5 Critical Search Engine Metrics That You Should Be Tracking

This keyword combo from Google is one I've been optimizing...

[This is part of the The Blogger’s Essential Guide to Search Engine Optimization Series.]

You could optimize your blog with search engine optimization strategies til kingdom come but it won’t matter much unless you know if it’s actually working.

Why? It’s because any good search engine optimizer understands that optimization never a one time deal – it’s a continual process of reviewing data, tweaking methods, iterating for positive growth, and being flexible with current trends, technologies, and use cases.

And the only way you’ll be able to do that well is through concise measurement, right? It’s like a science experiment you did back in middle school where you were testing the effectiveness of plant’s photosynthesis ability when covered with wax against the control plant which had no inhibitors – the only way you knew was to keep a record of the data, right?

Bleh. Perhaps that brought up some terrible memories of middle school (I did, yikes!) but the point is that you’re going to need to see if your SEO efforts are being effective and are of any value and here are five significant metrics that you should be tracking:

Wait, Let’s Start with the Analytics and Webmaster Packages…

For starters let me be very clear: The only way that you’ll be able to track anything is if you have an analytics system that’s helping you retrieve this data and information.

I use the following three analytics packages mostly for my blogs and the primary one (by a long shot) is Google Analytics.

Start there and get those analytic systems in place. There are tons of options out there so just choose the right one for you.

Also, be aware that the longer you have it installed the more effective and valuable the data will be for you as you’ll be able to see patterns that’ll reveal just as much (if not more) than just any particular day on the calendar.

In addition, you’ll want to make sure that you have all the major Webmaster Tools setup as well. Learn more here and get those things in line!

Whew. Ready?

1. Indexation by Search Engines

One of the most important things that you must track is the amount of pages that each search engine is actually aware of – in other words, the number of webpages (or blog posts, static pages) that the search engine believes to actually exist.

This is important for one critical reason: It’s the starting point for you to diagnose your overall SEO quality and performance.

For example, if you know that you have 1,000 blog posts published and the search engines only “see” or acknowledge 50 then you’re in some serious trouble – something is wrong and/or broken and you’re performance in search engine’s SERPs is that of epic failure.

Here’s a real-life example with my blog: I know that have the following:

  • 470 blog posts published
  • 10 static pages published

What this means is that, at the bare minimum, I would hope that all the search engines see each of these pages, right? In other words, that they’ve indexed them all:

Looks good!

As you can see via Bing Webmaster Tools above they’ve indexed 480 pages via the summary page. Great! That’s about right.

Over time this should continue to grow as you continue to create new and amazing blog content and if it ever stops then you need to correct it right quick!

2. Conversions by Search Engines

Few things matter more than your ability to convert visitors that come to your blog from a search engine – whether that’s getting them to buy a product, email your for more information, subscribe to your blog, click your link to Twitter, or engage in the comment layer, it’s all about how effective you are at moving “first-time buyers” into long time loyal fans.

Going in-depth about how to create conversion tracking is outside the scope of this blog post and will be the content focus of a new blog series that I’m going to be starting soon but the point is that the most successful bloggers know how to “convert” and use metrics and analytics to do just that.

The point is this: Through simple tracking of how visitors from search engines find and engage in your content you will have the information necessary to create more compelling content experiences, craft a better user interface and design, and then ultimately turn a profit (whatever that “profit” might be).

Something as simple as a keyword referral tracking can give you all the information you need to get past that glass ceiling that you’ve hit and that you’re not sure why (or how) you’re going to break through.

3. Visits by Search Engine Terms

This might be one of the most basic and yet most powerful analytic and metric to track in terms of your overall search engine strategy for optimization: The terms and phrases that give you traffic via search engines.

You’ve seen them time and time again and yet you’ve probably been a bit clueless as to what you can do with them – brother (or sister), let me count the ways!

Even the smallest amount of information about the keywords that bring your organic traffic can deliver significant benefits to your blog as well as increase your financial bottom-line by very large dollar figures.

Who knew? Well, now you do.

You’ll use these to understand the demand that people have for your types of content, the terms that are converting the most, the pages that you thought were terrible that are in fact awesome, as well as how your blog is trending in the global expanse of the blogosphere. You’ll be able to redirect traffic, take advantage of high-dollar figure keywords, and make more money. You might even be able to take advantage of such things like common misspellings and such.


4. Search Engine Specific Visits

Bing, Yahoo, and Google make up nearly all of the search engine traffic that you’ll get (and that you’ll generally care about). The rest, well, who cares (I’m being silly – you should care, but not too much).

Understanding how each contributes to your overall organic search traffic will enable you to optimize fully for each one. For example, I’ve walked through a general outline of how I use Bing’s Webmaster Tools to do just this.

Here are some specific things you’ll be able to do with these metrics and data:

  1. Know Your Place in the World and Market – With this data in hand you’ll be able to compare your blog’s performance with the rest of the world and the specific target markets that you’re interested in completely dominating. You’ll also know how you perform in each country of the world as well and be able to identify critical market opportunities in locations you may have never considered.
  2. Understand and Fix Loss – We call this the ugly “drop” when your search engine traffic suddenly dwindles and you’re not sure why. Well, with analytics in place you’ll know what search engine decided to shove you to the “back of the bus” and be able to diagnose and repair those results.
  3. Capitalize and Destroy – If you’re like me then you might be extremely competitive, and this is a good thing because analytics will favor the brave and courageous! Your use of this data will give you the competitive edge to blast past your competitors to higher traffic, more conversions, more sales, and more profit. Some strategies don’t work well with specific search engines (like on-page keyword inclusions are better for Bing/Yahoo! optimization than Google) and you’ll be able to optimize accordingly.

These are just some of the main ways in which search engine specific visits in your data can help you optimize and blow up your blog.

5. Referring Visits by Search Engines

Ultimately you’ll want to know how each search engine is referring you traffic so that you can see if your actual search engine optimization techniques, methods, and strategies are working.

You must do this every month (at the very least) so you can track and understand how each search engine contributes to your overall traffic pattern and growth. Such things would include direct links like bookmarks and links via email, referral traffic via campaigns, other sites/blogs, and then search engines directly.

Knowing the percentage of each one will give you a tally of how well you’re actually doing via search engines. Generally you’ll find that people who depend solely on direct traffic will simply cannot break through the glass ceilings of traffic and profitability if they don’t have a good percentage via search engines.

And if you’re not optimizing then don’t expect to grow through those ceilings.

Like I said, I’ll be having a new blog series that should help clarify specifically how I do this for you in the coming months. Also, it’s worth noting that I’ll share how this converts to real dollar figures but I’ll only be sharing that via the Community Forums since I’m generally not allowed to share publicly those numbers – consider signing up and joining us so you’ll see some real dynamics.

So, what about you?

[This is part of the The Blogger’s Essential Guide to Search Engine Optimization Series.]