How to Measure SEO Success

It’s the classic problem that SEOs and companies hiring Search Engine Optimizers face constantly – how do you determine if your SEO efforts are successful or a failure? Below, we backtrack from the final goal to the potential indicators of success (or, download the spreadsheet now).

End GoalSales / Conversions / Income of any sort. This is the core reason why you want people finding your site, even if it’s not an ecommerce website and all your sales are offline. All SEO success metrics should ultimately reflect a change in this.

Sales are generated by visitors. Hopefully, you’re using the often-overlooked sibling of SEO, Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), to ensure that as many visitors as possible become customers or affect your bottom line in some way.

Visitors are generated by a web presence and an online community – one subsection of which are SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). These rankings are what you’re likely inclined to measure.

Most Bosses, Employers, or Clients will ask you to track SERP rankings. Actually, depending on their knowledge of SEO, they’ll probably come full circle in what you will be asked to track. A boss with no idea of what SEO is will probably ask you how many dollars in online sales the company received last month. Then, as they become more and more knowledgeable about the impact search rankings have on the company, they’ll start to ask you to track those rankings. Somehow, the bottom line gets pushed aside as the novelty of ranking in a #1 position for a major keyword increases. Finally, after the novelty has passed, you will probably have to track it all – and report how each ties in with each other.

It’s your job, as a good SEO, to remind your Boss or client of this: Search engine rankings are only as good as the visitors they generate , and those visitors are only as good as the sales that they ultimately produce.

That being said, what exactly should you track and report?

1.     Sales – this, of course, only includes online sales.

2.     Visitors – you should keep an eye on whether this number is trending up or down.

3.     Rankings – This is what you, the SEO expert, is trying to influence directly, so yeah, you’d better track and report it. Just keep in mind that this ultimately is supposed to predict sales.

Success metrics are more relevant the closer they are tied to the bottom line – sales are the ultimate metric, followed by visitors, followed by rankings. Everyone should be using Google eCommerce tracking or some Analytics solution to track sales, but sales are frequently influenced by things other than SEO efforts, as are visitors. While an economic recession may affect sales and visitors , you need to discount that in your analysis of your SEO efforts.

Anyone can track rankings, and everyone should (consider using But if you’re tracking your top 100 targeted keywords, and from week to week 10 rankings improve and 10 drop, how do you know if you’re doing well or poorly?

Somehow, you’re going to have to assign a value to each keyword, based on the number of searches per month that keyphrase receives (and therefore the number of potential visitors you could get in a month from a top ranking). Ranking #4 for “car insurance” is going to be more valuable (and receive more searches) than a #1 ranking on the phrase “car insurance for a blue ford focus”. I suggest you use the Google Adwords Traffic Estimator to determine your keyphrase search volumes.

Now, you’re going have to mathematically apply the search volume you assigned that keyphrase to the rank based on an estimate of position-based click-through percentages. Sound complicated? It is. Luckily for you, I’ve created a SEO ranking analysis spreadsheet for you so you don’t have to come up with formulas that look like this: =IF(B3>0,IF(B3<11,(((0.5/B3)^(1.2))*D3),(((0.1/(B3^0.8))^(1.2))*D3)),0)

Download the spreadsheet, imput your keywords, ranks, and search volumes into the Keyword Data tab, and the spreadsheet will output a percentage that indicates the value you’re receiving from your current rankings and SEO efforts, as a percentage of the total value you would receive if all the keywords listed were ranking in the #1 position. If the overall “Ranking Potential Achieved” is 9.3% one month, 10.6% the next month, and 12.1% the following month, you know your SEO efforts are being successful – the value received for your targeted keyphrases is increasing. Keep in mind this number will only be as accurate as the search volumes you indicated.

Step by Step Instructions for Ranking Value Analysis Spreadsheet:

1. In the Overview sheet, update the company name and report date, and read the overview.

2. In the Keyword Data sheet, copy and paste your keywords, rankings, and search volume data.

3. View your “Ranking Potential Achieved” Score in cell G1 (or on the Overview sheet in B3), and record this number to compare it over time.

Download the Ranking Value Analysis Spreadsheet – Revised 2-21-2011

I hope you find this spreadsheet useful. Comments or suggestions? Want me to explain the math behind it all? Post them below in the comments section below or contact me.

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Eric Wagner

Eric is a CEO with a background in marketing and search engine optimization specialist (SEO). In his free time, Eric enjoys exercise, gardening, technology, a good book, and spending time with family and friends.

One thought on “How to Measure SEO Success

  1. Really a lifesaver, man. It would be nice to be able to automatically chart the data over time… but that would be hard me thinks. I don’t really know excel.

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