9 Critical SEO Metrics Your Agency Needs To Track
As an SEO, one of your hardest jobs is measuring the success of your work.
You can't always rely on search engine movements to track your progress. Search engines can take weeks, even months to update SERPs. And when they do, ranking improvements are seldom uniformly distributed across your target keywords.
This is why you need a more cohesive methodology to track SEO performance. Instead of tracking individual metrics , you need to shift to a multi-metric tracking system to determine success.
In this article, I'll show you which are the important SEO metrics that you need to track and how to track them:
1. New backlinks and referring domains
While on-page factors matter, SEO is still by and large a matter of backlinks.
Between two pages with similar on-page metrics (bounce rate, time on site, content quality etc.), the one with more backlinks from better domains will invariably win.
A recent study by Backlinko found the same: there is a strong correlation between rankings and number of referring domains.
Keeping track of your backlinks and referring domains will give you a good general idea of your SEO efforts. More backlinks might not immediately lead to better rankings (especially if the links are from low quality domains), but they do show a positive direction.
How to track backlinks
There are three things you'd want in a backlink tracking tool:
- **Update frequency: **The tool should index new backlinks as they appear online. If the tool refreshes its index too slowly, new backlinks won't even show up for weeks.
- **Accuracy: **The tool should only show actual backlinks. It should also show follow/no-follow links separately. The ability to track anchor text and backlink source authority is a big plus as well.
- **Trends: **The tool should show you the general trend – whether you've lost or gained backlinks over time.
For free (but often inaccurate) backlink tracking, head over to your Google Search Console and click on your site name.
Next, navigate to Search Traffic -> Links to Your Site. This will show you the latest links to your site:
This list isn't frequently updated nor is it terribly accurate. It also doesn't show the backlink acquisition trend.
There's a much faster (and accurate) way to track backlinks with AgencyAnalytics. Head to the backlinks section to see a complete view of your backlinks including referring domains over time, commonly used anchor text, along with a number of other metrics.
2. Various SEO Tool Metrics (DA/TF)
As an SEO, you're most likely already familiar with "Domain Authority".
This is the term coined by Moz to to gauge the "authority" of a domain name on a scale of 0-100 (based on links, brand mentions, etc.). The higher this number, the more trustworthy the domain.
Facebook, for instance, has a Domain Authority (DA) of 100/100.
The DA is a logarithmic scale. That is, it takes _much _more effort to go from DA 70 to 80 than it does to go from DA 10 to 20.
Majestic measures domain authority through a metric called "Trust Flow". This is similar to DA – a higher score equals more trust. Majestic updates its index frequently so this score is generally accurate.
An upwards movement in these metrics is a sign that your SEO efforts are bearing fruit. That being said, the system can be abused by spamming domains with poor quality backlinks.
How to track these metrics
These metrics can be attained through each individual tool. Go to the OpenSiteExplorer from Moz to find your DA or enter your domain in Majestic to get your TF.
You can also track this score in AgencyAnalytics. After adding your site, go to SEO -> Competition. You can see your Trust Flow on this page:
3. Organic traffic
All the rankings in the world are useless unless they actually bring you traffic.
Conversely, tracking your organic traffic is a good indication of your SEO performance. A MoM or increase in visitors through search engines shows that your rankings are improving (even for keywords you weren't targeting).
Organic traffic is the "purest" SEO metric you can track. While other metrics might show a trend, this metric gives you quantifiable proof that your efforts are actually bringing in more visitors.
The quality of the traffic, of course, will depend on which keywords you're ranking for.
How to track organic traffic**
Tracking organic traffic is easy enough in Google Analytics. Just log into your dashboard and click on "Add Segment" in the default audience overview.
Choose "Organic Traffic" on next screen and hit 'Apply'.
You'll now see organic traffic as a percentage of total traffic.
You can track this much faster in AgencyAnalytics.
After adding your site and connecting it with Google Analytics (read this to learn how), go to Analytics -> Audience.
You can see total goal completions as a result of organic search vs. other traffic sources. Scroll down and you'll also see a breakdown of traffic from different sources.
4. Keyword rankings
With RankBrain, personalization and continuously shifting search results, should you even bother tracking keyword rankings?
Even though search results are seldom the same at the user-level (thanks to personalization), and 20% of searches are entirely new, tracking keyword rankings tells you two things:
- **The general direction of your SEO efforts: **Better rankings for one keyword usually indicate improved rankings overall, especially for related long-tail keywords. Tracking keywords shows you the effectiveness of your current SEO plan.
- **Keyword selection: **If your other SEO metrics improve (such as domain rating or organic traffic) but you don't see an improvement in target keyword rankings, it usually indicates poor keyword selection. In such a case, you should choose a less competitive keyword and try to rank for it first.
How to track keyword rankings
Tracking keywords comes as a default feature in AgencyAnalytics. When you create a new campaign, you'll be asked to add your target keywords (you can change these later).
After adding your keywords, go to SEO -> Rankings to see your rankings across different search engines.
If you scroll down, you can also see rankings for your target keywords, ranking trends and the ranking URL.
5. Engagement metrics – bounce rate, time on site and pages per visit
First, a few definitions:
- **Bounce rate **is the number of visitors who left your site without clicking any link (or hitting the 'back' button on the browser). This is expressed as a percentage.
- **Time on site **is the amount of time visitors spend on your site on average.
- Pages per visit is the number of pages your users visit on average before leaving the site.
These are all "engagement metrics" which show you how your users are engaging with your site.
In the post-Panda world, engagement metrics play an increasingly important role in determining rankings. The more time users spend on your site, the theory goes, the more they like your content.
In fact, research by WordStream shows that there is a correlation between bounce rate and rankings (lower bounce rate = better rankings).
Ergo, keeping track of engagement metrics can tell you how likely you are to improve rankings with your SEO campaign. A great SEO campaign for a poorly engaging campaign will lead to sub-optimum results.
How to track engagement metrics
Google Analytics shows you engagement metrics by default when you open the dashboard. This includes pages per session (a session is generally 30 minutes), average time per session and bounce rate.
You can find the same metrics in AgencyAnalytics. Go to Analytics -> Channels and scroll down to see these metrics:
6. "Stickiness" metrics – returning visitors and direct traffic
Again, the definitions:
- **Returning visitors **is the number of people coming back to your site.
- **Direct traffic **is the number of visitors who land on your site by directly typing in your site URL.
Together, you might call them "stickiness" metrics which show how useful or memorable your site is.
A high number of returning visitors, for instance, shows that people like your site enough to come back to it.
Similarly, lots of direct traffic means that people remember your site and brand name. In fact, according to a Pew study, direct visitors spend the most time on sites on average.
Like engagement metrics, these metrics are not essential for an SEO campaign. However, if you have a more memorable site, you are likely to see better rankings since that's the kind of content Google wants to see on the front page.
Tracking these metrics, therefore, can tell you the likelihood of success for your SEO campaign.
How to track these metrics
You can see your "New vs. Returning" visitors in AgencyAnalytics by going to Analytics -> Channels.
Scroll down to see the "% New Sessions" count.
If you scroll down further, you can also see your "Direct Traffic" as well:
7. Page load speed over time
Google uses hundreds of signals to determine its search rankings.
One of these signals is site speed.
Google officially acknowledged site speed as a ranking factor way back in 2010. In 2013, it expanded site speed to cover mobile search results as well.
From Google's point of view, a slow loading site equals a poor user-experience, particularly for mobile users. Ergo, it has a responsibility to keep slow loading sites away from the top SERPs.
Tracking page load speed over time will tell you three things:
- Whether there are any performance bottlenecks on your site or web server that are impacting site speed.
- Whether poor site speed is holding back your rankings.
- Whether any changes you made to the site (such as adding a new plugin) are impacting your load times.
It's not necessary to keep track of page speed, but doing so will give you a good indication of your user-experience trends (plus give you insight into your site and webhost performance).
How to track site speed
By default, Google Analytics samples 1% of your incoming traffic to calculate site speed.
To find this metric, log into your dashboard and click on Behavior -> Site Speed -> Overview:
Keep in mind that this doesn't work with limited traffic (since GA samples just 1% of the traffic). If yours is a new site, use Pingdom's website speed test periodically to track site speed.
8. Mobile traffic
Is your site ranking as well on mobile search as it is on desktop search?
Considering that nearly 60% of all searches are from mobile, keeping track of your mobile traffic can indicate:
- **Mobile-friendliness issues: **Google prefers mobile-friendly sites in its mobile search results. If your mobile traffic remains traffic even as your overall traffic increases, it might indicate issues with mobile-friendliness.
- **Usage patterns: **If you see more and more traffic coming through mobile, it can indicate shifting usage patterns in your target audience. This can tell you whether you should invest more in mobile development (such as a mobile-first site or app).
- **Mobile-only search terms: **Mobile search is different from desktop search. For instance, 20% of mobile searches are voice only. Mobile users also tend to use fewer keywords than their desktop counterparts. Tracking mobile traffic can show whether you're ranking for these mobile-only search terms.
How to track mobile traffic
There are two things you'd want to track here: mobile traffic and mobile rankings.
To track the former in AgencyAnalytics, go to Analytics -> Audience -> Devices. This will show you total traffic from different devices as well as goal completions from mobile vs. desktops.
To track mobile rankings, go to SEO -> Rankings, then click on the "Google Mobile" tab. This will show you your rankings on mobile search.
You can also track mobile traffic in Google Analytics by going to Audience -> Mobile -> Overview. Scroll down to see mobile traffic vs. desktop traffic.
9. Crawl errors
For Google to rank a website, it has to be able to read it first.
A site with lots of broken links and missing pages means that Google has difficulty crawling the site. If Google can't find all your pages, it can't rank them either.
Keeping an eye on your total crawl errors and fixing them can improve your site's readability. This, in turn, can help Google rank your pages faster.
This isn't a metric you need to track constantly, but it doesn't hurt to pop into Webmaster Tools and check the status of the index from time to time.
How to track crawl errors
AgencyAnalytics' site audit gives you a quick way to keep track of crawl errors. Go to SEO -> Site Audit to see a crawl summary and the number of unresolved issues over time.
Not all these issues are urgent. AgencyAnalytics will tell you which ones need your attention (highlighted in red) and which ones can be ignored for now (highlighted in orange).
Over to You
As SEO has become more complicated, measuring SEO success has become harder as well. You can no longer rely on individual metrics to tell the story of your SEO efforts. Instead, you need to track multiple metrics covering everything from backlinks and rankings to engagement and site speed.
The 9 SEO metrics listed here will give you a comprehensive overview of your SEO efforts, regardless of the scale and complexity of your campaign.
Which of these metrics do you use in your SEO campaign? Let us know in the comments below!