The correct way to measure SEO results

The correct way to measure SEO results

Written by Richard Perrin on 14 Feb 2024

Picture this: you’re at month 4 of your contract with an SEO agency, and the phone still isn’t ringing. Frustrated, you call up your account manager to find out what they’ve been doing with your hard-earned cash. He responds joyfully – “you’re ranking #1 for 10 different keywords, and your organic traffic has tripled since we started… you’re welcome!”

This is the reality for most business owners who engage an SEO agency – the agency’s measure of success is worlds apart from anything that matters, i.e. cash in the bank from customers who found you online.

The challenge is that the easiest measures of success for SEO are the least helpful for a business, and the KPIs you actually care about – revenue and new customers – are surprisingly hard to measure.

There are four main ways to measure SEO results, in order of importance:

  1. Revenue
  2. Leads
  3. Website traffic
  4. Keyword rankings

As we’ll explain, while revenue is probably the most important measure, trying to attribute this accurately can be very hard, unless the purchase is made on the website.

The holy grail: measuring revenue from SEO

One of the most important measures of SEO success is the revenue generated directly from SEO efforts. However, measuring revenue from SEO services can be challenging, especially for service-based businesses where sales often occur offline. 

Measuring revenue from SEO is usually only possible if the sale is done on the website because this is an event you can track in Google Analytics. For example, for an e-commerce business, it would be possible to measure the revenue directly as a result of SEO. In this case, we can attribute the revenue to the session and user in Google Analytics, as well as a vast range of other important information:

  • What marketing channel they came from (email, social media, paid ads, SEO, etc)
  • The page they visited first on the website, the page where the purchase was made
  • how long they spent on the website
  • how many sessions they spent on the website before purchasing
  • what other pages they visited

As you can imagine, this information is extremely useful for marketing, you can determine what channels are providing the best ROI, what pages are converting traffic and generating purchases, and the typical customer journey on your website. Without this, you can only guess based on other information.

However, for service-based businesses or businesses where the sale takes place off the website, it’s very hard to track which website user correlates to which sale, since the action takes place off the website, and it becomes challenging to track unless you have advanced customer relationship management set up and the tracking is done very well.

Therefore, the best way to measure results for most non-e-commerce businesses is by measuring leads, which involves tracking the number of people who contact the business through a contact form or by calling them. Measuring the number of leads is usually proportional to how well the SEO is doing, as it will correlate with the revenue the business is making indirectly.

Can’t we just ask customers where they found us?

While it is possible to ask customers where they found a business, it may not be reliable since not everyone easily remembers or is aware of how they came across the business. It can also be difficult to track and analyse data from a simple question like that, especially if the business gets a lot of leads. 

Even if a customer can correctly identify which marketing channel they found your business from, they may not be able to distinguish between paid and organic media.

Let’s use Google as an example. Google SERP results consist of paid, local and organic results. If you’re a search engine marketer, you’ll understand the difference between the three, but if you’re not, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to identify (or care) whether you clicked on an ad or a Google business profile to reach the business.

Paid results, Local Search and Organic Results concept illustration. SEO optimization for SERP - search engine results pages concept vector illustration. Paid, Text-based ads and organic search result

Why does that matter? Well if you’re paying for Google ads AND doing SEO, it’s important to know which channel is generating which leads, so you can determine your marketing ROI. If you’re doing both, but not getting any leads through SEO, then clearly something is wrong, vice-versa for Google ads. However, if you can’t accurately track leads, you’ll never know if one of the two is not working effectively.

To get a more accurate measure of how many leads are coming from SEO, it’s best to use contact forms, call tracking software, or appointment booking systems on the website. These methods allow you to track and analyse data on the number of people who are contacting the business as a result of SEO, as well as the pages they’re visiting and the keywords they’re searching for.

Common metrics for measuring SEO Results

To overcome the challenge of measuring revenue, marketers rely on other metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of their SEO strategies. The three primary metrics used to measure SEO results are: 

  • Keyword rankings
  • Website traffic
  • Leads

Keyword Rankings

Keyword rankings can be used to measure SEO results by tracking the position of a business’s primary keywords in Google search results. 

Initially, a business might not be ranking at all in Google for its keywords. Then over time, as a result of good SEO, the business website might start to rank. Suppose a business started on page three in position 24 for a particular keyword. In that case, it can show progress over time by looking at how they’re ranking for those keywords, and the goal is to get them to position number one. 

However, it’s important to note that ranking isn’t the best way to measure the performance of SEO since ranking doesn’t necessarily indicate the number of people who are searching for that specific keyword or the intent of the traffic. 

For example, there could be low-value keywords that no one is searching for, and ranking at number one for those keywords won’t make much difference. 

Hence, ranking, while significant, isn’t the best way to measure the performance of SEO and requires an experienced SEO professional who understands the business’s goals and target audience to determine which keywords are actually worth ranking for.

Website Traffic

Website traffic can be used to measure SEO results by tracking the number of people who are visiting a website as a result of SEO. 

Generally, website traffic is only valuable if it’s from sources or keywords related to what a business is trying to sell. For instance, if a plumbing business’s primary keyword is “plumber Sutherland Shire”, and they’re getting a lot of people coming to their site looking for plumbing services in Sutherland Shire, then that’s good website traffic, and the more they get, the better their SEO is doing. 

However, if a business gets a lot of people looking for cat photos that come to their website and they’re a plumbing business, it doesn’t matter how much traffic they get; it’s unlikely to result in more sales or leads. 

Hence, website traffic is only as valuable as the intent of the traffic. Businesses need to look at what pages the traffic is going to, what keywords it’s coming from, and determine whether they’re getting the right traffic. Also, analyzing website traffic patterns and user behaviour can help businesses determine where they need to improve their website to increase sales or leads. 

Although website traffic is a good way to measure SEO results, it’s not the best way since traffic can be irrelevant and not lead to conversions. Therefore, measuring leads is the way to go since it’s more closely correlated to the number of customers a business is likely to get and is a more reliable way to measure SEO results.

Leads

Leads can be used to measure SEO results since they usually correlate to the number of customers a business is likely to get. 

Measuring leads for a service-based business involves tracking how many people are contacting a business through contact forms or by calling them. It’s possible to track enquiry sources like contact forms and calls through call-tracking software. 

By measuring the number of leads a business gets, it becomes possible to determine how well the SEO is performing. Assuming the leads are for the services a business wants to offer, more leads will usually result in more sales, and this can be directly proportional to how well the SEO is doing. 

Measuring leads is more reliable in predicting the return on investment that businesses get from SEO than measuring website traffic or rankings. However, it’s essential to ensure lead relevance by providing accurate information on the business website. 

If a business is getting irrelevant leads, it’s unlikely to generate more sales or leads, even if it gets a lot of leads. Conversely, even if a business is getting a slight increase in traffic, it can generate more leads if they’re gaining high-value traffic and gaining search engine rankings. 

Therefore, lead measurement is a better way to measure SEO results since it’s more closely proportional to getting more sales than website traffic and rankings.

Other factors that affect SEO Results

Several factors can affect SEO results. The first one is how old the site is. Google has a slow process of determining where a website should rank in search results. The age of a website is an important consideration because the longer a website has been around, the more time it has had to establish content and earn backlinks from other sites. In addition, it could take weeks or even months for Google just to index a website due to the exponentially increasing amount of content online. 

The level of competition in your niche or industry also affects the difficulty in ranking your website or Google Business profile in search engines. The more businesses that provide similar services or products with an online presence in your industry, the more challenging it becomes to rank and stand out from the others.

Google Business Profile Rankings

A Google Business Profile can be advantageous for businesses because it presents essential information directly on the search engine results page (SERP), such as the business’s name, address, phone number, and directions. A Google Business Profile also provides ratings, reviews, and photos, which can significantly impact consumer behaviour and influence their decision about engaging with a business.

Google Business profile rankings work differently than website rankings in search engines. Google Business Profile uses the Google Maps algorithm, and its rankings are tied to proximity, reviews, and relevance of the business’s information. 

The premise of the Google Business profile is very location-dependent. The closer you are to your business premises, the higher your profile will rank geographically. However, your business profile ranking will decrease as you move away from your business premises, and someone searches for information related to your business. Therefore, the ranking of Google Business profiles changes from place to place and is different for every possible location on the planet. 

To measure the ranking of your Google Business profile, SEO professionals use a grid and measure where your business profile is ranking at one-kilometre intervals along that grid. They measure a hundred different points and measure where your business profile is ranking in the surrounding area of your business for a particular keyword. 

Measuring the visibility of the business profile is equally important. SEO professionals can use Google Search Console to measure the visibility of your business profile, as well as other measurement tools to determine what people are searching for when they find your Business profile. 

The goal for businesses is to increase their Google Business profile visibility by optimizing their profile with accurate and relevant information, adding photos, and gathering reviews from satisfied customers. When businesses are ranked in the top three Google Maps results for a search query, their Business profile is shown above other websites in search engine results, which can drive more leads and conversions.

Website Rankings vs. Google Business Profile Rankings

Website rankings are mainly concerned with how a website ranks for specific keywords in search engine results. Google Business profile rankings are based on the ranking of a profile in Google Maps results. 

The Google Business Profile ranking is based on a different algorithm than a website and can be geographically restricted. A business that optimises its Google Business profile can get faster results than a website because it can improve its geographical coverage more quickly for a given area. 

Since there are fewer businesses listed in a Google business profile section than websites for a specific local keyword, it can be less competitive. As a result, it can be easier to achieve higher rankings on Google’s local Pack or Maps section.

However, websites can often generate more traffic than a Google Business Profile. When a website is ranked higher, it is shown at the top positions in Google search results for relevant keywords, which means more people will click on the website and visit it. On the other hand, a Google Business Profile’s visibility is limited to a specific geographical area. 

Even if the business profile is optimised to rank high within its area, it may not have the broad reach of a website that can target a larger population by ranking for multiple keywords and locations.

How we measure SEO Results at Paramark

At Paramark, we believe that measuring leads is the most reliable way to gauge the effectiveness of your SEO efforts. A lead is any action that a user takes that indicates interest in your business, such as submitting a contact form, calling you, or booking an appointment. These are valuable actions because they are solid indicators that a user is interested in your services and may potentially become a customer.

Measuring leads is a great way to see how your SEO is driving business growth over time, as the more leads your SEO attracts, the more likely you are to make sales. We use tracking tools to monitor the number of leads generated by both your website and your Google Business profile.

When it comes to non-e-commerce businesses, such as service-based or offline businesses, measuring revenue can be tricky. That’s why we use leads as a key performance indicator (KPI) of SEO success. By tracking leads, we can determine which keywords are driving the most relevant traffic to your website or business, and optimize your SEO efforts accordingly.

To see how we’ve helped businesses get more leads and revenue, look at some of our results

Richard is the founder of Paramark. With over 15 years of website design experience and a passion for Search Engine Optimisation, he enjoys explaining complex marketing strategies in simple terms.

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