Post from SMX: What SEO Performance Metrics are Truly Important?

By Casey Davenport | Oct 3, 2012
More Articles by Casey


With location, social networks, and search history playing a larger role in search rankings, it is becoming more difficult to use unpersonalized SERP rankings as a metric of SEO success. At the first session of the day on Tuesday, Rob Bucci and Ryan Jones presented some interesting ideas about how to effectively measure SEO performance.

Rob Bucci, Founder of STAT SEO Analytics

The key point in Rob Bucci’s presentation was that while localization exists, rankings are NOT dead! Combating localization is about scale and segmentation.  Bucci urged the audience to stop focusing on indivudal keywords and build holistic performance metrics at a granular level.

We all know that searches queries signal searcher intent.  We can measure our SEO success by making keyword buckets according to that search intent (research, ready to purchase, unhappy customer, etc). The following are some things Bucci says you can keyword bucket success by:

  • Rank distribution – where on the SERP are rankings located?
  • Page Coverage – the percent of the first page that is owned by you
  • Top competitors competing for first page rank
  • Segment by geographic location – what is visibility within specific cities

Ryan Jones, Manager of SEO Analytics, Sapient Nitro

Ryan Jones brought up a question he asks job candidates, “how do you measure your SEO recommendations?”

The answer he says, is that it depends. It depends on your goal.  Is your goal sales? conversions? leads? Ryan said good analytics measure what makes sense, as opposed to everything thats measurable (video views, twitter followers, visits, etc).  One of the defining moments of the presentation for me was the portion where he shared how he responds to employee recommendations for one of his SEO clients that is a car manufacturer – “how many cars is that going to sell?”.

Ryan outlined the difference between reporting and analytics, by stating that reporting shows what the number is, while analytics tell why and what we should do about it.  He used a football example to illustrate his point.

Reporting: Down: 4 Ball Location: 36 line

Actionable Analysis: Its 4th and inches from the 36.  Our RB is averaging 2.3 YPC and our kickers range is 42 yards.

While I haven’t the slightest idea what those crazy football words mean, Jones raises a great point about the difference between reporting and analysis. Actionable analysis creates information that can be used to make a decision.

Other Key Takeaways from Jones presentation:

  • Use your goals to create actionable KPIs that measure success.
  • Correlation does not mean causation. Optimizing for one factor may change the correlation
  • Don’t just look at keywords, look at upper and lower funnel actions. Measure keyword success by putting them into buckets by user intent.
  • As we are getting less and less keyword data from analytics platforms, it is important to get to know webmaster tools NOW. You can use webmaster tools to calculate CTR and test Title tags.

For more blog posts from SMX New York follow the SearchMojo team on Twitter @CaseyDavenport , @DavidsonJL , and @ArielleMcWinney.

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