Regardless of whether you are an expert in SEO or not, monitoring/tracking performance is vital. SEO professionals, within agencies or in-house teams, are constantly monitoring a number of metrics, not only to gauge current performance, but to help influence future decisions when it comes to planning future strategies. In this post, I will discuss what some of these metrics mean, why they are so important, and the figures to pay most attention to if you’re not an expert in organic search.
There are certain standard tracking methods which most people will have heard of, the main one being Google Analytics. For those of you that aren’t too familiar with GA, you may be wondering exactly what the purpose of the tool is, and how/why SEO professionals refer to it so often.
Google Analytics is absolutely filled with valuable data that I could write a 50,000 word article about, (don’t worry, i won’t) But here are a couple of key reasons to use Google Analytics and where you should be looking for the most valuable pieces of data.
Firstly, and it’s an obvious one, but GA allows you to isolate your website's traffic into different channels, meaning you can see exactly where your traffic actually comes from. Breaking your website’s traffic down by channel, whether it be organic/paid/direct/email etc., is extremely useful for both experts and novices when it comes to making future decisions for your business and its marketing activity. Isolating traffic into different channels can help to rule out any issues with the site, or diagnose issues which have arisen. For example if you see the overall traffic to your site has decreased by 60%, you may begin to panic, but isolating channels will allow you to accurately diagnose where the decrease has come from and work from there, it may even be the fact you’d paused a paid search campaign for example, which drove the majority of the site’s traffic, meaning there isn’t really an ‘issue’ at all.
Google Search Console (GSC), formerly called Google Webmaster Tools, is another powerful tool, that almost anyone can use and find value in. This is something I use on a daily basis to ensure the sites’ I manage from an SEO perspective are ‘healthy’ and not experiencing any widespread issues that need to be addressed. Google will provide the user with numerous actionable reports which detect website errors, potential opportunities as well as data regarding user engagement. It is notoriously difficult to get any diagnostic information out of Google, however Google Search Console offers direct contact, albeit limited, with Google in the form of the aforementioned reports which should be capitalised upon.
Whilst GSC does report on similar statistics as GA, the Click Through Rate report in GSC is a great metric to assess and factor into your future strategies. If for example, you use GSC and see that a keyword/phrase you are targeting has an average ranking position of 2.2 over a 4 week period, but Click through Rate is extremely low, you may want to spend some time optimising this page and its metadata, making it more likely a user will then click through onto the site, and potentially convert.
Keyword tracking is probably the most traditional method of tracking SEO performance, and whilst other metrics are arguably now more important, tracking keyword performance is still a useful metric to monitor, but requires a lot more analysis to determine what should actually be considered good/bad. People can become obsessed with their rankings, checking them every day and panicking if a search term drops a single position.
However it’s vital to understand that there is always going to be natural fluctuation when it comes to organic rankings, and if a term has dropped by a position for example, but traffic to the site is unaffected - is it really an issue? It’s also worth bearing in mind that many keyword tracking tools are recording the ranking position of the EXACT term you have set-up, and slight variations are not being taken into account. You may be panicking you no longer rank in position number 1 for ‘Online Trainers’, but have begun to rank in position 1 for ‘Trainers Online’, which has almost identical search volume.
If you need any help with your SEO, or have any questions about tracking - please don't hesitate to get in touch.