Author: Nate Dame
Knowing what metrics matter—and how to utilize those metrics to prove marketing’s impact on overall business revenue—is crucial for modern marketers. In 2016, a record number of CMOs lost their jobs, and studies suggest that metrics neglect may have played a part. 70% of senior business leaders expect marketing to drive revenue growth for their organizations, but only 6% of CMOs spend their time defining routes to revenue.
According to Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council:
CMOs now have to show they are impacting business growth right from the outset, or they are likely to be short-lived on the job.
There are an endless number of metrics that marketers—and SEOs, specifically—can track, but attempting to monitor all of those metrics would require a significant amount of effort that would likely yield a low ROI. Instead, choose specific metrics that illustrate how SEO is aiding department or organizational goals, and focus on how those metrics can lead to revenue-driving insights and growth.
User Intent Metrics
Part of the foundation of any effective SEO strategy is keyword and user intent research. No amount of technical SEO will drive organic rankings if content fails to satisfy the user’s need for target keywords. If it doesn’t rank, it won’t drive traffic.
There are three major metrics that provide insights regarding user intent. If your Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts are linked, you can find all of these values in a single view. Open Google Analytics, click on the “Acquisition” tab, expand “Search Console,” and click “Landing Pages”:
- Bounce Rate: Bounce rate is the percentage of users who arrived on your page from search and failed to perform any other action on your site. In some cases, high bounce rates signal low engagement or misaligned user intent. In others—particularly for content-heavy, informational sites—high bounce rates may simply signal low-performing CTAs or ineffective funneling. Depending on the content, high bounce rate is not necessarily a terrible thing.
- Time On Page: Time on page is an average of how long users view a page before performing a secondary action (clicking the back button, clicking a link, etc.). Low average time on page numbers signal that users did not find what they were looking for.
- Pages Per Session: Pages per session reports the average number of pages that users visit after landing on a specific page. Pages per session serves as an indicator of the effectiveness of funneling. If the average pages per session for a landing page is one, it’s a signal that CTAs and other funneling approaches aren’t working.
Review and monitor these user intent metrics to identify places where site pages and content is failing to meet users’ needs.
- If pages have high bounce rates and low time-on-page averages, conduct user intent research by reviewing other top search results for referring queries. This helps identify what users are looking for when using that query, and allows you to better cater to searcher’s needs.
- If you have low page-per-session averages, A/B test CTAs to identify which are effective and which aren’t. Additionally, conduct user intent research to make sure your content is catered to searchers’ likely positions in the purchasing funnel for referring queries.
- If user intent metrics are unfavorable overall, consider site experience issues that may be impacting the visitor experience. Slow load speeds, a poorly functioning mobile site, confusing site navigation, and intrusive interstitials may be driving users away. Consider investing in user testing software to identify user experience issues.
By optimizing your content to better cater to user needs, you’ll ideally see a spike in search traffic and conversions. That data can be used to highlight the revenue that SEO is building for the organization.
Search Traffic & Conversions
Measuring changes in organic search traffic is basic SEO. When organic traffic increases, it’s usually a signal of successful optimization. When organic traffic decreases, it indicates that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed.
Increased organic traffic represents enhanced search visibility, a greater probability for lead generation, and an increased likelihood of conversions. But as an isolated metric, increases in organic traffic yield nebulous returns. Yes, optimization is working, but to what end? To give this metric meaning, you must highlight the correlation between organic traffic and revenue.
Set up goals in your analytics platform to establish metrics for how increased organic traffic impacts revenue via leads generated or completed conversions:
- Add a thank-you page that visitors land on after completing a desired action, such as downloading gated materials, requesting more information, or making a purchase.
- Set up goals in your analytics platform that track visits to each thank-you page.
- Create funnels for multiple-step goals. This allows you to see where the drop-off point is in your sales funnel, so you can focus efforts and test changes.
By tracking and reporting organic traffic increases in this way, you can attribute increases in revenue—leads generated and conversions—directly back to optimization efforts.
Additionally, this enables the gathering of valuable optimization insights by allowing you to track which pages led to goal completions. The highest performing pages can then be analyzed to learn what’s working well, and those insights can be applied to optimize low-performing pages.
Search Queries & Position
Two other important metrics to track are search queries and average position in results. This highlights what search terms are driving organic traffic, and where pages that rank for those terms are positioned in results.
Search queries and average position can be accessed in Google Search Console:
- Expand “Search Traffic”
- Select “Search Analytics”
- Check “Clicks” and “Position” to show those data fields
- Set the radio button to “Queries”
First, separate queries into branded—those that include company or product names—and unbranded buckets. Increases in branded search traffic can be reported as an indicator of increased brand awareness. To measure changes in branded search traffic, record how many clicks branded search queries bring in each month, and compare results month-over-month to highlight increases in brand awareness.
For non-branded queries, you’ll want to focus on the position column. The value in the position column indicates where—on average—your content appears in search results for the respective query. If the number in the position column is 15, it means your content averages a ranking in position 15 for that query. Click on the result, and then change the radio button at the top to “Pages” to see which page earns results for that query.
Average position is a powerful metric:
- It highlights terms that have too much competition. Search terms with double-digit average positions may need to be revisited and optimized for less competitive keywords.
- It highlights content improvement opportunities. If the average position for a term is high in the search results but not number one, you can take steps to optimize the page to earn the top placement. Review the outranking pages. Are they more comprehensive? Is a competitor’s featured snippet stealing traffic from your results? If so, revisit and update high-ranking pages: add additional content, include content that’s optimized for features snippets, and remove/update any outdated information.
- It highlights valuable link-building opportunities. If content that ranks on page one, but not position one, is just as comprehensive as content ranked above it, it may be time to launch a link-earning or PR campaign to drive more incoming links to that piece of content. Securing additional incoming links may bump your page into the top position.
Monitoring search terms and rankings can help highlight revenue impact through reduced advertising costs. If an organization allocates a portion of its advertising budget to AdWords, that cost can be eliminated or reduced with high organic rankings. Determine the CPC of high-ranking search terms, and multiply that by incoming organic traffic.
For example, if 5,000 visitors arrived using a search term that costs $0.50 per click through PPC, you can boast that SEO has potentially saved the company $2,500 in advertising costs.
Of course, ads can appear above organic listings, so they should get more clicks, right? Not necessarily. A recent study conducted by Moz and Jumpshot found that while 60% of searches result in a click, only 2.6% result in a click on an AdWords ad.
Using SEO Performance Metrics to Drive Revenue and Prove Value
By highlighting the direct impact of SEO on both costs and revenue, you can better illustrate the effectiveness of marketing’s efforts to company leadership. It takes time to set up goals, gather data-driven insights, and establish these reports, but the ability to prove the value of your efforts to leadership is worth the upfront effort.
By highlighting the impacts of SEO on revenue—and using the right metrics to improve those impacts—you can secure demand for SEO in the evolving, data-driven, modern marketing landscape.