Strategic SEO: key figures with a system

If you want efficient and successful SEO today , you need a well thought-out system with the right KPIs. The most important adjustment screws and the most insidious pitfalls at a glance.

Just a few years ago, every experienced search engine optimizer could see very quickly how a top ranking came about: The links, the page content and the structure of a website were the classic parameters. Many Google updates later, user behavior in particular plays a decisive role: Which search results do users click on? How long do you stay on the website you clicked on? What website name are you looking for? There are also other data pools that Google can use in addition to the normal search. Google’s name server, for example, answers around 400 billion requests every day. However, the data that have a significant impact on the SEO success of a website must also be reflected in the key figure system.

First the goals, then the KPI

Simply adding further measured values ​​to the existing reporting is not a solution. Before SEO managers can set up a KPI system, they should first clarify which goals the website is pursuing. Because without goals, there are also no key performance indicators (KPI) that measure how far a company has come closer to its strategic goal. Online shops and – with some reservations – affiliate sites can, for example, assign their income directly to the respective channels. Online sales are a good KPI for these websites. Consultation-intensive and high-priced products are seldom sold online. People who spend six-figure amounts on specialized machines also expect service and individual advice. The website is at most the first point of contact and the deal only takes place after many further contacts. In such cases, the goal can be to generate qualified leads. However, since a high-rise crane is far more expensive than a bulk container, companies can weight their leads according to sales potential and thus better reflect the presumed success. Ultimately, it is also about finding the right properties and thus recognizing which touchpoint in the sales process can be attributed which share of success. A sophisticated CRM and call tracking can help to pinpoint the assignment. However, the effort quickly increases considerably. However, since a high-rise crane is far more expensive than a bulk container, companies can weight their leads according to sales potential and thus better reflect the presumed success. Ultimately, it is also about finding the right properties and thus recognizing which touchpoint in the sales process can be attributed which share of success. A sophisticated CRM and call tracking can help to pinpoint the assignment. However, the effort quickly increases considerably. However, since a high-rise crane is far more expensive than a bulk container, companies can weight their leads according to sales potential and thus better reflect the presumed success. Ultimately, it is also about finding the right properties and thus recognizing which touchpoint in the sales process can be attributed which share of success. A sophisticated CRM and call tracking can help to pinpoint the assignment. However, the effort quickly increases considerably. A sophisticated CRM and call tracking can help to pinpoint the assignment. However, the effort quickly increases considerably. A sophisticated CRM and call tracking can help to pinpoint the assignment. However, the effort quickly increases considerably.

The table on the next page shows possible goals and the associated KPIs for some typical types of websites. In practice there are usually several goals and therefore several KPIs for a website. Ultimately, increasing the number of newsletter registrations can also be a worthwhile goal for a shop operator.

It should be noted that even supposedly simple KPIs are much more complex in practice than it appears at first glance. For example, if a shop wants to increase its profit, the turnover achieved is only a good KPI if the percentage margin is the same for all products and the return rates are similar. If you want to know exactly, you would have to collect the actual contribution margin of all sales. Similar difficulties arise with other supposed KPIs: For websites that generate their sales through pay-per-view advertisements, the page views are a good indicator as a first approximation. However, if advertising prices vary considerably between desktop and mobile or individual areas of the website can achieve different CPM prices, it is again necessary to collect the data more precisely.

An SEO key figure system must therefore, on the one hand, map the contribution that SEO visitors make to achieving the strategic goals. On the other hand, it must provide the SEO team with starting points for further optimization measures. The KPIs are rather unsuitable for this. Because a KPI only shows how good the optimization was yesterday. But it doesn’t show what a search engine optimizer has to do today in order to get closer to tomorrow’s goals. This is why further key figures that are closer to the action must complement the strategic KPIs in day-to-day business.

The system proposed below is to be understood as a template. SEO managers should adapt it for the respective purpose.

SEO key figures and the appropriate measures

identification numberExplanation and measures
SEO KPIMeasures SEO success, but is subject to fluctuations in demand, which must be taken into account when making comparisons.
visibilityThe only SEO metric that is also available for competitors and has no seasonality.
Since the underlying keywords are general, there is no reference to their own business model.
The central use case is the analysis of Google updates.
Linking DomainsIf this number falls, more links disappear than new links are set. It is also important to
compare the competition: If competitors have orders of magnitude more links, it is still difficult
to achieve similarly good placements across the board.
Referral trafficA decrease shows that the existing links bring fewer visitors to the page, which
speaks for a declining quality of the links.
Pages with SEO trafficA growing proportion of pages on which SEO visitors land shows that the pages meet a search requirement
and therefore have a right to exist. If this percentage drops, useless pages are created or there are
technical problems.
Brand searchesA decrease in brand searches shows a decrease in demand and probably also in brand awareness.
This will have a negative long-term impact on SEO success and should impact the company’s overall marketing.
CTR (Google)If the CTR rates deteriorate (with the same placement) in the Google search results, this indicates that your own snippets apparently do not meet the expectations of the users.
Engagement KPIIf the percentage of visitors who are satisfied with the website due to their behavior decreases, the reasons must be determined
and the pages must be changed so that they again offer a better result for the users.

SEO success

The SEO portion of the KPIs defined at the beginning such as page views, sales or newsletter registrations is probably the most important key figure. It helps an optimizer to recognize and prove the success of his work. This provides an SEO KPI that is directly related to the company’s goals. Depending on the brand awareness, it can be useful to subtract the SEO visitors who came from the homepage. Because these are often users who have searched for the brand name – and such brand searches say little about SEO success.

Providers of visibility values ​​are helpful for long-term observation and, above all, for comparison with the competition. These aggregate the rankings achieved for a large number of keywords and thus condense the SEO status to a single key figure. However, since these tools add up all the rankings achieved, a distorted or even wrong picture is often created. A separate visibility value, which is limited to selected keywords that are important for the goals, is therefore usually much more meaningful and can be created by many providers.

Linking

The different tool providers provide different metrics for the linking. The number of linked domains is a good approximation and can be found free of charge for your own domains in the Google Search Console.

In addition to the sheer quantity of links, quality is also important to Google. Good links are characterized, among other things, by the fact that users click them. This is why referral traffic is a good metric for the quality of backlinks.

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