Search engine optimization, or SEO for short, is the process of increasing the quantity of traffic to a website from search engines.
Most online businesses rely heavily on traffic from search engines which makes it an important channel for marketing analysts.
Fortunately, it is now easier than ever for marketing analysts to track SEO performance. In this post I'm going to teach you exactly how to track your company's performance on search engines.
Before we can dive into the specifics on how to track SEO it's important I cover the fundamentals.
When you run a search on Google you are essentially sending a request to Google to return a set of results from their database. The list of results is, according to Google, the best results for the given search term.
Thankfully Google records the results of all their searches, and provides us access to the search results relating to the sites we own. This information is available to all website owners for free in the Google Search Console service.
Below is a screenshot of the Google Search Console metrics for this blog for the last three months.
As you can see above Google provides you with 4 key metrics, clicks, impressions, average CTR, and average position.
Impressions is the number of times pages belonging to your website appeared in Google search results.
Think of this metric as views of your website on Google. If you're doing a good job improving your SEO then this number should continue to go up.
Clicks is self explanatory. Impressions are nice but we care about clicks.
Click-through-rate or CTR for short is the ratio between impressions and clicks. In other words, out of every 100 impressions how many clicks do we get?
Google will use CTR as a signal in its ranking algorithm since a higher CTR indicates to Google that the link is more attractive to searches.
The higher you rank, the higher your CTR should be. This is obvious when you take into account that most people click on the top 3 results when running a search on Google.
Position is where your pages rank, on average, in Google.
It's important to understand that this metric is an average across all the search terms for which you rank. You might rank for 100 different search terms so this number will be the average position for those 100 search terms for all the impressions recorded.
I'm going to dive into position in a lot more detail later in this post.
Below are two methods for tracking the change in your SEO performance using Google Search Console.
The quickest method for measuring your SEO performance over time is to use Google Search Console's reports and exporting features.
In the screenshot above I choose to compare the metrics for the last three months. You can see that the number of impressions went up during this period (from 656k to 701k) but the number of clicks actually went down.
Google Search Console also allows you to export your data in CSV, or XLS format, and even straight to a Google Sheet. This makes it easy for you to work on this data in Excel or connect it to Google Data Studio from Google Sheets.
Method #2 is significantly more complex than method #1 but I do want to cover it since this method can be a game changer for some companies, especially agencies providing SEO services.
In a nutshell this method involves moving the data out of Google Search Console and into a database. Once the raw data is accessible, you can do whatever you want with the data using SQL or your favorite data visualization tool.
Stitch is a tool I've mentioned before on this blog and is my preferred tool for moving data out of data silos and into a database of my choice.
Stitch recently added Google Search Console as a supported data source which means you can now use it to automatically extract, transform and load your Google Search Console data into your data warehouse.
Click on the image below to watch a video on how to use the raw event data in Tableau to track SEO performance over time.
If you don't want to use Stitch then an alternative option is Supermetrics which has had a Google Search Console connector for quite a while now.
Most marketing analysts look at organic search traffic in Google Analytics and use that as a measure of the growth of SEO. This method is fine but simplistic.
In this post I covered the Google Search Console service, which is the only reliable tool for tracking SEO performance. Marketing analysts should consider this service as a data silo and ideally move this data into a data warehouse for easy analysis and reporting.
Search impressions, clicks, and keyword position are important SEO metrics and should be included in your list of KPIs. I hope this post has helped you better understand these metrics, and how to track them.