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When reporting for SEO, you can use many relevant metrics to show the success or shortcomings of a campaign. You must choose the right ones and not go chasing figures that might look good, but ultimately do nothing to demonstrate the bottom line. Unfortunately there is a myth in regards to SEO that rankings are the most important thing to be chasing and that the campaign cannot possibly be a success without all rankings improving every month.
This list looks at far better indicators of SEO success, starting from the top:
#1 Conversions and Revenue
The conversions and revenue generated by the organic traffic referred by the SEO campaign are far and away the most important indication of that campaign’s success. This is the bottom line; it is what determines whether the campaign is making money. If you, the client, do not get a healthy return on your investment, then it would be a poor business decision to keep investing in SEO.
Whether you choose conversions or revenue depends on your business model - an ecommerce site would measure increases in revenue (and net profit) against spend over time, but if your website’s purpose is lead generation then the number and quality of these leads, and ultimately the cost per acquisition of each lead compared to the profit generated, should be your main measurement.
The traffic referred by the non-brand organic keywords comes in at a close second. Especially when compared to a time period before the campaign began or the previous year. It can show that the campaign is working on a mechanical level by demonstrating increases in both the number of visitors and the number of different keywords referring them.
If the conversions or revenue are low while the traffic increases, analysis can highlight any issues with the design of the website that are not directly related to the SEO. Once identified and fixed, these issues can lead to improved conversions and revenue from other traffic sources.
These two metrics also help SEO consultants immensely as the figures help us to strategise for future months, as well as ensure the campaign is running to its maximum capacity. This includes smoothing out any issues like targeting the wrong keywords or indeed identifying surprisingly well-performing ones.
(#10 in comparison) Rankings
I am not for one minute saying rankings are not important to your SEO campaign. Far from it, everyone wants to rank at or near the top for the main generic keywords surrounding the services or products they offer - and we want to take you there too. It is generally profitable and it is great for your brand.
However, there must be a degree of realism from us all – the high volume, vanity terms are the ultimate long-term aim. They are also not going to come overnight and are only a piece of the puzzle. The long-tail is another large piece of the puzzle and is much better as the short term aim.
“Long-tail” keywords are terms searched for that are include, either in full or partially, the generic vanity keywords but in a longer phrase of 3-4 or more words. For example for the term “SEO”, a long-tail keyword would be “I am looking for an SEO service”. Work that is done to target the “SEO” keyword, be it on or off-page, has an effect on an infinite number of long-tail phrases that include that keyword too. Good SEO does not just target one keyword - it targets a range of keywords on each page, all of which bring traffic to your website from that infinite long tail.
It is worth noting that the long tail is responsible for 30% of search traffic and in our experience these types of keywords lead to a much higher level of conversions.
The short term aim is to influence the much less competitive long-tail related phrases, and the long term aim is of course to influence the generic vanity terms. The long-tail brings a much quicker ROI because these keywords are impossible to predict and target, they are obtained by good copywriting and increasing the authority of your website overall – which means the competition is less direct.
Issues we have
From the perspective of the SEO consultant, we are often expected to drive generic rankings up continuously, and many clients feel that if they don’t then the campaign is a failure even traffic and revenue from organic search have increased. What this means is that while the visibility has not improved for targeted generics, the business is growing overall and receiving increased exposure to a wider variety of people due to the long-tail.
As far as we are concerned this would make a very successful month/quarter, as it means the work we have done has improved the bottom line of your business. Our aim is of course that over time the generic rankings increase, but you must walk before you can run!
Hopefully this gives you an idea of how the I-COM SEO consultants will be reporting on the SEO campaign, and has helped dispel any myths you may have heard about what is important in an SEO campaign.