Whether we like it or not, SEO is a crucial part of success for any SaaS company. Selling an intangible product that exists entirely online means Google searches make up most of your potential traffic. If your SEO strategy isn’t hitting the right marks, you need to know early so you can adapt. When you’re just “doing SEO” and not keeping a close eye on the right performance metrics, you are losing potential revenue. It’s that simple.
SEO metrics and measuring success is a rabbit hole of spreadsheets and charts. To cut through that overwhelming cluttering, we’re going to give you the 5 most important ones you need to know right now to build a baseline. Tracking these in a meaningful way will let you see how your campaign is performing at a high level and make the right judgment calls along the way.
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Monitor the right KPIs for effective SaaS SEO
The first step toward a successful SEO campaign has nothing to do with keywords or technical analysis, it’s about knowing your ideal outcome. Get clear on exactly what you’re trying to get from your campaign, then start working backwards from there.
For the sake of scalability, most brands work with a SaaS SEO agency rather than hiring in-house. Having clear goals set around crucial KPIs is the easiest way for everyone to understand the status of the campaign and if it’s worth your marketing spend.
While your circumstances may need another metric or two, broadly, these are the KPIs you need to be monitoring weekly and discussing at least monthly.
Measuring success isn’t about ego or assigning blame, it’s about making sure the right results are being achieved.
Of course, we couldn’t talk about SEO KPIs without covering rankings. As you get closer to that coveted position 1 for a given search term, your potential traffic volume increases logarithmically. Get clear on exactly what terms you need to rank for as an end goal, then start monitoring your progress.
Looking at the data from FirstPageSage, moving from position 4 to position 1 will see a 32% increase in click-through rate (CTR). To put that into perspective, if your target search term is seeing 10,000 searches per month, that’s a potential boost of around 3,200 users per month, just from moving up 3 positions. Depending on your conversion rate, LTV and churn, that bump of 3 positions could be worth $1m+ in annual revenue to you.
These CTRs will vary depending on a number of factors but it gives us a ballpark to work with and it highlights why rankings are so important. Quite simply, strong rankings place your sales funnel right where your audience is literally searching.
Note: Monitoring your rankings is important but focus on trends, not short-term fluctuations. You will always see fluctuations so reacting to each one only seeks to achieve three things: Poor morale, higher blood pressure and more gray hair. I can assure you, none of these are ranking factors.
Now that we have our rankings in check, the next logical step is traffic. While rankings and traffic should go hand in hand, this isn’t always the case so you need to measure this consistently.
Here’s a current example for one of current clients. They’re starting to see a host of new page-1 rankings which is great, but we always cross-reference that with organic traffic data. These charts match perfectly which is what we want to see but don’t just assume, you could miss an important red flag.
Rankings below the first page will see negligible traffic change. Once you hit that first page though, you should start to see organic traffic figures that line up with your ranking data. If you’re not seeing that improvement, the first places to look are your page title and meta description as these are the only two elements a user will see in the search results.
The best place to see this is in Google Analytics, just make sure you’re looking at Organic traffic, not “all users”. Organic sessions are those that came from Google search whereas “all users” can be influenced by email campaigns, social media or any other external factor.
Total organic conversions
Making our way through this buyer journey, the next metric you need to pay attention to is how many people are actually converting to a lead. You’ve improved your rankings, you’re getting more traffic but are they engaging with your brand?
This is the raw number of conversions you’re getting from users who found you in the search results. Basically, how many people are contacting you in some way, regardless of your rankings and traffic.
It’s a common mistake for people to focus entirely on total conversions and ignore their conversion rate. By doing that, you’re overlooking lost potential and ignoring probable red flags. Your conversion rate is the % of site visits that include a conversion (conversions / total sessions).
Let’s say you change your page titles and update some text on your home page to rank higher. It pushes your rankings up, you see lots more traffic and you get 2 more conversions. If you’re seeing a big bump in traffic but a negligible improvement in conversions, what you should be focusing on is that drop in conversion rate.
If you don’t track conversion rate as a KPI, this negative result can easily be construed as a win. It could even be a catalyst for you to double down on that change, making the outcome even worse.
At the beginning of a campaign, revenue should be part of the strategy discussions — something you’re actively working toward as a future goal. In the long term, it should be one of the most important numbers you’re using as a measure for success. Good SEO campaigns target revenue as a long term goal and they achieve it.
Yes, SEO will represent a net negative in the initial months but if you’re 3 years into a campaign and still spending more than you’re getting in return, there’s something seriously wrong with the strategy, implementation or both. If you’re not tracking this as an SEO metric, there’s no way for you to know either way.
In an industry with a seemingly impossible amount of data, hopefully this guide offers some direction on exactly how to define success in your SEO campaign. Yes, there are other things you can look at over time but initially, get comfortable with these 5 and get clear on exactly how you measure each of them.
Both you and your SEO team need to have the same understanding of what success looks like for your brand, as well as a clear set of numbers to measure against. Once you’re measuring each of these 5 consistently, then you can start to add more complexity and a deeper understanding.
Great SEO results always take time but by monitoring the right metrics along the way, you can speed those results up by identifying and fixing problems early. Measuring success isn’t about ego or assigning blame, it’s about making sure the right results are being achieved.