rethinking SEO metrics for business impact

how to tie SEO success to ROI

Rethinking SEO Metrics for Real Business Impact

In the ever-evolving world of digital marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) has always been a critical component of success. But for too long, the gauge by which marketers measure SEO impact has relied heavily on vanity metrics, such as keyword rankings and website traffic.

While these metrics have their place, they often fall short in assessing the full influence of SEO on real business objectives. Let’s dive into these metrics’ limitations and explore how to better align SEO metrics with overarching marketing objectives to attain truly meaningful results.

The Problem with Vanity Metrics

keyword rankings only tell part of the story

A keyword ranking is the position a website holds in organic search results when someone searches for a specific keyword or phrase. Keyword rankings are merely leading indicators of overall performance. They provide a snapshot of how a website fares in search results.

Just as keyword rankings fail to reveal the full picture of overall performance, they also don’t account for user intent. An increase in keyword rankings might draw more visitors, but it doesn’t guarantee these visitors are interested in your content or are likely to convert.

traffic is not always what it seems

Like keyword rankings, website traffic is a common metric used to evaluate SEO performance. However, be wary of focusing on traffic volume alone. While increased traffic might appear to be a positive sign on the surface, it doesn’t tell the whole story without insights into conversions.

Is the right audience visiting your website? Quality matters. If your traffic doesn’t lead to engagement or conversions, you’re wasting effort attracting the wrong audience or underserving your audience with the wrong content.

in defense of vanity metrics: their place in seo

Before you write off vanity metrics as archaic or meritless, I want to caution that they are not entirely without value. Used judiciously, vanity metrics still provide directional insights. An upward trend for priority keywords shows you’re making progress even if you haven’t yet cracked page 1. A sudden ranking decline is a red flag worth investigating.

The key is knowing how to cultivate insights from a broad set of metrics. When used in conjunction with other metrics, vanity metrics can offer a holistic view of SEO performance. A web page that shows an increase in ranking for a priority keyword, for example — along with increased traffic and improved engagement metrics, like lower bounce rate and more pages per session — is an excellent sign of a successful strategy.

Aligning SEO Metrics with Marketing Objectives

When my team and I craft SEO strategies with marketing leaders, we work toward three goals throughout the process:

  1. Ensure harmony with business goals.
    • These are the big-picture goals, like increasing revenue, expanding into new markets, or becoming a leader in your industry. Your SEO efforts should directly contribute to helping the company achieve those broader objectives.
      In doing so, you’ll also find a clear path to analyzing, optimizing, and reporting on your strategic SEO priorities and content creation activities.
  2. Identify clear marketing objectives.
    • While business goals provide direction, marketing goals outline the strategies and tactics to get there. Think: launching a new product line, increasing brand awareness for a specific service, or generating leads.
  3. Tie strategy to supporting SEO metrics.
    • Once you’ve identified your business and marketing objectives, it’s crucial to select the right metrics that align with and directly reflect the outcomes you want to achieve.

For example, this could look like increasing website visitors to a specific set of pages, generating more leads for certain products and monitoring form submissions, or improving brand awareness by focusing on impressions for blog posts. By tying your SEO strategy to these metrics and using the right SEO tools, you can demonstrate real business impact.

Ready to build or optimize an SEO strategy that goes beyond vanity metrics? Connect with me and my team to start a conversation.