Tracking Results and Measuring Success

What SEO practitioners do is not clear to most people. As such, it is important for you to establish quantifiable goals and to demonstrate results. You need to manage expectations and communicate effectively to make sure your SEO project is a success.

The Tracking Cycle: Produce, Launch, Measure, Refine

  1. Define an SEO campaign and set goals.
    What are you going to accomplish? What is your strategy to accomplish it? How will you measure progress?
  2. Discuss your strategy.
    Base your overall SEO objectives on the business and site objectives, both long and short-term.
  3. Establish a baseline.
    Records the current stats prior to beginning work. Make sure you don’t get a false baseline due to seasonal factors or some other unusual event.
  4. Process with the project.
    Implement the site changes, the link-building campaign, or whatever you have planned.
  5. Collect data.
    Make sure you wait long enough for your efforts to have an impact: this can take months in some cases.
  6. Compare the baseline data with the new data.
    The new data has little meaning without comparing it to your baseline. This is when you can really assess your progress.
  7. Refine your campaign.
    Now you can make some decisions. Is the campaign working? If so, abandon it and move on to the next. Fail quickly, as it were. You may also find you are getting mediocre results. Examining the data may give you some ideas how you can improve the results. If you are getting great results, look for ways to scale the effort and drive even more traffic to your site.

Using Analytics as a Business Case for SEO

You can use a properly structured plan as the business case for an SEO project. The way to do this is to express the target results of an SEP project in terms of financial impact. You could include a variety of measures in a business case:

  • Revenue
  • Lead Generation
  • Branding value
  • Reach
  • Other action triggers (newsletter sign-ups, contact requests, etc.)


Traffic by Search Engine: Notice the breakout of traffic by search engine.

Traffic by Keyword: What search terms are bringing traffic to the website? This gives you a quick way to see whether your SEO campaign is going well. Be sure to look where you rank for that term on the SERPs. If you are ranking lower on the first page or on the second page, you may want to focus some attention on this term. With a little effort, like a focused link-building campaign for the page in question, you may be able to move up several positions and achieve a traffic boost. A traffic-by-keyword report can also show you the long tail of search as it relates to your current site.

Segmenting Search Traffic with Multiple Parameters: Next, put these things together. That way you can pinpoint what search term is working on which search engine. This is the sort of segmentation you need to be able to create amazingly detailed reports.

Referring Sites: One of the more interesting SEO reasons to look at a referring site report is to spot when you receive new links. It can help you to detect new links that result your link-building campaigns and therefore help you measure which of your link-building campaigns are working.

Action Tracking: Action tracking is one step deeper than basic analytics. Rather than just seeing what pages are visited and how many unique sessions are logged, action tracking allows you narrow down groups of visitors based on the actions they took on your site. In most instances, you have to set up some special code in your analytics suite and attach it to a particular button, page load, image rollover or other Javascript-trackable task ( a click or a hover). Once you have plugged it into your analytics and the website, you can use the action to refine data you’re already collecting. For SEO professionals, action tracking is a cannot-live-without-it tool.


One of the problems with analytics is that there is just so much data. There is so much you risk getting lost in the weeds and wasting a lot of time. In order to avoid this, have a plan. First, you must define actionable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Do not view a report unless there is a chance it will provide enough insight to take action.

Common Analytics Mistakes:

  • Making a decision on too small a sample size: Be sure to have a test run for a length of time that is statistically significant: the golden rule for test length is 100 conversions per branch (or tested element).
  • Not recognizing when you have enough data: When you have enough data, you need to be willing to act upon it.
  • Working with biased data: For example, an e-commerce site basing its SEO plans on December’s traffic numbers is probably being misled.


It is important to tie your SEO campaign to the results it brings to the business. A fundamental piece of that is measuring the conversions driven by organic SEO traffic.

Some of the most common types of conversions:

  • Sales/sales revenue
  • Email/blog/newsletter subscriptions
  • Sign-ups
  • Downloads
  • Contact forms and phone calls
  • Visitors who share
  • Visitors who link
  • Visitors who publicize

You should place a dollar value on every type of conversion you receive. If 100 people download a white paper off of your site and 2 of them become customers and buy a $100,000 consulting contract, you can estimate the value per download at $2,000.


Another issue to be aware of is attribution. The issue is that there is a tremendous amount of interaction between types of media, so how do you know where a user got your link?

Some examples:

  • A user does a search, clicks an organic search result, then reads a few things and leaves. The next day, she remembers what she read, does another search, and this time clicks on a paid search ad for the site and buys a product (organic search should receive some of the credit).
  • A user does a search, clicks on an organic search result, and leaves. A few days later, because of what he has learned, he goes into a store and buys a product (organic search should receive some of the credit).
  • A user sees a TV ad, then does an organic search to find the website and buys the product (the TV ad should get some of the credit for the sale).

Such cross-channel interactions are becoming increasingly common. The problem of attribution management is a significant issue. It i difficult to track the direct interactions between TV/offline stores and a website. But even looking at multiple site visits can be hard as the tracking is done using cookies, which the user can delete.

Ideally, you should attempt to track the impact across multiple visits. However, the methods for doing so are imperfect. One thing you can do to minimize the impact of that is to count different types of conversions. Tracking a large number of events that are indicators of progress towards a sale can help you identify important helper keywords that are playing a key role in generating results later on.

Setting Up Analytics Software to Track Conversions

One of the great things about tracking conversions is that you can use the resulting data to focus your efforts. If a given keyword, page or referrer is showing a high conversion rate than another source, you may want to focus more of your SEO efforts on those.

Capturing conversion data takes a little setup. Your analytics suite does not know what you consider a conversion unless you define it.

An important step in conversion tracking is deciding what you want to call a conversion. You also need to assign a value to each type of conversion. When you first set up conversion tracking, you may need to estimate some of these but as your data comes in, you can fill in the blanks with substantiated data.

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