Reporting in SEO is a key way of tracking progress and making strategic decisions. However, by not tracking the correct KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) you run the risk of making inappropriate decisions, which could negatively impact the outcome of your SEO efforts.
This article by SEO Product Strategist, Laurent Bleu outlines:
- The key differences in measuring for reporting and measuring for success
- The true meaning of KPIs in the context of SEO
- Ensuring your SEO reports cover the necessary KPIs
Before attempting anything related to reporting, you should have a clear idea of what your business goals are, and created a North Star Goal related to your ultimate aims. If you need a refresher on what North Star Goals are and how to establish them, we explain this in our previous article in this series.
‘Measuring for reporting’ vs ‘measuring your success’
A common pitfall when measuring the SEO performance of a campaign is to measure for the sake of reporting only, which is typically when irrelevant KPI’s are tracked. While this might make a report look impressive, nine times out of ten those reports are not useful, and probably not even looked at by your manager or colleagues.
Instead, you should make your report as simple as possible, focusing exclusively on your key business goals. That’s what we call measuring your success.
Key Performance Indicators
We often overlook what the true meaning of a KPI is, especially when reporting on SEO performance. SEO campaigns touch on a multitude of measurable components, meaning we can have the tendency of measuring/tracking them all.
For instance, as part of your SEO efforts, you might need to focus on acquiring backlinks. This means you may decide to report on how many backlinks you have acquired during the course of that month.
While this could make sense, it does not necessarily qualify as a KPI for SEO. Why? Because it’s not a KEY performance indicator, it’s only a performance indicator.
The question you may now have is: how and when does a Performance Indicator (PI) become Key (K)?
It’s actually simple. For a PI to become a KPI, you should answer the following question: does this PI directly influence my North Star Goal? I.e., does it relate to the success of my business?
If your answer is 100% positive, then you’ve got a winner.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t really have many KPIs. While there are no guidelines on how many should be tracked, it’s best to go with a quality over quantity approach.
Reverse engineering your North Star goal
To make sure your reports contain the correct KPIs, you should work backwards: starting with your North Star Goal (which should be a reflection of your business goals) and then follow this approach:
For clarity, let’s assume that our North Star Goal is: ‘increase our organic entrances by 130% over the next 12 months in the USA, resulting in 340 sales per month’
1. Breakdown your North Star Goal in separate elements. In our example, those elements would be:
- ‘organic entrances’
- ‘sales per month’
2. For each element, complete the following table:
3. Revisit the items that have a dependency and list the sub-elements that can influence their performance.
In our example, this could be:
- Visibility of products/collection pages: organic performance of each individual page, the load time of those pages, the mobile-friendliness of those pages.
- Conversion rate: the layout of product pages, pricing, the relevancy of content.
4. Separate those new sub-elements in 2 categories: ‘can be measured or assessed’, ‘cannot be measured’:
- Can be measured or assessed: the organic performance of each individual page, the load time of those pages, the mobile-friendliness. Content relevancy.
- Cannot be measured: page layout, pricing.
5. Finally, repeat step 2 for the new sub-elements that can be measured or assessed (i.e. ignore the ones that fall into the category ‘cannot be measured’):
Once you’ve completed this exercise (with no more dependency), you will have a set of KPI that are 100% aligned with your business goals and, therefore, should be measured and tracked monthly for your SEO reports.
In our example, we would measure/report on the following (for the US section of our website only):
- Overall monthly organic entrances to our website
- Monthly organic entrances to our products and collections pages
- Average organic ranking and CTR of our key landing pages
- The total amount of ‘Purchase Event’ per month with a breakdown per product
- The conversion rate of our website for organic traffic only
- The average load time of our website on desktop and mobile devices
- The average load time of our key pages (products and collection) on desktop and mobile devices
- The bounce rate and average time on page of our key pages on desktop and mobile devices
- Alerts coming from Google Search Console related to the mobile-friendliness of our key pages
Note: you may come across a situation where the data you need cannot be pulled from tools such as Google Analytics or Google Search Console. In this case, you will need to get that data from the business department of your company or check if you can automatically integrate them into your report. Google Data Studio (which is the tool we recommend to produce SEO performance reports) can connect with a variety of data sources.
In conclusion, reporting on your SEO performance is as important as creating your strategy. Essentially, it should be a clear representation of your efforts, that anyone within your organisation can digest and understand. By focusing on the right set of KPIs, you’ll be in a better position to make appropriate decisions, as well as establishing the importance of your role as an SEO expert.