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We’ve always been saying that it takes a lot of time for your SEO activities to bear fruit. But how can you know when that happens? How to check whether your actions aimed at SEO are actually effective? This time, we want to briefly discuss some methods of measuring positioning effects and provide both advantages and disadvantages of each of them.
Positioning aimed at effects – why is it usually ineffective?
But before we focus on the tools that can help you measure the efficiency of Search Engine Optimization, let’s take a closer look at which parameters are actually worth tracking. Just a few years ago it was still popular to conclude deals for SEO “aimed at effects”. This model implied that the client pays the agency only for attaining a specific goal, namely placing a given number of keywords in the top search results. But this method of settlement is on its way out – and for good reason too. The approach that involves introducing more changes to the website rather than focusing on promoting specific keywords is much more efficient.
When it comes to SEO activities, we mainly strive to achieve valuable traffic – one that brings a brand measurable gains. There’s no profit in boosting a keyword to the TOP10 or even TOP3 search results if no one is interested in searching for it. What’s more, even if it’s an attractive keyword, placing it there doesn’t mean that the user will click on the website’s link. If the content of the headline and the description doesn’t meet the user’s expectations, they may search for another website.
And even if they visit your website, but they don’t find what they’re looking for – it won’t bring you any profits. So if you want your positioning to be truly effective, it must be complex and guide the user through the whole sales journey. In that case, monitoring keywords is just one way of measuring SEO performance.
Which parameters show that SEO is working?
In order to properly measure positioning effects, we should first figure out what our main goals are. Based on them, you can determine Key Performance Indicators – KPIs. They’re verifiable indicators showing that your SEO activities are successful. Such indicators should be settled with a positioning company at the very beginning and then followed through the entire process of building your website’s visibility. In the case of positioning, KPIs can vary across brands and should be selected individually. The most popular among them are:
- increase in valuable website traffic,
- increase in the number of conversions from organic traffic, i.e. search results,
- lower bounce rate – situations when the user leaves the page right after visiting it,
- more keywords in the TOP10 and TOP50 search results,
- improving the website’s position for relevant keywords,
- longer average time on page.
SEO results in Google Analytics
The first – and free at that – tool we can use to measure positioning effects is Google Analytics. By placing a special tracking code on our website, we can use this tool to see how the website’s visitors behave. The parameters worth checking in this case include:
- website traffic – we can compare current statistics with the ones from six months before to see whether there’s been an increase,
- bounce rate – this value indicates whether our visitors found what they were searching for,
- number of views of subpages which are most relevant to our business, e.g. most important product categories,
- number of conversions, that is significant actions that the user is supposed to perform. Conversions may include purchasing a product, sending a contact form, downloading a guide or booking an appointment.
- average time on page – this information can help you establish whether your website meets the expectations of the users. This way you can make sure that your subpages are positioned for the right keywords.
However, in order to receive correct results from Google Analytics, you first need to properly set up this tool. Otherwise, the data will be misrepresented. Before we start using it as a monitoring tool, we should exclude our own IP address and the IP address of the positioning agency from the analysis. Then the tool won’t include visits from users who are not potential customers. We should also exclude traffic generated by any known bots and block spambots from visiting our website. For reliable data, we should also make the tool consider only traffic associated with our host.
If we use Google Ads or Facebook Ads, it’s necessary to connect our Analytics and Google Ads accounts and to implement the Facebook Pixel on our website. That way, the system will recognise traffic and conversions from these two sources and the results associated with organic traffic will be more reliable. What else requires our attention to obtain data on SEO performance from Google Analytics? We must definitely specify proper goals, indicate what the system is supposed to treat as conversion.
When it comes to Google Analytics, the Acquisition and Conversion reports will certainly come in handy.
SEO results in Google Search Console
Google Search Console is another Google tool that’s helpful in controlling SEO performance. It doesn’t use the internal data from our website but shows how it’s perceived by Googlebots. So we can mostly use it to check:
- the list of keywords under which the website is displayed on Google,
- CTR – a ratio of clicks on the link to displays of this link in search results.
That way, we can not only control for how many keywords is our website displayed in the top search results, but also whether the displays lead to any actions.
What Google Search Console also offers us, when it comes to measuring results, is the ability to filter out keywords under which the website is shown. We can quickly and easily check the results of those keywords which are critical to our business. Yet Google Search Console is just a supplementary monitoring tool, and it cannot replace more accurate tools that are described below.
External SEO monitoring tools
Apart from free Google tools, we can also use a wide range of paid external programs that allow us to measure SEO effectiveness. They use their own algorithms that try to copy the algorithms of search engines and, based on that, prepare data about the visibility of a given website. Not only do these tools help you analyze your website in terms of keyword position or estimated website traffic, they also help you compare these results with the visibility of competitors.
There’s a multitude of such tools, and most of them operate in a similar way, so choosing one of them is usually based on preference. They include programs such as Senuto, Semstorm, Ahrefs, SurferSEO or Semrush.
Reports from these tools are a good starting point for SEO performance analysis, but they shouldn’t be our only source of information. None of these programs has access to Google algorithm, so none of them can truly imitate the results our website achieves in the search engine – they can only roughly estimate them. What’s more, results from individual tools can vary greatly. As practice shows, the differences can be as high as several dozen percent. Where do such discrepancies come from?
No one really knows to what extent do certain elements influence the website’s position. External tools must therefore make some assumptions which not always overlap. Sometimes, a tool’s update may lead to an error, which will temporarily distort the data. That’s why, when using these programs, you should always allow a margin of error.
- You can read more about the functioning of such tools in our article: Domain authority – what is it?
Search Engine Optimization – monitoring
So, all in all, how should you monitor SEO performance? Most importantly, instead of focusing on tracking keyword positioning, look at the bigger picture. Consider things such as traffic, bounce rate, or the number of conversions whose main or supplementary source was organic traffic.
It’s also useful to divide KPIs into the main and supplementary indicators and to focus on actions which can be carried out by an SEO specialist. Finally, don’t stop at acquiring data from one source – every source has its limitations, so only by comparing them can we obtain the full picture.