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How do I know if my SEO is working?

Easy checks you can do to make sure your SEO is going in the right direction.

Maybe you’ve hired an SEO company to improve your rankings, or maybe you’re just wondering if the SEO that your web developer *said* they did is actually doing anything at all.
How do you know? Well, we’re going to break down a few metrics you can look at to see just how well your website is performing.

Steps to take to check if your SEO is working:

  1. Cover the basics.
  2. Check for increasing impressions in Google Search Console.
  3. Look for increasing organic traffic and decreasing bounce rate.
  4. Check the ranking of your top keywords.
  5. Monitor your conversions.

First, some basics. What is SEO?
If you found your way here, I’m sure you know about SEO, but just in case, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. For the purposes of this post, we will be focusing specifically on how your website appears in search engines, and predominantly in Google.

Why Google?

Google is a near-monopoly, with more than 90% of web search volume*

*source

Let’s get started, shall we?
NOTE: SEO takes time. In order to see any real results from SEO efforts, a minimum of three to nine months is recommended to really make sense of any changes or efforts toward improvements that have been made.

The tools you will need:

Google Analytics
This should already be installed on your website. Google Analytics is necessary to understand how much traffic is coming to your website, where that traffic is coming from, and what visitors are doing once they get there.
Unsure if you have Google Analytics installed? Use this handy tool: http://www.gachecker.com/
If you have Google Analytics installed, but don’t have access to the account, you may need to reach out to your web developer to have them add you as a manager/ owner.

• Google Search Console
This will help provide more information on how your website is appearing in searches, not just the traffic. It will let you measure impressions, your ranking, and what search terms people are using to find you.
If you have access to your Google Analytics, you can set up and connect your Search Console here: https://search.google.com/search-console/welcome
If you’ve already connected it, your web property should appear when you log in.

In order to have access to this type of information, you would have had to previously submit a sitemap to Google and verified your web property so search engines can crawl your web pages.

• Google My Business
If you are a local business or a business that serves a specific location, you should have a Google My Business listing.
(if not, go here first, then come back to us)
Google My Business offers valuable insights as well, allowing you to look at how your listing is performing over the last eighteen months.
This is so important for local businesses to factor in as your website may not be showing for organic search results, but you may still be showing for the Local Pack.
As that Local Pack and Google Maps have become more prevalent in the search landscape, we’re noticing that website traffic to local websites has been going down.
So, this is an important metric to watch as well when considering the overall success of your SEO efforts.

COVERING THE BASICS

There are a few things you can look into that will help give you a full holistic overview of how your website is performing. These things are backlinks, citations, reviews, your website speed on both desktop and mobile, and if you’re a local business, your Google My Business listing.

Want this done for you? You can get a free report here:

USING GOOGLE SEARCH CONSOLE

OK, now let’s start by looking at your Google Search Console.

From your search console, select “Performance” from the menu on the left, and look at your impressions.
Impressions are the number of times that your website is viewed in search results.
While an impression will not always get a click to your website, it will give you some indication of how often your website is appearing in search results.

Are impressions going up over time?
Now let’s look at your average position.
When someone searches for an answer to a question or one of your main keywords, is your website being listed on the first several pages? Or even the first page? Is that number going up over time?

This is an important metric to look at, as down the line it’s a great way to increase traffic to your website by further optimizing pages that may be appearing in search results pages, but have a low click-through rate. These are great to circle back to in the future to revamp the title, meta description, and page info to increase click-throughs and conversions.

USING GOOGLE ANALYTICS

Next, use your Google Analytics to ensure that traffic is actually coming to your website and what’s happening when it does.

First, make sure you’re taking at least a 30-day sample size. Google Analytics defaults to 7 days… which honestly is no good for anyone.

Once you’ve got the past 30 days selected, go to “All Traffic” – “Acquisition” – “Source/Medium”.
Here we’re just looking at google/organic results.
Looking at the graph along the top, are the results trending up? Some peaks and valleys are normal for sure, especially if you have a business that operates weekdays only, like a B2B or a restaurant that may see more spikes on weekends. So we’re just looking for an overall trend here.
Once you see your 30-day trend, go back further.

Start comparing month over month, quarter over quarter, and our personal favorite, year over year!
Year over year is especially helpful if you have a seasonal company. Other comparisons will not be as relevant if you see natural spikes of traffic during your busiest times of year.
Are the trends continuing to get better, worse, or remaining the same?

From here, we’re looking at a few different things.
How is the bounce rate?
The bounce rate is how long someone is spending on your website. The lower the bounce rate, the more engaged that person is on your website and the longer they’re staying there.
Now, that doesn’t always mean that a low bounce rate is good and a high bounce rate is high. For example, if you run a service business where people come to your website to contact you only, you may have a high bounce rate of 85% but your traffic could be converting at 25%.

So, it’s a factor to look at, but you do have to consider the whole picture. If you have a longer buying cycle with your customers, the bounce rate will be much more important to factor in.

CHECK YOUR TOP KEYWORDS

Tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush make checking your keyword rankings pretty easy, but what if you don’t subscribe to hefty software like these? You can check your rankings right within Google Analytics with the help of the Search Console.
In Google Analytics, under “Acquisition” – go to “Search Console” – “Queries”. If this section is blank you can learn how to connect your Google Analytics to your Search Console here.

The columns we are looking at here are the Search Queries, Clickthrough Rate (CTR), and the Average Position.
Any average position above about 10 means that your website will often be showing on the first page, but we really want to focus on positions one and two.
Go ahead and sort this list by average position with the highest-ranking searches starting at the top. Now glancing at the search queries, remove any branded searches, or searches that include your company name, and see if these are all search terms that you want to be ranking for.

If your SEO is in a good place, you should be seeing search terms that you want to rank for in first and second places. Remember that SEO is also always in flux, so check different date ranges to ensure that the trends are still going in the right direction.

MONITOR YOUR CONVERSIONS

If you don’t have any kind of conversion tracking set up, this one can be trickier.
Even if your phone calls and email inquiries have increased, unless you can equate those leads back to your website, you can’t really attribute them to any SEO efforts.
We highly recommend setting up conversion tracking and call tracking numbers where you can. This can be a more technical process, but it’s really the best to trace website conversions back to your SEO efforts.
This post from Optin Monster helps break down steps for setting up Conversion Tracking in Google Analytics.

Summary

Whew! We know it’s a lot of steps to take to really get a good idea of if your SEO is working or not. Remember, patience is key. Good organic SEO takes time and is constantly changing. Have some time set aside every month or so to keep an eye out for any major swings or errors.

As a full-service digital marketing agency and Seattle based website design company, we’re happy to be here as a resource for you. If you have questions, just ask!