SEO Performance: The 15 SEO KPIs You Need to Measure Success

SEO Performance: The 15 SEO KPIs You Need to Measure Success

It’s one thing to have a lot of great things to say, and another to have people read it. That’s because, without SEO, your site will never rank high enough to get traffic from search engines. In fact, many websites with great content and lots of links end up ranking poorly because they lack proper SEO. The problem is, that there are many web owners who still don’t have any clue what a good SEO performance is.

To ensure you’re optimizing your site properly, you need to measure its performance using key performance indicators (KPIs). These KPIs help you understand how well your site is performing and where it needs improvement.

Google uses more than 200 ranking factors in its algorithm. In this post, we’ll focus on 15 of the most important KPIs you should track regularly to determine whether your site is optimized properly. At the same time, you’ll see some opportunities for improvement.

How Do You Measure SEO?

How Do You Measure SEO?

Of course, SEO performance is more than just a set of metrics. Instead, it’s a mixture of numbers and real-world results that indicate how easily people can find your content in the SERPs, and which keywords they use to find it. To measure SEO, you must first start with the end in mind by understanding what the client needs. For instance, as a marketer, I consider that people come to me because they want a complete marketing solution to grow their business.

Next, set one specific primary end goal and make it SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). In other words, you don’t want something that’s ambiguous because it’s hard to determine the extent to which you have achieved that goal in the future.

Here’s an example: Many people come to me because I’m an expert on influencer marketing, and they want to make it work for their business. So, if I am working with a children’s clothing company I might set an end goal of “Increase brand awareness among young mothers with small children by 20% over three months.” Here, I’ll hire a mommy blogger to talk about how those pants come clean more easily than what she’s used to.

In this article, we’ll talk about how to track these metrics, including some common methods and tools to use. This way, you can easily learn to improve your site’s SEO performance and, as a result, increase your traffic.

The 15 KPIs to Measure SEO Performance

They are important because they provide insight into your website’s overall SEO performance. Each KPI measures different aspects of your website’s performance and gives us an indication of how we can improve that performance. For example, you might find that your backlinks aren’t effective or that the keywords you’ve chosen are too competitive. Either way, the information behind these KPIs is invaluable.

1. Total SERP Impressions

This KPI measures how many people see your website in the search results. It doesn’t matter whether people click through or not, in this case, so long as they show up. Keep in mind, that because most people don’t go down farther than the first page of results your total impressions will probably be low until you reach the first page. If you’re in a competitive industry or use competitive keywords, then there’s a high chance you’ll struggle in this area until you’ve done quite a bit of work.

You can find this KPI in your Google Search Console where you see Total Impressions. According to Google, they only report an impression once per visitor in most cases, which means you get a relatively good view of how many people find your website.

2. Keyword Quantity

Keyword Quantity

Keyword quantity measures how many keywords are showing up in the top 100 results, which is a good basic measure of overall performance (the more the better).

Unfortunately, this SEO performance metric isn’t available in Google site metrics. However, SEO tools like SEMrush will provide you with this data. Besides the raw numbers, more complete SEO tools will give you competitor information and

3. Keyword Ranking

Remember, the goal of SEO is to get as close to the top of SERP for keywords related to your business. Part of an adequate SEO strategy is choosing the most relevant keywords that you can reasonably compete with. Using the Keyword Ranking KPI, you can compare your keyword rankings with your competitors (and then try to beat them).

Keyword ranking tools like SEMrush can help you easily aggregate and understand this information, such as finding strengths and weaknesses in your overall strategy. Then, you can use that information to improve your site’s SEO performance in different ways.

You can also use the Google Search Console “Average Position” metric if you don’t have access to a paid SEO tool. While you don’t get as much information this way, you can still track overall trends because your position will move up and down over time.

Further Reading: The 15 Best Rank Tracker Tools to Rock Your SEO in 2022

4. Total SERP Clicks

How many clicks did you get from all of your search results? The answer will tell you how often someone finds your site relevant enough to click through the SERP link. Generally speaking, you’ll not only need to rank well on the SERP page, but you’ll want your page to look compelling from the page. You can achieve the second with a well-crafted meta description or snippet.

This data can be easily found in Google Search Console, so it’s free information. Use this number to see how much traffic you’re getting from the search engines.

5. Click Through Rate

Your keywords are being displayed in Google search results, but how many people are clicking through to visit your website? That is what these measures, and it’s calculated based on impressions and total clicks. Therefore, you can get an idea of how often people who see your website think it contains relevant information.

You can find it in your Google Search Console where you see Average CTR. This average number is taken from all the pages on your site. Remember, the higher your CTR, the better your SEO performance is.

6. Organic Traffic

Organic Traffic

Organic search engine traffic is the number of visitors who arrive at your website via an online search engine. This SEO performance metric excludes traffic from paid search, and it also excludes referral links from places other than the search engines. For this reason, organic traffic is one of the main factors that determine the success or failure of your SEO strategy.

How does this work? The more impressions, the higher rankings, increased clicks, and the higher CTR you get, the more organic traffic you’ll generate from search results. Not only can you use this information to fine-tune your SEO strategy, but you can also compare it with other referral sources to determine the overall effectiveness of search engine marketing and other efforts.

Further Reading: 13 Content Marketing Tips to Generate Traffic

7. Page Views per Session

Pageviews per session is the total number of pages viewed by a unique visitor each time they visit. A higher page view count indicates that people are staying on your website longer once they arrive. Site owners can achieve a high score in this area by producing engaging content that encourages people to read more before they leave. On average, people view two pages per session. More than two, and your site is very effective. Fewer, and you should look at your strategy to try and achieve better SEO performance.

8. Average Session Duration

Average Session Duration

Average session duration is the average amount of time users spent on your site in one session. Remember, a session is an individual site visit, so if you type in and press enter, it’s a new session unless you already had another tab open to my site. You can get a higher or lower score based on how long the person reads a single site page, or many so long as they’re still on your site.

How does this metric equate to SEO performance? A higher average session duration means that people are staying on your site for a longer period of time. Likewise, a lower number means that people are spending less time on your site. While there are exceptions, a high number tells you that your SEO strategy is getting you the right visitors, while a lower one means you may be falling short of the mark.

9. Conversion Rate

Your conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who complete a desired action such as signing up for a newsletter or purchasing a product. A higher conversion rate means that more people are completing the desired actions, relative to how many people visit.

Ideally, you want a high conversion rate. However, you also want to ensure that your chosen “conversion” is relevant to your overall marketing goals. For instance, if you’re an e-commerce site then a purchase is usually the action you want. On the other hand, a nonprofit is more likely to look for newsletter sign-ups because contributions will usually come later.

How does this KPI matter to SEO performance? Perhaps the biggest way is that you know your SEO campaign is bringing in the right audiences. If you have a bad conversion rate, it can mean that you don’t have the right visitors, or that your content isn’t telling your brand story. Either way, it’s time to adjust your strategy.

Further Reading: Email Marketing Conversion Rate: What It Is and 10 Ways to Improve It

10. Bounce Rate

A site’s bounce rate is the percentage of people who visit your site but don’t do anything besides read it. In other words, they don’t buy something, sign up for a newsletter, or visit more than one page. It’s essentially the opposite of your conversion rate because few people convert after reading only one page.

While bounce rate doesn’t directly affect your SEO, other factors that drive bounce rates higher do. For instance, if your webpage loads slowly, people are less likely to stay on your site. This problem affects SEO performance directly, as Google gives the best places to sites that are well-managed. Therefore, if you have a high bounce rate it tells you that there are things about your site that need improvement. It can be as simple as speeding up your site by rearranging plugins, or something more complex like poor-quality content.

11. Returning vs New Users

The returning vs new users statistic gives you a breakdown of the number of visitors who are new, versus the ones who have been there before. Your analytics can pick this up through IP address tracking, cookies, or both, and you can find the information in your site analytics or SEO tool.

Most people think of SEO performance in terms of getting new visitors since you need to get people to visit your site for the first time before they’ll convert. And similarly, having plenty of new visitors demonstrates that your efforts to get those visitors are working well. Those efforts can include organic SEO, paid search, social media, and more.

However, it’s harder to get more returning users. Plenty of people will check out your site because they’re curious, or because they need one piece of information. However, to increase your returning user numbers, you need to give people a reason to come back. For e-commerce, that’s often a great product lineup. Other sites like blogs need engaging content. In addition, all site types can benefit from email marketing or follow-up in other forms, so you should always try and get people to opt-in.  

12. Page Speed

Simply put, page speed is the time needed to load a full page. In most cases, it should be a few seconds or less, because the longer loading takes, the less likely someone is to stay and view your content. Then, you have a problem with the conversion. You can find this number in Google Search Console and other analytics tools. The lower the number the better.

Historically, there’s been some debate on the extent to which page speed affects your SEO performance. However, experts say that it does affect the algorithm-though not too much. Google tries to serve readable, user-friendly sites in addition to the ones that are most relevant. Therefore, you want a balance between relevance and user experience. Luckily, user experience is something that’s easy to regulate with some simple site maintenance tasks.

13. Content Quality

Quality content tends to do better for SEO because it boosts traffic to your site and signals to Google that your content is relevant. Therefore, combined with quality keyword optimization, content quality is a powerful tool.

Unfortunately, content quality is difficult to measure with numbers. After all, “quality” isn’t a qualitative measurement and it can be a bit subjective. However, good content should be well structured, easy to understand, and relevant to the search query. You’ll also get signals on overall content quality through engagement and as people give backlinks or share the content with their friends.

Further Reading: What is SEO Content Writing? 27 Tips to Help You Adapt Your Writing Style to Better Rank

14. Website Domain Authority Over Time

Website Domain Authority Over Time

One of the biggest drivers of SEO performance is domain authority. In a nutshell, domain authority is a measure of how often Google gives a page on your site a high ranking, and it ranges from 0-100. A 100 DA means that you’re doing great with SEO overall. Typically, you’ll get a higher domain authority when a lot of people link to your website because that’s one of Google’s criteria when deciding which sites deserve that first-page position.

As a measure of success, domain authority should rise over time. It’s easy to check your website DA using a DA checker. However, you can also get a sense of how high it is by how many pages on your site have a high SERP ranking. There’s an old saying: the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. SERPs are no exception.

Finally, the number of organic backlinks that you gain over time is also an indication of a successful SEO campaign. Simply put, organic backlinks are the ones that result from people reading your material and linking back to it, without your incentivizing them to do so. For example, a citation is an organic backlink, but an affiliate link isn’t. Generally speaking, you get organic backlinks because the site owner believes your page has something of value to their readers, or because they borrowed your ideas.

It’s well known that organic backlinks are a major factor in SERP rankings, especially for Google. One reason for this is that they are a good mark of relevance, and Google wants to send people to the most relevant pages for each keyword.

Find this KPI using a backlink checker tool. Because of its importance to SEO performance, you can find a checker in most SEO tools, at least if they’re complete.

Further Reading: Backlink Building Hacks & Secrets Revealed: How We Got 12,000 Backlinks in One Year


In conclusion, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of managing your website, but it’s important to keep track of your overall progress. There are several key metrics that you need to monitor regularly, including traffic, conversions, and rankings. These numbers provide a clear picture of where your site stands compared to its competitors, which helps you plan future improvements and determine whether or not you’re heading in the right direction. What do you think? Which KPI is the most important based on your experience? Share your thoughts in the comment below.

Hero Photo by Myriam Jessier on Unsplash

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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