15 Critical SEO Metrics You Need To Track
As an SEO, one of your hardest jobs is measuring the success of your work.
One of the hardest parts about SEO is that 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, like backlinks or rankings, you need to shift to a multi-metric tracking system to determine SEO success.
In this article, I'll show you which are the most important SEO metrics that you need to track and exactly how to track them.
1. Organic Traffic
All the SEO effort in the world is useless unless it actually brings you traffic.
Tracking your organic sessions over time is one of the strongest indicators of SEO performance. A month-over-month increase in visitors through organic search shows that your rankings are improving (even for keywords you weren't targeting).
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 search traffic, of course, will depend on which keywords you're ranking for and how you define conversions, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
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.
Then choose "Organic Traffic" on next screen and hit 'Apply'.
You'll now see organic traffic as a percentage of total traffic.
Alternatively, you can monitor organic search traffic much faster in AgencyAnalytics.
After adding your site to a campaign and connecting it with Google Analytics, go to Analytics -> Channels.
There you can see total total sessions vs. other channels. Or you can simply navigate to "Organic" to view all of your key website metrics acquired through organic means.
You can also see how you can present organic traffic and the other top SEO metrics in your reports by downloading our sample report template.
2. Organic Conversions
Now that you see organic traffic coming in, the next question to ask yourself is: what is the quality of that traffic? As you probably know, organic sessions alone aren't enough. You could be generating traffic from irrelevant terms that never turn into a sale or lead.
To measure the quality of your traffic, you need to be tracking organic conversions.
How to Track Organic Conversions
In order to track organic conversions you'll first need to set up your "Goal" or conversion events in Google Analytics. Examples of goals you may choose to track include:
- Making a purchase
- Email signups
- Phone calls
- Form submissions
Once you've defined the goals you want to track on your site, you can easily monitor them in Google Analytics.
Add the organic sessions segment again to see organic metrics specifically. Then navigate down to Conversions -> Goal Overview.
Alternatively, you can add an organic conversion rate widget to your SEO dashboard in AgencyAnalytics for quick access to your top SEO metrics.
3. Keyword Rankings
With Google’s AI-based search algorithm RankBrain, a shift towards personalization, and continuously changing 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 find the "Add Keywords" button in the center of the Rankings module. If you're adding keywords to an existing campaing, you'll find it in the upper left hand side of your Rankings screen:
Next, the "Add Keywords" screen will open up and you type or paste in the list of keywords that you'd like to add, then click "Continue".
After you've added your keywords, you can then choose both the location and language to pair the keyword list with:
Finally, you have the option of adding a tag to these keywords so you can stay organized.
4. New Backlinks and Referring Domains
While on-page factors matter, strong SEO performance is still by and large determined by 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 analyzed 1 million Google search results and found the same thing — there is a strong correlation between rankings and number of referring domains.
Keep track of your backlinks and referring domains to get a general idea of the effectiveness of your search engine optimization efforts. More backlinks might not immediately lead to better rankings (especially if the links are from low quality domains), but they do show you’re moving in a positive direction.
How to Track Backlinks
To track backlinks, you'll need an SEO analytics and backlink monitoring tool. There are three things you 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 "Majestic" 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.
5. Authority Metrics (DA/TF)
Tracking the sheer number of backlinks to your website isn't enough. You also want to measure the quality of the backlinks you're building, as well as the increasing authority of your own site.
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 Authority Metrics
These metrics can be attained through each individual tool. For example, you can go to the [Link Explorer] tool (https://moz.com/link-explorer) from Moz to find your DA or you can enter your domain in Majestic to get your Trust Flow.
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:
6. Local Visibility
This metric is especially important for those of your managing local SEO campaigns.
You need to track specific metrics to ensure your organic traffic is coming from the right audience.
You can do this by tracking a few key local SEO metrics:
- Google Maps Rankings: Find a rank tracker (like AgencyAnalytics) that will track Google Maps rankings, as well as your Google 3-Pack results for your business location.
- Google My Business Insights: Setup Google My Business Insights to track how often your GMB page appears in search results, number of calls, and directions.
- Session Location: See the exact cities where your web sessions are to evaluate the amount of local traffic your website receives.
How to Track Local Visibility Metrics
You can track Google Maps and Google 3-Pack rankings directly in your AgencyAnalytics rank tracker.
Add the GMB page to the rank tracker settings, and enable "Google Local" to track your rankings in Google Maps.
You can also integrate Google My Business Insights into your dashboard to view total number of search views, clicks, and calls. Alternatively, view insights directly in your GMB account.
Lastly, you can measure your top session locations in Google Analytics. Go to "Audience" > "Geo" > "Location" to get conversions, sessions, and other key metrics by location. You can view at a country level, or drill down to the individual cities.
7. Organic Landing Page Metrics
Keep in mind that you don't only want to look at these metrics across your entire site. You want to track organic sessions and goal metrics for specific landing pages as well.
To really understand your SEO performance, you need to have a clear understanding of how each page performs.
If you're working on building backlinks to a specific page or improving that page's content, you need to look at its traffic to evaluate your SEO effort.
Additionally, tracking landing page metrics is an opportunity to uncover your most valuable pages.
Do you have a page that converts above your site average? But it ranks at the bottom of page one? This is an opportunity to put extra effort into increasing the ranking for this high-performing page.
How to Track Landing Page Metrics
In your Google Analytics account go to "Behavior" > "Site Content" > "Landing Pages".
Apply the organic segment to filter by organic sessions only. In the table you'll be able to track sessions, goal completions, conversion rate, bounce rate, and more by landing page.
Alternatively, you can access your landing page report directly in your AgencyAnalytics dashboard under "Analytics > Google Analytics > Pages".
8. Page Speed
As you’re monitoring individual pages on your site, another useful SEO metric to track is page speed.
Page speed is a measurement of how fast the content on each page loads.
As you’ve probably experienced, a long page loading time leads to a bad user experience, so it makes sense that Google uses this metric in determining SERP rankings.
Page speed is not to be confused with “site speed”, which is the page speed of a sample of page views on your website. Page speed can be described in two ways:
- Page load time: This is the time it takes to display the full content on a page.
- Time to first byte: This is how long it takes for your browser to receive the first byte
How to Track Page Speed
One of the best ways to track your page speed is with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. This tool gives each page a score, and also suggests improvements that you can do to improve performance.
9. Top Exit Pages
Aside from knowing which individual pages are performing the best, it’s also useful to know which pages aren’t performing well. One way to do that is by tracking your “exit pages”.
Exit pages refer to the last page that people visited before leaving your website.
If you identify that a large majority of your traffic is leaving after they visit a particular page, this can often indicate that the page needs some work.
How to Track Exit Pages
In order to track exit page metrics in your Google Analytics account go to "Behavior" > "Site Content" > "All Pages". In this section you’ll see the “% Exit” for each individual page:
You can also access your exit page metrics directly in your AgencyAnalytics dashboard under "Google Analytics -> Pages -> Exit Pages":
10. Mobile Traffic & Rankings
Is your site ranking as well on mobile search as it is on desktop search? With Google's switch to mobile-first indexing, optimizing for mobile is more important than ever.
Plus, 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 performance
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 "Google Mobile" in the slide-out window. 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.
11. 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 with poor engagement will lead to suboptimal 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:
12. Organic CTR (Click-through rate)
While the above metrics measure engagement of visitors once they're on your site, tracking organic CTR (click-through rate) is a measure of engagement while the user is still on the SERP.
Organic CTR indicates how well your content appeals to your audience.
If they see your article while scrolling through the search engine results, but don't click, ask why.
Is your page title title not engaging? Is the content irrelevant for the search term?
Tracking organic CTR will allow you to measure the relevance and appeal of your content.
How to Track Organic CTR
You can find CTR directly within Google Search Console in your "Performance" report.
View CTR by page, query, or device. I find viewing CTR by page as the most helpful insights to understand which content is performing poorly on SERPs.
If you integrate Search Console into your AgencyAnalytics dashboard, you can view CTR directly in your dashboard or SEO reports.
13. New vs. Returning Visitors
Getting people to your client’s website is one thing, but getting them to come back is another useful indicator that you’re targeting the right traffic and meeting their needs with the right content.
Here’s a useful tip from our guide on 6 Important Google Analytics Metrics on how new and returning visitors behave differently:
For instance, new users are more likely to bounce, so if you have a spike in first-time visitors, a sudden increase in your bounce rate doesn't necessarily signal a problem. Or if you have a lot of returning visitors, but few conversions, you might want to pay special attention to your exit pages to see what's preventing people from making a purchase.
How to Track Returning Visitors
In order to track returning visitors in Google Analytics, click on Audience -> Behavior -> New vs. Returning:
You can also find this metric inside of AgencyAnalytics by going to Google Analytics -> All and turning on “% New Sessions”:
14. 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 tool 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 are lower priority (highlighted in orange).
15. Competitor Metrics
Aside from tracking all the above-mentioned metrics for your own website, another useful SEO strategy is to track the competition.
Tracking your client’s competition can help you in a few ways:
- Identify New Opportunities: First, competitor analysis can help you uncover keyword opportunities for your client to rank in SERPs that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
- Compare Total Backlinks: After you’ve found keywords to target, you can then prioritize them by identifying the total number of backlinks that your competitors have for each one. This will give you an idea of how difficult each one will be to rank for.
- Upselling Opportunities: Finally, by showing your clients exactly how they stack up against the competition, this also presents an opportunity for you to upsell them on additional services to take advantages of the insights.
How to Track the Competition
In order to track the competition in AgencyAnalytics, simply click on SEO -> Competition and add your client’s competitors. You’ll then see useful metrics for each one including Trust Flow, Citation Flow, Indexed Pages, and more:
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 conversions.
The 15 SEO metrics listed here will give you a comprehensive overview of your SEO efforts, regardless of the scale and complexity of your campaign.
You can view these key SEO metrics in our sample SEO report.
Download SEO Report Template
Which of these metrics do you use in your SEO campaign? Let us know in the comments below!
Written by Joe Kindness
Joe is the CEO of AgencyAnalytics, but often spends his day programming, designing or executing marketing tasks. And like most Canadians, he can be found playing or watching hockey!