SEO KPIs: What To Measure For SEO Success In 2021

SEO KPIs Cover Image

According to Ahrefs, 90.63% of all pages will never get any organic traffic from Google.

This statistic highlights a massive gap between the effort that companies are putting (content creation) vs the results they produce (traffic).

So, what does this mean for your website?

The rapidly changing nature of SEO leads companies to try many different tactics and strategies to help bring more organic traffic to their websites.

But, many SEO’s fail because they are not tracking the right things…

Below, you will find out the core KPIs that are foundational for tracking your company’s SEO performance and the tools to help you do it.

1. ROI from SEO Efforts

Before diving into the KPIs for SEO, you should look at the ROI of your current SEO efforts. You should look at the particular SEO actions you are taking and assess what the return for the time and money you have spent is.

ROI from SEO illustration

For example, if you invest $100 in creating a new blog post and it generates $1,000 in revenue over its lifetime, your investment in content is well-justified. In contrast, if you spend money or time on a different SEO activity and generate little to no return, your investment is not justified.

Your SEO efforts should have a tangible return, whether it’s more time for you as a business owner or in generating more revenue.

Some of the SEO efforts you should analyze for your business include:
  • Content creation
  • Link building
  • Updating content

Content is the backbone of your SEO efforts. If you are producing high-quality content for your website, the other SEO efforts will pay more dividends. The effectiveness of your SEO actions like creating content and link building will be tested by other KPIs like organic traffic and conversions.

2. Conversions

One of the first SEO KPIs that a company should evaluate is conversion. According to Yoast, conversion occurs whenever a visitor to your site performs the desired action.

Goal Completion report on google analytics for Conversions

Examples of a conversion include:

  • Affiliate clicks
  • Online sales
  • Newsletter signups
  • Submission of contact forms
  • Click-throughs and more…

Conversion is closely related to other KPIs like conversion rate optimization (CRO), which we will discuss later in this post.

Conversion is one of the best KPIs to assess your SEO performance because it is tangible, and the results directly impact the bottom line.

Even if your website brings in thousands of visitors per day, you will not make any revenue if you can’t convert them into customers.

Conversions lead directly to more money for your business.

Some actionable examples of how you can increase the number of conversions include:

  • Clear call to actions for each page
  • Clear above-the-fold headlines and images describing what the site is actually about
  • Credibility indicators and recognition badges
  • Media throughout site
  • Custom logos

3. Organic Traffic

Organic traffic refers to the number of (unpaid) visitors who come to your website from search results. This is different from the overall traffic a page receives from direct URL searches, traffic from social media or paid traffic.

Organic traffic is the most straightforward KPI to measure SEO. Since SEO is focused on generating organic visibility and traffic, organic traffic is the primary KPI that indicates how well a site’s SEO is performing. The better the SEO, the more organic traffic a site will get.

ahrefs organic traffic graph sample

To analyze how your organic traffic is performing, you should generally review traffic over longer periods of time. Comparing your traffic between specific days is not a good indicator of performance. Comparing weeks or months are better time frames and can indicate the direction your organic traffic is headed.

If you see a slight drop in traffic, it could be rooted in a variable like seasonality. If there’s a significant drop in traffic, there’s likely a larger root cause affecting how your organic traffic is performing.

For example, a major plugin failure or a Google update can cause your organic traffic to dip significantly.

Google Analytics has extensive analytics on how a site’s organic traffic is performing. You can analyze exactly which posts bring in the lion’s share of organic traffic and use that data to optimize posts and create similar ones to bring in more organic traffic.

4. Keyword Rankings

Many studies have shown that the bulk of search engine users click on a result within the first page.

In fact, there’s a great discrepancy in traffic between the rankings on the first page…

For example, a #1 ranked page will get much more traffic than a #2 ranked page. This is why it is essential to track your page’s ranking for a particular keyword.

ahrefs organic keyword graph sample

Organic traffic alone is unreliable in determining if your SEO is on point for a particular keyword. Some keywords are seasonal in their traffic. Knowing your keyword ranking enables you to analyze whether your efforts are working regardless of the amount of traffic you are receiving.

For example, some keywords may receive little to no traffic throughout most of the year, even if you are in the first position. But this can quickly change over the Christmas period…

By tracking your keyword ranking and ensuring you have the #1 position, you are in the prime spot to bring in significant traffic when searches skyrocket for that particular keyword over Christmas.

Accuranker SERP Checker screenshot

You can explore keyword rankings thoroughly in keyword tracking tools like Accuranker.

Keyword tracking tools provide extensive analytics on your keywords’ rankings. These tools allow you to see what’s working in your keyword rankings, track competitors, and much more.

5. Conversion Rate from Organic Optimization

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) entails optimizing your website and landing pages based on user behavior to help achieve desired action (conversion). CRO is different from raw conversions, and it reveals how well many of your page’s elements, like copy, are performing.

For example, if you have 100 customers from a landing page, your raw conversion is 100 regardless of traffic size. Assuming you have 10,000 visitors, converting 100 visitors means you have a 1% conversion rate.

If you implement CRO strategies, you can improve that 1% to 3%. Instead of having just 100 customers from the same landing page, your raw conversion number will be 300 customers. CRO enables you to maximize your current traffic to ultimately increase your raw conversion.

You can improve your CRO today by:
  • Use clear and concise Call To Actions (CTAs)
  • Adding social proof
  • Engaging Copy
  • No huge “walls” of text
  • A/B testing

6. Number of Backlinks

Backlinks are extremely important in improving the SEO of a website. They are essentially links from another site to your website. Search engines look at backlinks as votes of confidence.

ahrefs referring domain backlinks result sample

Ahrefs performed numerous studies on backlinks and found that sites with more backlinks typically have more organic traffic and higher SEO rankings.

But, not all backlinks are quality links…

“In fact, from years of testing, I’ve found that the authority of the page linking to you matters more than any other factor”.

Brian Dean
Founder of Backlinko

This shows that companies should seek to get links from reputable sites with higher domain authorities.

There are three factors that search engines look for in link building:

  • Relevance: Relevance is how well the linked content relates to the referring page. If you’re writing on a health topic, getting a health-related website to link to you will give your link more relevance. You can improve your relevance by focusing on getting links from sites in your niche.
  • Trust: Trust refers to the credibility of the site linking back to you. Trust is calculated based on the distance of the linking site to a select list of “seed sites”. The more sites between you and the seed link, the less trustworthy the link is.
  • Power: Power is the value of the referring domain. This is calculated by how many backlinks that domain gets. If a site with high domain authority (e.g. New York Times) links back to your website, it’s much more impactful than a site with low domain authority.

Using tools like Ahrefs allows you to gauge how many links your successful competitors are building and how many links you should be building for your site to remain competitive in your niche. This will enable you to systematically scale your backlinks and ultimately get the top ranking for a given keyword.

For more help with building backlinks, I use Authority Builders.

7. Amount of New Content Created

Creating new content is like casting a vast net to catch more traffic. The more optimized content you have, the wider the net; this ultimately leads to more traffic being generated for your website.

New Content for product review

Creating new content alone is insufficient. The content must be high quality and optimized for search engines and users; the days of publishing small 500-word articles are gone. For best performance on search engines, content needs to thoroughly address the intent of the keyword it is targeting.

For further assistance with creating optimized content, we recommend using Surfer.

8. Organic Visibility (Organic Impressions)

Organic visibility refers to the number of free impressions your website is getting on search engines. The more organic visibility you have, the larger the pool of users that can potentially click your website.

Total Impression graph from Google search console

Organic visibility is a prerequisite to getting traffic to your website. It indicates that your website is showing up on Google’s search results. You’ll need to focus on making sure your website is at the top of the results that your audience is searching for. This will help turn those impressions into clicks to your website.

Some ways you can start improving your organic visibility today include:
  • Optimizing title
  • Optimizing metatag
  • Make your site more mobile-friendly
  • Increase content output
  • Improve on-site SEO

9. Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is a percentage between 0-100% that shows the number of visitors that leave after landing on your website.

Bounce rate report from Google Analytics

The higher the bounce rate, the higher the percentage of people that are leaving after landing on your site. A lower bounce rate is indicative of visitors staying on a site and reading the content.

A high bounce rate is not necessarily bad. If the visitor of your website has a high buyer intent, they may spend a short amount of time on a page before finding your contact information. Although the visitor stayed on the page for a short period, the desired outcome was achieved.

For sites that have more informational content, having a higher bounce rate may indicate that the content is not compelling or valuable enough. In that case, a high bounce rate is detrimental.

In the end, bounce rate is subjective based on the specific goals of your website.

Some methods you can use to lower your bounce rate include:
  • Optimizing page load time
  • Using a singular call to action
  • Avoid using popups when people first land on your page.
  • Increase the readability of content
  • Facilitate easy navigation on pages

10. Average Session Duration

The average session duration measures how long a visitor reads and interacts with your page after they land on it. The average session duration is calculated by taking the total duration of all sessions and dividing it by the total number of sessions.

average session duration report from google analytics

The average session duration shows the time visitors spend on content and other features on your website. Across all industries, the average session duration is anywhere between 1-4 minutes. The average session duration can indicate several insights depending on the goal of your website:

  • If your site aims to convert traffic into customers, a longer session duration can indicate that readers are not finding what they are looking for
  • If your site aims to provide helpful information, a longer session duration may indicate that readers are enjoying your content and are engaged

Using these two examples can be a good barometer to see the relationship between average session duration and your website.

11. Page Load Time (Core Web Vitals)

The page load time is the average time it takes for a page to load on a web or mobile device. The page load time for your website is very important for both SEO and user experience.

gearhungry pagespeed sample preview

The slower your site is, the more likely a customer will leave before converting.

“A good first impression isn’t just about design, but also how fast that design loads.”

Tommy Walker
ConversionXL

Page load time is a ranking signal used by Google. The slower a site is, the less likely it is to rank for a particular keyword.

Aim to get your site speed as fast as possible. Once you have optimized your website site, its also a smart idea to continuously monitor your site’s load time.

Tracking page load time is important because when it slows down dramatically, it usually indicates a technical problem occurring. For example, if your page speed slows down, a plugin might be broken in your website.

Page load time provides a quicker feedback loop for you to fix issues before you run into larger problems like organic traffic plummeting. Your page load time should be ideally below two seconds.

You can improve your page load time today by these methods:
  • Update from HTTP to HTTPS
  • Using good hosting
  • Set up caching for your website
  • Setting up a CDN
  • Using newer PHP versions
  • Optimize images

To find out other actions you can take to improve your site speed, get more tips here.

12. Coverage Issues

Coverage issues refer to index issues Google has found with your website. In Google Search Console, there’s an index coverage report that highlights all of the indexing and crawling issues Google found with your site.

Covergae issue report from Google search console

This is extremely important for SEO because these issues can hinder your site by not showing your URLs to users when they search for a keyword on Google. The fewer coverage issues a website has, the more visible it will be and found on Google.

The feedback for coverage issues is placed into 4 categories by Google: valid, valid with warnings, excluded, and error.

  • Valid pages are pages that are indexed well.
  • Valid with warnings are pages that are indexed but have some issues
  • Excluded: pages that aren’t indexed because search engines found reasons not to
  • Error: pages that are not indexed

The more you can address coverage issues, the more pages on your website will be indexed and organic traffic will grow. A website with significant coverage issues will have poor SEO and that impacts all the other SEO KPIs.

What Are the Benefits of Tracking SEO KPIs?

Tracking SEO KPIs

Tracking SEO KPIs enables your company to get a tangible and raw assessment of your SEO efforts. This in turn allows you to pivot, identify and fix issues, improve organic traffic, and ultimately increase your bottom line.

For example, some of the aforementioned KPIs and their associated benefits include:

  • New content creation: allows you to rank for more keywords, and increase organic traffic
  • Number of backlinks:, increased domain authority which will, in turn, improve keyword rankings
  • Conversion: more sales, click-throughs and sign ups
  • Organic traffic: bring more targeted visitors to your content and the opportunity to turn visitors into paying customers

What Are the Best Tools for Tracking SEO Performance?

Some of the best tools for tracking SEO performance include:

  • Google Analytics
  • Accuranker
  • Google Search Console
  • Ahrefs

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is one of the best tools to track traffic, conversion metrics, and onsite KPIs.

Google analytics home preview dashboard

For example, under Conversions on Google Analytics, you can track your conversion goals, ecommerce conversions, and multi-channel funnels. Under each of those specific tabs, there are dozens of different analytics and data points. This allows you to test anything on your website and see how it impacts specific data like conversion rates.

The great thing about Google Analytics is that it’s free. You can pay for premium services, but all of the fundamental analytics for your site are at your fingertips 24/7 for free.

For most website owners, Google Analytics is generally the first place they explore all aspects related to their website.

Accuranker (Rank Tracking)

Accuranker homepage snapshot

Accuranker is one of the fastest and most accurate keyword rank trackers out there. With Accuranker, you get instant on-demand updates, SERP history, in-depth analysis, and more. It’s one of the most cost-effective rank tracking solutions in the market today.

With Accuranker, you can get:

  • Unlimited domains
  • Unlimited users
  • Tagging and landing page features
  • In-depth analysis from precise data sets and more.

It’s the best rank tracking tool on the market and we’ve used it for our own rank tracking.  Get a free 2 week trial with our link here.

Google Search Console

google search console dashboard preview

Google Search Console is the best tool for organic visibility and is essential for addressing coverage issues. Other tools do not have the same capacity to track and provide reports on your site.

Organic visibility and coverage are closely tied. The fewer coverage issues you have, the more organic visibility your site will have. Google Search Console provides all this information to you for free. Adding Google Search Console to your SEO toolbox is mandatory to help you increase the organic traffic to your website.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs serve a variety of functions that include keyword research, competitor research, site analysis, rank tracking, and more.

ahrefs dashboard preview

Ahrefs is an excellent SEO tool to discover new links to your site. It’s not a necessity for backlink tracking (we do it manually using Google Sheets) but it’s a good tool to find link opportunities and track your competitors’ SEO efforts.

With Ahrefs, you can check the domain authority for sites before requesting backlinks. This is helpful in determining which sites are worth getting links from to improve the domain authority of your own website.

Choose The Best SEO KPIs For Your Goals

It’s important to narrow your focus and put emphasis on a few KPIs that are relevant to your business needs. Focusing on the wrong KPI will just result in doing busy work and not actually growing your business.

The SEO KPIs covered in this blog are the most important metrics you can use to drive organic traffic to your content.

Start by focusing on one SEO KPI and see how improving that grows your business.

Digesting and implementing this entire glossary of SEO jargon will take time. But, if you want someone to take care of your SEO for you, book a consult with The Search Initiative here.