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Key performance indicators (KPIs) for SEO are metrics that help you evaluate the performance of your SEO efforts.
Without defining, monitoring, and analyzing the SEO KPIs that matter for your business, there’s no way to know whether your SEO efforts are successful.
Additionally, KPIs for SEO can help set and manage expectations. Using the KPIs you’ve set, stakeholders and business partners can assess the progress and impact of your work.
While every business is different and will need its own set of KPIs to track, we’ve identified the 12 most important SEO KPIs below.
1. Conversions (Sales and Leads)
The most important SEO KPI is organic conversions, whether they’re sales, leads, subscriptions, or any other action that makes money for your business.
Measuring and tracking organic conversions is the most straightforward way to demonstrate the success of your SEO efforts. After all, it’s easy to connect organic conversions to your SEO work.
Remember to note your conversion benchmark before you begin working on a campaign. Otherwise, it will be difficult to showcase any changes from the baseline before your SEO efforts began.
As time goes on, it will be important to track not only the number of conversions but also the conversion rate as a percentage of your organic traffic. This will allow you to analyze the efficiency of your SEO endeavors as traffic fluctuates.
You can set up conversion tracking in Google Analytics, which also allows for robust reporting, comparisons, and attribution models.
Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the newest iteration of Google Analytics, streamlines conversion tracking with events. Simply go to “Admin” > “Events” and mark your desired events as conversions to begin tracking.
2. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
Customer lifetime value (CLV) is a predictive measure of the total amount of profit you can expect to earn from a single customer over the course of their relationship with your business.
This is an extremely important KPI because it demonstrates the long-term value of each visitor you convert into a customer.
It also helps determine how and where to allocate your SEO investments.
Unlike many SEO KPIs, CLV is a unifying metric because other teams and departments also use it to fine-tune their decisions.
You can go further and leverage CLV metrics to divide your customer base into tiers. This will allow you to make more informed decisions regarding optimization and resource allocation.
For example, if you find that customers who purchase cheaper products actually end up earning you more over the course of their relationship with you, you may want to optimize your funnel to push visitors toward those products.
Tracking CLV as an SEO KPI will help you make better decisions regarding content creation, keyword targeting, and even conversion funnel optimization.
Keep in mind that CLV will fluctuate over time as you fine-tune and optimize your strategies.
3. Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)
Cost per acquisition (CPA) is a metric that measures the cost of acquiring one converting user.
SEO costs can include anything from team salaries, agency costs, and SEO tools to content production and link building.
CPA is an important KPI to track for your SEO campaigns because comparing it to CLV can shed light on potential inefficiencies in converting new customers.
A high CPA may be an indicator that you’re spending money on content that targets the wrong keywords or addresses a user base that is unlikely to convert.
You can calculate your CPA using the following formula:
Total Cost of SEO (agency costs, content, SEO tools, etc.) / Conversions = CPA
It’s essential to remember that SEO efforts and campaigns often take some time to have any noticeable impact.
As with any SEO KPI, tracking and monitoring CPA over time will be much more informative than looking at any solitary metric.
4. Return on Investment (ROI)
Return on investment (ROI) refers to the amount of money you get back from the money you invest.
A positive ROI is the ultimate goal of every SEO strategy. It provides confirmation that the time and resources spent on content, site maintenance, outreach campaigns, and all your other SEO-related activities have been worth it.
However, ROI for SEO is notoriously difficult to measure. Investment in SEO is straightforward, whether the money is invested in-house or in an agency, but it can take months or even years to see the returns.
For example, let’s say you outsourced a piece of content for $500. Then, you spent a few hours of your own time editing, uploading, and publishing that content, which amounted to $200 worth of work.
Your total investment for this piece of content is $700.
If you calculated your ROI immediately upon publishing it, your ROI would be negative, as it hasn’t made any money yet.
However, if you calculated your ROI again after giving it a chance to drive traffic and conversions over a six-month period, you might find that your piece of content drove $1,000 worth of conversions.
To calculate the ROI, you would subtract the initial cost of the investment ($700) from the total revenue generated ($1,000), leaving you with $300 in net profits. Then, divide that by the initial cost of the investment ($700).
This would give you a 42.8% ROI.
The difficulty in tracking ROI for SEO is determining the most meaningful time periods for which to calculate it.
Know what your ROI target is so you can measure your performance against it on a regular basis.
5. Organic Visibility
Organic visibility refers to how visible your brand is in organic search. It’s also sometimes called search visibility.
Organic visibility is one of the most important SEO KPIs to track, as it relates directly to your SEO efforts as well as your overall business growth and brand reach.
While organic visibility is traditionally measured against a standard search engine results page (SERP) of 10 blue links, today’s SERPs are much more dynamic and complex.
Organic visibility today must account not only for 10 blue links but also the knowledge panel, local packs, featured snippets, and a growing number of other SERP features.
However, the bottom line remains the same—the greater your organic visibility, the more potential customers you will reach.
You can track organic visibility using a number of rank-tracking and analytics tools.
Google Search Console can give you a rough overview of your organic visibility, showcasing your total number of impressions over a given time period.
This is the perfect way to show continued growth in visibility, given that impressions show the searches that your site was visible for, even if those searches didn’t result in clicks.
An increase in impressions shows an increase in organic visibility. It’s a great measure of continued growth.
But these impressions don’t necessarily account for additional SERP features like the knowledge panel or local packs.
Another way to view and track your organic visibility is to add your important keywords to the Position Tracking tool in Semrush. There, you can monitor your search visibility over time compared to your closest competitors.
The tool provides a unique analysis due to its ability to account for SERP features, such as featured snippets and local packs, and their effect on search visibility. It also allows you to compare the visibility of your site to that of your competitors.
6. Organic Sessions
Growth in organic impressions and visibility should result in an increase in organic sessions. This is where you can start to demonstrate the real impact of your SEO strategy.
Impressions result in traffic, and traffic turns into conversions. And that’s when you’ll start to notice an improvement in your SEO ROI.
You can easily monitor your organic traffic using Semrush’s Position Tracking tool. Simply create a project, enter your domain or URL, select your location, then enter the keywords that are meaningful for your business.
In the “Overview” dashboard, you’ll be able to see a breakdown of your business’s organic traffic.
You can go further and select the “Positions” tab to view and filter the keywords that bring in your organic traffic.
For SEO KPIs, we recommend excluding branded keywords from your report. (Traffic from branded keywords is unlikely to be a result of your SEO efforts.)
Measuring organic sessions is also simple using Google Analytics. However, for the purpose of tracking SEO KPIs, we recommend instead focusing on data from Google Search Console.
This will allow you to exclude branded searches and view organic clicks for non-branded terms in isolation.
To do this, head to the Performance report and hit the “+New” button at the top of your screen, where you can choose to filter out your brand by choosing “Queries not containing.” Enter your brand name (and variations of it), and you will see how non-branded traffic is performing.
A key thing to pay attention to when analyzing organic sessions is seasonality. Make sure you compare results year over year rather than month over month. This will help you better account for patterns like seasonal spikes or lulls in demand.
To do this, hit the date bubble at the top of your screen, choose “Compare,” and select the period you wish to analyze.
7. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic
Another key measure of improvement and success is a shift in the percentage split between branded and non-branded traffic that your site receives.
Branded traffic is usually driven either by previous knowledge of a business or a recommendation from someone else.
While that clearly means one marketing channel is working well, branded traffic isn’t necessarily an indication of the success of your SEO work. So branded traffic is not typically used as an SEO KPI.
Non-branded traffic usually comprises people searching for keywords around the products or services you rank prominently for.
In other words, traffic from searchers who probably weren’t familiar with your business before they saw you on Google.
And you should be measuring the split of branded versus non-branded traffic. Which you can easily achieve using the advanced filters in the “Positions”report of Semrush’s Organic Research tool.
8. Keyword Rankings
Keyword rankings work as an SEO KPI because they provide granular insights into which keywords are driving your traffic and why.
Generally, increases in keyword rankings translate to more traffic and more business.
In the past, most businesses tracked a handful of keywords and hinged their strategy’s success on that. Today, due to the emergence of semantic search, a single page of content can rank for hundreds (sometimes thousands) of different keywords.
It’s important to stay informed of the keywords you rank well for, as well as the ones you don’t. These insights can help you understand what you’re doing well with your content. And what you should be doing differently.
Let’s look at an example of different keywords. The “Positions” report in the Organic Research tool lets you see the keywords a page ranks for. At the time of writing, our article on Google indexing ranked for 159 keywords in the United States.
The keywords we aren’t ranking well for may point to opportunities for optimization.
You can use the Position Tracking tool to keep track of how your most meaningful keywords are ranking.
To set up position tracking using Semrush:
- Navigate to the “Position Tracking” tab in the sidebar menu
- Click “Create project”
- Enter your domain or subdomain and click “Create project”
- Select your preferred search engine, device, location, and language
- Add the keywords you want to track and click “Start Tracking”
You’ll now be able to see your rankings for each of the keywords you entered in addition to other meaningful metrics, such as estimated traffic, visibility, and share of voice.
9. Google Business Profile Metrics
Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business) is a free Google tool used to manage a business’s presence across Google.
If you’re a local business, you should be leveraging Google Business Profile.
Once you’ve set up your Google Business Profile, you’ll see several metrics tracked by default within the platform. Including searches, views, clicks, direction requests, and calls.
These are all extremely important metrics for a local business and should be tracked as SEO KPIs.
Improvements to your Google Business Profile, your website, or your listing management can result in increased searches or calls. And only by monitoring these metrics as KPIs can you properly attribute your hard work.
Backlinks refer to the hyperlinks on other websites that point to your website. These links serve as “letters of recommendation” to Google about your site.
They are also one of Google’s top ranking factors.
You need to understand the current health of your link profile, especially compared to that of your competitors.
The link metrics you should measure include:
- Total number of backlinks
- Total number of referring domains
- Number of links lost
- Number of links earned
Alone, these metrics don’t mean as much as they could, as you are not viewing the numbers in context. You need to compare your own link profile to that of your closest competitors. You can do this by running their domains through the tool.
11. Organic CTR
Click-through rate (CTR) is not a confirmed, direct ranking factor.
But here’s the reality:
The better your organic CTR, the more people are clicking on your listing on Google. And the more traffic you’re driving to your pages.
You should be tracking CTR as a KPI, both at the page level and the query level.
CTR is a simple metric that shows the percentage of people who click on your page after seeing it on the SERP—the higher you rank, the better.
Again, this needs context, and the following chart illustrates the average CTR each position can expect to receive.
Compare your own CTR to the chart to quickly see whether you are outperforming the average or have work to do.
You can analyze the CTR of your own pages and queries in Google Search Console under the performance report.
12. User Engagement
User engagement metrics include data like bounce rate, average time on page, session duration, and pages per session.
Depending on your business type, any of these metrics can serve as important SEO KPIs.
However, each of them needs to be analyzed and evaluated as potential KPIs in the context of your business and your goals.
For example, if your business leverages long-form, informational content, high average time on page may be a good thing and an indication that users are enjoying your content.
On the other hand, if your site contains short pages meant to convert users, high average time on page may signal confusing content or a lack of motivators and convincing copy.
Bounce rate refers to the percentage of users who land on a page and then leave without taking any action.
It is a simple measure of whether your content engages those who land on the page. It is also a great way to understand how relevant your page is to the search queries that it is ranking for.
A high bounce rate typically means that the page isn’t capturing the attention of users, meaning missed opportunities to turn traffic into conversions.
Sometimes, it only takes small changes to see a noticeable improvement. However, you might not spot the opportunity if you’re not regularly tracking bounce rate.
You can see the bounce rate of your site and pages in GA4 under “Reports” > “Engagement” > “Pages and screens.”
If you don’t see bounce rate in your “Pages and screens” report, check out our guide to finding your bounce rate.
Average Engagement Time
The longer a user spends on your site, the more engaged they are. And the more engaged someone is, the higher the chance they will convert.
So you need to be measuring the average engagement time and average engagement time per session for your site. And consider ways to increase these two metrics if you see low durations.
You can track this in GA4 under “Reports” > “Engagement” > “Engagement overview.”
Start Tracking Your SEO KPIs Now
Regardless of the KPIs you decide to track for your SEO efforts, it’s important to start doing so as soon as possible.
The sooner you start collecting and analyzing data, the better informed you will be about your current performance and benchmarks.
Setting and measuring SEO KPIs will help you continually evaluate the performance of your campaigns, allowing you to make smarter, data-backed decisions.
Establishing KPIs for SEO will also help you demonstrate your progress to relevant stakeholders, cultivating buy-in and alignment with your collective goals.