There’s software to track just about every piece of SEO data. For marketers, this is a blessing and a curse. Access to data helps make savvy marketing decisions and, when analyzed correctly, aids a deeper understanding of users.
That said, having access to data doesn’t necessarily mean you need to monitor it, especially if it’s unhelpful or feels overwhelming.
For this article, I reached out to marketers and SEOs who shared the SEO metrics they’ll be tracking in 2023 and why they’re important.
What are SEO metrics?
SEO metrics are data sets that help determine the success of SEO’s role in digital marketing campaigns.
By analyzing data, marketers can understand how valuable SEO’s contribution to marketing is. It allows marketers to benchmark success and understand what went well and what didn’t.
More importantly, SEO metrics help businesses refine marketing campaigns to steer them toward the delivery of marketing goals.
Some SEO metrics are more useful than others. You might be familiar with the term “vanity metrics,” referring to metrics that might increase with marketing efforts, but do not move the needle for the business. In SEO, vanity metrics might include impressions and even clicks.
But does that mean these metrics aren’t important? No.
The truth is, the metrics you measure will depend on your goals.
The skill – which comes with time – is knowing which metrics to monitor, which ones to measure in consideration with others, and which metrics to put aside.
In this article:
SEO metrics you can track in GA4
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is here, and with it comes valuable reports like traffic acquisition. Also, engagement rate, which (if you ask me) is a far superior metric to bounce rate.
1. Engagement rate
Engagement rate is one of the newer metrics which graced us with its presence with GA4.
Engagement rate is an SEO metric that measures meaningful engagements on your site. Out of the box, engagements include clicks, scrolls, conversions, and more.
On engagement rate, SEO professional Kyle Rushton says:
- “Tracking engagement rate will give you insights as to what pages or channels need improvement – whether that’s on-page, the speed or the page or something else that is driving lower engagements.”
Low-engagement pages, that are falling short of expectations will benefit from additional work.
2. Enhanced measurements
GA4 tracks conversion data as an event. Enhanced measurements provide a level of granularity on user behavior that we didn’t have “out of the box” with Universal Analytics (UA).
Freelance SEO consultant Natalie Slater shares the value of form interactions and form submissions. Slater says:
- “GA4 has the capability to automatically track interactions with forms, both starting the form fill (form_start), and the form submission itself (form_submit) via Enhanced Measurement. I am coming across cases where this automatic tracking can be perhaps a bit too general, and a manual tracking solution has been required, but it’s a good feature overall, especially the form_start aspect as this allows you to see drop-offs in the form-filling process.”
Form interactions vs. form submissions provide two great data sets for SEO.
- Firstly, and most obviously, form submissions are likely to be completed by qualified leads and may result in a sale. Where possible, emails gathered from form submissions should be nurtured and remarketed to via emails or PPC.
- Secondly, monitoring metrics such as form interactions vs form submissions may help with CRO. Many users interacting with a form, but not submitting, might point to a form that is too cumbersome to complete or an issue with your submit button.
You can use these metrics to identify potential CRO issues on a site.
3. Landing pages
The Google Analytics Landing Page report seems to be a firm favorite among SEOs, with many mentioning it when asked about SEO metrics.
The landing page report is perfect for understanding how effective the first page a user visits is.
You can see which landing pages result in a conversion within the same session – perfect for identifying sales direct from SEO efforts.
Originally you had to customize your own report on GA4, but (probably) thanks to its popularity, GA4 has now released a standard landing page report.
It’s important to note here that looking at sales direct from SEO does an injustice to SEO’s contribution to conversion and that’s why it’s important to track other metrics that don’t seem so obvious.
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SEO metrics you might not think to track
SEO has obvious metrics like traffic, clicks, impressions and revenue. But you might not have thought about tracking metrics from other marketing efforts to understand SEO’s contribution to sales.
SEO will always be a traffic driver – and the aim is to drive qualified traffic to a site. Qualified traffic is traffic that is interested in your site’s offering and may purchase.
For many of your web users, SEO will be the first touch point in the marketing funnel. Users will search for a problem and stumble upon your page or article. From here, they might sign up for emails or join an audience for PPC retargeting.
4. Email sign-ups
Zack Reboletti, SEO consultant at Get Web Focused, says:
- “Email marketing is the lifeblood of many businesses and regularly publishing SEO-informed content on a blog is one of the best ways to grow an email list. While blog posts can and do drive conversions, a more common path is for blog posts to drive traffic, followed by an email sign-up, and then a conversion from email later.”
It’s easy to see how metrics from other marketing tactics are improved by SEO.
Additionally, when it comes to email marketing, SEO data provides the trends and click data to see exactly when your users are looking for certain types of content.
For example, an article might have a particular interest at a certain time of year. Instead of waiting for your audience to search for it and find you (or worse, find your competitor), you can be proactive.
The data provided by SEO should inspire your content calendar for email or even social media. You can put the content you know people are looking for based on SEO metrics in front of your audience.
5. PPC metrics that are influenced by SEO: Retargeting and keywords
SEO drives traffic that PPC can retarget. And long tail keywords serve ads well by pulling in relevant traffic with specific problems.
Think about articles ranking for longer tail keywords such as “[product] for [specific problem]” or your “how to [solve problem] guides.” Clicks to these content pieces give ads qualified traffic with specific problems.
Display ads and retargeting messaging can be highly targeted to capture attention, nurture the potential buyer, keep your brand front of mind and later convert.
Leigh Buttrey, a paid media specialist, says:
- “Within Google Ads, you can set up audiences to capture users who visit specific pages. Set these up early so you can, in the future, set up ads for retargeting. Another tip if you are already running ads, monitor search terms regularly. You will be able to see in real-time what users are searching for and this data can be used in any organic strategies you are using.”
As much as SEO supports PPC, PPC supports SEO, too. PPC is a fast track to the top of SERPs. You can test desired keywords for conversion and determine whether they’re working the efforts to rank organically. Align SEO and PPC to dominate SERPs.
In 2022, Google rolled out their continuous scroll to SERPs. With continuous scroll, websites might need a listing that stands out in SERPs more than they did before.
It’s no secret that scrolling is addictive, and users might have an easier time flicking through SERPs until they land on a listing that’s most engaging.
In 2023, as we explore this new way of searching, it might be worth tracking the impact of high-quality images.
Using Google Search Console you can see how many clicks you’ve earned from images. To get to this report:
- Go to Google Search Console.
- Head to Search Results in the left-hand menu.
- Change the search type, above the graph, to “Image.”
Which pages are generating the right clicks? Which images might be contributing to this?
Bonus tip: Increase your chances of ranking images in image SERPs by optimizing your alt text. (And remember to be natural when doing so.)
SEO metrics that aren’t going anywhere in 2023
There are some metrics as old as SEO itself and are still as useful as ever. Here are some of the metrics that, if you aren’t tracking already, you probably should be.
7. Content engagement
Monitoring content is improved in GA4. The loss of bounce rate and the new engagement rate means the value of great content is less likely to be undermined by the bounce.
In GA4, you can measure, by page:
- Scroll depth (to 90%)
- Video plays
- Site search
- Video engagement
- File downloads
All of the above metrics help determine the value of a page. If someone scrolls to 90%, reads an entire article, then leaves the site, the content was still useful. In UA, bounce rate could undermine these meaningful actions.
Content that earns an in-depth scroll or file download is an indicator of an engaged audience that can be retargeted or nurtured through marketing automation, later.
8. Customer lifetime value
Customer lifetime value (CLV) is incredibly important when tracking revenue from SEO. Subscription-based businesses are a great way to demonstrate this.
If a user lands on your site, via a non-branded Google Search and signs up for a subscription, the initial payment might be $10 for the first month.
But, if they signed up for 10 months, the value of that interaction is really $100. If that customer is offered a referral scheme and brings on three friends for a subscription the CLV increases again.
Customer lifetime value enables you to see the longevity of SEO efforts.
9. Brand visibility
Tracking brand mentions and clicks from brand search terms can help marketers determine how brand searches are converting. In theory, those searching for your brand are looking exactly for you and what you have to offer.
Tracking brand searches can be useful in understanding which pages earn brand clicks and which do not. If you have pages that receive clicks from Google, but don’t have many (or any) queries related to the brand, then SEO can be attributed entirely to the click.
If these pages also result in a conversion, SEO is likely solely responsible for the click and conversion. These conversions are harder to achieve, but great when they come!
Tracking brand searches lets you see how people are searching for your brand. You’ll find brand searches that you’d otherwise miss.
10. Missed brand searches
If you stay close to how users search for your brand, you’ll get insights into how confident users are in your brand.
Fellow Search Engine Land contributor Sara Taher says:
- “Looking for missed branded search opportunities and making sure that you satisfy those queries and capture this traffic that was leveraged by other websites is essential. Branded searches can get captured by third-party websites instead of the brand’s own website.”
If you don’t stay on top of brand searches you could miss an opportunity to rank and lose clicks (and users) to competitors or non-authoritative sites.
Potential buyers who are close to conversion, but perhaps a little nervous, might search for things like:
- Is [brand] legit
- [brand] reviews
- How does [brand] work?
A good example of these search terms can be found for Groupon.
The nature of the industry (discounts and coupons) potentially adds to the buyer’s caution, but these searches can be found for many other brands.
Reviews, in particular, can result in lost clicks for brands with websites like Trust Pilot or Facebook taking the rank over the site’s domain.
Brands can manage these queries by creating pages that satisfy the intent. By doing this, the brand’s site is more likely to rank, earn a click, and control the narrative the potential buyer sees.
11. Conversions and conversion rate
Conversions and conversion rates (CVR) are metrics to look at in relation to each other.
Conversion is a meaningful action taken on your site. For ecommerce, that might be sales, but it could also be a contact form submission, download, or other.
Rebecca Oliver, digital marketing manager at Sixty Eight People, shares the importance of tracking conversion and conversion rate.
- “I love to learn more about what happens to impressions and that’s where the conversion rate is invaluable. Out of all the people we did reach, how many of those decided to submit a contact form, call the office phone, register for mailers, and spent time reading a blog post? If you could prove you need 12,000 website visits per month to convert 700 who take an action which leads to 70 business transactions you can then map out future marketing investment and ultimately get a little more budget.”
Marketing should always be a revenue generator. After the initial investment, if marketing isn’t making more than it costs, it’s failing.
When tracking revenue, consider organic metrics, but don’t neglect overall revenue. Remember, SEO contributes to other marketing channels that drive qualified traffic to the website.
On tracking revenue, Louis Smith, an ecommerce SEO expert, says:
- “In 2023, you need to be tracking your business revenue growth. It’s important to understand which of your pages are driving revenue and which are not. Tools like Google Analytics will help you track key metrics. Then, your business can work towards financial growth in 2023 knowing your revenue channels are tracked.”
13. Clicks and impressions
Ultimately, earning clicks and traffic to a website will always be one of the primary goals for SEO. So, clicks are likely something you’ll track in 2023. You don’t get conversions without earning a click and you don’t get clicks without impressions.
Jacob Andra says it best:
- “Clicks are the most important metric that SEOs have direct control over. Of course, we want clicks to turn into conversions, but you can’t steer a parked car. First and foremost, we need to drive organic traffic: as much of it as possible. If there’s a conversion issue, we need to address it – after we’re driving enough traffic to have a robust data set.”
When it comes to monitoring the value of clicks you need to be monitoring clicks alongside other SEO metrics like:
- Sales direct from SEO efforts (try the landing page report)
The key is to identify which SEO efforts are driving qualified traffic to a website.
Benefits of tracking SEO metrics
The benefits of tracking SEO metrics include a deeper understanding of:
- Your audience.
- Website performance.
- What it takes to build a successful marketing campaign.
- How marketing tactics can be executed together to pursue marketing goals.
- Campaigns that failed to meet marketing objectives (and shouldn’t be repeated).
Which SEO metrics shouldn’t you track?
It’s not easy for anyone to tell you which metrics are valuable and which are not. The truth is, the metrics that you value will depend on what you’re trying to achieve with your marketing.
The important thing is to look at the bigger picture. When analyzing SEO metrics, you need to look at a few metrics in conjunction with another.
For example, users spending a long time on site is generally a good indicator when considered in isolation, but if the traffic isn’t converting, maybe you’re attracting the wrong people, or the site is cumbersome to use and people are struggling to navigate to the page they want.
SEO metrics: A summary
If you were to track every metric recommended by our experts, you’d be tracking:
- Engagement rate (by session and page)
- Conversions (by session, page and channel)
- Enhanced measurements like form submissions
- Email sign-ups and conversions
- PPC’s retargeting conversions
- Phone calls
- Clicks from images
- Customer lifetime value
- Brand visibility
- Missed brand searches
- Conversions and conversion rate
- Clicks and Impressions
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these items certainly came up time and time again as we reached out to experts. Not all metrics apply to your site or goals, but if they are, track them and see what you find.
Remember: Have fun with tracking SEO metrics and approach it from a place of curiosity.
Don’t be a victim of analysis paralysis. Instead, enjoy the journey. You can get incredibly close to data with reports in GA4 and track audience behavior with granularity.
It doesn’t hurt to track “too much” and if you’re just exploring SEO monitoring, it might even be better to track more until you can find the metrics that you find most valuable for you and your site’s objectives.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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