Your browser does not support JavaScript!
Home of the best Internet Marketing tools

SEO KPIs: the ultimate guide to 23 must-check SEO metrics

By: Olga Gabdulkhakova
June 4th, 2019

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are used across almost every industry to measure how well something is or isn't working. In SEO, you can use KPIs to identify how efficient your campaigns and strategies are.

In today's article, I'll be covering which KPIs to watch for different aspects of SEO. Some handy tools and how-tos that can help make the process both easy and effective are also included. If you're struggling with matching your SEO results with your real business goals, then this post is for you.

Categorizing SEO KPIs: where do they fit within the sales funnel?

Anyone who's been in the marketing or sales game knows the importance of the sales funnel. At any given moment, each one of your customers is at a certain stage of their journey. They might be in the process of discovering what you have to offer or they might be ready to buy. SEO fits into every stage of the sales funnel. That said, it is important to remember that the SEO metrics for each stage will be unique.

In this article, I'll connect SEO KPIs to the funnel stages to better relate them to the real-world business goals. The image below summarizes the indicators for each stage.

Below are the big sections we'll be covering in this article. Click on any section to go to the corresponding metrics directly.

Awareness: getting to know your site

These are the SEO KPIs that focus on your audience and your potential audience growth rate from organic search, along with how well your SEO strategy is resonating with that audience.

Increases in organic search rankings

Keyword ranking gains is the most critical measure of how successful your SEO efforts are. No big surprise here: increases in organic search rankings generate clicks from Google continuously and often in the long run. Sustainable SEO campaigns are often based on thousands of keywords, tailored for different search intent, landing pages, search volume to guarantee diversity and organic traffic from as many sources as possible. Thus, you'd want to look into the fluctuations in rankings for those keywords on a regular basis.

How to check
  1. Launch SEO PowerSuite's Rank Tracker and create a project for your site.
  2. Switch to the Rank Tracking module, right-click on the header of any column to enter the workspace editing mode, and add the Difference column for any search engine.

Here, you'll see if your rankings have increased or decreased, if your site has entered or dropped out of the top results, or stays out.

  1. Check with the Rank Progress section in the bottom tab and switch to Progress Graph. It will reflect the ranking progress of your site for any keyword in any search engine within a specific date range.

Total organic traffic growth rate

The ultimate goal of SEO is to get more users from search engines, so another KPI you'd want to report on is organic search traffic growth rate. This is the change in the amount of the raw traffic sent from organic search. Total traffic gives you a bird's-eye view of your SEO performance. While you can begin to track patterns with other metrics, this one gives you a numerical proof your efforts actually attract more users.

How to check

In Google Analytics

  1. Log into your Google Analytics dashboard and head over to Acquisitions > All traffic > Channels.
  2. Set the target date range, for example for the last 30 days.
  3. Hit Compare to previous period and get data on your total organic growth rate.

In Rank Tracker

If you prefer the convenience of having your ranking and traffic data in one place, head over to Rank Tracker to check your total organic growth rate.

  1. In SEO PowerSuite's Rank Tracker, create a project for your site.
  2. Go to Preferences > Google Analytics Settings and enter your account credentials:

  1. Select the keywords in your workspace, then hit the Update Traffic button and choose the Organic Traffic option. Click on the settings icon and select to update the Google Analytics data.

  1. Head over to Organic Traffic section in the bottom tab to see you the traffic growths over time.

Branded vs non-branded traffic

Which would you consider to be a better SEO result: 100 visitors coming from a branded search (e.g. "starbucks") or 1,000 visitors coming from a generic non-branded search term (e.g. "the best coffee drinks")?

The truth is, there appears to be no definitive answer. From the SEO reporting perspective, there's also the ambiguity. One group of experts will say that branded traffic is unrelated to SEO work because it depends on brand awareness and offline marketing, so it is non-branded organic traffic only SEOs should focus on. Others would argue that making sure your site dominates your branded search results (including the appearance in SERP features) is an SEO's job as well. Whichever school of thought you choose to follow, you still should be able to split branded vs non-branded organic traffic based on the keywords the users are searching.

How to check

When checking your total organic traffic in Google Analytics, you can see that a large chunk of it falls into the (not provided) category. It means that you don't have the first-hand knowledge of which search queries in particular bring visitors to your website.

Luckily, there are some ways to fetch the missing keyword data.

  1. In SEO PowerSuite's Rank Tracker, create a project for your site.
  2. Switch to Organic traffic (Google Analytics) tab and select all your brand keywords.
  3. Right-click to open the context menu and choose Add tags to selected records. Enter the brand tag:

  1. Similarly, assign a non-brand tag to your non-branded keywords.
  2. Select the keywords, then hit the Update Traffic button and choose the Organic Traffic option. Click on the settings icon and select to update Rank Tracker's "Calculated traffic" data.

  1. Put the Tag and Page sessions (calculated) columns next to one another and analyze branded vs non-branded organic traffic split for your keywords.

Search engine visibility

Another key deliverable from SEO campaigns is search engine visibility. This metric measures how well a website ranks in Google top results across all the keywords you're tracking. Search engine visibility can give you a high-level overview of your potential to generate clicks from organic search. The more visibility you have, the better your chances are of bringing new visitors to your website.

How to check
  1. In SEO PowerSuite's Rank Tracker, create a project for your site.
  2. Switch to the Ranking Details tab to find the Visibility and the Visibility Difference columns. You'll get the Visibility Score and its fluctuations for each of your keyword. Additionally, you'll find Total visibility for Google in the bottom tab.

Organic clicks, impressions, and CTR

Every site visit starts with an impression in search results and a click, so these two, along with the click-through rate (CTR), are early indicators of an SEO campaign success. Let's define these metrics:

  • Impressions are the total number of users that saw your site rank for a specific keyword.
  • Clicks are the total amount of Google users that click on your site in the search results. It's basically the equivalent of organic traffic in Google Analytics.
  • Organic CTR is the percentage of searchers that click on a search engine result. It indicates how well your content appeals to your audience when they are still on the SERP, not even on your site yet.
How to check

In Google Search Console

Log into your Google Search Console dashboard and open the Performance report. You'll see your site's total clicks, total impressions, and average CTR for the chosen date range.

In Rank Tracker

  1. In SEO PowerSuite's Rank Tracker, create a project for your site.
  2. Go to Preferences > Google Search Console Settings and enter your account credentials.
  3. Right-click on the header of any column to enter the workspace editing mode, and add Clicks, Impressions, and CTR columns to your workspace.
  4. Select the keywords in your Workspace, then hit the Update Traffic button and choose the Performance option.

Referral traffic

It's inevitable that as part of your SEO campaigns you'll be building links, for example, via contributed content, third-party reviews, profile completions, and such. In addition to SEO benefits, those links will get you in front of new audiences and send your referral traffic. To provide a proper definition, referral traffic are visitors that come to your website from sites other than the major search engines. It's important to measure referral traffic alongside other SEO KPIs to evaluate side-effects of your link building and content marketing activities. This is the way to identify where your audience hangs out and invest to get more visitors from these and similar websites.

How to check
  1. In SEO PowerSuite's SEO SpyGlass, create a project for your site.
  2. Go to Preferences > Google Analytics Settings and enter your account credentials.
  3. Head over to Backlink profile > Referral Traffic and analyze your referral traffic data for both linking domains and referral pages:

SERP features

I don't know about you, but it never fails to blow my mind how diverse Google SERPs currently are. Featured snippets, image and video carousels, local packs are all over the place, shifting attention and clicks from "ordinary" (for lack of a better word) organic listings.

With that in mind, you can't afford to track those "ordinary" rankings only. You need to look at how your SEO footprint is expanding through the whole variety of SERP features and work to get your assets appear there.

How to check
  1. In SEO PowerSuite's Rank Tracker, create a project for your site.
  2. Add the Google SERP Features column to your Rank Tracker workspace.

The column will show you the features present in the SERP for your keyword in gray.

Highlighted in green will be the ones your site already ranks for.

Engagement: interacting with your site

This is a group of SEO KPIs that shows how your organic visitors are interacting with your content. While organic traffic growth is great, if people don't engage with your content, it's an indication you might be focused on the wrong types of keywords or your content doesn't answer your users' search queries well enough.

Bounce rate

Bounce rate is the number of visitors who left your site without clicking any link. This is expressed as a percentage, with a lower number being better. Though it hasn't been confirmed officially that bounce rate is a ranking factor, some industry studies prove there's a correlation between bounce rate and Google rankings. Moreover, it is known that user experience signals in general are part of Google ranking algorithm. The way users interact with your site helps search engines evaluate your content quality and rank it accordingly. Thus, a low or declining bounce rate is a great metric to report because it implies your site is becoming more helpful to your visitors and their search queries are being satisfied better.

How to check

In Google Analytics

  1. Log into your Google Analytics dashboard and go to Acquisitions > Overview — Organic search. You'll see the average bounce rate at the top of the column.
  2. Choose Landing Page as primary dimension to track bounce rates for specific landing pages.

In Rank Tracker

  1. In SEO PowerSuite's Rank Tracker, create a project for your site.
  2. Go to Preferences > Google Analytics Settings and enter your account credentials.
  3. In Organic Traffic (Google Analytics) tab, select all the keywords and click Update traffic, specifying Google Analytics in the settings.

The results in the Page Bounce Rate (GA) column will indicate bounce rates for the landing pages that match your keywords.

Pages/Session

Pages/Session stands for the average number of pages viewed during a session, with repeated views of the page taken into account.

As with other signals that evaluate engagement, pages per session is an important KPI because it suggests how smooth the navigational experience on your site is for your users.

How to check
  1. Log into your Google Analytics dashboard and go to Acquisitions > Overview — Organic search. You'll see the average Page/session value at the top of the column.
  2. Choose landing page as primary dimension to track bounce rates for specific landing pages.

Average Session duration

Average session duration is how long, on average, users are staying on your website once they've clicked through to your landing page. Average session duration is a vital SEO KPI because it's a straightforward way to assess how engaged your users really are, whether they explore your content and click deeper into the site architecture. The more thorough and well-structured content you have, the longer the duration is likely to be.

How to check
  1. Log into your Google Analytics dashboard and go to Acquisitions > Overview — Organic search. You'll see average session duration at the top of the column.
  2. Choose Landing Page as primary dimension to track Average Session duration for specific landing pages.

Top exit pages for organic traffic

Exit pages are the last pages users visit before their session ends or they leave your website. An exit page isn't necessarily your problem area: for example, you could expect a user to search for a definition, find an answer on your site and then leave. However, in other cases, exit pages may be an indication visitors have lost interest in your site and went elsewhere. Thus, it's important to identify your top exit pages to further improve them so that your visitors hang out for longer.

How to check
  1. Log into your Google Analytics dashboard and go to Behaviour > Site Content > Exit Pages.
  2. Choose Acquisition ->Traffic Type in the Secondary dimensions.

As a result, you'll get a list of your top exit pages tagged by the traffic type, including organic. For large website and for a quick check, it might be more convenient to have the list sorted by the number of Exits to spot top problematic pages.

Acquisition: performing desired actions

These figures focus on leads: those who found you on Google and begin to dive deeper, performing the desired actions on your site. The SEO KPIs to look at the acquisition level of the customer journey include all business goals associated with organic traffic and referral traffic and generated by the SEO team.

Goal completions for organic traffic

There's a vast variety of goals that can be tracked depending on the type of business and what the company is trying to accomplish now. Most popular examples include software trial signups, form completions, newsletter subscriptions, white-paper downloads, registrations for a webinar, and such. People who complete these actions become leads or potential customers who may further convert into paying customers. For a start, SEOs should look into the actual number of the SEO leads, i.e for goal completions for organic traffic.

How to check
  1. Log into your Google Analytics dashboard and navigate to Goals > Overview.
  2. Select Source / Medium to track how many conversions came from Google users:

Goal conversion rate for organic traffic

Goal conversion rate for organic traffic is the number of visitors from search engines who have completed a goal on your website. You need to watch for fluctuations for this metric and also compare it to goal conversion rates from other channels. If the goal conversion rate is lower compared to other channels, it might be an indicator that your SEO strategy is more about feeding the top of the funnel, i.e. you're not targeting enough keywords with a strong commercial intent. On the contrary, if your goal conversion rate drops site-wide, chances are a change was made that hurt conversion rate and overall user experience.

How to check
  1. Log into your Google Analytics dashboard and navigate to Acquisitions > Overview > Organic Search.
  2. Choose All Goals or specific goals in the Conversions drop-down menu.
  3. Switch to Landing page in Primary dimension.
  4. Check Goal Conversion Rate for specific landing pages:

Percentage increase in organic leads

This metric indicates the percentage of leads earned through the Organic channel. Percentage increase in organic leads is a great SEO KPI to report because it shows your progress towards the major business goal of growing the customer base and increasing sales.

How to check
  1. Log into your Google Analytics dashboard and navigate to Acquisitions > Overview > Organic Search.
  2. Select the Comparison Period in the Date range.
  3. Choose All Goals in the Conversions drop-down menu.
  4. Get the percentage increase or decrease in Goal completions:

SEO-originated lead percentage

As the name implies, this metric shows the percentage of your total leads that have originated from organic search. SEO-originated lead percentage helps determine how well your SEO efforts generate leads compared to other channels, and you want this percentage to grow over time.

How to check
  1. Log into your Google Analytics dashboard and navigate to Acquisitions > Overview > Organic Search.
  2. Choose All Goals in the Conversions drop-down menu.
  3. Check the percentage of organic goal completions in the share of total goal completions at the header of the Goal Completions column:

Conversion: generating sales

At the end of the day, the ultimate SEO goal is to increase revenue, so let's take a look at the conversion-focused KPIs to include in an SEO report.

Transactions for organic traffic

This metric determines the number of transactions brought by the organic channel over a certain period. Without digging deeper into the actual revenue from your SEO efforts, this metric will give you a solid first-step understanding of whether your actions are driving any sales at all.

How to check
  1. Log into your Google Analytics dashboard and navigate to Acquisitions > Overview > Organic Search.
  2. Choose eCommerce in the Conversions drop-down menu.
  3. Switch to Landing page in Primary dimension.
  4. Check Transactions for specific landing pages:

Ecommerce conversion rate for organic traffic

This metric shows the percentage of organic sessions which resulted in an e-commerce transaction. Ultimately, it measures the purchase intent of organic traffic and helps you understand if it's relevant for the business goals.

How to check
  1. Log into your Google Analytics dashboard and navigate to Acquisitions > Overview > Organic Search.
  2. Choose eCommerce in the Conversions drop-down menu.
  3. Switch to Landing page in Primary dimension.
  4. Check eCommerce Conversion Rate for specific landing pages:

Revenue for organic traffic

This KPI shows the total revenue, which originated from organic traffic. Combined with the number of transactions and ecommerce conversion rate, revenue for organic search helps companies guarantee that the SEO strategy is viable.

How to check
  1. Log into your Google Analytics dashboard and navigate to Acquisitions > Overview > Organic Search.
  2. Choose eCommerce in the Conversions drop-down menu.
  3. Switch to Landing page in Primary dimension.
  4. Check Revenue for specific landing pages:

  1. Additionally, go to Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions and choose Organic Search.

This will be the number (and monetary value) of sales and conversions the organic channel assisted. If a channel appears anywhere, except as the final interaction, on a conversion path, it is considered an assist for that conversion. There might be a discrepancy between the Revenue and the Assisted Conversion values, but you should take both into account in your SEO report.

Percentage increase in organic sales

You'd want to take a look into how your sales from the organic channel improve over time. The metric provides businesses with an accurate portrayal of their growth and can help accurately gauge the value of their SEO process.

How to check
  1. Log into your Google Analytics dashboard and navigate to Acquisitions > Overview > Organic Search.
  2. Select the Comparison Period in the Date range.
  3. Choose eCommerce in the Conversions drop-down menu.
  4. Get the percentage increase or decrease in Revenue:

SEO-originated sales percentage

This metric can provide you with a glimpse at how successful the SEO channel is in attracting sales compared to other channels — paid search, direct, referral, display, social, and more.

How to check
  1. Log into your Google Analytics dashboard and navigate to Acquisitions > Overview > Organic Search.
  2. Choose eCommerce in the Conversions drop-down menu.
  3. Check the percentage of revenue generated by the Organic channel at the header of the Revenue column:

SEO ROI

SEO ROI is the revenue generated by SEO efforts divided by all known SEO expenses, including retainer fee to an SEO agency, salaries for in-house SEOs, payments for sponsored referral mentions, and such. SEO ROI is not that straightforward to calculate compared to PPC ROI, for example. At large, it depends on your previous SEO investments. If there've been zero, it'll take time to for the SEO process to get traction so that you see your first clicks from organic search. Conversely, if you've been investing heavily in SEO in the past, but have put it on hold now, you'll still be getting results for a while, and your ROI will appear to be mind-blowing in the short run. If you're interested in the details, I recommend catching up with How to Measure SEO Results and ROI by Eric Enge.

How to check

Given the explanation above, it makes more sense to calculate SEO ROI across longer time spans, at least a year. To calculate your SEO ROI, take the difference between your annual revenue and your annual spend and divide it by your annual spend. For example, if your annual spend is $1M and your annual revenue is $2M, your annual SEO ROI is 100%.

Reporting on SEO KPIs

It's so easy to get lost in the multitude of miscellaneous SEO KPIs you can report on, so proper categorization is essential. In this article, we've described 23 metrics, assigning each to the stages of a traditional sales funnel. Once these categories are in place, it's easy to see which metrics make most sense for your specific company and the goals you are working towards. An international e-commerce store may be focused on increasing online sales, so an SEO will be focused on growing top-of-the-funnel web traffic and report on the Awareness-level KPIs. Conversely, a local manufacturing firm will look into more request for quotation form completions, so an SEO will drive relevant organic traffic from local search and report on the Acquisition-level KPIs first and foremost.

Stick to what clearly shows progress towards achieving your business goals and don't overload your reports with additional KPIs just to look good – less is often more when it comes to reporting.

Do you track any SEO KPIs that you feel have been left out? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


By: Olga Gabdulkhakova