Good Search Engine Optimization strategy is helped considerably by data; we need it not only to define and reach success, but also to illuminate tactical paths to get there. We can be sure if we’re hitting our goals with correlated upticks to Visits and Conversions, but to find the missing links between tactics and success of business goals, we need the Key Performance Indicators.
That’s why at the onset of an SEO campaign, a careful consideration of the KPIs to choose and how they’ll be measured is undeniably best practice. For in the words of Yogi Berra: If you don’t know where you’re going, you may end up somewhere else.
For those readying to select which KPIs to track in an SEO campaign, some recommended reads would be: this 2009 SEOmoz post, a 2011 Guide to the new Google Analytics from Mashable, and a survey recap from Reliable SEO.
But these articles only get the ball rolling. No two campaigns or goal sets are going to be exactly alike, in the same way that no two businesses are exactly alike. Beyond the obvious, the signs of a successful campaign require a bit of thought and customization. For example, the trend of some KPIs can be both positive and negative indications of success depending on the goal and tactics being employed. I’m looking at you: Bounce Rate, Time-on-Site, Percentage of New Visitors, and Pages per Visit. These metrics can be easily miscast as KPIs by all levels of SEOs.
One step that could help with selecting KPIs is grouping the target keywords in groups or sets. Keyword-sets tend to shares common KPIs (because they are used by searchers with similar needs), so one way to ensure the KPIs connect with your campaign is to group the keywords, and then establish the signals a satisfied website visitor might emit.
For example, an ongoing effort to attract visits from question-type keywords (How to fix a small engine, how to tie a tie, etc.), should hope to cause a regular growth to the number of Search Engine Landing Pages month-over-month,. This KPI (Search Engine Landing Pages or SELPs that is the number of pages that people are entering your site directly from Google) is worth tracking in this instance, as its growth would indicate that the new FAQ content added to address these questions is gaining exposure from search engines. Conversely, if the number of SELPs rose, yet no new content was being offered to search engines, the increased SELPs likely warns of duplicated content, a serious negative signal.
Meanwhile, marketers going after blogging tactics should want to see their Time-On-Site numbers improve, suggesting a successful connection with readers. Get real fancy by plotting how long the average person should take to consume against the actual Time-On-Site, and use that information to determine if people are truly reading your words. For instance, I know that if you made it this far, I’ve held your attention for about one minute and thirty-six seconds; a true eternity in Internet time I know, but we’re almost done.
A long look at your KPIs is worth the time, as trends of the numbers chosen will set the tone for the strategy and tactics going forward. It’s also imperative to make sure everyone knows that they mean; enabling partners, clients, and marketing teams to work toward the same goal – and heading to the same place.