I’ve already touched on figuring out the ROI of Search Engine Optimization before, and one important factor of actually getting that right is to keeping track of, and understanding, so-called Key Performance Indicators.
Key Performance-what now?
Let’s abbreviate it to make it easy for us: KPI.
A Key Performance Indicator is a set of measurements (metrics) that reflects the performance (failure or success) in terms of progress towards its goals.
Sounds fancy, right?
Let’s connect the dots to Search Engine Optimization.
We’ll start with an easy example — If your website is ranking in the top 3 spots for 4 keywords, but you want to rank for 5 other terms, then a goal would be to rank 5 pages for those keywords (or one page, or two…)
Your progress is simply your performance towards that goal — are you increasing or decreasing in the SERPs?
How do you measure this?
Easy: monitor, report, and analyze your rankings.
So far, so good, yes?
Cool. Things get a little more complex once you start to really utilize the power and juice of SEO, and tie SERP performance to actual business goals, such as leads and sales (or anything else you’re looking for).
Are You Catching My Drift, Kid? Indicate With A Nod
A KPI, then, acts as a daily, weekly, or monthly indicator as to how you’re doing in reaching your goals.
Are you hitting those goals or not?
Needless to say, that means you should keep track of all this data.
If you’re measuring it, you can make decisions on how to optimize or pivot what you’re doing.
As you are well aware of, things change a lot in the world of search.
It’s critical for us to measure the right things — relevant and reliable indicators.
So, an e-commerce sites needs to measure different KPIs compared to a lead generation site, compared to an advertising site, compared to a blog, compared to… and so on.
Goals And KPIs Go Together Like Plaid Shirts And Geeks
Or mustaches and creeps?
Here’s the thing: KPIs are only useful, valuable, and powerful when closely tied with measurable goals.
If you run an e-commerce site, one goal could be to increase sales by 15% over the next month or quarter. What are some KPIs? Conversion rates, daily and/or weekly sales, site traffic, number of purchases, average transaction value, and so on.
A content website with a goal of increasing media consumption and pageviews is probably looking for time on site, number of pages per visit, return visitors, social shares, and more.
For the most part, you pick only a few KPIs and don’t focus on everything — because then you end up focusing on nothing.
Past performance of your website will give you a clue as to what you should be focusing on. You are already collecting data and tracking stuff, right?
Good, now about that performance of yours…
Getting To First-Base With Your Key Performance Indicators
In future posts we can get more detailed and specific on particular KPIs for specific kind of websites, like lead generation and e-commerce.
The KPIs we’ll be talking about here all apply in different ways, and no matter what kind of website you’re trying to evaluate the performance of, you should walk away with some indicators to implement right away.
Let’s start with an obvious category and a brief breakdown of some possible KPIs for you to adopt or make sure you’re using already.
Traffic Key Performance Indicators
- Keyword Ranking: In a nutshell, we’re looking for what keywords and phrases generate the most (quantity) and also what kind (quality) traffic. Are you tapping into some short-tails or are you only snatching up long-tails? I’m going to assume you have your master list of keywords you want to rank for, so how well are you doing? On your way up on all of them? Which ones are lagging or, worse, decreasing?
- Traffic Generated By Particular Terms: This is where you can evaluate your long and short tail keyword strategy. With Google Analytics, you can look for 2 or 3 word phrases, or even terms according to specific rules. Use regular expressions in the advance filter to do this. This goes hand-in-hand with keyword rankings and should help you measure the performance of particular keywords. You might find that you’re wasting time and effort on phrases that are giving you very little yield in terms of traffic.
- Bounce Rate (Per Keyword): It’s worthwhile to check the bounce rate of individual keywords. That long-tail you thought would lead to pots of gold might turn out to be a dud.
- New vs. Returning Visitors: You’ll find this under the Visitors section in your Google Analytics. If you’re ranking an advertising or media consumption website, you want to make sure visitors come back. You’ve already spent effort and resources for them to find you once, so if they come back your ROI will only increase).
- Click-Through Rate: Wondering how effective your SEO campaign is in turning rankings into actual visitors? Don’t assume that high rankings equal massive quality traffic. This is where compelling meta descriptions, headlines, and rich snippets make a difference. Getting on the first page only invites you to play — you didn’t win just yet. Divide the Search Volume by Actual Volume to get your CTR %.
Engagement Key Performance Indicators
- Media Consumption: Basically, how visitors gobble up your content — reading posts, listening to audio, watching videos, graphics, and any other form of content you publish. This is where you utilize event tracking and look under the Content section of your analytics. Are people spending time on your website? How long? What pages? How many pages? We’re talking about pageviews and such here.
- Social Media: Look for both traffic to and from social media networks, in particular how much of your website is shared, tweeted, and liked. If you run a content website, for example, and want to measure how well your content performs with your audience, this is a good place to start.
Transactional Key Performance Indicators
- Average Transaction Value: Great for e-commerce websites, of course. This will indicate how well your cross and up-selling works. Are you increasing the value or does it remain flat? If you’re looking to boost sales by a certain percentage, look here first to see if you can increase the transaction value.
- Cost Per Transaction: Wait, you mean transactions cost money? Of course they do. It takes time, effort, and probably money to get visitors to your site, let alone to buy something. You’re spending resources on ranking, probably on PPC campaigns, email newsletters, and more. You should be keeping track of how much a campaign is costing you just to generate one transaction. Are you spending $1 to make $2? This will be crucial for making decisions in regards to allocating your advertising budget.
- Conversion Rate (Per Channel): You want to know what channel(s) are putting the most money in your pocket, right? Of course you do. If you use the “Medium” view option, you can find your top selling channels under the “All Traffic Sources” menu (we’re talking Google Analytics here, of course).
Basic Website Key Performance Indicators
- Time On Site & Bounce Rate: Are your visitors finding what they’re looking for and staying on your website? Whether you’re generating traffic for an e-commerce or content website, you want to keep track of these. They will, in general, indicate whether you’re either getting the right kind of traffic or if you need to tweak something about what visitors first see. You won’t know which it is until you start testing various headlines, sub-headlines, and other content pieces. If your bounce rate goes down, time on site increases and your other conversion goals increases, then you’re doing it right.
- Goals And Conversion Rate: You should have goals set up and know what actions you want visitors to take (you do, right?). Well, keeping track of how many goals are completed and your conversion rates (the performance) in relation to those actions is critical for reaching either sales or lead generation goals (or something else, like increasing email subscribers).
- Types Of Sources: Get in the habit of segmenting your traffic by specific sources and mediums (like direct, organic, referring sites, email, custom campaigns, and more). Use Google’s URL Builder to generate custom campaign parameters for better tracking. Don’t just look at the number of visitors but also the quality of the traffic, which would be their behavior (are they bouncing right away, spend time on the site, visit particular pages?).
I’ve covered some really basic KPIs here, but if you’re not already covering your bases, forget about performing well when the stakes get higher.
It’s Personal: Deciding On Your Very Own Key Performance Indicators
Keep in mind: we’ve mainly talked about top-level KPI at a macro-level. These help with overall SEO strategies.
And they determine actual micro-level, tactical metrics for analysis.
This is where you come in.
Once you’ve decided on a few goals and figured out the applicable KPIs, then you can tap into the power of Google Analytics or any other metrics provider you might be using, like KISSMetrics or Mixpanel.
But you have to start with the end (goal) in mind. You can’t skip this part.
Search Engine Optimization is powerful when you put it to work for achieving business goals, such as generating sales, leads, email subscribers, advertising revenue, and more.
It’s a means to an end, and so are KPIs — Performance inform decisions and KPIs drive action.
What KPIs do you use for your business and website goals?