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How to Track SEO Progress for Better Results

Julia McCoy
Wednesday, 22nd May 2024
how to track seo progress

You’ve put in the work — optimized content, built backlinks, and improved site speed, yet you’re left wondering if it’s all paying off.

Tracking SEO progress isn’t just about checking a few numbers; it’s understanding what they mean for your business growth.

From organic traffic shifts to keyword rankings, every metric tells a part of the story.

Let’s dive into how to track SEO progress step by step.

Table Of Contents:

Essential SEO Metrics for Tracking SEO Progress

In SEO tracking, there are four basic metrics that you should monitor regularly.

1. Organic Traffic Growth

Google Analytics is your best friend when it comes to measuring organic traffic. It shows you how many users are coming to your site from organic search, which pages they’re landing on, and how they’re engaging with your content.

I like to track organic traffic on a month-over-month and year-over-year basis. This helps me spot any seasonal trends and see the long-term impact of my SEO efforts.

If your organic traffic is consistently growing, you know you’re on the right track.

2. Keyword Rankings

Ranking for relevant keywords is essential for driving qualified organic traffic to your site. But with hundreds of Google ranking factors, it can be tough to know where you stand.

That’s where keyword rank tracking tools come in handy. They show you exactly where your pages are ranking for target keywords and how those positions have changed over time.

I recommend tracking a mix of high-volume, competitive keywords as well as long-tail, niche-specific keywords. This gives you a well-rounded view of your keyword performance.

3. Bounce Rate and User Engagement

Organic traffic is great, but if users are bouncing off your site without engaging, it’s not doing you much good. That’s why it’s important to track engagement metrics like bounce rate, time on page, and pages per session.

If you’re seeing high bounce rates or low engagement, it could be a sign that your content isn’t matching search intent or providing value to users.

In that case, it’s time to optimize your pages for better user experience and relevance.

4. Conversion Rates

At the end of the day, SEO is about driving business results, not just traffic. So it’s crucial to track how your organic traffic is converting, whether that’s filling out a form, making a purchase, or signing up for a newsletter.

Set up conversion tracking in Google Analytics and monitor your organic conversion rates closely. You may need to revamp your calls-to-action or landing pages if you’re driving tons of traffic but not seeing conversions.

How to Use Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a powerful (and free!) tool for tracking your SEO progress. But it can also be overwhelming if you don’t know where to look.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when using GA:

Set Up Google Analytics

First, ensure you have Google Analytics set up to properly track your website data. If you haven’t already, create a Google Analytics account and add the tracking code to your site. It’s a simple process that unlocks a wealth of valuable data.

I also recommend setting goals to track key actions like form submissions, purchases, or email signups. This will help you measure the ROI of your SEO efforts down the line.

Monitor Traffic Sources

The Acquisition reports in Google Analytics show you where your website traffic is coming from, broken down by source (e.g. organic search, direct, referral, social). Keep a close eye on your organic traffic to see how it’s trending over time.

You can also drill down to see which pages are getting the most organic traffic and which keywords are driving that traffic (more on that later). This can help you identify your top-performing content and opportunities for optimization.

Analyze User Behavior and Engagement

The Behavior reports in Google Analytics give you insights into how users are interacting with your site once they arrive from organic search. Key metrics to track here include:

  • Bounce rate: The percentage of users who leave after viewing only one page
  • Time on page: How long users spend on a particular page
  • Pages per session: The average number of pages viewed per session

If you see high bounce rates or low engagement metrics, it could indicate that your content isn’t meeting user expectations or needs. Use this data to identify pages that need improvement and test out different optimizations.

Track Conversions and Goals

The Conversions reports in Google Analytics show you how well your organic traffic is converting into leads or customers. This is where those goals you set up earlier come into play.

Monitor your organic conversion rates and compare them to other traffic sources. If organic is underperforming, you may need to work on better aligning your content with search intent and optimizing your calls-to-action.

You can also set up multi-channel conversion tracking to see how organic search assists conversions from other channels like direct or email. This gives you a more holistic view of your SEO impact.

Key Takeaway: Regularly tracking your SEO metrics helps you understand what’s working and what isn’t. Use tools like Google Analytics to monitor organic traffic, keyword rankings, bounce rates, and conversions. Setting clear goals ensures focus and aligns your SEO with broader marketing strategies for better results.

How to Use Google Search Console

If you’re serious about tracking your SEO progress, you need to get familiar with Google Search Console (GSC). It’s a powerful tool that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at how your site is performing in Google search results.

But before you can start digging into all that juicy data, you need to verify your site in GSC. It’s a simple process that involves adding a code to your site or connecting your Google Analytics account.

Once you’re verified, the real fun begins.

Monitor Search Performance

One of the first things I always check in GSC is the Performance report. It shows you how often your site appears in Google search results, which queries are driving traffic, and how many clicks and impressions each page is getting.

By regularly monitoring this data, you can spot trends in your search visibility, track your progress for target keywords, and find new opportunities to optimize your pages.

For example, if you see a page that’s getting a lot of impressions but not many clicks, it might be a sign that your title tag or meta description needs some work.

Identify Top-Performing Pages

Another great feature of the Performance report is the ability to drill down into specific pages and queries. You can see which pages are generating the most clicks, impressions, and click-through rates (CTR).

This can give you valuable insights into what topics and formats are resonating with your audience. You can then use this information to guide your content strategy and optimization efforts.

For example, if you see that a particular blog post is getting a ton of traffic for a specific keyword, you might want to create more content around that topic or optimize that post even further to rank higher.

Analyze Click-Through Rates

Speaking of CTR, it’s a metric that often gets overlooked but can have a big impact on your search traffic.

CTR is the percentage of impressions that result in a click, and it’s a good indicator of how compelling your page titles and meta descriptions are in the search results.

By tracking CTR for key pages and queries in GSC, you can identify opportunities to improve your titles and descriptions and drive more qualified traffic to your site.

I’ve seen cases where simply tweaking a title tag to be more enticing can boost CTR by 10% or more. It’s a small change that can have a big impact on your organic search traffic.

A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Track SEO Performance

Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty details of monitoring, measuring, and analyzing your SEO performance.

1. Conduct Website Audits

Now, let’s talk about the importance of regular site audits.

Just like you take your car in for regular tune-ups, you need to give your website a thorough check-up every now and then to make sure it’s running smoothly.

A site audit is a deep dive into all the technical aspects of your site that can impact your SEO performance. It’s like looking under the hood to see if there are any leaks or worn-out parts that need fixing.

Identify Technical SEO Issues

One of the main goals of a site audit is to identify any technical SEO issues that may be holding your site back. This can include things like broken links, duplicate content, slow page load times, and crawl errors.

By using tools like Screaming Frog or Semrush to crawl your site and generate audit reports, you can proactively address these issues and keep your site in tip-top shape.

I remember one client who came to me with a site that had been hit hard by a Google algorithm update. When we did a site audit, we discovered that they had a ton of duplicate content issues and broken links. By cleaning up those issues and improving their site structure, we were able to get their traffic back on track within a few months.

Optimize Site Structure and Navigation

Another key aspect of a site audit is evaluating your site structure and navigation. This is important for both SEO and user experience. You want to make sure that your content is organized logically and that users can easily find what they’re looking for.

During an audit, take a close look at your site’s hierarchy and internal linking.

Are your most important pages easy to find and access? Are you using descriptive, keyword-rich anchor text in your internal links? These are all factors that can impact your search visibility and user engagement.

Optimize Page Speed and Mobile Responsiveness

In today’s mobile-first world, having a mobile-friendly site is non-negotiable.

During a site audit, it’s crucial to test your site’s performance and usability on mobile devices. This includes things like responsive design, page load speed, and mobile-specific content.

Google has made it clear that they prioritize mobile-friendly sites in their search results. So if your site isn’t optimized for mobile users, you could be missing out on a huge chunk of traffic and revenue.

Analyze Content Quality and Relevance

Finally, a site audit is a great opportunity to take a hard look at your content and make sure it’s up to snuff. This means evaluating your existing content for quality, relevance, and search intent.

Are you covering topics that your target audience cares about? Is your content well-written, informative, and engaging? Does it align with the search queries that are driving traffic to your site?

By critically assessing your content during an audit, you can identify gaps and opportunities for improvement.

Maybe you need to update some outdated posts, create more in-depth guides, or optimize your content for specific keywords.

Always ask yourself: “Is this content providing real value to my audience and helping me achieve my SEO goals?”

If the answer is no, it’s time to make some changes.

2. Track Keyword Rankings and Positions

Alright, let’s talk about everyone’s favorite topic: keyword rankings.

As an SEO, tracking your keyword positions is like checking your vital signs. It tells you how healthy your site is and whether your optimization efforts are paying off.

But with so many keywords to track and so many tools to choose from, it can be overwhelming to know where to start.

That’s why I always recommend focusing on a core set of target keywords that are most important to your business and using a reliable rank-tracking tool to monitor your progress over time.

Use Keyword Tracking Tools

There are a ton of great keyword-tracking tools out there like Ahrefs, Moz, and Semrush. These tools allow you to enter your target keywords and track your rankings across multiple search engines and locations.

The key is to set up your tracking campaigns correctly from the start. Make sure you’re tracking the right keywords, using the right location and device settings, and setting up regular reporting so you can stay on top of your progress.

I usually recommend tracking a mix of branded and non-branded keywords, as well as a range of keyword difficulty levels. This gives you a well-rounded view of your search visibility and helps you identify quick wins as well as long-term opportunities.

Monitor Ranking Changes Over Time

Once you have your tracking set up, the real work begins.

It’s not enough to just check your rankings once and call it a day. You need to monitor your keyword positions regularly to spot any changes or trends over time.

I like to check my rankings at least once a week, if not more often. This allows me to quickly identify any sudden drops or spikes in visibility and investigate the cause. It could be a sign of a Google algorithm update, a technical issue on your site, or a change in your competitors’ strategies.

By staying on top of your rankings, you can proactively address any issues and keep your SEO progress on track.

Identify Opportunities for Improvement

Tracking your keyword rankings isn’t just about patting yourself on the back for the keywords you’re already ranking well for. It’s also about identifying opportunities for improvement and finding new keywords to target.

As you monitor your rankings over time, keep an eye out for keywords that are stuck on page 2 or 3 of the search results. These are often low-hanging fruit that you can optimize for with a little extra effort.

You should also use your keyword tracking data to inform your content strategy. Look for gaps in your content coverage or topics that you’re not currently ranking for but should be. Then create new content or optimize existing pages to target those keywords.

Compare Rankings with Competitors

Finally, don’t forget to keep tabs on your competitor’s rankings.

Most keyword-tracking tools allow you to enter your competitors’ domains and track their rankings alongside your own. This can give you valuable insights into their SEO strategies and help you stay one step ahead.

If you see a competitor suddenly jumping up the rankings for a particular keyword, take a closer look at their page and see what they’re doing differently.

You can also use competitor analysis to identify new keyword opportunities. Look for keywords that your competitors are ranking for but you’re not. Then create content that’s even better and more comprehensive than theirs.

The key to effective keyword tracking is to use it as a tool for continuous improvement. Don’t just set it and forget it. Use your data to make informed decisions about your content, your optimization efforts, and your overall SEO strategy.

And remember, rankings are just one piece of the puzzle. They’re a means to an end – more traffic, more leads, more revenue.

Key Takeaway: Use Google Search Console to track your SEO progress. Verify your site, then monitor performance reports for insights on clicks, impressions, and CTR. Regularly audit your site to identify technical issues and optimize content quality. Track keyword rankings with tools like Ahrefs or Semrush and keep an eye on competitors.

3. Measure User Engagement and Behavior

You can’t just focus on the technical side of SEO and call it a day. If you really want to know how to track SEO progress, you need to dive into user engagement metrics too.

These tell you how people are interacting with your site once they land on it from the search engine results. And trust me, Google is paying attention to these user experience signals.

Analyze Bounce Rates and Time on Site

Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who land on a page and then leave without going anywhere else on your site. A high bounce rate can be a red flag that your content isn’t meeting user expectations.

Meanwhile, tracking average session duration (time on site) lets you see how long people are sticking around. More time usually means they’re finding your stuff valuable.

I always keep an eye on these engagement metrics in Google Analytics for key pages, especially those targeting important keywords. If I spot issues, I know I need to work on improving the content or user experience on those pages to better match search intent.

Monitor Pages Per Session

Another useful engagement metric is pages per session — the average number of pages a user views in a single visit. Higher is generally better, as it indicates people are digging deeper into your site.

You can track pages per session in Google Analytics and compare across different traffic sources. See how people coming from organic search perform vs other channels.

Track Click-Through Rates

Your organic click-through rate (CTR) from search results to your site is an important indicator of how compelling your listing is. You can monitor this for different pages and keywords in Google Search Console.

If you’re ranking well but have a low CTR, that’s a sign you may need to punch up your page titles and meta descriptions to entice more clicks. Even small improvements in CTR can make a big difference in organic traffic.

Identify User Experience Issues

Lastly, pay attention to engagement metrics to spot potential user experience problems that could be hurting your SEO.

For example, a high bounce rate + low time on page might mean your page loads too slowly, looks bad on mobile, or has other technical issues.

Regularly monitoring this data and watching for red flags is key to a strong SEO program. Pair it with user experience audits to keep your site buttoned up from a UX perspective too.

4. Evaluate Your Backlink Profile and Domain Authority

I know, I know – backlinks have been an important ranking factor for ages. But with Google’s focus on E-E-A-T in recent years, the quality and relevance of those links matter more than ever.

Regularly assessing your backlink profile is a must for tracking SEO progress and keeping your site in good standing with Google.

Monitor Domain Authority Scores

While not a metric used by Google, Domain Authority (DA) from Moz is a handy way to gauge the overall strength of your site’s backlink profile. It’s scored on a scale of 1-100.

I like to track DA over time using Moz’s Link Explorer tool. An increasing score relative to competitors signals I’m on the right track with link building. A decreasing score means I need to dig in and see what’s up.

Beyond DA, I also keep tabs on the number of unique referring domains (sites linking to me) and total backlinks pointing to my site. More isn’t always better though — quality and relevance are key.

Tools like Ahrefs and Majestic let you analyze your link profile, see your top linked pages, and identify any shady or low-quality links that could hurt you.

Identify High-Quality Link Opportunities

Evaluating your backlink profile isn’t just about playing defense. It’s also about spotting opportunities to earn more high-value links to boost authority.

I use competitor analysis to see who’s linking to them and find relevant, quality sites I can target in my own link-building outreach. Guest blogging, broken link building, and digital PR are some of my go-to tactics.

Unfortunately, sometimes bad links happen to good sites. Negative SEO attacks, shady link-building tactics, or just random spam can all rear their ugly head in your link profile.

If you spot a concerning link, first try to get the backlink removed by contacting the site owner. If that fails, Google’s disavow tool lets you ask Google to ignore it. Use this tool with caution and only for truly spammy or unnatural links.

5. Create Actionable SEO Reports

You’ve put in the work and optimized your content, and now it’s time to show your clients the results.

But how do you create an SEO report that’s not only informative but also actionable?

I’ve been there, spending hours collecting data and trying to figure out the best way to present it. It’s not always easy, but over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks that can help you create SEO reports that really make an impact.

Define Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

First things first, you need to define your key performance indicators (KPIs). These are the metrics that matter most to your client and their business goals. Some common SEO KPIs include:

  • Organic traffic growth
  • Keyword rankings
  • Conversion rates
  • Bounce rate
  • Backlink profile

Work with your client to identify the KPIs that are most relevant to their business and make sure to include them in your SEO report.

Present Findings and Recommendations

Once you’ve gathered and analyzed the data, it’s time to present your findings to your client.

Your SEO report should be clear, concise, and easy to understand. Use visuals like graphs and charts to help illustrate your points and make the data more digestible.

But don’t just present the data and call it a day. Use your findings to make actionable recommendations for how to improve your client’s SEO performance.

Maybe it’s optimizing certain pages for specific keywords or building more high-quality backlinks. Whatever it is, make sure your recommendations are specific and achievable.

Communicate Progress to Stakeholders

Finally, don’t forget to communicate progress to all stakeholders involved. This includes not just your client, but also their team members and any other relevant parties. Make sure everyone is on the same page and understands the importance of SEO and how it contributes to overall business goals.

One way to do this is by scheduling regular check-ins or progress reports. This keeps everyone in the loop and allows for open communication and collaboration.

6. Stay Up-to-Date with Algorithm Updates

I’ve been in the SEO game long enough to know that the only constant is change. Google is always tweaking its algorithm, sometimes in small ways, sometimes in big, earth-shaking ways (I’m looking at you, Panda and Penguin).

Staying on top of these updates is crucial for knowing how to track SEO progress and adapt your strategy to stay ahead of the curve.

Monitor Major Algorithm Updates

First, keep your ear to the ground for major Google algorithm updates. These are the ones with cute animal names that can tank your rankings overnight if you’re not careful.

I rely on resources like Semrush Sensor and Moz’s Google Algorithm Change History to stay in the loop. When a big update hits, I brace myself and closely monitor my traffic and rankings to see if I’m affected.

Adapt SEO Strategies to Algorithm Changes

If an update does shake things up for me, it’s time to dig in and figure out what changed so I can adapt. I’ll pore over Google’s Search Central blog and SEO news sites to understand the update’s focus and what I need to tweak.

Common themes I’ve seen in recent years: prioritizing great user experience, weeding out thin or low-quality content, and doubling down on E-E-A-T signals.

Stay Informed Through Industry News and Resources

Even when there’s not a major update happening, I’m always reading up on SEO news and best practices. The search landscape is constantly shifting, and I never want to fall behind.

Twitter is a great place to follow SEO experts and get real-time insights. Some of my favorites are @dannysullivan from Google, @randfish, and @Marie_Haynes.

I also never miss a SearchLove conference or Whiteboard Friday video from Moz. Staying plugged into the SEO community is key to staying ahead of the game.

FAQs: How to Track SEO Progress

How do you track SEO performance?

Use tools like Google Analytics and Search Console. Monitor organic traffic, keyword rankings, bounce rates, and conversion rates.

How to measure your SEO success?

Check metrics like domain authority, referring domains, site audits for technical issues, and user engagement metrics.

How do I check my SEO results?

An easy way is through a comprehensive SEO report with KPIs such as search visibility and backlink profiles.

How to check if your SEO is working?

If you see growth in organic search traffic and higher ranking positions on target keywords, then your SEO strategy is working well.

Conclusion

You’ve learned that tracking SEO progress involves more than glancing at analytics once in a while. It means diving into specific metrics like organic traffic growth, bounce rates, and conversion rates — all essential pieces of the puzzle.

Your job now? Consistently monitor these insights and adjust your strategy based on real data.

This is how you turn effort into results and stay ahead of your competitors.

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Written by Julia McCoy

See more from Julia McCoy
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