How to Measure SEO Performance: A Comprehensive Guide

There are a number aspects of website performance to measure and this article looks at all of them.

It goes without saying, you can't measure if you don't know what to measure. By immersing yourself in dozens of unimportant reports, you lose focus on the key factors.

That's why its so important for marketers to narrow in on the performance metrics that are most relevant and useful for their unique company or website.

The only way to determine what works for you is to monitor performance metrics.

Depending on your industry and business type, there are certain performance metrics that will have a greater impact on your success than others.

The reason that digital marketing is great is because absolutely everything can be tracked, from your website performance all the way to your return on investment.

Without measurement, the marketing of your website becomes a guessing game. That's where your Key Performance Indicators come in:

Key Performance Indicators

A KPI, or Key Performance Indicator, can be defined as a measurement that is in place to measure the performance of any business activity.

Key performance indicators are a type of metric used to evaluate the factors that significantly impact a businesss bottom line.

With so much data available, it can be overwhelming to know which performance indicators to focus on. The key is to look at the appropriate KPIs.

Keep in mind that some KPIs depend on your technology, others depend on user behavior.

You must define your KPIs first and the most important website performance metrics will emerge from there.

If you haven't re-designed your website yet, consider how to work these valuable metrics into your design choices.

When your performance indicators are set up, and measurable, you can use them to make data-driven decisions for your organization.

Always keep in mind that the KPIs you put in place should be measuring success with bigger picture marketing goals like demand generation, a better user experience, brand lift, or whatever has proven to be your area of excellence.

If your performance indicator can't lead to a course of action or inform a decision, then you should probably re-evaluate it.

The only way to know what motivates your group of targeted customers is to observe and experiment.

That means setting the correct KPIs for both the short term and the long term.

Measuring Website Speed

Do you want customers to spend more time on your website?

Do you want your SEO rankings to remain competitive?

Do you want to provide a better experience to the visitors of your website?

If you've answered yes to these questions then the speed of your website should be somewhere near the top of your priority list.

Users will only be engaged if your speed is adequate and they can interact quickly.

The average customers expectation is for your website to load in the blink of an eye.

Milliseconds translate into money earned or lost.

Measuring Website Uptime and Downtime

Downtime is disastrous for companies and can lead to major hits on a brand, reputation, and overall customer retention.

The longer the downtime is and the more often it happens, the more it jeopardizes the reputation of your business.

There are many tools out there which measure your server uptime and send you alerts when your website is down.

Server Infrastructure Performance

Faster websites create happy users.

Therefore its important to make sure your infrastructure is as fast as it can be.

This includes measuring the amount of time it takes for your DNS provider to translate a domain name into an IP address.

It also includes the speed at which your host serves your website.

You can do this by using an automated speed test which ping your server from different locations around the world, and measure the response time.

Analysing Page Speed

Studies show that reducing page load time decreases bounce rate and improves visitor experience.

If the landing pages take too much time to load, it doesn't matter what's on it because you have lost their attention.

Fast page load times improve customer experience, conversion, and search ranking.

Remember that people around the world will have different load times and theyre going to experience the app in a very different way.

Two great tools to measure your page performance are Google Page Speed Insights and GMetrix.

Bear in mind that when you're measuring page speed and load time, there is a lot going on.

Content needs to be accessed from the server, images need to be retrieved, and style sheets need to be loaded. All of these can affect website performance.

As you can imagine, if your website is filled with enormous images, complicated code, and intricate design, it takes a lot longer to load it all up.

Assessing User Experience

If a visitor has a poor experience, they are far more likely to abandon the session, or worse, the sale.

If experience suffers, conversion rates and subsequently revenues suffer.

Website performance metrics can help in analysing the experience of your target audience on your web property.

Before making any changes to your website's content, navigation or design, you want to dig into your analytics to measure how well your website is performing and identify areas you could improve to give users a better experience.

This will also help you highlight which usability errors are holding people up, to ensure a smooth pathway through your digital funnel.

In this day and age, many people design their websites for Google but bear in mind that the crawlers that rank your site in the search results still care about what people can't see!

Core Web Vitals

Another performance metric that is becoming more and more important are what Google terms as Core Web Vitals.

These content metrics are designed to measure loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability.

Google has described them as a way to help quantify the experience of your website and identify opportunities to improve, further highlighting their shift towards focusing on user experience.

You can see the core web vitals for your website in Google Search Console - Google's free search analytics tool.

SEO Statistics

Every business website is unique, and a metric that is relevant for one website may mean nothing for another.

However, there are several key metrics that are universally important for search engine optimisation. These are as follows:

Organic Traffic

Organic traffic is traffic that you earn from appearing in the search engine results pages without paying for ads.

Organic traffic is actually the most important metric for SEO.

All the SEO effort in the world is useless unless it actually brings you traffic.

All other metrics and actions are designed to ultimately grow that number.

You can measure your organic traffic using free tools such as Search Console and Google Analytics.

Website Ranking Performance

Keyword rankings are where your specific keywords are positioned in major search engines like Google or Bing.

Tracking your organic rankings over time is one of the strongest indicators of SEO performance.

There are many automated tools out there to measure your search ranking although you can do this on a fundamental level with Search Console.

Domain Rating / Domain Authority

Domain Authority predicts your website’s performance versus other competitor websites in Google’s search engine rankings based on the strength of your website pages and link profiles.

Beware though, a high domain authority doesn't matter if youre not getting visitors.


Backlinks are an essential aspect of SEO because they help to build your website's domain and page authorities, which directly contribute to search result rankings

Backlink quality needs to be evaluated both on an individual level and as part of your site’s overall backlink profile.

Understand your Audience and Customer Behaviour

You can find out which of your pages draws the most traffic by simply checking under the behaviour section on Google Analytics.

More than just generic traffic volume, acquisition metrics can help you dig into who's visiting and where they came from so that you can better contextualize traffic numbers.

Even when they don't make a conversion, you can track which pages they're visiting, how long they spend on each page, and what they do on the page.

Google Analytics can also help break down how your audience is using your site between mobile and other devices.

You can also see how people found your site, how they navigated through it, and ultimately how they converted using Google Analytics. Its a great, free tool.

If you're just starting out, I'd recommend allowing Google Analytics a few months to collect data before you get too in-depth, so that it has time to work out trends and so that you have a greater spread of user data.

Using customer acquisition and customer retention as key performance indicators is well recognised as best practice, as is measuring the conversion rate and click through rate.

Analysis of Traffic Sources

Analysing your traffic sources and audience behaviors allows you to get to know your potential customers better, and to improve your marketing techniques based on that knowledge.

In addition, understanding where significant traffic changes are coming from can help you identify the efficacy of different marketing channels and campaigns.

Analytics tools, such as the one from Google, allow you to see how many website visitors are coming from different traffic sources, such as organic, referral, direct, from social networks (or social media) and a global view of visitors broken down by geographic origin.

Pay special attention to conversion rates by source because you can use CRO (conversion rate optimisation) tactics specific to each traffic source to improve your numbers.

Checking Bounce Rate

If your bounce rate is high, it means users are turning away without thoroughly exploring your content. You don't need web performance metrics to tell you that.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to determine that if your site isn't working, visitors wont convert.

Bounce rate is something that you can control, based on the content we produce and SEO optimisation like title and meta description.

You can use the bounce rate of your website to answer key questions about how their visitors relate to their content.

A high bounce rate on landing pages usually indicates that visitors are making it to your site but finding nothing of value to keep them there however, a visitor may have come to your site to find your phone number, address, etc. Once they have the information they needed, there was no need to visit another page so that may have caused the bounce.

Session Time / Time on Page / Dwell Time

Attention spans are getting shorter, not longer.

If a visitor finds your page through search, goes through your webpage's content, and quickly hits the back button, that sends a signal to Google that your content isn't fulfilling searcher needs.

Time on page is a pretty black and white metric, meaning it doesn't lie.

Generally speaking, the longer a user spends on your site, the more likely they are to make a conversion of some sort.

If your time on page is low and your bounce rate is high, you're most likely missing the mark on search intent and not answering readers questions.

In addition to helping marketers understand how valuable visitors find their content, dwell time is also commonly believed to be one of Google's ranking factors.

Conversion Rates

Lets think of conversion rates as business objectives.

Your webpage conversion rate is calculated by simply dividing your number of unique visitors by your number of conversions.

All you have to do to find the conversion rate is to divide the number of conversions you get in a given time frame by the total number of people who visited your site or landing page and multiply it by 100%.

If you just look at the overall conversion rate, you don't get a good gist of whats actually working and what isn't.

Goal Completions

Goal completions have the most tangible return on investment. Analysing each page based on the goal of that page, not by a standard metric, is a recommended strategy for web performance metrics.

For example, if you're solely a bricks and mortar store, your metric might be how many users call the store.

On the other hand, if you are a service area business, you might measure how many visitors schedule an appointment with you or fill in the contact form.

For e-commerce sites, a properly working ordering process is vital for the business and this can also be set as a web performance goal.

For affiliate sites, a conversion rate would be assessed when the visitor made a purchase at the vendor's store.

All of these goals can be set up and tracked in a free performance measurement tool such as Google Analytics.

Measuring Profits and ROI

Ultimately, profit is more important than any other metric

Determining the cost of your conversions and your overall return on investment is perhaps the most important KPI of all.

If you're spending more to get conversions than you are receiving in profits, then of course you have a problem.

The calculation for your return on investment will differ depending on the marketing channel that you use, the type of business and the web performance that it offers.

Calculating the return on investment for an e-commerce store, for example. is very different for that of a service company.

Also, measuring the financial return for search engine optimisation is a lot more open ended than measuring that of paid advertisements.

Final Words

If you don't prioritise measuring web performance, you'll be risking your bottom line.

To understand how well you're doing you have to understand what to measure, how to measure, why you're measuring, and what you will do with the data once you have it.

Slowly setting metrics in place to see how you're performing allows you to make intelligent and informed business decisions.

Its also important to keep mixing up your strategies and utilising trial and error. Do more of what has worked and experiment with what hasn't.

A digital strategy that relies on gut feeling is doomed to fail. Remember, what gets measured, gets managed!

SEO Consultant

This article was written by Gaz Hall, a UK based SEO Consultant on 7th September 2020.

Gaz has 20 years experience working on SEO projects large and small, locally and globally across a range of sectors.

If you need any SEO advice or would like him to look at your next project then get in touch to arrange a free consultation.