Posted by BritneyMuller
It’s finally here, for your review and feedback: Chapter 7 of
the new Beginner’s Guide to SEO, the last chapter. We cap off the
guide with advice on how to measure, prioritize, and execute on
your SEO. And if you missed them, check out the drafts of our
Five, and Chapter
Six for your reading pleasure. As always, let us know what you
think of Chapter 7 in
Set yourself up for success.
They say if you can measure something, you can improve it.
In SEO, it’s no different. Professional SEOs track everything
from rankings and conversions to lost links and more to help prove
the value of SEO. Measuring the impact of your work and ongoing
refinement is critical to your SEO success, client retention, and
It also helps you pivot your priorities when something isn’t
Start with the end in mind
While it’s common to have multiple goals (both macro and
micro), establishing one specific primary end goal is
The only way to know what a website’s primary end goal should
be is to have a strong understanding of the website’s goals
and/or client needs. Good
client questions are not only helpful in strategically
directing your efforts, but they also show that you care.
Client question examples:
- Can you give us a brief history of your company?
- What is the monetary value of a newly qualified lead?
- What are your most profitable services/products (in
Keep the following tips in mind while establishing a website’s
primary goal, additional goals, and benchmarks:
Goal setting tips
- Measurable: If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve
- Be specific: Don’t let vague industry marketing jargon water
down your goals.
- Share your goals:
Studies have shown that writing down and sharing your goals
with others boosts your chances of achieving them.
Now that you’ve set your primary goal, evaluate which
additional metrics could help support your site in reaching its end
goal. Measuring additional (applicable) benchmarks can help you
keep a better pulse on current site health and progress.
How are people behaving once they reach your site? That’s the
question that engagement metrics seek to answer. Some of the most
popular metrics for measuring how people engage with your content
Conversion rate – The number of conversions (for a single
desired action/goal) divided by the number of unique visits. A
conversion rate can be applied to anything, from an email signup to
a purchase to account creation. Knowing your conversion rate can
help you gauge the return on investment (ROI) your website traffic
In Google Analytics, you can set up
goals to measure how well your site accomplishes its
objectives. If your objective for a page is a form fill, you can
set that up as a goal. When site visitors accomplish the task,
you’ll be able to see it in your reports.
Time on page – How long did people spend on your page? If you
have a 2,000-word blog post that visitors are only spending an
average of 10 seconds on, the chances are slim that this content is
being consumed (unless they’re a mega-speed reader). However, if
a URL has a low time on page, that’s not necessarily bad either.
Consider the intent of the page. For example, it’s normal for
“Contact Us” pages to have a low average time on page.
Pages per visit – Was the goal of your page to keep readers
engaged and take them to a next step? If so, then pages per visit
can be a valuable engagement metric. If the goal of your page is
independent of other pages on your site (ex: visitor came, got what
they needed, then left), then low pages per visit are okay.
Bounce rate – “Bounced” sessions indicate that a searcher
visited the page and left without browsing your site any further.
Many people try to lower this metric because they believe it’s
tied to website quality, but it actually tells us very little about
a user’s experience. We’ve seen cases of bounce rate spiking
for redesigned restaurant websites that are doing better than ever.
Further investigation discovered that people were simply coming to
find business hours, menus, or an address, then bouncing with the
intention of visiting the restaurant in person. A better metric to
gauge page/site quality is scroll depth.
Scroll depth – This measures how far visitors scroll down
individual webpages. Are visitors reaching your important content?
If not, test different ways of providing the most important content
higher up on your page, such as multimedia, contact forms, and so
on. Also consider the quality of your content. Are you omitting
needless words? Is it enticing for the visitor to continue down the
page? Scroll depth tracking can be set up in your Google
Ranking is a valuable SEO metric, but measuring your site’s
organic performance can’t stop there. The goal of showing up in
search is to be chosen by searchers as the answer to their query.
If you’re ranking but not getting any traffic, you have a
But how do you even determine how much traffic your site is
getting from search? One of the most precise ways to do this is
with Google Analytics.
Using Google Analytics to uncover traffic insights
Google Analytics (GA) is bursting at the seams with data — so
much so that it can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to
look. This is not an exhaustive list, but rather a general guide to
some of the traffic data you can glean from this free tool.
Isolate organic traffic – GA allows you to view traffic to your
site by channel. This will mitigate any scares caused by changes to
another channel (ex: total traffic dropped because a paid campaign
was halted, but organic traffic remained steady).
Traffic to your site over time – GA allows you to view total
sessions/users/pageviews to your site over a specified date range,
as well as compare two separate ranges.
How many visits a particular page has received – Site Content
reports in GA are great for evaluating the performance of a
particular page — for example, how many unique visitors it
received within a given date range.
Traffic from a specified campaign – You can use UTM (urchin
tracking module) codes for better attribution. Designate
the source, medium, and campaign, then append the codes to the
end of your URLs. When people start clicking on your UTM-code
links, that data will start to populate in GA’s “campaigns”
Click-through rate (CTR) – Your CTR from search results to a
particular page (meaning the percent of people that clicked your
page from search results) can provide insights on how well you’ve
optimized your page title and meta description. You can find this
data in Google Search Console, a free Google tool.
In addition, Google Tag Manager is a free tool that allows you
to manage and deploy tracking pixels to your website without having
to modify the code. This makes it much easier to track specific
triggers or activity on a website.
Additional common SEO metrics
- Domain Authority & Page Authority (DA/PA) – Moz’s
proprietary authority metrics provide powerful insights at a glance
and are best used as benchmarks relative to your competitors’
Authority and Page Authority.
- Keyword rankings – A website’s ranking position for desired
keywords. This should also include SERP feature data, like featured
snippets and People Also Ask boxes that you’re ranking for. Try
to avoid vanity metrics, such as rankings for competitive keywords
that are desirable but often too vague and don’t convert as well
as longer-tail keywords.
- Number of backlinks – Total number of links pointing to your
website or the number of unique linking root domains (meaning one
per unique website, as websites often link out to other websites
multiple times). While these are both common link metrics, we
encourage you to look more closely at the quality of backlinks and
linking root domains your site has.
How to track these metrics
There are lots of different tools available for keeping track of
your site’s position in SERPs, site crawl health, SERP features,
and link metrics, such as Moz Pro and STAT.
The Moz and STAT APIs (among other tools) can also be pulled
into Google Sheets or other customizable dashboard platforms for
clients and quick at-a-glance SEO check-ins. This also allows you
to provide more refined views of only the metrics you care
Dashboard tools like Data Studio, Tableau, and PowerBI can also
help to create interactive data visualizations.
Evaluating a site’s health with an SEO website audit
By having an understanding of certain aspects of your website
— its current position in search, how searchers are interacting
with it, how it’s performing, the quality of its content, its
overall structure, and so on — you’ll be able to better uncover
SEO opportunities. Leveraging the search engines’ own tools can
help surface those opportunities, as well as potential issues:
Search Console – If you haven’t already, sign up for a
free Google Search Console (GSC) account and verify your
website(s). GSC is full of actionable reports you can use to detect
website errors, opportunities, and user engagement.
Tools – Bing Webmaster Tools has similar functionality to GSC.
Among other things, it shows you how your site is performing in
Bing and opportunities for improvement.
Audit – Google’s automated tool for measuring a website’s
performance, accessibility, progressive web apps, and more. This
data improves your understanding of how a website is performing.
Gain specific speed and accessibility insights for a website
Insights – Provides website performance insights using
Lighthouse and Chrome User Experience Report data from real user
measurement (RUM) when available.
Data Testing Tool – Validates that a website is using schema markup (structured data)
Test – Evaluates how easily a user can navigate your website on
a mobile device.
Web.dev – Surfaces website
improvement insights using Lighthouse and provides the ability to
track progress over time.
web devs and SEOs – Google often provides new tools for web
developers and SEOs alike, so keep an eye on any new releases
While we don’t have room to cover every SEO audit check you
should perform in this guide, we do offer an in-depth Technical SEO
Site Audit course for more info. When auditing your site, keep
the following in mind:
Crawlability: Are your primary web pages crawlable by search
engines, or are you accidentally blocking Googlebot or Bingbot via
your robots.txt file? Does the website have an accurate sitemap.xml
file in place to help direct crawlers to your primary pages?
Indexed pages: Can your primary pages be found using Google?
Doing a site:yoursite.com OR site:yoursite.com/specific-page check
in Google can help answer this question. If you notice some are
missing, check to make sure a meta robots=noindex tag isn’t
excluding pages that should be indexed and found in search
Check page titles & meta descriptions: Do your titles and
meta descriptions do a good job of summarizing the content of each
page? How are their CTRs in search results, according to Google
Search Console? Are they written in a way that entices searchers to
click your result over the other ranking URLs? Which pages could be
improved? Site-wide crawls are
essential for discovering on-page and technical SEO
Page speed: How does your website perform on mobile devices and
in Lighthouse? Which images could be compressed to improve load
Content quality: How well does the current content of the
website meet the target market’s needs? Is the content 10X better
than other ranking websites’ content? If not, what could you do
better? Think about things like richer content, multimedia, PDFs,
guides, audio content, and more.
Pro tip: Website pruning!
Removing thin, old, low-quality, or rarely visited pages from
your site can help improve your website’s perceived quality.
Performing a content
audit will help you discover these pruning opportunities. Three
primary ways to prune pages include:
- Delete the page (4XX): Use when a page adds no value (ex:
traffic, links) and/or is outdated.
- Redirect (3XX): Redirect the URLs of pages you’re pruning
when you want to preserve the value they add to your site, such as
inbound links to that old URL.
- NoIndex: Use this when you want the page to remain on your site
but be removed from the index.
Keyword research and competitive website analysis (performing
audits on your competitors’ websites) can also provide rich
insights on opportunities for your own website.
- Which keywords are competitors ranking on page 1 for, but your
- Which keywords is your website ranking on page 1 for that also
have a featured snippet? You might be able to provide better
content and take over that snippet.
- Which websites link to more than one of your competitors, but
not to your website?
Discovering website content and performance opportunities will
help devise a more data-driven SEO plan of attack! Keep an ongoing
list in order to prioritize your tasks effectively.
Prioritizing your SEO fixes
In order to prioritize SEO fixes effectively, it’s essential
to first have specific, agreed-upon goals established between you
and your client.
While there are a million different ways you could prioritize SEO, we
suggest you rank them in terms of importance and urgency. Which
fixes could provide the most ROI for a website and help support
your agreed-upon goals?
Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective
People, developed a handy time management grid that can ease the
burden of prioritization:
Covey, The 7 Habits of
Highly Effective People
Putting out small, urgent SEO fires might feel most effective in
the short term, but this often leads to neglecting non-urgent
important fixes. The not urgent & important items are
ultimately what often move the needle for a website’s SEO.
Don’t put these off.
“Without strategy, execution is aimless. Without
execution, strategy is useless.”
– Morris Chang
Much of your success depends on effectively mapping out and
scheduling your SEO tasks. You can use free tools like Google
Sheets to plan out your SEO execution (we have a
free template here), but you can use whatever method works best
for you. Some people prefer to schedule out their SEO tasks in
their Google Calendar, in a kanban or scrum board, or in a daily
Use what works for you and stick to it.
Measuring your progress along the way via the metrics mentioned
above will help you monitor your effectiveness and allow you to
pivot your SEO efforts when something isn’t working. Say, for
example, you changed a primary page’s title and meta description,
only to notice that the CTR for that page decreased. Perhaps you
changed it to something too vague or strayed too far from the
on-page topic — it might be good to try a different approach.
Keeping an eye on drops in rankings, CTRs, organic traffic, and
conversions can help you manage hiccups like this early, before
they become a bigger problem.
Communication is essential for SEO client longevity
Many SEO fixes are implemented without being noticeable to a
client (or user). This is why it’s essential to employ good
communication skills around your SEO plan, the time frame in which
you’re working, and your benchmark metrics, as well as frequent
check-ins and reports.
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