As you continue managing the site, you're constantly changing your search engine visibility, so it's important to know if things are on the right track. It takes a combination of several quantitative and qualitative measurements to get a good grasp on the state of your SEO.
- Rankings on a set of keywords used to be the method of choice for SEO measurement. If you want to rank for "tickets" and you move from the bottom of page one to the top of page one, then you've met a goal. However, this mindset is limited to the keywords you focus on -- users will come up with tons you didn't consider. Additionally, what you see in Google isn't necessarily what everyone else sees, due to several factors such as personalization and geography. Not to mention the fact that rankings don't equal clicks -- someone has to choose your listing over those around it.
- Natural search traffic is the next logical spot to consider. Pulling this data from your web analytics package will give you traffic trends, allowing you to compare them to SEO project dates. Assuming your numbers aren't inaccurate, a common problem, you also need to put these in context of the whole site.
- Percent share of total traffic helps with context. Perhaps traffic is down a little, but is the whole site down? It may be a seasonal issue or a brand issue reducing traffic.
- Some final metrics on traffic are often overlooked in SEO. What does your traffic do on your site? Take one look at the page and run away screaming? Or do they actually stick around and buy something? Ensuring people are landing on the right pages, targeting the right terms, and even creating compelling landing pages are part of SEO. Keep track of things like bounce rates, goal conversion rates, revenue, and orders sold for natural search. Ideally, you have attribution set up to have an idea of how natural search revenue fits in with other sources.
- Another number to consider is keyword exposure, or the total volume of unique natural search phrases driving traffic to your site. The higher your volume, the better you're capturing long-tail phrases and exposing your brand to a varied audience. You can also find this in your analytics reports.
- SEO is partly a function of public relations, where your brand needs to be well represented in search engines. Are your listings reflective of your brand message, or are they just a list of disjointed phrases? Better listings also mean higher CTRs.
- Your e-commerce team -- from copywriters, to merchandisers, to coders -- is always affecting your search engine standing. Making poor build decisions today may haunt you in expensive SEO fixes later. In that way, you need to also measure success by considering how well your e-commerce team is educated in SEO.
- Another set to consider are site-specific considerations, best determined by an SEO expert usually. How well indexed is your site? Are other sites linking to your site? These will help give you an idea of your site's success in reaching its potential.
Clearly, measuring SEO results is more difficult than building a single graph. Trending all of the above metrics will give you a much better picture of your natural search health than any one number. Additionally, keep tabs on qualitative objectives such as brand message, team education, and having a well-crawled and well-linked site.
Once you have your results, remember that SEO isn't like buying spots for a marketing campaign. It's much more like usability or accessibility in that it is a component of e-commerce. Paying close attention to results will keep long-term success possible.