How to measure SEO performance

Estimated read time: 13 minutes



Certainly it wouldn’t make sense to try to increase SEO  performance without looking at how to measure SEO! But it’s easy to overlook for some content creators, which is another reminder why we need to build a team and roles in line with these five pillars of the Content Performance Culture.

Some teams are easily caught up in the creation and creation and creation.  let’s take a step back and think about how to measure all these efforts.

There are several ways to do that and I share in this article, how I normally go about measuring SEO impact.

In this article, I discuss:

  • What’s basic SEO?
  • Accidental SEO strategy and how to move forward from it
  • Using the right tools during production
  • Using Google Search Console to measure SEO results
  • And more…

What’s SEO? 

SEO is when we create content with what people are searching for in mind. For example, if people search for content marketing storytelling but not authentic storytelling why would I ever write about authentic storytelling? I should refocus the content to content marketing storytelling. For example.



Sometimes new content is ahead of the search engine volume. For example, when Nike released the Colin Kaepernick commercial, that drove searches for the brand and ultimately sales, too. And keep in mind that 15 percent of all searches on Google each day have never been searched before. So there’s room to hit those in your SEO strategy – accidental or not. Of course, it’s a bit of a guessing game. But you can use Google Trends to find ideas.

At the most basic level, SEO means that we keep what people search for and what terms they use in their searches while we create our content.

Of course, at the end of the day it only matters when we can measure it and it helps us increase our brand footprint.

Read next: How to create and syndicate better brand stories

What’s basic SEO?

Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable.com talked about what the bare minimum is when it comes to SEO on this livestream of the Business Storytelling Podcast.

It’s really quite simple in theory:  Make sure Google can find your site.

basic seo site visibilityThat means to make sure you don’t check the box in your WordPress dashboard that discourages search engines to visit. I’ve also seen many projects where teams forgot to uncheck the box or remove the robots file to allow indexing.

Many of the basic SEO strategies come out of the box when using WordPress, which is one reason why I prefer the platform. Generally speaking, WordPress plays nice with Google, which makes it the preferred choice for solopreneurs and some of the worlds most frequented websites. Mitch Olchoway from Safari SEO Southampton suggests that the biggest benefit of choosing WordPress for SEO is the abundance of plugins and advanced optimization features that can be used to improve technical performance.

Also, as Elaine Lindsay mentioned on this episode, follow basic standardization and best practices. Be consistent with company names, product names, and so on.

I was also glad to hear Barry talk about the importance of being authentic with your content. Don’t just chase the keywords. Use keyword research to make the stories you are trying to tell and that are unique and authentic to your brand more findable. Barry discussed how complex Google has become as well.

To measure SEO results you’ll have to do this first!

You have to create content and keep in mind what people are searching for. I use the Keywords Everywhere to research what people are searching for. Jessica Foster shared on this podcast episode what keyword volumes to go after.

Read next: How long does it actually take to rank in SEO for a term? [SEO commentary]

In addition, once you know the keywords, you’ll want to follow basic best practices. I use the Yoast plugin which tells me how my content is currently looking. It’s kind of addictive to work toward getting the green in readability and SEO.

 

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The late Hamlet Batista of Ranksense.com joined me on the livestream to share that to make SEO truly work it needs to be integrated into the workflow. Very true. This is also why I believe content creators need to work in the CMS or related system. It’s hard to make it all come together in a Word document.

Sometimes SEO success just happens. I’ve called that the accidental SEO strategy before. When that happens, capitalize on it.

An accidental SEO strategy is more common than people would probably like to admit. I’ve run accidental (but highly performing) SEO strategies too!

What’s accidental SEO then?

Usually, here’s how that happens: Somebody told you to blog, maybe me! And you even followed my multi-step process.

And you start:

I had no idea so many people would search for Instagram Live and I had no clue I would grab 10 percent of that massive search traffic! I was just writing about a topic I spotted in the wild and that I thought would be interesting to you – business storytellers! Follow me on Instagram here: Instagram.com/ChristophTrappe


Subscribe to my Business Storytelling Podcast here!


What is technical SEO?

Stephanie Long of Stephanie Marie Marketing joined me on this episode of the podcast to discuss this topic.

In a nutshell, technical SEO is to use best practices on your website, which includes using:

  • Meta data
  • Title tags
  • Load times
  • User experience
  • Etc.

Technical SEO is more about the technical setup. Is the website structured correctly. Are things setup the way it should be set up.

Common current state

Let’s say you create content, are a decent journalistic storyteller and share somewhat in-depth solutions and ideas in your content. At some point, one of your articles will show up in search engine searches. Even without any formal SEO strategy and research.

Of course, sometimes the articles that rank aren’t the ones we want to rank the most. I say “the most” because if we didn’t want it to succeed why did we even write them?

They may not attract the audience we are actually trying to go after. But because people are searching for the topic and we have an in-depth article that appears to answer the question, we rank.

So there’s reason to take it up a notch and also look at what we can learn from the existing content and how we can maximize it.

Measuring SEO results – the false positive

Mark Asquith of Captivate.fm joined me on this livestream and shared what a false positive looks like.

A false positive appears to be a success when it comes to measuring your SEO results, but it’s not. For example, this could mean, people are finding your article or podcast but it’s not actually matching up to the topic. It’s the closest answer perhaps but doesn’t really fit.

Another example is when it comes to ranking No. 1 for something nobody searches for. I’ve had this happen in meetings where somebody would excitedly shared that something is ranking at the top. That’s awesome, but then when we dug into the numbers we found that there was no search volume for the topic.


Building on an accidental SEO strategy

1. Look at why an article is working

Try to find out why it’s ranking. Then build on that strategy. Learn from it. What other articles can be produced that use this model that you were able to do by accident.

Be aware:

2. Maximize the article

My favorite way to do that is to link from it to other content. In a nutshell, when you have an article that gets a ton of recurring traffic, link from it to other places.

Content creators write and produce new content! Some call it the content marketing arms race. There’s some truth to that, of course. But don’t forget about internal linking to drive traffic to those new articles.

Internal linking

Fresh content works and stories happen around us daily that are worth sharing. But older evergreen content often also draws traffic. When we do content well – do our keyword research, write useful stuff, etc. – evergreen content should lead the charts. All. The. Time.

Of course, many teams still look more at today’s posts. We just talked about it and published it. How is it performing? Has it gone viral? (Of course not, but you know what I mean.)

We talk about what’s top of mind. Of course. This is particularly the case on teams that are heavily made up of former journalists. Journalists often are good storytellers on a daily cadence. Of course, they’ll want to see how today’s story performed.

One way to drive up traffic to new articles is by linking to them from old articles that already get a decent amount of traffic.

I have maybe a dozen articles on this blog that consistently draw traffic from search engine users. Day after day they show up and get read. They aren’t new at all.

Meanwhile, some new articles – ones I often find much more interesting – are puttering along.

Sure, I push them on email and social media, but going back and linking to them from old rock-star articles can easily be a forgotten strategy.

Of course, many teams link from new articles to old articles. The new ones are top of mind! I’ve heard goals of adding at least three outbound links to new stories. Some of those might be to external sites and some might be to related pages. Whatever makes sense!

I’ve worked on some high-stakes projects and traffic matters in those. Especially relevant traffic. And even when the stakes are lower(ish), seeing our audience grow and engage more is awesome.

With that I’ve started this process:

  • Produce content as I have. (Idea, uniqueness factor, keyword research – sometimes – etc.)
  • Publish
  • Promote
  • Then figure out what high performing articles are related
  • Go to them
  • Link back to the new one

Yes, it’s a bit like trying to grab some of that article’s traffic. But really, if it’s of interest to the people reading that article you are adding value!

You can also consider creating story ads that are inserted within articles and then link back.

We will see how that works and – more importantly – if I remember to add the links.  The Related Content plugin (part of Jetpack) here on WordPress does some of that by adding links to the end of the article automatically, but who knows if people skim to the end anyway? ?

Related: Request me to keynote on how to use WordPress and Jetpack to grow audience

Digital marketing is not a print publication. Ones something is published it can continue to compound interest, relevance and drive business results.

If you have a designer at hand or can design ads yourself, consider doing inline story ads that are added to high performing content and link to other content.

3. Move forward

It’s impossible to catch up anymore! So instead of catching up, look at spikes in traffic, look for ideas and then keep turning articles that try to duplicate the success.

4. Do NOT try to rank for the same keyword again on purpose

I have one article that ranks highly for AirPod microphone issues and another that shows up when people search for guidance on how to thank people for wishing them a happy birthday on Facebook:

Those articles rank well already. The click-throughs could be even higher. So I could take a look at the meta description to see if I can drive them up that way. (Clicks on the left, impressions in search on the right).

It’s tempting to write about the same topic again, but what will I say that’s different? A lot of times I wouldn’t recommend doing more articles on the same topic because the two articles can rank against each other.

Now, one idea is to write about how to thank people on LinkedIn for sending you messages, for example. Conceptually speaking.


If you stumbled into SEO success, don’t feel bad! Celebrate the success and then try to learn and move forward with it even better in your next content production or optimization project, which can be as early as now if you are in content marketing or are some kind of other business storyteller.

Measure SEO results – the tools

Google Question Hub

Question Hub launched in the United States in 2021 and Google shares questions that people asked but that they couldn’t find answers to. I’ve tried it right away and already saw some results. Definitely worth using as part of your strategy. This livestream shows you how it works.

Ahrefs

To measure SEO results I use ahrefs which sends me a monthly report letting me know how many keywords I have in the top 3 positions and other lower positions. It also tells me the trends. This is super helpful to see how the strategy is working overall.

measure SEO results

Related ahrefs research: [Podcast] How important are meta descriptions and does Google even use them?

Ubersuggest

Ubersuggest offers a similar service. Just like with ahrefs you enter the keywords you are trying to rank for and the tool tracks them. For example, in this article I’m targeting “measure SEO” so once the updated article publishes I would go to either of these tools and add it.

Other tools like Moz, SEMRush, Alexa and more also exist.

Check out my article on the Alexa blog: Why do SEO in-house

Google Search Console

A free version to measure SEO would be the Google Search Console. Once set up, you can see what terms are ranking for specific positions.

Measure SEO - Google Search Console

In addition, you can easily see comparisons and see if things are trending up or down.

measure SEO with search console

Search Console Insights

This is a new product of Google Search Console that is much easier to use and gives you a much better overview. It’s currently in beta but here’s how it looks:

It looks much nicer than the original interface and even works well on Safari on an iPad.

To sign up go to this link. If that doesn’t work just go to Google search and search for your website while being logged in. It appears that Google is pushing this new set up and will prompt you to turn it on.

Measure SEO wrap

At the end of the day, we want to be strategic with our writing and content creation. Sometimes that means we produce content with a gut feeling. It’s okay to do that and try things. But don’t just blindly create stuff because output matters more than outcomes.

Be strategic and then get on a good rhythm and  don’t forget to set up the right tools to measure SEO and other related KPIs. Once you’ll make progress you’ll want to be able to share those successes.

Read next: How companies can share stories that uplift our spirits