The importance of search engine optimization, or SEO, is well established. What is less understood is the importance of SEO benchmarks for your website’s current SEO performance so that you can compare the improvement over time. Benchmarking SEO performance is something I personally do with every project I work on, and I believe it is fundamental to the success of any project. Perhaps the most obvious reason to check in on SEO benchmark for your current performance is so that you can see exactly where you stand at the present time, and can track how and if you are improving month-to-month. Benchmarking also provides crucial information about which SEO strategies and campaigns are working, and which are ineffective. For example, if you find that 20 percent of your website’s pages are generating the majority of your traffic, you can focus on the specific elements that make that 20 percent successful, while changing or removing the content that is counterproductive or simply inefficient.
Top 6 KPIs to note for SEO benchmarks before you begin
In order to successfully track and benchmark your SEO information, it is imperative that you know which specific metrics and elements to track. The following are some of the most important areas to benchmark:
1. Number of Pages in Google
One of the most important metrics to track is the total number of pages that Google has indexed from your website. This is also one of the easiest. As you create new content for your website, one of the most basic roles of SEO is ensuring that the pages are indexed by Google and other search engines. Poorly written or duplicate Web pages might take longer to get indexed, if they ever are at all. However, sometimes the coding of the website itself can be the cause of the problem and checking Google’s index of your website is an easy way to see if there are any such problems. Checking Google’s index couldn’t be easier. All you have to do is enter “site:yourwebsitename.com” into the Google search bar, and Google will provide you with every single page on your domain name that it has indexed.
Why should you benchmark the number of pages in Google?
Knowledge about how many pages are indexed by Google and what those pages look like in Google’s search results is a great way to get a sense of how your website looks overall. I did this quick search below for Gap.com; notice the following results:
We made this easier inside the BrightEdge platform. All you’ve got to do is navigate to Reports > Site, Then, check out the “coverage” report:
2. Landing Pages
Landing pages are the pages through which visitors entered your site. Landing pages are often used to drive traffic to your website.
Why Landing Pages?
For SEO, the more information you have, the better off you are. Landing pages allow you to see how much traffic is increasing based on the specific topics of each respective landing page, as well as how much each landing page converts to traffic and/or sales on your primary website. In addition, being able to show new landing pages being indexed on Google is a great metric to track. The snapshot below from Google Analytics shows 258 landing pages getting traffic from organic search. The number of these landing pages getting traffic should ideally improve as you create new pages that are SEO optimized. Go to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages to find out your total number of landing pages inside Google Analytics:
3. Number of Keywords
Sometimes it feels as though there is a never-ending battle between Google’s keyword search crawlers and SEO content creators. Often, SEO content creators that have misaligned intentions go for quantity over quality in their content; however, Google wants their search results to be as accurate as possible while serving up the highest quality content. As a website manager and/or SEO content creator, part of the solution to this battle is to simply create high-quality and useful content which searchers can find and use. However, this is only part of the equation. Like it or not, keywords are and will continue to be an integral part of SEO. The key is to combine high-quality content with intelligently generated keywords. Use Google Webmaster Tools to find out exactly how many keywords your website is currently ranking in the top 20 for, and how the branded vs. non-branded mix looks. Note that this is only to find out the total number of keywords present In the top 20, and not the search volume each keyword is providing. The idea is to increase the total number of keywords in the top 20. Traffic will automatically increase as these keywords start improving their positions. BrightEdge’s S3 platform is even better with Google Webmaster Tools integration, and can help you get the data you need. Navigate to Analysis > SEO Performance and then select “Google Webmaster Tools” as data source to view this report inside the BrightEdge platform.
It is important to note SEO benchmarks the total number of keywords that are driving traffic to your website. Hopefully, both of these numbers are increasing over time. If they are remaining flat, or worse, declining, that is a telltale sign that your SEO strategy is failing and must be revamped as quickly as possible. Understanding which keywords are performing best for you can help give you a sense of what type of information your visitors care about, and can help drive the direction of future content and landing pages.
4. Backlink Profile
One of the most important benchmarks for SEO is “link authority,” otherwise known as the number of reputable websites linking to your website. Even with all of the changes made to Google search algorithms over the years, this metric has remained a powerful indicator and metric for SEO success. Of course, it wouldn’t be practical to check every website specific to your industry for references or links to your website. Fortunately, there are a number of services available that can do this for you. Services like Majestic are a great way to find out how much clout your content has, and whether this number is increasing or decreasing over time. When done properly, high-quality and relevant content from your website will snowball over time. More links from your website shared in an increasing number of places will result in more eyeballs and clicks, which in turn leads to more links in more places. Link-building -- good quality link earning when successful -- can get your website to the very top of competitive keyword searches, which can quickly cause exponential growth in your website’s traffic. Track this information closely, and do everything you can to drive the sharing of links to your website. Conversely, links on websites known for SEO gimmicks, or links to your website that appears spammy can actually hurt your website’s search rankings. Make sure you only link your website legitimately, or your website’s traffic will quickly suffer at Google’s hands. Also remember to note SEO benchmarks for your competitor’s backlinks. If they are getting linked in places you think you should be linked, figure out why and do something to get those links! This report from Majestic SEO shows the important KPIs like Trust Flow, Citation Flow, total external backlinks, and referring domains you’ll want to benchmark and compare in the future:
For an in-depth look at how to build backlinks using tools like Majestic and Rosetta, check out our research report on best practices for white hat backlink building.
5. Organic and Referral Visits
After you have installed GA on your website, you will know exactly how many visitors you have and from what sources. Ideally, organic traffic will grow gradually over time, while referrals will typically cause sporadic “bursts” in traffic, particularly if the referral is in a time-sensitive news article.
6. Social Media
Social media is increasingly important for good SEO. Google wants to see that individuals are sharing your content. It makes sense, as this is a pretty strong indicator of quality content. One easy way to track your social media presence is to use Pages reports in BrightEdge, which can help you figure out exactly how shared your content is across social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. You can also compare the performance weekly. In BrightEdge, you can navigate to Reports > Pages, and select the columns to view the social media numbers.
As you put in more effort into your SEO and social media, you should see improved numbers for those pages. Remember that the return is completely variable, and is based on the current condition of site as well as the amount of effort you put in to your SEO. It’s also interesting to see how improved social sharing affects keyword rankings and overall website authority. For a more detailed look at this dynamic, read our exclusive research report on optimizing Facebook for SEO performance. What are your thoughts on benchmarking these metrics for tracking SEO performance? I want to hear your thoughts, so be sure to comment below.