywords and phrases, to determine which are the most popular or which convert well. You can use this information to focus your organic SEO efforts (content and link building).
Number of visitors
The number of visitors over time gives you a high-level view of how your SEO work is going – are you bringing in more visitors or not? It may also help you spot problems – if the number of visitors suddenly declines, maybe something is wrong…
However, be aware that this is only a crude measure of performance – if you bring in a lot of unqualified visitors that do not convert to customers, that’s not a win!
Are your visitors engaging with you or are they leaving straight away? Track your bounce rate, average number of page views and time on site, and work to improve them by creating more appealing and interactive content.
If you do have a high bounce rate, it may help to install a heatmap tool, to see how visitors interact with your site – or run some informal user testing sessions to see for yourself what they don’t like. Also look at blog comments, social media and so on to see what your visitors are saying about you.
Conversion rate and value
Your conversion rate is the percentage of visitors that reach some desirable outcome, such as filling in a contact form or buying a product – this is something that you will want to measure and improve.
In addition to the A/B testing tools discussed in our previous article, you can set up goals and funnels in Google Analytics – this will help determine which keywords, articles and pages lead to the most goal achievements, and where in the funnel people are dropping out. With this information you can determine where the biggest potential wins are, and replicate those areas that are most successful.
SEO without proper tracking is really just guesswork. Make sure you track your progress from day 1, to ensure you’re actually achieving your goals and to help you replicate your successes.