Whether you’re a novice marketer or looking to scale an eCommerce business, you’ve probably spent adequate amounts of time on search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO can present a plethora of obstacles for business owners who are looking to build an organic presence online. On the contrary, it can also create a sustainable source of traffic for your website over the long-term.

There are many different search engine websites, and each of them has it’s own unique algorithm. Unfortunately, those algorithms aren’t open to the general public. This inevitably causes marketers to devote weeks and months testing the various SEO channels.

At some point, you realize that without some sort of tangible metrics that gauges your performance, there’s no concrete way of determining whether your effort was worth it or not.

You begin optimizing your content with every keyword that pertains to your value proposition. As you start monitoring your keywords, the SEO process becomes even more ambiguous.

Sooner or later, you realize that there isn’t a ubiquitous metric for SEO. You can literally invest all of your time trying to rank for every primary and secondary keyword under the sun. At the end of the day, keyword research is just one metric in the dynamic world of SEO.

Multiple Metrics Matter

There are a myriad of ways to generate traffic for your business. However, each strategy that you employ will be predicated on a set of core metrics. Metrics, often referred to as “key progress indicators” (KPI’s), gauge your current level of progress in a specific area of your business. They are a set of raw data that is usually attained from your preferred analytics tool.

If you’re doing Pay-Per-Click marketing, then you’ll most likely focus on metrics such click through rates and impressions. If you primary traffic sources are affiliate marketing, you’ll most likely focus on earnings per click (EPC’s) and conversions.

So what is the core set of metrics that you should focus on in search engine optimization?

In this article, I’m going to share 5 of the most important SEO metrics. You can ultimately choose which ones (if not all) are conducive to your business.

1 – Keyword Research

When Google first emerged on the web, keyword research served as the foundation of their algorithm. If you optimized your titles and body copy with the proper keywords, it would garner some sort of organic traffic to your website.

Over the past few years, Google has made a concerted effort to accommodate the experience of their users. Nowadays, they value the quality of your content more than the application of SEO strategies. As a result, keywords are no longer the sole determining factor of their algorithm.

Nevertheless, keyword research is still an integral part of search engine optimization. When leveraged properly, they will reveal the desires, fears, and frustrations of your target audience. But more importantly, keywords are a barometer that you can use to determine whether or not you’re making progress.

So how do you track the keywords that you want to rank for?

The first step is to make a list of anywhere between one to five keywords for each article on your website. Then, you’ll need to choose from one of the many keyword tracking tools at your disposal. There are scores of competitor sites, but here are a handful of solid (and free) sites for tracking your keywords:

Each time you create a piece of content, gradually add a new set of keywords to your dashboard. Assess your results a couple of times per month, and always be willing to test different long-tailed keyword variations.

2 – Inbound Links

In the modern era of search engine optimization, backlinks are still considered one of the most important rankings factors. If you want to leverage the power of SEO, then it’s absolutely paramount to acquire quality backlinks to your site.

The Google Penguin update explicitly stated that all links are not created equally. Before you start building backlinks to your site, you need to understand the different between “quality and quantity” backlinks.

Before the year 2012, link building was very straightforward. You would create content, and then get as many links as you could back to your website. In general, the more links you received, the better chance you had to rank for a particular keyword. It was common to use article submission directories to amplify your “link juice.”

Using antiquated link building strategies can potentially get your website banned. Remember that the search engines value the experience of their users. Although backlinks are an integral part of the SEO process, they are used to monitor the authority of your domain. Generating mass quantities of links doesn’t accurately reflect the quality of your content. However, getting backlinks from credible brands in your niche does.

If you’re creating useful content that resonates with your target audience, then you’ll inevitably receive some backlinks along the way. The good news is that other authority brands in your niche will do the same. Keep in mind that there are millions of blog posts created each and every day. Hitting the “publish” button won’t be enough to get your message out to the world.

If you want to get quality backlinks, then you’ll need to take the initiative to promote your content. One of the quickest, most efficient ways to do this is by implementing a guest article strategy on other prominent websites. If you’re contributing quality content to an authority brand in your niche, they will have no problem linking back to you. You can create links in the body copy of your content, or in a boilerplate at the footer of your article.

Once you start getting links, you’ll want to track them. There are a variety of tools that you can use to monitor the quality of your links. Each of these trackers has their own unique algorithm that measures the quality the backlinks to your website.

Eventually, you’ll be able to identify the high quality links that impact your bottom line. This will entice you to cultivate more relationships with similar authority figures in your niche. If you’re creating thoughtful content for your audience, then others won’t have a problem linking to it.

3 – Outbound Links

Similar to backlinks, outbound links are a ranking factor that helps determine the relevancy of your website. When the search engine spiders see that you’re linking to an authority site, they will view your brand as trustworthy.

The key is to always link to relevant content. If you’re in the fitness niche and you’re linking to a political article on Fox News, then Google will view it as incongruent. Do your due diligence and find high quality content that is relatable to your website. Adding these external links will position your brand with other authority sites in your niche.

4 – Bounce Rates

The purpose of search engines is to make information easily accessible to people all over the world. As we discussed, Google’s main focus is to satisfy the experience of their users.

When someone lands on your website and then immediately leaves, it indicates that they didn’t find what they were looking for. This is referred to as a “bounce” through the lenses of Google. If too many visitors bounce from your website, it will start to hinder your ranking.

Bounce rates are measured on each individual page on your website. If you aren’t familiar with the technical aspects of SEO, there’s no need to panic. A free tool such as Google Analytics will itemize your bounce metrics, along with all the other pertinent traffic information on your website.

Keep in mind that having a few hundred visitors on a page won’t necessarily reflect the behaviors of your audience. As a general rule of thumb, generate at least 1,000 views on a page before assessing your bounce metrics.

5 – Loading Speed

Google has explicitly stated that the loading speed of your website is a primary SEO ranking factor. As you can imagine, users can get frustrated if they visit a page that takes a long time to load. The layout out of your website won’t matter if your audience can’t access your content quickly.

Here are some quick tips that you can use to speed up your website:

  • Switch to a faster, more efficient hosting service.
  • Compress the videos and images on your website.
  • Use content delivery networks (CDN’s) to ensure faster download times of your content.

As a general barometer, you should make sure that your site is fully loaded in less than 3 seconds. Google’s Page Speed is a free resource that you can use to test the speed of your website. Just run the tool on your home page, and they will rank your loading speed on a 1-100 scale.

Closing Thoughts

If you aren’t obsessively tracking your metrics, then it will be virtually impossible to gauge your progress. When it comes to SEO, you could potentially invest months of your time and effort without ever knowing what is and isn’t working.

These 5 core metrics are essential to building an organic presence online. Determine which metrics are most important to your business, and then develop a KPI regimen that will hold you accountable over time.

Monitor your metrics each week, and make a concerted effort to improve them over the long-term.

What other SEO metrics do you use in your business?