We have repeated many times that you have to wait a long time for the effects of positioning. But how do you know if they have already appeared? How to check if SEO activities are actually effective? Today, we will briefly discuss the individual methods of measuring SEO results and highlight the advantages and disadvantages of each of them.
Effective SEO – why does it not work most often?
However, before we move on to the tools with which you can measure SEO effectiveness, let’s consider what parameters are worth checking at all. Just a few years ago, it was popular to sign SEO contracts “for effect”. It was a model which assumed that the client pays the agency only for achieving a specific goal, i.e. for placing the appropriate number of phrases in the TOP search. However, this method of billing the service is irretrievably obsolete and for good reason – the approach that assumes more work with the website than focusing on punching in specific phrases works better.
In SEO activities, we fight primarily for valuable traffic, i.e. one that brings measurable benefits for the brand. However, the mere appearance in TOP10 or even TOP3 of a phrase that no one is looking for does not bring any profit. Additionally, even if it is a valuable phrase, its appearance does not guarantee that the user will click on the link to the page. If the content of the headline and description doesn’t meet his expectations, he or she may search for a different site. And even if the recipient goes to the page, it will not do anything if they do not find what they are looking for on it. Therefore, for SEO to be really effective, it must be comprehensive and lead the user through the entire shopping path. With this approach, phrase monitoring is only one of the ways to measure SEO effectiveness.
What parameters say, “yes, SEO works”?
In order to correctly measure the effects of positioning, we should first determine what goals we want to achieve with its help. On their basis, the so-called KPI (Key Performance Indicators), i.e. key performance indicators. It simply means a verifiable premise that SEO activities should be considered a success – these indicators should be agreed with the SEO company at the beginning and accompany us throughout the process of building website visibility. KPIs for positioning may be different and should be set each time for a given brand. The most commonly used, however, are:
– increase in valuable traffic on the website,
– an increase in the number of conversions from the organic channel, i.e. from search results,
– decreasing bounce rate, i.e. situations in which the user leaves the website immediately after entering it,
– increase in the number of phrases in TOP10 and TOP50,
– improving the position of key phrases for business,
– extending the average time spent on the website.
SEO results in Google Analytics
The first free tool that we can use to measure SEO effects is Google Analytics. By placing a special tracking code on your website, we can use this tool to check how users behave when they are on it. It is worth checking parameters such as:
– website traffic – by comparing the current results with those from before, say, half a year, we can check whether the website has a noticeable increase,
– bounce rate – this indicator will show us whether users find what they need on the website,
– the number of views of those subpages that are the most important for our business, e.g. the most important product categories,
– the number of conversions – i.e. actions that are important to us to be performed by the user. A conversion can be the purchase of a product, but also, for example, sending a contact form, downloading a guide or booking an appointment,
– average time spent on the site – this information will help you determine if the site meets the expectations of users. Thanks to this, you will find out if the subpages are positioned with the appropriate phrases.
However, in order to get the correct results from Google Analytics, you must first configure the tool properly. If we don’t, the data will be falsified. Before we start monitoring anything with its help, we should exclude the own IP and IP of the agency that deals with SEO from the measurements. Then the tool will not count visits to the website that do not come from potential customers. Then, we should also exclude traffic generated by known bots and block typical spam bots from accessing the site. For the data to be credible, you should also mark that the tool should only consider traffic to our host.
If we use Google Ads or Facebook Ads, it is also necessary to link the Analytics account with the Google Ads account and the implementation of the Facebook pixel on the website. Thanks to this, the system will recognize traffic and conversions from these sources, which will give more reliable results from the organic channel. What else do we need to set to get information about SEO effects from Google Analytics? Certainly, define the appropriate goals, i.e. indicate what the system should consider as a conversion.
In the case of Google Analytics, the Acquisition and Conversions reports will be most helpful for us.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is the second from the repertoire of google tools that are worth using in measuring SEO effectiveness. It does not use internal data directly from our website, but shows how the website is viewed by search engine robots. First of all, we can check in it:
– a list of phrases for which the page is displayed on Google,
– CTR, which is the ratio of clicks on a link to impressions of that link in the results.
Thanks to this, we can control not only how many phrases our website is displayed in TOP positions, but also whether these views are followed by further actions.
What Google Search Console offers us in the context of measuring results is also the ability to filter phrases on which the page is displayed. Thanks to this, we can easily and quickly control what results are achieved by those phrases that are key to our business. However, Google Search Console is only an auxiliary monitoring tool and will not replace the more precise tools that will be discussed in the next paragraph.
Third party SEO monitoring tools
In addition to free Google tools, we also have a number of paid external programs to help measure SEO effectiveness. They have their own algorithms that try to imitate the algorithms of search engines and based on them provide data on the visibility of a specific website. These tools help not only to screen the website in terms of the position of phrases or estimated traffic on the site, but also to compare these results with the visibility of the competition. There are a lot of such programs on the market and most of them have a similar field of action, so the choice between them is usually dictated by personal preferences. Such programs include Senuto, Semstorm, Ahrefs, SurferSEO and Semrush, among others.
Reports from these tools are a good starting point when analyzing the effectiveness of positioning, but they should not be the only sources from which we draw our knowledge. None of the programs has access to the Google algorithm, so it does not reflect 100% of the results that our website achieves in the search engine – it can only approximate them. Sometimes the results of individual tools may differ significantly from each other. Practice shows that these differences, in extreme cases, may even reach several dozen percent. Where do such discrepancies come from? Nobody knows exactly what the impact of individual elements on the position of the page. External tools must therefore make certain assumptions that do not always overlap. It also happens that updating one of the tools will lead to an error that distorts the data for some time. Therefore, you should always assume a certain margin of error when using these tools.
So how do you ultimately monitor your SEO activities? First of all, instead of focusing only on tracking the position of phrases, you should take into account the wider context, including website traffic, bounce rate or the number of conversions in which organic was the main or supporting channel. It also helps to divide KPIs into main and auxiliary and focusing in them on activities that are dependent on the positioner. You cannot limit yourself to only data from one source – each of them has its limitations, so only a comparison gives us a full picture of the situation.