Key Tips on Measuring SEO and Keyword Performance

  |  April 2, 2012   |  Comments

A look at several analytics factors you can study to get a better idea of keyword performance aside from just ranking.

There are several ways to judge the success of an SEO campaign. Most people consider keyword ranking to be the most important. While it's an important metric, conversion and engagement are even more important. However, by themselves no data point tells the whole story, so it's best to look at several factors that paint a clearer picture.

For the purposes of this column, I'm going to focus in on several analytics factors that you can study to get a better idea of keyword performance aside from just ranking. To do so I'm going to use Google Analytics as the main tool to view these variables.

Landing a first page slot on Google is a good success metric and accomplishment, but to further analyze keyword performance you need to see what people do after they click on your listing. To do that, we need to dive into a tool like Google Analytics to study keyword performance data. To find this information, go to: Traffic Sources > Sources> Search > Organic.


This report will provide you a list of all organic keywords that have driven traffic to your site. The default view sorts your keywords by the number of visits, which is the first metric. However, you can click on any of the column headings to resort the keyword list by:

  • Number of visits
  • Pages per visit
  • Average visit duration
  • Percent of new visits
  • Bounce rate


The number of visits obviously provides you with a quantitative analysis of the amount of traffic being brought in by each keyword. The next couple of variables speak to visitor engagement. This will provide insight into how well these visitors interacted with the content on your website.

Pages Per Visit

One of the first things you should ask yourself is "How many pages on average would a visitor need to view in order to successfully interact with your site and convert?" Then look at your pages per visit and see if they match up. In the report above you can see the average is roughly 12 pages viewed per visitor. If this seems on target, then great. If not, then you should make any adjustments to increase or decrease the pages per visit.

Average Visit Duration

Similar to above, you should know, on average, how much time it should take for someone to view your site's content before they convert. Let's say that you have videos on your landing pages that are three to four minutes long. If you have an average visit duration of two minutes, that would indicate your videos are not being viewed or viewed completely. Again, if your estimate and the actual data do not match up, then you should plan to make changes to match your expectations.

Bounce Rate

The bounce rate is one of the most important variables to look at. Basically, if a high percentage of visitors come to your site and then immediately leave, that would indicate there was a disconnect with them and the content of your site. Their expectation and the content on your website didn't match up. They were not engaged and left. A high bounce rate like 85 percent indicates low engagement while a low bounce rate like 20 percent or less indicates high engagement.

Still, looking at just one variable provides valuable insight; looking at all of them together provides even more insight that will help you make the necessary changes to your site to increase keyword performance.

Branded vs. Non-Branded Keywords

One of the first things you might notice when you sort your keyword list by the number of visits is that many of your branded keywords are near the top. These keywords are likely to perform better because people who use branded keywords know who you are and have a good expectation on what they will find.

Organic, non-branded keyword performance is a great way to gain deeper insight into how engaged your new visitors are. Furthermore, visitors who found you based on branded keywords aren't the best indicator of the success of your SEO campaigns. So to best see your non-branded keywords, you will need to filter out the branded ones. Google Analytics provides a very nice tool to allow you to do this.

First click on the "Advanced Segments" and you will see a window that looks something like the one below. Find the button at the lower right-hand side called "+ New Custom Segment."


Then name your segment so it's recognizable in the custom segment list. If you have multiple brands, then you need to label them accordingly so you can distinguish them from one another. Then to set up your non-branded segment choose "exclude" then "keyword" then "containing" and then type in your brand name. If your brand name can be spelled a couple of different ways like a space or hyphen between words, then create a new "and statement" and pick the same variables and type in the new spelling. Once you are done, save the segment and you should now see its name in the custom segment column. Click on the checkbox next to your newly formed segment and click "apply." You will now see your list of keywords that excludes all of the non-branded ones.


Most of these metrics may seem simple but you would be surprised how many people are not taking the time to take advantage of the rich keyword information that comes from analytics. The more you take time to review and course correct, the more success you will have.


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Ron Jones

Ron was president/CEO of Symetri Internet Marketing, which provides strategic SEM consulting and training. Ron was actively involved in the SEM community and spoke and trained at conferences and seminars. Ron also served on the Board of Directors for SEMPO and was one of the authors for the SEMPO Institute Fundamentals and Advanced courses.

Ron also published a book called Keyword Intelligence: Keyword Research for Search Social and Beyond. This book outlines various methods and tips for conducting keyword research but more importantly outlines many ways to use keyword research for social media, site design, content development and marketing, and even traditional marketing and branding.

Ron passed away on June 30, 2012.

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