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Content Marketing | Sep 21
Belynda Cianci on March 9, 2020 (last modified on March 11, 2020) • 48 minute read
Keeping an eye on your SEO metrics is a full-time pursuit. With algorithms changing and competition increasing every day, it helps to focus in on the one metric you know will have the most impact on your results. But which to target: Traffic? Local? Clicks or impressions? It’s a lot to keep up with, but regular reporting on your stats is one of the best ways to keep pace.
With this challenge in mind, we asked our experts to talk about their #1, desert island metric— the number that is always first on their radar when reading a report, and the most critical to get attention when things you need to course-correct. They did not disappoint! Nearly 90 experts raised their hands to share the number one metric on their reporting roster.
It’s a SUBSTANTIAL list, close to 40 different data points and some excellent insight to go along with it. We’ve listed them in alphabetical order below so you can learn more about each (bookmark this report in case you need to break it out over a few sessions).
Time waits for no search, according to David Walter of Electrician Mentor “Everyone hates a slow website, and the data shows it. Longer page load times have a severe effect on bounce rates, with research from Google indicating that page load time increases from 1 second to 6 seconds, bounce rate increases by 106%.
On top of that, Google has publicly stated that a slow website can hurt your search engine rankings. So a speedy website is super important to not only get more users to your website but to stop them from leaving once they arrive.”
As Walter explains, “While it‘s great to get a rough idea of your page speed using tools like Pingdom or GT Metrix, this isn’t an accurate reflection of the speed of your users’ experience. Think of this as testing something in a lab. Sure it’s a useful starting point, but the lab is not the same as the real world. Users will experience different real-world results depending on factors like their reception, browser, and travel speed.”
“This is where the Average Page Load Time in your Google Analytics report steps in,” says Walter. “This gives you real-world loading times for your website. This is the gold standard for the speed metric you want to be optimizing for, as it’s the actual speed that your users are experiencing. Getting this metric in your local SEO report keeps the speed of your website top of mind. It’s a fantastic leading indicator of potential future issues with bounce rate & organic traffic. By keeping page speed top of mind, you’ll ensure that your users will have a much more pleasant experience when they visit your website. And search engines will thank you for it by sending more people your way!”
Quite a few of our experts start with backlinks in order to interpret SEO strength. For instance, Andrea Zamolo of Beekeeper says, “If you’re utilizing the strategy of link building to help your site rank, then you’ll need to be sure to keep up with any new backlinks. While you may usually be notified if someone uses a link or a piece of content, that isn’t always the case. So, it’s important to keep up with all of those links, especially if you want to return the love.”
Anthony Gaenzle of AnthonyGaenzle.com Marketing Blog tracks Linking domains, backlinks and the quality of those links. “ Google has confirmed that links and content are two of the most important factors in improving your site’s position in search. It’s critical that you understand both the number of links pointing back to your site and the quality and relevance of those links. Link building can have such a powerful, positive impact on your SEO. But, if you do it incorrectly, it can have exactly the opposite impact.”
Alex Williams of Data Hosting UK uses these related metrics as well. “An important metric that should be included in every local SEO report is the number of new backlinks and referring domains. A backlink is a link created when one website links to another and acts as a signal to search engines that others vouch for your content and see you as trustworthy. Backlinks can also be referred to as ‘inbound links’ or ‘incoming links.’”
Says Willaims, “Successful SEO is by and large determined by backlinks and when comparing two similar pages, the site with more backlinks from more authoritative domains will be more successful when it comes to SEO and rankings. It’s therefore extremely useful to monitor the number of new backlinks and referring domains and keep track of the quality of these domains, earning these high-quality backlinks can have a positive effect on your site’s ranking position or search visibility.”
Anne Fairfield-Sonn of CiBO Technologies relies upon backlinks to other websites. “A critical metric for a local SEO report it to look at how many other local businesses have backlinks to your website. These can be from referral sites or companies that offer complementary products like Yelp or other credible review sites that include customer testimonials. By linking to each other’s content, you’re able to build your brand and help cultivate a positive reputation.”
Carlos Castro of Wolfate prefers tracking backlinks to their Google My Business (GMB) Profile. “When talking about Local SEO I tend to focus more on having an optimised Google My Business profile. Backlinks that point to Google My Business rather than a website are better since, at a glance, the user sees all the information about my business much more organised than it probably is on the business’s website.”
This strategy gives you a clear view of your reach, says Coln Mosier of JSL Marketing & Web Design “I find monitoring backlinks extremely important because it allows us to find out if our blogging/outreach is working as well as find out which links produce the most leads.”
Mosier says, “If you monitor your links and you find out that a particular blog you published is getting a lot of backlinks, this tells you that you did something right! You can then analyze the blog even further to see if you can replicate its success with your next blog. Also, by monitoring your backlinks, you are able to tell which links are actually giving you hits to your website. If a particular blog or article you contributed to is giving you hundreds of new referrals to your website, this may be a source to remember and try to keep contributing!”
“Lastly,” shares Mosier, “backlinks are an important part of SEO and a big ranking factor for Google. By increasing the number of quality backlinks to your website, your rankings should skyrocket!”
Not every link is a good link reminds Jake Hay of PopShorts, who checks the toxicity score for the website backlink domain. “SEO is a long shot,” Hay says. “Getting toxic backlinks can be dreadful (who is not afraid of Google penguin?). It could be tempting and easy to multiply backlinks outside the scope/reach of your content to increase authority faster, but this will block you once you have attained a certain ceiling; it will be very time-consuming and hard to correct. Instead, says Hay, “I far prefer to get it right from the beginning and to monitor regularly so I don’t get links I don’t want to get. Either because they will ‘penguinize’ you, either because they will create a glass ceiling hard to break and prevent you to reach SEO top positions.”
Bounce rate is one perennial favorite of SEO tracking, so it’s no surprise that a few of our experts rely on it.
Melanie Hartmann of Creo Home Buyers. “Having a high bounce rate negatively impacts the rankings of a website. Knowing the bounce rate will help to determine if traffic is ‘sticking’ to your site or not. If they are going to your site but leaving before looking at any other pages, it can be helpful to determine the source of traffic.”
Hartmann explains, “We look at bounce rate between different traffic sources. We recognize that some referral traffic will have a higher bounce rate because our content is not relevant to them. However, if our organic traffic has a high bounce rate, then that means we need to change how we are presenting our website or the type of traffic that finds it organically so that our content is more relevant to the individuals who find our website.”
Banish Angural of Social Media Fellow also tracks this metric. “Bounce Rate is the only metric that can tell us whether the users are liking the content or not. A very high percentage of bounce rate means several things: 1. User doesn’t find website’s content engaging. 2. There is a problem with Website appearance, such as navigation is not clear. 3. It’s low-quality content.”
Explains Angural, “All these things are so crucial that if you do not work on them, your search ranking will fall with time. It should be noted that the bounce rate is a key indicator for Google when determining a site’s overall ranking. Getting regular updates of the bounce rate in the SEO report is very crucial and useful. I can easily say that an SEO Report is nothing without bounce rate as a major metric. In short, Google wants to provide the best and engaging results in the search. If our website’s bounce rate is low, Google is with you.”
Tasia Duske of The Great Guac Off uses bounce rate to gain better insight into your audience and its needs. “It is relatively easy to optimize for local keywords. However, it can be difficult to know true search intent until you start to see searchers clicking on to your site. In some cases, we’ve found that people are actually looking for Google Maps results and so our pages for those keywords have a very high bounce rate. Learning this info allows us to optimize for keywords that have a higher chance of generating leads for our business.”
While Adam Ostapinski of UnAgency says ” This metric depends on how long your local business has been around,” for more established companies it can be useful.
“If you are just starting or you are below 2 years threshold you should track generic keywords for your offer and generic name of your business like ‘flower shop Chicago Loop’.”
Ostapinski says, “ultimately I would focus on your brand awareness via related search volume (impressions and clicks which include your brand name). The easiest way to track this one is to use Google Search Console and its filters, there is no need to invest in expensive SEO tools at this level.
“Tracking brand awareness via brand-related search volume shows you if you are building the network of loyal customers, recommendations or in other words if your brand awareness grows. This kind of traffic has the highest value for your business – anyone who searches for your Brand Name searches just for you not any flower shop in the neighborhood.
Says Ostapinksi, “From my experience for local SEO it is more important to have 30 clicks/day from your Brand Name searches than 200 / day from top generic keywords. This way you will end up paying less for your SEO efforts and focus on building a stable business with loyal customers.”
Conversions are another favorite among marketers— the most evident metric to illustrate successful pipelines.
Skyler Reeves of Ardent Growth tracks conversions by their source. “Conversions from organic traffic allow us to directly connect our SEO efforts to real business value. When doing local SEO this needs to be taken a step further by adding UTM parameters to the GMB listing’s website URL so you can determine whether your conversions (and other metrics) are being primarily driven by your ranking in the local map pack or the regular organic results.”
Says Reeves, “Some businesses benefit more from ranking higher in the local pack than others and the way you optimize for local map results isn’t quite the same as the regular results. In general, businesses that offer more expensive products/services benefit more for higher regular organic results than higher rankings in the map pack. However, this can vary based on the industry and the location — hence why it’s so important to parse them out and report them separately. In doing so, you’ll know which is more important and better plan your SEO campaigns.”
Reeves Notes that you can parse these out in Google Analytics by adding the following UTM parameters to your GMB listing’s URL:
Jordan Terry of TorHoerman Law wants to know the conversion rates from overall organic traffic. Doing so “can tell you a lot about your market and your content, especially if you compare fluctuations in conversion rate over time. Conversion rates can indicate whether or not there is a market for your product, and whether your content is appealing to users if demand exists. If you find that you have a low conversion rate but high overall organic traffic, this is a strong indicator that there is a demand for your product, but that users find your website or your content unappealing.”
Says Terry, “If this is the case, you can adjust accordingly, monitoring your conversion rates after each change to see what actions increase conversion. If you find that you have a low conversion rate and low overall organic traffic, this may indicate that either there is not much of a demand for your product or that you have not properly optimized your page. Again, make adjustments to SEO accordingly and continue to monitor your conversion rate to try and fix the issue. If you can’t increase your conversion rate with adjustments to your SEO strategy, it is probably time that you find a new local market where there is a higher demand. If this is not possible, rethink how you market your product.”
Jacob Landis-Eigsti of Jacob LE also tracks organic conversion length. “Whether the goal is email opt-ins, messages, or sales, we track the conversion rate for each important page. We’re not just looking for traffic, we’re working to create a plan that drives results. A page can be bringing in a high amount of traffic but few conversions. We use this metric to inform our future content and efforts. We’re able to discover the type of content that drives the largest results and create many other pages that drive similar results. If a page is converting at a high rate, we’ll also drive paid traffic to it as well.”
Lily Arkwright instead chooses to track the price of getting to close. “Simply put, understand your true cost per conversion and you’ll better understand your margins and scalability. Many businesses don’t grasp these basics.”
Aristide Basque of SH1FT wants to know how effectively their content is getting people to move down the funnel by examining click-through rates. Says Basque, “This metric shows how many people clicked on your organic results which is what really matters at the end of the day.”
Your customers, when given the chance, will tell you exactly what’s on their mind. For this reason, many of our experts rely on reviews for insight into their market effectiveness.
Cassidy Barney of Leavitt Group says, “Google’s algorithm for organic and local are different. The local algorithm very much takes Google reviews into consideration, positive and negative. So if your focus is local SEO, why not focus on Google’s local algorithm as well?”
Not only do reviews let you know what’s happening— they tell everyone else as well says Melanie Musson of 360QuoteLLC. “Potential customers will read reviews and make decisions based on them. Customers that leave a review show you how likely they are to become a returning customer. What your customers think of you matters more than anything else.”
“SEO is just a small piece of a bigger picture, which is actually running a successful business,” says Toni JV of JVT Media. “Having tons and tons of 5-star reviews on your Google My Business listing is extremely important not only for your rankings in the local snack pack, but also for social proof.”
Says JV, “When a potential client searches for your services, and sees your business ranking number 1 with 90 five star reviews, they’re just immediately going to trust you to deliver them the results they want. So not only do customer reviews increase your rankings, they also are a key component in what your business is actually trying to accomplish with SEO in the first place, which is to increase your sales.”
Roberto Torres of Turrem Technology. “According to Moz and their local search ranking factors, online reviews are considered about 15% of what Google considers when showing a local business in their map pack and 6% in organic results.”
“Online reviews also give businesses insights into how their brand is viewed online. If they are inactive and unresponsive to reviews, it can factor into customers leaving future positive reviews. (we know negative reviews come naturally) And for those businesses with negative reviews, collecting more positive reviews will suppress those negative reviews and increase their average.”
Keeping the flow of positive reviews constant works for Ryan Pelicos of OPIN Software. “Tracking the number of new customer reviews is one of the Top 3 Local SEO Ranking factors to monitor. It is imperative to build processes within your customer journey on when and how to ask for reviews to ensure you are getting the most 5 stars as possible based on whichever stage the customer is on.”
Says Pelicos, “We have built-in processes during customer chats, support phone call follow-ups and other key touchpoints requesting customers to submit a review after providing them with delightful customer experience.”
One tip, Pelicos adds, “Stay away from using review requests after an NPS survey we found this delivers lower results!”
Editor’s Note: Want to get a comprehensive view of your Google My Business profile statistics and trends over time. Check out the Google My Business Insights dashboard for a full picture of your local search statistics.
Domain authority is the first stop for Amit Raj of Amit Digital Marketing, for this reason: “It’s important purely as a rough indication of the strength of the backlinks being presented in our reports and while I would prefer not to be restricted by a metric for such a creative part of the SEO process – it is useful when trying to weed out ‘small’ sites but I would never overuse this metric. However, we always explain to all clients that there should be a focus on the relevancy of links as well.”
Are they into it? Engagement will let you know, says Agnieszka Cejrowska of Pulno. “This is an important metric as it shows the level of interest an audience has in a given brand. Engagement rate boosts brand (or business) awareness and it is getting more attention in optimization for search engines. It is highly possible that local engagement is to gain a meaningful position in the near future and will have a greater impact on the overall local SEO process. It encourages interaction like e.g. Google’s Questions & Answers. Thanks to this feature, potential customers can reach out to you and get in touch. These insights can in turn help to better understand past performance and to respond to the audience’s needs and expectations.”
Tracking specific events within Google Analytics is important for staying on top of things, says Tony Heywood of Dentons Digital. “Without tagging events (phone calls, form submissions, views of contact/location pages, download vouchers, printing vouchers) you are in the dark about how your website is driving business. Rankings and traffic are worthless unless your website is converting for you.”
Chris Craft of InspireFirst uses location-specific keyword metrics to understand how content is received by the customers closest to them. “Firstly, clicks show actual searcher intent and interest in you. When a searcher clicks they are able to learn more about your actual place, product, or service. Secondly, the fact that someone clicked on a geo-targeted keyword shows that they have interest in a product or service that’s in your area instead of a general interest. Lastly, clicks open up opportunities for measuring other metrics like forms submitted, items purchased, time-on-page, and pages visited.”
Another useful locational metric: search. Tyler Tafelsky of Yisoo Training uses this organic metric as a primary metric for clients, using organic search and giving it local context. “For instance, we have a local client who serves a greater part of northern Georgia. However, his site is starting to rank well on a national scale, thereby generating a significant influx of organic traffic from other states and countries. But because 80% of the quality leads coming to his site are Georgia-based customers, it’s important that we geo-segment the data to measure local organic traffic growth, both month-over-month and year-over-year. This paints a clearer picture as to how well the client performs in his local market.”
Overwhelmingly, respondents to our questions lauded Google My Business (GMB) as an excellent source of local SEO data.
Brian Barwig of Integrate Digital Marketing says of the data on GMB, “I find these metrics critical for Local SEO, as they are about the only metrics Google directly provides in terms of Local SEO. The information comes directly from their GMB dashboard, so it is fairly accurate and provides click numbers for important metrics.
Says Barwig, “If you are reporting on Local SEO, there is no better place to get information than straight from the Knowledge Panel or 3 Pack. If you are showing in the Local Pack, you are doing Local SEO right. I still track GMB phone numbers with a dedicated CTN, and also track website clicks with a UTM parameter as Google’s numbers are typically off.”
Filip Silobod of Honest Marketing uses the impressions and clicks data in GMB to understand local reach. “In order to find out precisely how much traffic came through your local business, you need to track those links in the business listings. Add a UTM tracking code to your links with Google’s URL builder as organic and my business. That way you can track traffic coming from your business listing in Google Analytics. Also you can track for which keywords and how many impressions and clicks the business listing got in Google through Search Console.”
Impressions and clicks data also matters to Liam Barnes of Directive. “Depending on the extent of your local SEO strategy, I am going to assume this strategy is based on a hyperlocal business. For a local business, the number of times your business shows up in the top 3 of a map pack is crucial to your business. The more views you get, the more potential customers see your business.”
Shares Barnes, “Google My Business Account Clicks & Impressions show the interaction and visibility of your business in these map packs. You can use different tools like Yext or Bright Local to see this kind of metric.”
Says Arvind Patil of SRV Media, “Strongly optimized Google My Business for local business increases the chance of getting ranked in organic search. Tracking Google My Business like website clicks, directions, phone calls, etc gives an idea about business relevance for the search queries and how many times the business listing was shown when searching for the location directly. It’s important because most of the local business owners fail to claim their listing and optimize it accordingly that results in missing valuable opportunity to rank in search engine and provide the business ‘s visual representation.”
Insights, which provides data on how customers find your site, is a favorite component of GMB for many of our experts. Rahul Vij of WebSpero Solutions says, “GMB Insights tell us what terms is the client getting traction on Google, what terms should we capitalize on, what kind of content should we post on GMB. We get a reality check on what’s happening on the ground and what we need to optimize. If these stats are going down, then we can look into citations and other optimizations.”
Hunter Adams of Power Digital Marketing had this to say, “Google My Business’s Total Actions, which is taken from the GMB insights report, is the most vital Local SEO metric. This metric includes calls, request directions, and visits to your site. Opposite to traditional SEO, Local SEO keyword rankings vary too widely to be used as an accurate metric.”
Adams shares this tip: “Have multiple locations that need to be reported on? Build out a custom dashboard via Data Studio to showcase your GMB performance holistically as opposed to reporting on one location’s performance at a time.”
Says Aaron Luther of AlltimePower, “An often overlooked metric for any local SEO is Google My Business (GMB) views. This is the number of times users view a business’ Google My Business listing on a results page or on Google Maps. GMB continues to grow year over year and for some businesses is more important than their website. Users are able to quickly get basic information, and call or drive to a business. Monthly reporting is typically best for most companies.”
You can even see how many phone calls are routed through GMB, says William Chin of PickFu of eCommerce Split Testing Tool “‘For any local campaign, the map-pack still is the master of this domain and therefore, you should always outline in your local reports how much engagement your GMB receives. It’s fairly easy to collect the data from the GMB dashboard as it is one of the first things surfaced when you log into the interface.”
Chin adds, “The local map pack’s overall importance is obvious as it will showcase how much local engagement your local listing is receiving. Strategies like adding a Google360 tour of your location, and adding authentic images with EXIF tags are great ways to drive up impressions (which Google will send a report regularly on).”
Anjali Srivastavaof MakeWebBetter also likes the Maps information within GMB. “I found it important because if you have an optimized business listing on Google My Business/ Google Maps and any person searches any keyword locally, then he/she can find your business on top of the search results.”
For example, says Srivastava “If someone searches for keywords like ‘Restaurants near me’ then if your business is listed on Google Maps or GMB then it will show your restaurants (if situated in the user’s nearby locality). But that searched keyword should also be optimized on your website.”
Meg Coffey of Coffey & Tea relies on GMB to surmount increasing competition in local search with its strong domain authority and customer trust. “This is the central hub for managing everything Google-related for your business. Google refers to GMB as a site of authority and as such the information is weighted heavier – they will often rely on GMB data to populate search rich content. Google has also found 76% of consumers searching for something nearby on their mobile, will visit the business within a day, with a further 28% making an actual transaction.
Explains Coffey, “Google Reviews are quickly becoming one of the most trusted sources of information and will impact your ranking ability. Furthermore, Google now relies on GMB info for ‘Local Pack’ listings above the fold in search. As we all know visibility is important in Google, without an optimised GMB listing you have no chance.”
Google Analytics and GMB play well together in terms of tracking local traffic, shares Kimberly Scholten of Odd Dog Media.”Tracking traffic to your client’s website from their local listings, like Google My Business or Bing Places, is incredibly valuable in determining the effectiveness of these local pack or ‘maps pack’ results. The easiest way to track traffic to these? Install simple UTM parameters for your main local listings (i.e. Google / local / location) so you can easily sort your traffic by this source and medium inside Google Analytics. If you’re looking to easily and accurately benchmark and measure your local traffic, this method easily separates your local traffic from your general organic metrics.”
Bryan Pattman of 9Sail, who has made local a staple of their business, relies heavily on SMB. “As a company that works predominantly on local businesses, we have always emphasized the importance of Google My Business to our clients. A lot of SEO agencies will only reference Google Analytics statistics in their reports, but there is a huge potential to show more value if you are able to optimize your client’s Google My Business page and have them dominate the local map packs.”
Says Pattman, “We have clients who have ten times more reviews than their competitors and we have filled out all relevant sections of the GMB so that it has the best opportunity to rank. They get around the same number of phone calls from their local map pack rankings as they get contact forms completed on their website. It is something that has allowed us to push clients to ask for reviews and keep all of their information up to date to remove as much friction from the contact process as possible.”
Once you have people on your site, it helps to keep them there a while, says Eric Mellmer of Proline Range Hoods, who cited internal links as an important metric to track. “Internal links have several diverse functions. First, they enhance the user experience by giving users easy access to relevant content. Internal links can be especially useful for you to create ‘content silos’ – these are hubs of articles on your site that have one primary topic. Each article in the silo links to other articles within it to create an incredibly informative string of content for your users.”
Says Meller, “internal links will increase your link equity or ‘link juice,’ bolstering your page’s rank on Google. A great strategy to improve your site’s ranking is to funnel several of your internal links from a high-ranking page on your site to other web pages to increase their traffic. Also, if you have a page you want to rank higher, start including internal links to it in your other articles. This will boost that page’s ranking.”
Editor’s Note: If you want to understand how your keywords are performing over time, and decide the best way to optimize your ad spend, download the Adsense dashboard. Check out earnings, spend, performance, and more all in one place.
These days, a local business (especially one in a large area) can live or die based on keyword ranking, so many of our experts cited it as an important metric for keeping eyes on your product or services.
Rahul Gulati of GyanDevign Tech Services LLP shows clients this data to demonstrate the hard work that’s gone in. Gulati says, “Include the keywords, work done (Exact work like the implementation of on-page meta tags, xml sitemaps etc.) and the keyword position. Adding the keyword position and selected keywords is very important as these two are the outputs of your complete input (implementation) and clients always look for the inputs instead of working hours invested.”
Vanessa Lovie of Bsale.com.au also researches keyword ranking. Why? “We like to see where we are sitting for major keywords. There are specific keywords in our industry that are vital to track, such as ‘business for sale’. I want to always make sure we’re on page #1.”
Oleksiy Kuryliak of Rioks tracks “keyword rankings history and its organic visits from it. Local SEO is a specific process, which is conducted to get the most of the search appearance in the local area, meant to be engaging enough for ‘window-shoppers’ to click and go to the website of the business.”
Says Kuryliak, “With the help of keyword rankings history, we can track the performance of SEO campaigns and discover the possible gaps or competitive actions, if the ranking is not stable. At the same time, keywords rankings history is important to be compared with leads/purchases/calls etc to understand if SEO is giving any ROI or just draining the budget.”
Anna Tolette of Synthesio, an Ipsos Company tracks rank “by a week over week measurement, especially in relation to your competitors. Knowing the Rank by itself does not provide any valuable data. However, if you notice a decreasing trend, you can take steps to prevent the continuation of a downward trend.”
Who’s in your pipeline? That’s what Irina Papuc of Galactic Fed wants to know. “If I’m reduced to just one metric,” says Papuc, “it will almost always be leads.”
“Leads are the main goal – clicks, impressions, positions, etc. are useless on their own, though they’re important for telling the story of the whole growth funnel. If I see significant changes in lead volume in response to a campaign or SEO strategy, then that is my primary measure of whether what we did was successful or not. Clicks can be low-intent, and rankings can be deceptive. Of course, for local SEO specifically, I would need data to correlate leads with different locales and keywords, so just knowing overall site-wide metrics wouldn’t be enough.”
Just like keyword ranking, local search ranking is important to many of our respondents. For instance, Sarah Walters The Whit Group charts local visibility or click-through rate. “I’ve found that reports on individual keywords can fluctuate too much to be reliable. Instead, looking at overall local visibility or click-through rate provides a much more useful picture.” Explains Walters, “It’s a bit of the forest-and-trees scenario: keeping your picture broad, looking at overall visibility, helps to display trends more clearly. If the trend is negative, you might have bigger problems than keywords. If your month-to-month results show improvement – that’s how often we create our local SEO reports – then you can take the time to study which keywords provide the most help.”
Angela Ash of Flow SEO shared this about the need for local search. “Local visibility lets you know how well you are ranking locally, which is extremely important, especially when you have a locally-owned business. But in any situation, you want to make sure that you’re ranking high in your own hometown.”
It doesn’t have to be hard, explains Nicholas Maynard of Ridgeway, calling local search, “comparatively easy to conquer—and higher conversion rates mean that local SEO should be at the top of every digital marketer’s strategy. Google My Business is the most logical starting point and you can track analytics directly from your account, but there are other organic metrics that can also prove invaluable. Building dedicated local landing pages will allow you to track traffic and engagement while your focus (and overriding metric) should be on conversions.”
Matt Slaymaker of Folsom Creative uses ‘near me’ searches for both clicks and impressions. Says Slaymaker, “I find these searches particularly important because these are some of the most competitive searches. Whether it is ‘chiropractor near me,’ ‘burgers near me,’ or ‘clothing store near me,’ these searches are imperative to rank well for. When it comes to local SEO, most users want to visit a store that is within 10 minutes, so it is important to rank well for the ‘near me’ searches first and foremost.”
This approach is also important for Jeremy Cross of Team Building Activities. “When you are working to rank for location-specific keywords, you will also often rank for generic equivalents as well. For example, one of our priority keywords is ‘team building NYC’ and we also appear for searches like ‘team-building’”
“It is significantly more important for us to relate for the location-specific keywords,” says Cross, “ and so we prioritize knowing as much as we can about these. How many do we rank for? How are these positions changing? For generic terms, we monitor them but don’t put specific effort into the analysis.”
Says marketer Ben Johnston of Sagefrog Marketing Group, “If you’re a janitorial business in New Jersey, it should be very important how prominently you feature in the SERPs for keywords like ‘janitorial service nj,’ ‘cleaning services new jersey,’ etc. By snagging geo-specific terms like that, you’re allowing your brand to be relevant without having to worry about a users location, browsing history, etc. if they just searched for ‘cleaning companies.’”
Sam Olmsted of Pelicoin looks to local search in order to understand how things are going in terms of SEO. Says Olmstead, “Local SEO campaigns usually have completely different goals and KPIs compared to traditional SEO campaigns. One metric that should be included in every local SEO report is Customer Actions from your Google My Business profile. Customer Actions consist of three different categories¬: Website Visits, Directions Requests, and Calls. Measuring these different actions is far more important than seeing a client’s organic ranking for keywords or counting the number of links to your site.”
Says Olmsted, “It’s so important because it shows the true intent of the customer. Local SEO is all about dominating the Google Knowledge panel (the information on the right panel of Google’s results), the Google Map (the map under the search bar), and the Google Map Pack (the first results under the Map). Because local SEO is more focused on mobile searches than desktop searches, you have less space to compete for on-screen. It’s vital to get in those top spots of the Map and Map pack to get your customers to click on your business. Once you’re there, a customer can click on a few options, which actually all count at Google My Business Customer Actions.”
Running with the pack is important. By that, we mean the Local 3 Pack, Google’s top local search selection tool.
Matt Bassos of Vuly Play tracks traffic that is directly referred from the local pack ‘website’ button using Analytics. “I like to include UTM parameters with my Google My Business listing website link, so I can easily track local pack and listing clicks and pull the data from Google Analytics easily. It allows us to evaluate how local pack and Google My Business clicks influence our organic traffic and conversions. Being able to determine the impact of local pack clicks cannibalizing true organic traffic, lets us to better focus our attention on the metric that matters.”
Bruce Hogan of SoftwarePundit says of Pack status, “For local searches (such as ‘Brooklyn community bank’), over 50% of clicks occur in Google’s Local Pack. These are the keywords and SERP feature that will drive the majority of search traffic. As a result, it’s critical that every local business uses local pack keyword ranking to keep an eye on their website’s performance. This can be done with AccuRanker, SEMrush and other keyword rank trackers.:
Ranking for the most effective keywords can seem like a full-time job, but that only serves to illustrate its importance to SEO.
Chima Mmeje of Zenith Copywriting, tracks changes in keyword ranking continually. “Where were they last month as against this month? My clients really don’t care about the technicalities of SEO. They don’t read the report word for word. They mostly glaze over the graphs and numbers until they get to the keyword tracking section. Most of them only focused on changes to their local keyword ranking because it’s directly tied to ROI. Weekly reports are tricky because SEO takes time. I send out monthly reports instead.”
“While it might be much more helpful, finding the right keywords is not always an absolute science,” says Andrea Loubier of Mailbird. “So, monitoring the keywords that you’ve chosen is imperative when you need to see exactly how they’re performing. That way, you can always pivot or supply more content to support these keywords.”
Sean Sullivan of CounselingWise adds, “Where a website’s keywords sit on Google (or any other search engine) is the essence of Search Engine Optimization. What is being optimized is a website’s particular association with a search query. A therapist with an office in Seattle wants their website to display on Google any time someone searches ‘therapist’ in the Seattle area. It’s the obligation of an experienced SEO to not only galvanize that association but create a strong enough bond that the client appears as close to the top of the search results as possible.
Says Sullivan, “This also means that the metric cannot be a blanket statement such as ‘Website X now ranks for 237 keywords and therefore the campaign was a success.’ The keywords have to be appropriate to the client’s website. A therapist wants to rank for terms like ‘anxiety treatment,’ ‘counselor,’ and ‘therapist near me.’ Ranking their site for an undesired term like ‘automotive care’ is not proof of success (though it may be proof of an algorithmic hiccup).”
Getting new eyes on the page is important for the sustained health of your local business.
For instance, Jenna Alburger of Outlier Creative finds it so important, they use it as their “number one KPI (Key Performance Indicator). It’s the most accurate representation of how well we’re doing in reaching new audiences, and in effect growing brand awareness. We combine the New Users metric with lots of filters and dimensions. For example, new users by city. Or, one of my favorites — new users by Page Title, which will show you which pages, in particular, are behind upticks in traffic.”
“The most important metric is no doubt the number of new sessions,” says Dan Young of Loud Digital. “New Sessions is the most important metric as it shows a clear and measurable impact on the number of people visiting the website, which is the ultimate goal of any Local SEO campaign. Things like Impression Share and Average Position are great but can be very misleading.”
Olivia Royce of Novos uses traffic from non-brand queries to illustrate SEO effectiveness in reports. “We create a monthly local SEO report, plus we have created data dashboards for all of our clients so that we can report in real-time – no longer a marketing manager at an E-com site has to wait for us to send stats, they can now log in and pull them for themselves.”
Plain and simple, Stephanie Ward of Red Lime Media uses overall site traffic and zip codes, calling it “ the key indicator as to whether your marketing is working.”
Getting something without paying for it isn’t usually always to brag about, but in terms of SEO, it’s the gold standard. Jennifer Wilnechenko of Etia says, “organic the traffic you earn from appearing in the search engine results pages (SERPs) without paying for placement ads. That actually is the essence of SEO. It’s important to keep track of your overall organic traffic so that you can see how many people are visiting your site as a result of your SEO strategy. You also need to track organic traffic by landing page. If you find that some pages are ranking on page 1 while others are on page 7, you know that you need to focus your SEO efforts towards the pages that are ranking poorly.”
Spencer Andrews of Integritive says it is “important to see the difference in your traffic acquisition and see how you can increase your organic traffic compared to direct or referral traffic. An increase in organic traffic is important because it can make your website more reliable, allows Google to see that your website is of value and relevance, and creates longer-lasting results. Local SEO reports are done monthly, based on consumer packages.
And Sarah Franklin of Blue Tree AI says that organic traffic “allows you to see what audience your content is reaching and how effective your message is to them. This is important because most of the time organic traffic brings real leads and sales due to the natural interest of your business, the service or product that you provide. When you see who is interacting you are able to develop a better system to cater to their needs which will increase financial gain over time.”
Ryan Chan of UpKeep says this metric is a window into what the people want. “Organic traffic gives you a better understanding of what content is most interesting and relevant to your audiences. While conversion rates are important, you must prioritize your customers’ needs first and foremost. Looking at organic traffic tells you what people are interested in and informs your future content strategy.”
Says Chan, “Our top priority for SEO is to meet our customers’ needs across channels, so they are best equipped with the tools and knowledge to successfully implement preventive maintenance strategies in their businesses. Organic traffic is a great indicator of what people are searching for and what your audience is interested in consuming. For example, if you realize that articles that come with infographics have high organic traffic rates, you could hypothesize that your readers are delighted by visual explanations. That finding can inform your future content pieces, where you might consider including more infographics. Overall, organic traffic gives you a sense of what’s working, and what’s not working in terms of content output and strategy.”
“In my opinion, the main goal of SEO is to bring increased traffic to your site via search engines,” shares Amos Struck of WP Clipboard with regard to organic traffic efforts. “If you have been putting in consistent efforts on your SEO, but not seeing a substantial increase in visitors, you are doing something wrong and need to revisit your SEO strategy.”
Veronica De Borba of OnPoint Internet Marketing agrees. “Organic traffic basically is the traffic you earn from appearing in the search engine results pages without paying for placement. And because that’s the main goal of SEO, organic traffic should be a metric to include in every local SEO report. it’s important to track your organic traffic so that you can see how many people are visiting your site as a result of your SEO strategy.”
George Zlatin of Digital Third Coast wants to make something clear before sharing their tip. “First and foremost: always include the client’s name. Once you move past that important first step 😊 … it’s extremely important to report on organic traffic, organic conversions and organic impressions, all of which can be pulled from Google Search Console. If I was forced to only pick one thing from that list, I would choose Organic conversions as it allows you to report on what’s most important to the client.”
Daniela Andreevska of Mashvisor says, “The first metric which you should track and include in every local SEO report is organic traffic or the number of sessions you get to your website. Unless you have users actually coming to your website, you won’t be able to achieve any of your business goals and targets, whether related to sales or anything else. You have to make sure that the number of sessions is growing at a steady rate and take immediate measures if you see any drops.”
Editor’s Note: Are you attracting fresh eyes with every passing month? Fresh visitors and new sessions mean more revenue down the road, so use the Google Analytics New Users Organic Traffic dashboard to stay on top of your new customer acquisition.
Further breaking down organic traffic by local search can bring even greater context. Two of our experts, Irena Zobniów of Insightland and Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers both use it. Zobniów recommends organic traffic per specific location like a city, district, street number, etc, “ Because thanks to this we can measure whether organic activities bring measurable effects. Local business means that its website should be visited by people strictly interested in the offer in a given location, and not globally, so information about organic traffic narrowed to a given location is an indicator of whether SEO activities are effective.”
Aufray agrees, “For a local SEO report, it’s important to track where the traffic comes from. You want your traffic to be targeted and qualified and coming from a reasonable distance from your business. Let’s say you have a retail store in Los Angeles, you don’t want your website visitors to come from Sydney.”
Comparing two metrics can also contextualize your results, according to Ewa Stachowiak of SentiOne who uses the comparison of all traffic and organic traffic goal completion. “The goals depend on what stage of the funnel you are looking at – it may be content lead, trial signup, demo requests or purchase. It is important to look at this metric, as it shows how SEO efforts directly contribute to business results.”
If they can get ahold of you, you might just be able to get them to convert. Ryan Turner of 3PRIME says, “For businesses that are predominantly local, the phone calls are usually the most important factor, so having a prominent metric for that in the report is really valuable for the client reading the report.”
It’s important to know where your traffic is arriving from, say a few of our experts. Hung Nguyen
Smallpdf uses unique local referral traffic for insight. “There are always unique sources of referral traffic to each targeted region, from nation-wide sites, e.g., Naver for Korea to city-wide cases, e.g., Time Out London. Digging into this traffic, the keywords these sites rank for, and their organic traffic (from Google to the referral, and then to your site) will give you a deeper understanding of:
– opportunities for link-building (with similar sites such as these referrals)
– opportunities to fill out keyword gaps
– opportunities to acquire featured snippets and FAQ content from SERPs currently occupied by these sites.”
Says Nguyen, “Diving into the latter two through content creation will allow you to cut down one layer of communication that users have to go through and send them directly to your platform (from search engines). It saves time, effort, and put you in direct contact with your targeted customers.”
Agnieszka Podemska of MiroMind shares this with regard to referring traffic. “Monitoring traffic from local websites such as Yelp or Foursquare will give you insight into the effectiveness of your local SEO activities. Make sure your citations include complete location data.”
More is sometimes better, says Jamie-Lee Kay of The Other Straw, who tracks the number of referring domains. “The amount of referring domains to a page plays a significant role in rankings. It’s important to monitor the referring domains and backlinks earned and analyze these over time.”
The original metric. The race to page one. SERP continues to be an important SEO metric for many of our experts.
Jerome Williams of JWorks Studios says, “You can track whether you are separating or falling behind sites commonly ranking near you. With that knowledge, you will know whether your approach is working, or if they close the gap, you can take a look at what has changed with the competition: new successful social media campaign, special promotion, site/content updates, new backlinks.”
Davie Mach of Box Advisory Services shares, “We focus our efforts into managing how we can best rank first or on the first page of Google for keywords that we are targeting. This is because we aim to rank for commercial intent with our keywords to better convert potential leads that come to our website. For example, we rank for ‘small business accountant Parramatta’ as it shows that the potential buyer is looking for an accountant in the Parramatta area. While traffic metrics are important, the conversion is more important to ensure that we are attracting the right target market.”
The Advisor Coach, James Pollard, uses average ranking. “It is important to track average ranking because the goal of SEO is to rank higher in search engines. Without measuring average ranking, you have no way of knowing if your efforts are working or not. Plus, by breaking down the average ranking to a page-by-page basis, you can see which pages need more work than others so you can focus your efforts accordingly.”
Katie Stone of Leadhub uses SERP for clients. “It is important to show… they are ranking for valuable and relevant keywords. For example, the big-ticket items for air conditioning companies tend to be installations, so we want to make sure they are ranking for air conditioning installation or related terms in their service area. Keeping track of this data shows us what content is working, what content needs to be optimized and what content is missing in order to rank for the important keywords in the correct service area. Conversely, if we find the client is ranking for irrelevant keywords, we can dive deeper into Google Search Console to determine what pages are ranking for irrelevant queries and make adjustments as needed.”
Care to stay awhile? Time on page can tell you how engaging your content is, and (if it’s not there yet) how to improve. Steve Silberberg of Fitpacking says, “I know it requires codes on the target site, but it’s especially important when you sell high ticket items. How else would you know who’s seriously considering a purchase versus who is a ‘looky-lou’?”
Once they’ve visited, know where they hopped off, says Paige Arnof-Fenn of Mavens & Moguls who says, “By understanding the last pages that people visit before they leave your site you can see what causes people to lose interest in your site and figure out what you can do to improve those pages so that visitors hang around longer.”
What’s working on your site? Janet Camilleri of https://frontpagewebwriting.com uses top keywords (that are actually bringing traffic to the client’s site) to tell the story. “I think it’s extremely important to highlight to the client, which keywords are actually driving the most traffic to the site.”
However, says Camilleri, “Unfortunately there have been many shonky SEO operators, pretending they are working wonders for their clients, by reporting only the number of keywords the client’s site is actually ranking for. But are they actually keywords that are relevant to the client’s business? Are they the sort of keywords that are likely to lead to conversions? I had a podiatry client ranking at #1 for ‘when do your feet stop growing’. While it’s great to get a #1 keyword, and lots of traffic, realistically – how many of these would actually be interested in booking an appointment with my client? It’s not going to bring them ROI.”
“Unless this sort of information is provided to the client, they can be fooled into thinking they are getting great SEO when they aren’t. While this may have worked in the past, as business owners become more educated in the ways of SEO – and they will – only the authentic companies which provide genuinely useful information like this, in a way that their clients understand – will last.”
Impressions continue to be a debate metric, with some calling them a mere vanity stat, and others placing value in the data. Brendan Hufford of Directive is a believer. “While clicks and conversions are the holy grail, impressions can’t be overstated. By leveraging search console and other tools to pull impression numbers, we can accurately compete with other types of media spends that local businesses like to use.”
Avinash Chandra looks at impressions in relation to CTR. “It is important for any local business to build its visibility in a specific locality and to reach out to customers contextually.”
Matthew Myre of Berri Properties says, “Impressions, as opposed to clicks, show the true ranking in search engines. While clicks are the ultimate goal, impressions show growth. The more you accumulate, the more clicks you’ll receive, and more business will generate.”
Are they looking? Do they like what they see? Dorian Reeves of SH1FT relies on views to understand how keywords are functioning. “This is extremely important because it tells a lot about the quality of the organic keywords you chose. If you have a lot of views on your content, you’re on the right path. Then comes the time to optimize your CTR.”
That was a LOT of great advice and insight. Even instituting a few of these metrics into your next report is sure to garner great narrative and context to your data, and make appreciable differences in your search rankings, leads, and revenue for the long haul.
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