Search Engine Optimizations can be a long and complex process.
Thus, If you are a complete beginner in SEO or when your website is a brand new one, the number of elements to optimize and all the different metrics to measure can be overwhelming.
On the other hand, knowing the current situation of your website is very important; so you can plan the right SEO campaign and optimize the important elements accordingly.
Here, we will discuss ten of the most important SEO metrics you should track to properly assess your site’s situation and measure your SEO progress.
1. Organic Search Traffic – An Unpaid Traffic
Organic traffic refers to the number of website visitors that come to your site by clicking on organic search engine results. It’s important to note that organic traffic doesn’t include traffic coming from paid advertising—including paid search or PPC ads.
We can use the handy Google Analytics to monitor organic traffic, and you should especially focus on three things:
- Growth: if it’s a brand new site, you probably don’t have a lot of organic traffic. It’s perfectly okay and expected. However, you should check whether your organic traffic is increasing over time as you published more and more content. If there’s any sudden traffic drop, you should figure out the issue and fix it immediately.
- Relations To Keyword Ranking: in general, a higher rank for the keyword will translate to higher organic traffic. If not, you have a problem with your content. Monitor how your ranking for each individual keyword climb over time, and how the organic traffic from the respective keyword also climb or decline.
- Overall Traffic: meaning, all traffic coming from all keywords. It is useful to observe the overarching traffic across all keywords to check your overall website performance.
It’s important to note that organic SEO is different from local SEO and often the main—and end—objective of SEO, and so regularly measuring its performance and progress is very important to know whether your SEO efforts are on track or not.
2. How Quick Your Web Page Loads? – Page Loading Speed
Your page’s load speed is now a direct ranking factor and also has a very strong correlation to bounce rate and dwell time—hint: we will discuss both of them below—. According to Google themselves, pages that take more than 3 seconds to load has on average, a 53% higher bounce rate.
We can mainly use Google PageSpeed Insights to test the page’s load speed. PageSpeed Insights will also provide suggestions on optimizations. And also improvements that can be made on the website to improve load speed in case it’s still not up to standard.
However, according to Google’s own statement about how page speed will affect ranking (especially mobile ranking), the quality of your content is still the priority and a relatively slow page may still rank if the content is good and relevant.
So, yes, page speed is important, but unless your page is very, very slow, it shouldn’t be fatal, SEO-wise.
It’s worth knowing that the biggest factor determining page speed is often your hosting service’s quality; which significantly affects server response time. Getting a dedicated server to host your site is the most effective solution for this, but it can be very expensive.
The bottom line, improve as much as you can but focus more on your content quality.
3. Dwell Time – Direct Ranking Signal
Dwell time simply put, refers to how long a website visitor spends on a specific page before they exit the page (and usually return to Google SERP).
It is now one of the most important site metrics both for SEO purposes and website performance in general; but also one of the most frequently misunderstood metrics that can easily mislead us—SEO practitioners and digital marketers— if you are not careful.
To start, it’s important to note that since the introduction of Google Rankbrain in 2016, dwell time along with other UX metrics are now direct ranking signals.
In general, the longer a user stays on your website, Google will perceive that your site is relevant for this specific user, and if it happens a lot, Google will boost your ranking:
- Below 5 seconds dwell time: the visitor didn’t find the information and/or value they desired on your website, so they hit the back button to find something better.
- Around 2 minutes dwell time: the visitor found your content pretty relevant and useful and spend some time to consume it.
- 10 minutes+ dwell time: your content is very valuable and very useful, and so they invest a lot of time to consume it.
It’s important, however, to also understand that dwell time is not similar (although related) to the bounce rate, which we will discuss right below.
4. Bounce Rate – The Single-Page Session Percentage
The bounce rate here refers to the percentage of visitors who only visit a single page before they returned to the Google SERP or simply hit the close button. Whether they stayed for 1 second or one whole day doesn’t matter; if they leave after just one page, it’s a bounce.
It is, however, a common misconception that ‘bounce’ only applies when the visitor exits the site immediately or almost immediately, which isn’t actually the case.
This is why the bounce rate is also often called the single-page session percentage.
With that being said, a high bounce rate isn’t always a bad thing. For example, if it’s an “about us” page, then a high bounce rate is expected. If it’s a content page (i.e. a blog post) with an informative intent, anything above 50% bounce rate is not as bad as it sounds, which simply means people read an article and then left the site after, very natural behavior for those on the early stage of the funnel.
So, what’s the purpose of measuring the bounce rate? It is mainly to compare the performances between similar types of pages (i.e. two different product pages). However, it’s important to measure both the bounce rate and dwell time to get clearer insights into the page’s actual performance.
5. Average Time on Page – Most Tracked Metric
Another metric that often confuses with dwell time; the ‘average time on page’ metric is the average amount of time users spend on one specific page. ‘One specific page’ is the main emphasis here.
We can measure the average time on page metrics via Google Analytics.
However, this metric isn’t as simple as it is on the surface due to two main factors:
- We have to differentiate ‘time-on-site’ and ‘time-on-page’ which are measured by Google Analytics by tracking the difference between timestamps. So, when the visit resulted in a bounce (see bounce rate above), no time will be recorded.
- When, for example, the user opens more than one tabs on the browser, the time spent on the page is still tracked; although the user isn’t actively viewing that specific page.
So, due to those factors, generally, the time-on-page won’t change significantly; once you have a significant number of site visits (i.e. above 500 unique visits); so in most cases, you only need to check this value once for each page.
The idea about this metric is that the average-time-on-page should be in proportion to the page’s content length and depth. For example, if the content on a specific page is fairly short, then a low average time-on-page should be expected, and vice versa.
6. Pages Per Session – How Engaging Is The Website?
Pages per session—as the name suggests—is the average number of pages viewed during a user’s single session on your site.
Again this will depend on the purpose of the page the visitor visits in the first place and the objective of your website in general.
However, in general, the more pages a visitor visits in a session, the more engaged this user is, the higher the chance of conversions.
7. Percentage of Returning Visitors – Loyal Audience
This SEO metrics should be pretty self-explanatory, but there are several things to pay attention to.
First, if your site is very new, a very high percentage of returning visitors should be expected. This is because you, your friends, and possibly your team members usually would visit the site over and over again during this time.
So, what kind of percentage is good? In general, 30% percentage of returning visitors is pretty good for mature sites. Moreover, if you can get above 50%, it’s excellent.
However, this will depend on several factors like the type of your site and its general purpose. For example, if your site offers a usable app that people use repeatedly; then obviously you should get a higher percentage of returning visitors. On the other hand, if the page focuses on a one-time purchase, then you should expect a lower percentage.
8. Referral Traffic – A metric that Google uses in determining how to rank sites in the SERPs
Simply put, referral traffic is the traffic that generates from other sites; (and platforms like social media profiles) and not from the search engines.
You mainly get referral traffic when other sites put a hyperlink on their page pointing to your site, which you know as backlinks or inbound links.
Measuring referral traffic is important because of three things:
- First, referral traffic is a very valuable source of traffic; and monitoring which domains generate the best traffic for your site and how these numbers improve over time is important; so you can decide on a better strategy to get more referring domains/backlinks.
- Referral traffic generally has a higher conversion rate; since they actively click on a hyperlink that might be interesting for them. This is assuming the referring domain is using a proper anchor text.
- Referral traffic obviously has SEO benefits; because backlinks—the sources of referral traffic— are one of the most important ranking signals for Google SERP.
To summarize, monitor the source of referral traffic (referring domains), check their growth, and the actual numbers.
9. Conversion Rate – User’s Action On The Website
Depending on your website, there can be various conversion types you can track; from email opt-ins (email newsletter sign-up), free-trial sign-up, to actual sales conversions.
Tracking conversion rate according to the purpose of the page—and its respective growth— is very important so you can properly plan an SEO strategy and efforts to improve your website performance in general.
Also, the email newsletter is one of your best sources of traffic—especially if when your website is brand new; so tracking email opt-in is very important and if you haven’t already, implement proper email marketing and lead magnet campaigns.
10. Domain Authority And Page Authority
The Domain Authority (DA) is an SEO Metrics developed by Moz, which can predict the ability of a website for search engine ranking on SERPs ranging from 1 to 100. Higher scores have a high ability of ranking.
Page Authority (PA) is also an SEO Metrics developed by Moz; which can predict the ability of a specific webpage for ranking on SERPs ranging from 1 to 100. With the high score, the page has a high ability of ranking.
DA and PA metrics are the best way to compare the authority of your website with your competitors. To check the DA and PA of your website, you can install Moz Bar, which is a Google Chrome extension provided by Moz. It appears as the image below.
Certainly, these metrics we have discussed above aren’t the only ones you should monitor; but they can be solid foundations in monitoring your SEO progress and to provide insights into how you should plan your present and future SEO activities.