Key KPIs to Measuring SEO Success

It takes effort and patience before your SEO campaign to be successful. But then, what is SEO success all about?

Unlike some misconceptions, SEO successes are not only about ranking on the top page of Google.

There are other metrics that you’ll want to take into considerations before you declare the SEO campaign has achieved its goal.

Why is SEO Success So Hard to Measure?

It’s easy to proclaim success when you have a handful of keywords ranking on the first page of Google.

However, ranking means little if you’re not getting organic traffic and conversion. Such scenarios occur when you’re ranking for keywords that drive very little to no search traffic.

Ranking, as impressive as it looks on paper, is pure vanity if it’s not backed by improvements in other SEO metrics.

Measuring SEO success isn’t a walk in the park. Even for SEO professionals, the task is quite challenging as they are overwhelmed by the amount of data acquired by the analytics tools.

For business owners, it will be hard to know if their SEO campaign is on the right track from the numbers, charts, and reports.

Also, it doesn’t help when the SEO industry is filled with technical jargon that sometimes can be confusing.

As SEO professionals, it is your responsibility to turn the data into reports that are easily understood by our customers. Else, it wouldn’t be surprising if your customers start turning elsewhere for better solutions.

In SEO, you’ll get an almost endless amount of data to gauge on the performance. Yet, you don’t want to be trapped in analysis paralysis, where you spend too much time going through data and lose focus on other actionable SEO strategies.

Instead, you’ll want to focus on certain SEO metrics that are indicative of your site’s performance.

What are SEO metrics?

SEO metrics are quantitative measurements that are used to gauge various areas of a website’s authority, visibility, performance, traffic and other SEO factors.

It’s important to understand that some SEO metrics are developed by a 3rd party and are not used by Google as a ranking factor. With that said, these metrics are helpful in predicting how a site will fare on the search result.

For example, the Domain Authority (DA)/ Page Authority (PA) was created by Moz. They are scored from 1 to 100 and are based on factors like backlink profiles, site age and content. Ahrefs, another professional SEO tool, also has its own DR/UR rating.

These metrics may give you an idea if you’re getting better authority with the SEO effort but offers no indication if you’re achieving SEO success.

Measuring SEO Success (Key SEO KPIs to Monitor)

For businesses, keywords ranking shouldn’t be the yardstick of SEO successes. Business owners should be more concerned about user interactions, which eventually leads to conversion.

As such, you’ll want to focus on engagement metrics which indicate how users are interacting with the content.

Whether the SEO campaign involves driving users to a lead capture page, e-commerce or to offering solutions in the form of blog articles, you ought to know how engaged the users are when accessing the site.

These metrics are good indicators if you’re doing well on SEO as the end goal is not getting better ranking but increasing high-quality search traffic and conversion.

Common engagement metrics are bounce rate, session duration, unique and returning visitors. These metrics are easily accessible with Google Analytics.

For example, you’ll have the number of users, sessions, bounce rate and session duration on the dashboard of Google Analytics.

Measuring SEO engagement metrics with google analytics

You can also check on how your site is doing in user retainment from this chart:

Checking user retainment using Google analytics

However, it is important to note that the results shown on Google Analytics dashboard are not exclusively for search traffic.

You’ll need to dig deeper for data that result from your SEO campaign.

How Do You Analyze SEO Data Using Google Analytics?

Filter Organic Search Traffic

Google Analytics provides data from direct, search, referral and social traffic. For measuring SEO results, you’ll want to filter the results to display only those from organic traffic.

To do that, click on Acquisition → All Traffic→  Channels on the side panel.

Analysing SEO data

You’ll find that the traffic is grouped into

  • Organic Search
  • Direct
  • Referral
  • Social

Click on Organic Search. Now, you’ll get the metrics that are exclusively for organic traffic.

How to check for organic traffic with google analytics

From the result, you’ll have a breakdown of the different keywords that are generating the traffic and accompanying metrics like:

  • Users
  • New Users
  • Sessions
  • Bounce Rate
  • Pages/Session
  • Session Duration

Measuring The Quality Of SEO Traffic

Just because you’re getting thousands of monthly traffic, it doesn’t mean that they’ll result in engagement and sales.

In order to get ‘quality’ SEO traffic, you need to drive in the right audience and satisfy their search intent. If the audience can’t find what they’re looking for or displeased with low-quality content, they are likely to hit ‘back’ and visit a competitor’s website.

The bounce rate, pages/session and session duration gives you a good idea if the audience are engaged by the pages they visited.

Bounce rate measures how many users leave the first page without visiting another page on the site. If you’re running an e-commerce site or a lead acquisition campaign, you’ll want to have a low bounce rate.

A high bounce rate means the readers are leaving without visiting other pages on the site. It may or may not be a bad sign as you’ll need to look into the duration spent on the page.

If the specific page is a blog article, and the user is spending a minute or so to digest the content, then it’s normal to have a high bounce rate.

You can also find out if you’re getting quality SEO traffic by setting conversion goals on Google Analytics.

Setting conversion goals on Google analytics

Doing so allows you to track how many visitors eventually convert by downloading an e-book or purchasing products on the site. The data is also useful to monitor changes in conversion rates on a weekly basis.

A drastic drop in conversion rates is worth investigating if you’ve made changes to the site's content.

Measuring Organic Traffic With Dollar Values

You can justify if SEO worth the effort by comparing the organic traffic acquisition with the cost of the paid advertisement.

First, you’ll need to get the keywords that are drawing traffic to your website. You can do so on by clicking Acquisition → Search Console → Queries. This step requires you to link your Google Analytics and Search Console property.

Measuring Organic Traffic With Dollar Values

Based on the result, you have a list of keywords that are driving the bulk of traffic. Now, go to Google Keyword Planner, which can be found in Google Ads.

Search for the top keywords and find out what they cost per click.

Google ads keyword planner

Calculate the average CPC of the keyword and multiply by the number of clicks for the specific keyword. Do so for the top keywords and you’ll have the equivalent amount you would’ve paid if you’ve relied on paid ads for traffic.

You know you're getting right financially if the total amount of CPC based on the queries has exceeded your monthly investment of SEO.

Check For Slow Loading Pages

Any decent SEO campaign can be derailed by slow loading pages. According to Google, the bounce rate increases by 32% if a page takes more than 3 seconds to load.

You’ll have an idea of the loading time of your pages by checking the Site Speed on Google Analytics.

Checking for page speed on Google analytics

The report indicates the average loading time for the pages, based on actual visits. In order to get more details on what is increasing the loading time, you’ll need to use the PageSpeed Insights tool.

Key in the page URL into the PageSpeed Insights and run an analysis. You’ll then get a list of detailed suggestions that could include the page loading time.

Google pagespeed insights example


Basic SEO Metrics That Demands Your Attention

Time spent on page

The time a user spent on a web page is measured in Google Analytics. Generally, a higher duration means the user is engaged with the content.

You can view the average time spent on the pages by choosing Behavior → Site Content → All Pages.

Measuring SEO success with time spent on page

You’ll get a breakdown of the average time spent on each page. It’s normal for users to spend 2 minutes on a 500 words article, but a longer content may result in 8-10 minutes.

There is, however, a limitation in this metric. As Google uses the difference between two timestamps to calculate the time on page, it couldn’t calculate the value if the user leaves the first page without visiting another.

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is a metric for incidences where the users click onto a page but don’t visit any other pages on the site. When a user hits the back button or closes the browser after clicking onto a page, it is considered a bounce.

You can view the bounce rate for individual pages on Google Analytics.

Measuring SEO success with bounce rate on google analytics

Generally, a lower bounce rate equates an engaged audience. However, a high bounce rate is not necessarily bad if your website is mainly made of blog articles.

If the user manages to find what he/she is looking for in one page and exit the website, the content has achieved its purpose, despite having a higher bounce rate.

Pages per visit

This metric is highly-related to bounce rate. It indicates how many pages are accessed by the reader in a single session.

In Google Analytics, this metric is termed as Pages per Session. You can find the data by clicking on Audience → Overview.

Measuring SEO success with pages per visit

For business or e-commerce sites, you’ll have higher pages per session if the audience is engaged with your offerings. Blog-type websites may have lower pages per session.

Average Session Duration

The time spent by the users per session is indicated by the average session duration. It is measured by the time a user visited your website to the moment he/she leaves the page.

Measuring SEO success with average duration per session

A well-structured website with high-quality content usually results in higher session duration if it matches the user’s search intent.

Like the Avg. Time on Page metric, Google couldn’t calculate the session duration if the user decides to visit only one page on your website.

Page load time

There are many factors that affect a page’s loading speed. In Google Analytics, you’ll find the average load time of the pages on your website.

Measuring SEO success with page load time

Tracking the page load time helps to identify pages that are way beyond the average loading speed. It warrants an investigation to find out if there are issues that are preventing the pages to load in a timely manner.

Important SEO Metrics That Fuel SEO Success


CTR stands for Click-Through Rate. It is calculated by the number of times the audience clicks onto a page compared to the number of impressions it generated.

Naturally, pages that rank higher enjoy a higher CTR. According to this article on Moz, Google may use CTR to determine the ranking of the pages on the search results.

For example, if a top-ranking page has considerably lower CTR than its counterparts, it may be demoted to lower rankings.

How To Evaluate

There isn’t a ‘standard’ CTR to achieve, as it’s different according to the industries. According to Backlinko, the #1 position is likely to have an average CTR of 31.7%. If you’re getting a dismal figure, you ought to check and improve on the following:

  • Get creative with the meta title.
  • Create attention-grabbing meta description.

Tools to use

You can check the CTR of your pages on Google Analytics if it’s linked to Search Console. Go to Acquisition → Search Console → Queries and the CTR for the pages will be displayed.

Checking CTR with google analytics

Scroll Depth

Scroll depth indicates how far the users are consuming the content on your page. It measures the horizontal position of the page.

How To Evaluate?

If a page has very low scroll depth, it means users are leaving the page without checking out all the content.

This could mean that the content is badly-structured (small font size, a bad layout, no headings used) or it’s simply not attractive for the user to read more.

If the content is tied to a product offer, you could be getting low conversions, despite the traffic to the page.

Tools to use

You can use this Scroll Depth plugin which works with Google Analytics. It tracks page scroll by 25%, 50%, 75% or 100% and sends the data to Google Analytics.

Organic Traffic / organic sessions

The intention of an SEO campaign is to increase organic traffic. It’s important to learn not only if the organic traffic increases, but also the sources of the visitors.

How To Evaluate?

Organic traffic is a generic term that covers visitors from search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and DuckDuckGo.

If you’re targeting users on Google, you’ll want to find out if Google visitors are growing. You can do so by clicking Acquisition → All Traffic → Source/Medium on Google Analytics.

Organic traffic and sessions on google analytics

You’ll get metrics like bounce rate, sessions, and pages per session for each of the search engines.

Most users are browsing the internet on a mobile device. Therefore, you’ll want to ensure that your website is getting more organic traffic on mobile.

Go to Audience → Mobile→ Overview on Google Analytics.

Checking SEO metrics for mobile devices

Then, select Secondary Dimension → Acquisition → Source/Medium.

How to check seo metrics for specific devices

You’ll get the metrics for organic traffic segregated according to the devices.

Organic traffic segregated according to devices

Tools to use

There are a few tools, paid and free, that helps in monitoring and analyzing organic traffic.

  • Google Analytics & Search Console - Both free Google tools allow you to monitor, filter and analyze organic traffic performance.
  • Ahrefs - This premium SEO solution has an organic research tool that allows you to estimate the organic traffic of keywords.
  • Semrush - This premium tool gives you an in-depth report on organic traffic on both mobile and desktop platforms for keywords you’re ranking for.
  • SimilarWeb - A great benchmarking tool that allows you to compare search traffic with competitors in your industry.

Conversion rate for organic traffic

It’s good to have an increase in organic traffic, but for business owners, it’s important to learn if they actually convert.

How To Evaluate?

Determine pages that will only be displayed to the users upon signing up or purchasing a product. Use SEO tools to track users that have landed on the pages upon conversion.

Tools to use

You can use Google Analytics’ Conversions report to set up the URL of the pages and track traffic leading into it.

It can also track products/sales performance, transactions and time to purchase for e-commerce sites.

Tools to track conversion rate

Keyword Rankings

A successful SEO campaign will eventually result in ranking for the selected keywords. Getting high rankings for the targeted keywords will lead to an increase in search traffic.

How To Evaluate Keyword Ranking?

It’s unlikely that you’ll start ranking on top positions within a short period. However, it is reasonable to expect positive changes in terms of keyword ranking from time to time.

Keyword rankings must be accompanied by an increase in search traffic. Else, you may be ranking for the wrong keywords, which have very little searches.

If there doesn’t seem to be movements for certain keywords after 6 months, you’ll want to revisit your keyword strategies. You could be trying to rank for an overtly competitive keyword or the content is not optimized correctly.

Tools to use

With possibly hundreds of keywords, you’ll need to use keyword tracking tools like these to monitor and provide performance reports:

  • Dyno mapper - The tool tracks keywords for your site on a daily basis. It provides different reports by search engines, locations and devices.
  • SEO profiler - It’s a comprehensive SEO analysis tool that features a keyword tracker. You can monitor keywords performance in over 162 countries on Google and Bing.
  • SEMrush - Use SEMrush SEO toolkit to track daily changes in keyword ranking.
  • Woorank - This SEO audit tool comes with a keyword tracker that tracks changes in both local and international search results.
  • Ahrefs - Ahrefs’ powerful Rank Tracker allows you to track keyword rankings in more than 170 countries. It provides the estimated search volume for each tracked keyword. ‘

Social Shares

In 2010, former Google webspam team member Matt Cutts confirmed that social share is one of the ranking signals in this video.

If you’re creating high-quality content or valuable offers, it ought to be engaging on social media. That’s the idea behind Google’s applying social shares as a ranking signal.

How To Evaluate

First, you’ll need to promote your website on social media, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or other platforms.

Track the engagement regularly by using social media analytics tools. Use creative campaigns like competitions, and giveaways to increase share counts.

Tools to use

Here are some handy tools to keep track of your social share counts.

  • Website SEO Checker - a simple social share counter.
  • SharedCount - track multiple URLs and get reports on shares, likes and comments on various social media platforms.
  • AddThis Share Count Checker - retrieve share counts from the API of popular social media for a single URL.
  • SharesCount - returns the number of shares on Facebook and Pinterest for a particular page.

Backlink Quantity and Quality

Like it or not, backlinks are still one of the most important KPIs for an SEO campaign. Google continues to use backlinks to rank websites on the search result.

The question is, are you building the right backlinks for your site?

How to Evaluate?

Not all backlinks are good for SEO. Some backlinks, which come from shady websites like PBNs, may result in Google penalties.

You’ll need to conduct a backlink audit from time to time, to determine if you’re developing a healthy backlink profile.

Generally, a good backlink profile means you’re getting backlinks from authoritative and relevant sites. Links that are tagged as do-follow heavily influence SEO ranking.

It’s also important to detect unnatural backlinks which may be a result of a negative SEO attack against your site.

These links are usually built in huge numbers within a short period of time from PBN or spam sites.

While Google claims to be able to ignore spammy links, it is still prudent to keep track of spammy links and disavow them when necessary.

Tools to use

These tools will help you to keep an eye on your backlinks.

  • Ahrefs - Use Ahrefs Backlink Checker to get a list of referring domains, anchor and the type of content.
  • SEMrush - SEMRush has an equally powerful backlink analytic that not only reports inbound links but also provides a historical chart of links gained and lost.
  • Ubersuggest - It has a backlink checker that allows users to easily sort out do-follow links. You can also filter out links according to domain score, region, anchor text and URL.
  • Small SEO Tools Backlink Checker - This is a free SEO tool that leverages Ahrefs engine to provide a brief backlink report.
  • Majestic - Majestic is a premium tool dedicated to providing detailed keyword ranking analytics. It segregates the links into types, anchor text and other categories.

Site health

SEO performance is linked to site health. If your site is slow, badly structured or is not crawlable, it will impact the success of your SEO campaign.

How to Evaluate?

You’ll need to run a technical SEO audit  to find out if your site is in good health. A technical audit will reveal issues like missing XML sitemap, broken links, slow load time, blocked crawler and mobile-responsiveness.

Crawlability and mobile-friendliness are two crucial factors that will greatly impact SEO performance. If your site is not crawlable, none of the pages will be ranked on search engines.

Google’s emphasis on mobile-friendliness is in line with the current trend, where more than half of searches are from mobile devices. If your site is not mobile optimised, the pages are unlikely to rank high on Google.

Tools to use

There are many factors that collectively define the site's health. These tools are helpful in uncovering underlying issues that are troubling a site.

  • Google Search Console - Any issues with XML Sitemap, Robots.txt that affect crawlability is reported in Google Search Console. It also provides reports on mobile responsiveness, security issues, manual penalties and Core Web Vitals, which are future ranking factors.
  • Bing Webmaster Tool - It is Google Search Console’s counterpart for the Bing search engine. Like the former, you’ll find out issues that demand your attention in the Bing Webmaster Tool.
  • Lighthouse Audit - Lighthouse is an open source SEO audit tool developed by Google. It is available as a Chrome plugin, which scores a website for performance, accessibility, SEO, best practices and progressive web app.
  • PageSpeed Insights - Based on Lighthouse, PageSpeed Insights allows a webpage to be inspected for loading time. It lists out issues that are slowing down the site and provides detailed recommendations for improvement.
  • Structured Data Testing Tool - A free tool by Google to ensure that the structured data created is in the correct format.
  • Mobile-Friendly Test - This free Google tool allows web pages to be checked for mobile-friendliness. It renders the page on a virtual mobile screen and detects issues that may prevent content from being consumed effectively on mobile devices.
  • dev - A platform created by Google to enable continuous learning and improving websites. It uses Lighthouse to measure key SEO performances of a site or webpage.
  • Tools for web devs and SEOs - There are other tools used for SEO audit for developers and SEOs. Tools like ScreamingFrog, Ahrefs and SEMrush are equipped with powerful crawlers that uncover issues that are compromising site health.


For business owners, tracking SEO performance can still be overwhelming even when you’re aware of the important KPIs.

You could be better off by engaging a professional SEO agency like Heroes of Digital to keep track of your SEO campaign.

Our vast experience will be handy in identifying abnormal trends and providing quick remedial responses to any issues that crop up.

Stop guessing which direction your SEO campaign is heading. Talk to us and find out if you’re still on the right track for success.

Xavier Tan
Xavier is the Co-Founder of Heroes of Digital. He started social media marketing and SEM long before it became popular in Singapore. His passion is in helping businesses grow through effective lead generation. He has overseen campaigns for Amara Hotel, NTU, Marina Bay, L'Oreal, and 100+ SMEs.
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