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How to Measure SEO and Why It Is Important

There’s no point shooting in the dark, yet what else is spending a lot of time doing search engine optimization without taking the time to measure it? If you’ve been paying attention to the lessons in our SEO Guide, then you have a basic understanding of how search engines work. By now hopefully you’ve also familiarized yourself with tactics for building an SEO friendly website as well as some of the must have SEO tools of the trade. Now you need to learn how to measure SEO in order to figure out whether your tactics are producing results that matter. While this lesson is very important it is high level and meant to stimulate your brain to learn more about measuring SEO and Google Analytics.

The Basics of Measuring SEO

Track Your Traffic

Tracking traffic is a major component of how to measure SEO and how effective it is. This means you look at the number of people who visit your site overall, and then break them down by category. Once you know who is coming to your site and from what sources, you can improve on the channels that are performing poorly and protect the channels that are doing great.

For example, you might find that 70% of all traffic to your website is coming from Google and the rest is split between referral traffic from social media and direct traffic to your website. 

  • Traffic Origins

This refers to whether your traffic comes from a bookmarked page, a link in someone’s email, a link on the web, or a searched term. This can provide handy data that, for instance, your email marketing campaign is working wonders while search queries (SEO) are doing nothing for you.

  • What Search Engines Are Sending Traffic To Your Website

The number of contributions will vary according on who (Google, Yahoo and Bing are the big ones in the U.S. and most of the world) is sending people your way. Depending on your success rates, you may need to modify your efforts to meet the specifications of certain engines.

If you read Lesson 2 of this SEO guide you should have a good understanding about search engine usage. Below is a chart that clearly shows Google is the overall market share leader. 

Search Engine Usage 2012 - The College of Marketing Chart


  • Keywords

Knowing which keywords are motivating your traffic is crucial to understanding your SEO efforts. If you find your targeted keywords are not working, you can fix the problem by doing additional keyword research and refocusing your efforts. Be sure to compare data year over year to see if you find anything interesting like possibly a set of specific keywords are seasonal. 

  • Search Term Conversion Rates

Study what terms are driving traffic to your website and what terms are converting into sales or leads. Nothing is more valuable than keywords that generate revenue, and nothing is more useless than focusing time and money on keywords that do not help your bottom line. Traffic is good, but conversions and traffic is even better.

  • Pages Receiving Visits

Which of your pages are actually getting visitors? If you have pages that aren’t seeing traffic, either improve them or scrap them. Keeping an eye on this metric will help get those little-seen pages into search results and improve your site overall.

Watch Traffic For Issues

 Learn How To Measure SEO with Google Analytics 

If you notice a major drop in the number of visitors to your site, you should ask the following questions.

  • One of the most important tasks you can do is stay up to date with any search engine algorithm updates that may impact your site’s overall traffic from a specific search engine. For example, Google’s Penguin and Panda updates.
  • Is the traffic drop from a single search engine? If so, there is a good chance you’ve done something to offend that particular search engine. Do some research and make sure you haven’t violated terms of service, accidentally blocked them through your robots.txt file or meta robots. Has that specific search engine update their algorithm to penalize websites that has thin content or spammy links from other websites. 
  • Is the traffic drop from all search engines? If you’ve somehow lost favor with all of them, then likely there’s a basic problem with your site. Check your hosting, your robots.txt file, and make sure you aren’t having technical difficulties.
  • Am I expecting to see an increase, but haven’t? If so, be patient. Optimizing your page may take weeks to get results, as the search engine robots do their job of crawling, processing and indexing. Remember that you’re still competing against others who are trying to do the same thing, so only patience and ongoing effort will win out.

Conversion Tracking

In a nutshell, conversion means that someone came to your site and did something you wanted them to do. If you run a blog, they subscribed to it. If you run an e-commerce site (where you sell products), they bought something. If you run a membership-based business, they became a member. If you run an insurance website, they filled out a quote form.

You need to know what makes people convert. Is it traffic from paid advertising, search engines, or social media? Knowing how to measure SEO is one of hardest task, but certainly one of the most important things you can do and getting everything set-up early is very important.

Google Analytics and Google Adwords allows you to track conversions using several different methods you can read about on Google’s blog.

About Conversion Tracking and Google Analytics

Conversion to a Lead/Newsletter/Quote Form

How To Measure SEO for Lead Form

Unfortunately for business owners, it’s simply not true that viewers who reach your site automatically become customers. If they’re coming, congratulations, but you still need to make sure they’re actually doing something once they’re there. Filling out a lead form, for instance, can get more information from a customer in order to send them a quote or move the process along. Lead forms can really drive your business, but only if people are filling them out.

Make sure people can find your form in the first place. Put it somewhere obvious and make sure your lead form actually addresses your product and is relevant. Then track what’s happening. Who fills it out? Where are they coming from? And what happens next? How often does filling out this form lead to conversion? Answer these questions for vital clues about your viewers.

Learning How To Measure SEO Should Involve Tools Similar To The Ones Listed Below

Google Analytics

This is a great tool to help you measure SEO and make sure you’re getting real results that matter for your businesses bottom line. You want to rank for words and searches that don’t relate to your specific brand (everyone can rank for their own company name, for instance) and Analytics can help you filter down to non branded terms like “brass tacks”. Google Analytics helps with so much more than measuring SEO and every website needs to have it!

Google Webmaster Tools

This tool can help you figure out how Google’s robots see your site and what problems they might be having, which will make it more accessible to viewers and engines alike. Then check out their link reporting tools and see which queries are driving traffic your way.

Keyword Ranking Tools

You should already be taking the time to do keyword research, so now it’s time to check how well that’s working out. Sites like WebPosition, SEOMoz and RankChecker for Firefox allow you to see what keywords and pages on your website are ranking for specific keywords you want to track. Not only that, you can compare how well a specific page is optimized for a specific keyword against real-world competition, learn to implement better overall link-building strategy, and track competitor effectiveness to learn from their successes and failures.

Unappreciated Links and Traffic

It is important to realize that when you start tracking your SEO efforts, you may find that some of your traffic is coming from unsavory sources. Links or traffic coming from spammy organizations or with low relevance aren’t that helpful to you. Use tools like Google Webmaster Tools, SEOmoz, and MasjesticSEO to evaluate what sites are linking to your website. 

Turning SEO Effort Into SEO Success

They key to turning effort into success is measurement. SEO is at best underutilized, and at worst pointless if you aren’t tracking the end results. At the very least your website should be making use of handy freebies like Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools so that you can see what keywords and channels are driving traffic to your site.

In addition to that, you should keep track of any important forms on your site – such as sales, lead and contact forms – and figure out which ones are leading to conversion. Lastly, make sure you’re following the activity of your e-commerce or product pages. Learning how to measure SEO will actually help you understand your business better as a whole.

Be sure to read the rest of our SEO Guide if you have not all ready!

Coming Soon – Check Out Lesson 14