Top 10 Important SEO Metrics to Track
There are almost endless metrics you can monitor when evaluating the success of your SEO strategy or conducting an SEO audit. To help you focus on the right metrics – no matter what your business is – here are the top nine SEO metrics and how to track them.
Let’s start with the obvious. Organic traffic is the traffic you get from search engine results pages (SERPs) without paying for advertising.
Your overall traffic can come from multiple sources (search engines, social networks, direct searches, other sites), narrowing your focus to organic traffic can show your site searching for keywords relevant to your business and niche time visibility. So, if your SEO strategy works, the number of visitors you get from your search results should rise steadily.
To track organic traffic in Google Analytics, log into your dashboard and select “Add segment” in the default audience overview.
Select “Organic Traffic” and click “Apply”.
You can now view organic traffic as a percentage of your total traffic.
Click Through Rate (CTR)
Your organic CTR shows the percentage of people who visit your website after they stumbled upon your page in the SERPs. So, if 1,000 searchers see your page listing in search results, and 100 clicks through to your site, your CTR on that page is 10%.
Organic CTR shows how attractive your listing (with title, meta description, and URL) is to your audience and how it grabs their attention.
If your CTR is low, it may mean that your title or meta description is not engaging, or the content is not relevant to what users are looking for. Here are some ways to increase your organic CTR.
You can monitor CTR directly in Google Search Console under the “Performance” tab.
View CTR by page, query, or device. In particular, monitoring click-through rates by page can provide valuable insights into what content isn’t driving enough click-through rates through the SERPs.
Learn more ways to improve SEO with Google Search Console.
As the name suggests, an exit page is the last page a visitor looks at before leaving your website.
Your top exit pages are the ones that make people lose interest in your site and go elsewhere. These are the areas of your site where most visitors drop off, so it’s important to keep track of your top exit pages.
So if you see that most of your traffic leaves after visiting a particular page, it could be a sign that the page or its content needs work.
To track exit percentages for individual pages, go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.
To reduce your page’s exit rate, you can:
Make sure your page layout and content structure are easy to understand.
Include clear internal links and calls to action to direct visitors to other relevant content and pages.
Add high-quality content, including visuals (images and videos), to better engage your visitors.
Pages per session
An important on-site user engagement metric, Pages per Session represents the average number of pages your users visit before bidding farewell to your site. The higher the metric, the better because it means people are visiting multiple pages and staying longer.
In Google Analytics, go to Acquire > All Traffic > Channels to see pages per session for each traffic channel.
If this metric is low, it may indicate that your content isn’t engaging or relevant enough for visitors to view other pages. Or, it means that your website navigation is not user-friendly. The top exit page tip mentioned above also applies here.
Average page load time
Your website speed is a key SEO ranking factor (for desktop and mobile) that can determine your ranking (and user experience).
Average page load time is the time it takes to display full content on a page. You can find this metric under Behavior > Site Speed. You can then view the average load time for all pages, or view the times for individual pages.
Core network vitality
Google is increasingly turning its attention to rewarding sites that offer a pleasing user experience (UX) and have higher rankings, and page load quality (and speed) is at the heart of the user experience.
General performance metrics like load time and DOM Content Loaded focus on details that are easy to measure but don’t necessarily translate well into users’ concerns. So if you only focus on optimizing for average page load time, you may end up with a website that still presents a terrible UX.
So, in 2020, Google took the aforementioned speed metrics a step further by introducing Core Web Vitals. These are user-centric performance metrics, a more granular, user-experience-centric way to measure page load time.
Here is a brief description of the three Core Web Vitals from the official Chromium blog:
- First Input Delay (FID) measures responsiveness and quantifies the user experience when they try to interact with a page for the first time.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures visual stability and quantifies unexpected layout shifts for visible page content.
- Maximum Content Paint (LCP) measures perceived load speed and marks the point in the page load timeline when the main content of the page may have loaded.
The Enhanced section of Google Search Console shows you how the pages on your site are performing based on Core Web Vitals, and you can also use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to access these metrics and get suggestions for improving your site’s performance.
Head here to learn five ways to improve the vitality of your core network.
Backlinks and referring domains
Backlinks are one of Google’s most critical ranking signals. Additionally, a recent study of over 11 million Google search results showed a strong correlation between rankings and the number of referring domains.
The number of backlinks includes all links from external sources pointing to your website while referring domains represent the number of unique domains from which you get links.
The quality of backlinks is more important than quantity. 10 links from high-quality and authoritative domains are more valuable than 100 backlinks from normal or low-quality domains. Also, while every link you build can help your SEO, links from newly referring domains are often more effective than links from domains that already link to you.
Ahrefs is a great SEO tool to track your backlinks and referring domains. You can view a list of websites that link to you, the pages they link to, and the domain ratings for those referring domains.
Top Ranking Keywords
As you optimize your website to rank for your target keywords, it’s a good idea to monitor how the rankings for those keywords change.
By knowing which keywords you rank for, you can understand your current organic search visibility share and can decide whether to focus on optimizing those keywords further or target other keywords you want to rank for but haven’t yet targeted.
You can use position tracking tools like SEMrush to track your keyword rankings. The Organic Search Ranking report shown below can help you monitor how your rankings have changed over time and see how your overall search visibility has improved.
Pages crawled per day
Fast crawl rates mean that Google’s crawlers can index your site easily and quickly, increasing your odds of ranking higher on the SERPs.
In Google Search Console, you can see how many pages Googlebot has crawled per day (for the past 90 days) by going to Settings > Crawl Statistics.
If you have hundreds of pages and only a portion of them are crawled, it may be a sign that there is a problem with your crawl budget. If Googlebot has to consume excessive system resources, it won’t crawl your entire site.
While an increased crawl rate won’t necessarily lead to better rankings, it’s a technical SEO metric worth tracking and optimizing.
2 SEO metrics to ignore
With so much data available in modern analytics tools, it’s easy to treat everything as a KPI for a more complete picture. But misusing data can be deceptive. Here are a few metrics you should ignore or look at differently.
It’s certainly debatable, but it’s probably wrong to just use the number of conversions your site has over a certain time frame as a measure of your site’s performance. That’s because switching doesn’t tell the full story.
For example, if 10 visitors made a purchase on your site yesterday, but only 4 made a purchase today, is your site underperforming today? unnecessary.
If the product sold today is more expensive than the product you sold yesterday, or if the total order value is higher than yesterday, then conversions can give an inaccurate impression of how well your site is performing.
Also, switching can mean different things for different websites, from filling out a newsletter form to signing up for a webinar. Not all of this translates into revenue for your business. So you can get an impressive number of conversions without generating any revenue from them.
In short, conversions in SEO mean a lot more than just a purchase. If it doesn’t ultimately bring in revenue, then it shouldn’t be the most important metric to track.
Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave your website after visiting just one page. This means that visitors did not click on any internal links to view any other pages on your site.
It’s not a good idea to think of your site-wide average bounce rate as an SEO metric. This is because a high bounce rate can have different meanings and doesn’t necessarily give specific insights.
While it can indicate irrelevant content or poor design or navigation, it can also mean that your content fully satisfies the user’s query right away.
For example, if a visitor lands on your blog post organically, reads the article from top to bottom, and is satisfied with the actionable content, it’s still classified as “bounce.” Your post has been read in its entirety and found useful by the visitor.
Looking at this metric at the page level is fine, but using the site-wide average bounce rate as an important metric can be misleading.
In short, if the bounce rate is so variable, you simply can’t tell if the average bounce rate numbers are going up or down or if it’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Start tracking your SEO metrics today
In a world of constantly updating algorithms and changing SEO trends, it’s important to know your SEO metrics. If you’re not already tracking the first nine metrics listed above, it’s time to start. Fortunately, with some free and affordable tools like Google Analytics, Search Console, and Ahrefs (or SEMrush), you can easily track all these SEO metrics and start making continuous improvements.
So get your SEO toolkit ready and start tracking!
- organic traffic
- Exit rate
- Pages per session
- Average page load time
- core network vitality
- Backlinks and referring domains
- keyword ranking
- Pages crawled per day