Gathering Better SEO Baselines for Measuring Future Results

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# TLDR

Learn how to properly gather SEO baseline reports in order to measure the progress and effectiveness of SEO efforts at key points in the future.

# Full Post

In my last article 5 Ways to Measure SEO Success, I described several different methods of establishing the measurements you need in order to determine if an SEO campaign is successful or not. Despite the general variance in the different success metrics, the one constant was an absolute NEED to develop baseline metrics from which to compare future measurements of things like traffic and rankings.

Measuring hard baseline statistics is an absolute MUST. Should you ever wish to show success, you’ll be hard-pressed to prove it without actual (unquestionable) data to support your claims. Instead you’ll be resigned to say, “Your SEO is doing great! Trust me.” We all know how well that one ends up.

Now that we’ve established the fact that showing statistical data is important, we must then understand WHICH metrics matter. Once we understand the ones that matter, we have to get BETTER at measuring the results.

All of these things should be done up-front, before a single title tag is changed, or a single meta-tag is added. If not, 6 months down the road you’ll have no way to know the true impact in relation to the real statistical data you should have measured at the beginning.

Which leads me to…

#1. Traffic

Gathering traffic baselines
This is naturally the first thing that everyone will want to talk about. “How’s my traffic doin?” they will say (in their best Billy Bob Thornton from ‘Slingblade‘ voice). While traffic statistics are important, it is imperative that you review and measure your site’s traffic in more ways that just ‘Total Hits’ or ‘Total Visits’.

What You Should Do First

  1. Filter out paid-search numbers, as they may cause your traffic to be a bit convoluted – hiding the true impact of your SEO efforts.

What You Should Be Measuring

After you’ve filtered out the paid-search numbers, you should begin to take measurements of the following traffic statistics:

  • Visits (Non-paid) – The number of visits made by your site’s unique visitors.
  • Unique Visitors (Non-paid) – How many people visited your website.
  • Pageviews (Non-paid) – The total number of pages viewed by your site’s visitors.
  • Pages/Visit (Non-paid) – Average number of pages visited by your site’s unique visitors.
  • Bounce Rate (Non-paid) – The % of people bouncing off your site.
  • Time on Site (Non-paid) – Average amount of time spent on your site.
  • % New Visits (Non-paid) – The % of your visitors who are seeing the site for the first time.
  • Search Engines (Non-paid) Traffic % – Which search engines are driving the highest percentages of traffic?
  • Total Number of Keywords Driving Traffic – Example: Google sent 1,000 visits via 58 keywords.
  • Referral – The % and total number of visits that you’re receiving from refering sources.
  • Direct – The % and total number of visits driven by people typing in your domain directly.
  • Top 10 Referring Sources – It’s a good idea to archive who your top referring sites are in terms of total visits driven from them.
  • Top 10 Keywords – It’s a good idea to know which keywords are your top traffic drivers.
  • Top Regions – If you’re a business that services people locally or regionally, then understanding which regions drive traffic is a must.
  • Top 10 URL’s – It is a good idea to know which pages drive the most traffic, so you can pay extra attention to them as well as use them as examples of how to structure other pages.

I know this is a long list of things to measure and keep track of, but I promise you this – you’ll get a much clearer picture down the line if you review each of these metrics than if you were to just look at Total Visits.

#2. Rankings

Gathering a keyword rankings baseline
In terms of being able to map out correlations, traffic and rankings are probably tops. If you’re traffic goes up at the same time your rankings do, then it’s a good indication that what you’re doing is having an effect (i.e. it’s not just seasonal).

What You Should Do First

  1. Be sure to research and target quality keywords.
  2. Track your keyword rankings with a tool such as WebCEO.
  3. Have specific keywords that you’re targeting, but don’t be afraid to track multiple variations in the way somebody may type something (i.e. “columbus condos” and “condos columbus” are two totally unique search queries and should be tracked as such).

What You Should Be Measuring

Be sure to get a baseline ranking report up front, so that you can compare your reports from a later date to see how they match up side-by-side.

  • Ranking Opportunities – Your keywords * Number of Search Engines = Total Number of Ranking Opportunities. For example, if you’re tracking 900 keywords across 3 search engines, that means that you have 2,700 ranking opportunities.
  • Keyword(s) Ranked #1 – Total # and % of keywords ranking number 1 in the SERP’s.
  • Keyword(s) Ranked in Top 5 – Total # and % of keywords ranking in the Top 5 search results.
  • Keyword(s) Ranked in Top 10 – Total # and % of keywords ranking in the Top 10 search results.
  • Keyword(s) Ranked in Top 20 – Total # and % of keywords ranking in the Top 20 search results.
  • Keyword(s) Ranked in Top 30 – Total # and % of keywords ranking in the Top 30 search results.
  • Core Keywords – Be sure to constantly observe the rankings of the “core keywords” that are the ones that drive most of the traffic.

Once you’ve recorded all of this, wait a couple months and then you should be able to make a side-by-side comparison to see where you’ve gained or retreated in terms of search engine rankings.

#3. The Others

Here are some other things that are important to measure up front on the basis of being able to make future comparisons:

  • Inbound Links – Total number of websites linking to yours.
  • Indexed Pages – Total number of pages indexed by the search engines. Can serve to inform you on what % of your site is included in the index.
  • Google PageRank – Google’s measure of relative authority for domains (scale of 0 to 10 – higher equals better).
  • Domain Age & Expiration Date – Measure of how old your domain, as well as the next date you need to renew it.
  • Alexa Traffic Rank – A relative measure of your traffic popularity in comparison to other sites on the web.
  • SiteLinks – Does Google show SiteLinks in the SERP’s when your site is displayed? Yes / No
  • MozRank – A relative measure of importance (similar to PageRank) developed by SEOMoz.
  • Website Grade – A cool tool from WebsiteGrader.com that is a decent way to measure the optimization level of your website in comparison to other websites they have measured.

In Conclusion:

Although it may be highly annoying I promise that if you become a master gatherer of information while implementing your SEO, you will be able to analyze trends and make decisions based on real facts and not just “hunches”. If you’re not already gathering baseline measurements at the outset of your SEO campaigns, it would behoove you to start doing it immediately.

It’s never too late to be good. Happy optimizing!

Image credit: Conductor

Jacob Stoops

Jacob Stoops

Long-time SEO and podcast host. Senior Manager at Search Discovery. Husband. Dad. Mob movie aficionado. @jacobstoops