How to Determine SEO KPIs for an eCommerce Site

SEO Aug 20, 2013

So far, we’ve talked about Key Performance Indicators in general and also more specifically for lead generation websites, and where SEO fits in with all of this.

Well kids, today we’re going to cover one more type of website where KPIs can make a huge impact and difference for your Search Engine Optimization strategies and also profits — our beloved e-commerce stores.

It would be a fairly easy argument to make that, for ecommerce websites in particular, SEO can show a very positive ROI quickly.

Online shopping will reach $434 billion in sales by 2017, with consumer electronics and apparel grabbing a large share of that spending.

seo-kpi-ecommerce-sales

Your ecommerce website has an even clearer business goal attached to it (sales) than say, a blog or lead gen website has.

Sales are the true KPI of success and any marketing or SEO activity needs to be linked with increasing revenue.

A healthy e-commerce website is one that converts visitors into buyers. Period.

As with most commercial websites, visitors rarely buy on the first visit though — unless you’ve found some “money” long-tails that are sending visitors your way who are at the very end of a buying cycle and ready to pull out their credit card within minutes of laying eyes on your site.

Long-tails can have that kind of power, but your assumption should be that any purchase will require multiple visits over a period of time before a purchase happens.

What KPIs Are Good For Your Website?

seo-ecommerce-sales-funnel-kpi

What KPIs you settle on will depend on your business model. For the most part for e-commerce websites, cart/checkout abandonment is one of the more important metrics to watch for — lowering that percentage leads to more revenue.

If for example, it’s typically hovering around the 10% mark but then jumps to, say, 20%, you should pay close attention to the checkout process as something may be broken, like the credit card authorization, SSL, shipping estimator, etc.

If you really want to utilize the power of Key Performance Indicators, tie them with so-called SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound).

You might want to set a goal for your e-commerce website to reduce cart abandonment from 17% to 10% in the next quarter. That covers every aspect of a SMART goal.

True, just about any metric can become a KPI but not all KPIs are useful for you at any given moment. For example, you might want to focus on ranking for a particular group of long-tails, as you’ve identified a few that drive the most profitable traffic.

Perhaps your conversion rates are good enough where you want to increase the average order size/value.

Or, you don’t have enough unique visitors, so that might be a priority before you increase conversion rates.

Goals, Quantifiable Measurement, Data Points, Blah Blah Blah…

The rabbit trails are endless here but the point remain the same: your business goals will determine strategies, which in turn will help you decide on what Key Performance Indicators to focus on.

basic-seo-ecommerce-kpi

You might set a goal to increase website traffic by 50% over the next 6 months. A KPI for that goal would be the number of unique visitors you receive daily, weekly, and monthly, along with understanding which traffic sources send the most visitors (and if they, in turn, end up making a purchase or perform another desired action, such as signing up for an email newsletter).

So, enough of that, let’s get started with those KPIs for e-commerce websites.

The 2 Most Valuable SEO KPIs Categories For E-commerce Websites

Stripping away all other vanity metrics and dreams of “changing the world”, the reality of the situation is that your e-commerce sites needs to know two things about itself really, really well:

  • Sales
  • Traffic

That’s it.

Within these categories, of course, you can drill down on more specific metrics, but let’s not kid ourselves: we want our sites to generate sales — and to get those sales, we need traffic.

1. Sales KPIs

seo-ecommerce-kpi-sales

You know why this category matters, right? No need for me to explain why sales are important to an e-commerce website, correct? Good.

So, let’s talk about a few sales related KPIs you want to keep an eye on.

  • Conversion Rate: This would be the number of visitors who take an action that you want them to take, such as purchase (could also be email newsletter signups). Tracking conversions helps you determine whether all that time and resources spent on marketing and SEO is actually delivering results.
  • Average Order Size/Value: How much, on average, are customers spending? Are they buying just one or more products at a time? This along with conversion rate, new visits, and traffic can help you estimate cash flow and get a sense for future sales. Also, if you track this throughout a period of a year, you can spot trends such as seasonal sales cycles (that is, are people buying your product more during spring, summer, or any other season or time of year?). This, in turn, will help you plan ahead with your SEO and marketing budget.
  • Checkout/Cart Abandonment: One of the key areas where an e-commerce site can see more sales right away is dealing with cart abandonment. Tracking this should be elementary, as if a lot of your customers abandon their cart before checkout, you want to know why and fix it — it could be an issue with the layout, too many or too few steps, lack of trust indicators on the site, and so on.
  • Hourly, Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, Annual Sales: Should be obvious, but do you track sales in all categories? Most e-commerce stores seems to only track weekly, monthly, and annual sales but in order to spot trends to both capitalize on or stop sales leakage, you should get a bit more granular in your metrics.

Some other potential sales KPIs you can measure are:

  • Competitive pricing
  • Average margin
  • New customer orders versus returning customer sales
  • Cost of goods sold
  • Product affinity (which products are purchased together)
  • Product relationship (which products are viewed consecutively)
  • Inventory levels

2. Traffic KPIs

seo-ecommerce-kpi-traffic

Of course, in order to get those sales, your store needs visitors.

Let’s talk about some of these traffic KPIs. Obviously, this is where SEO plays a major role in generating eyeballs to your site.

  • Total Visits: You should know how many visitors you get before you start a SEO campaign and how much it grew during and after. Seems painfully obvious but it’s often overlooked. Not every Search Engine Optimization effort directly results in increased sales. You are essentially putting your website in front of potential customers, many of whom are simply not ready to buy just yet (but in a few days, weeks, or months they’re further down the buying funnel).
  • Unique Visitors: These are, of course, first-time visitors. This is one way of increasing sales, by attracting visitors who’ve never been to your site before. Buyers tend to visit a website several times before they buy something. If you increase the number of returning visitors, out of the new ones, you should see an increase in sales as well.
  • Bounce Rate: This happens when a visitor comes to your site but leaves right away. There’s no typical bounce rate amongst e-commerce stores, but anything above 40% should be of concern. This KPI will indicate whether the keywords you’re found by are a good match for your site and potential visitors. If your bounce rate is too high, take a look at not just what keywords are the culprit but also what pages people land on, the layout of the site, the content, and what the first thing is that a visitor sees.
  • Traffic From Channel(s): Here’s where you set up your Analytics to show main traffic sources, like Search (organic), Direct, Email, Selected Referrals, Advertising (PPC or other), and Social Media (Twitter, Facebook). This will help you see what channel produces the most profitable traffic, and not just a bunch of visitors who do or don’t make a purchase.
  • Branded vs. Non-Branded Keywords: We’ve already talked about the importance of separating the two sources. You shouldn’t ignore the branded keywords, but your core focus, especially with SEO, is to capture rankings and traffic for non-branded keywords. A healthy obsession with long-tails are particularly useful here, even if they’re relatively low in traffic volume.

Some more possible traffic Key Performance Indicators for you to track and measure:

  • Site traffic
  • Time on site
  • Page views per visit
  • Blog traffic
  • Brand or display advertising click-through rates
  • Day part monitoring (when site visitors come)
  • Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest followers or fans
  • Pay-per-click traffic volume

So, When Do You Implement These?

That might seem pretty obvious of a question and answer, but while you should start tracking KPIs from the moment you launch your store (or right away if you aren’t already), you don’t have to monitor every single KPI we just talked about.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it: monitor the KPIs that are most relevant to your business goals.

If you’ve recently launched an online store, you want to start with traffic and look at these:

  • Unique visitors (preferably new visitors here)
  • Traffic channels/sources
  • Visitors per channel/source

Next on that list should probably be bounce rate and further down the line, branded vs. non-branded keywords.

A new site won’t get a lot of sales right away, so while you should be aware and track those sales metrics, you don’t necessarily have to focus on them first.

As your store grows, you add more KPIs to the mix as you add more goals.

Don’t just track KPIs for no good reason, you’ll lose sight of the bigger picture and lose track of the goals that matter.

Only increase the amount of metrics in relation to any new goals that you set.

What KPIs do you track for your e-commerce store?

2 comments
  1. Harsh

    Nice Guide on SEO KPIs for an eCommerce Site.It really helps me to clear my views regarding SEO on eCommerce Websites…….Nice Post…….

    1. Damian

      Glad you liked it and didn’t Harsh our Buzz bro! 😉

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