Here’s a deep dive into the 11 top KPIs for SEO tracking we use to rank our clients on page one. Learn our tricks and tools to do the same.

Here, you’ll find:

  1. What is SEO tracking?
  2. Which SEO metrics should you monitor?
  3. 8 Tools to track SEO campaigns
  4. How to start tracking SEO with Google tools
  5. Why is SEO tracking important?
  6. How does SEO tracking work?
  7. When can you expect to see SEO results?

There’s a quote attributed to management expert Peter Drucker that goes, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” While he wasn’t talking about search engine optimization (SEO), his statement absolutely applies.

If you don’t monitor the results of your SEO campaigns, you’ll never know if your efforts are working — or what kind of value they’re creating. SEO tracking is the key to monitoring progress and seeing if your investment is paying off.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about monitoring SEO campaigns and keeping track of the results. From the top SEO metrics to track to the best SEO tools to use, we’ll walk you through how to measure SEO success.

What is SEO tracking?

SEO tracking is the practice of measuring SEO campaign performance. It’s a data-driven way to report on your results and improve your efforts. By tracking SEO campaigns, you can benchmark results and monitor progress over time. SEO tracking shows you what’s working so you know what to do more of and what to avoid.

Which SEO metrics should you monitor?

The most important SEO metrics to measure depend on what you want to achieve. First, use the steps above to decide on your main goal. Then map it to the relevant metrics below.

Do you need to monitor all of these metrics? Definitely not. In fact, keeping an eye on all of them at once will likely confuse your stakeholders and misrepresent your campaigns.

Instead, focus on the metrics that matter most, based on your objectives.

Organic search traffic

Organic traffic refers to clicks you get from search results. For some marketers, more website traffic is the goal.

But in many cases, traffic is important because it often leads to other positive outcomes. For example, more traffic can lead to more conversions, which can lead to more sales.

Remember that more traffic doesn’t always lead to more conversions or revenue. It’s a good idea to track traffic and use it to understand how traffic affects metrics that matter for your business.

Organic search traffic

You can measure organic search traffic with tools like Google Analytics.

Keyword rankings

Keyword rankings reflect where your website shows up in organic search for the keywords that matter to your business. The better your keyword rankings (i.e., near #1), the more visibility and clicks you’ll receive.

The top three organic search results get almost 54% of the clicks on a typical SERP, according to a Backlinko study.

For SEO Strategist Brooks Manley, tracking the “number of priority keywords in the top five” is crucial. “I used to look at all keywords in the top five, but realized ‘Who cares if unimportant or irrelevant keywords are in the top five?’ So I started making a list of high-priority keywords we know lead to sales,” Manley explains.

High-priority keywords generally have the most business potential. To find your high-priority keywords, use a framework developed by Tim Soulo, CMO of Ahrefs. Keywords for which your product or service is a clear solution to the searcher’s problem have the most business potential and should be top priority.

Keyword rankings

You can monitor the results of your keyword strategy with tools like Semrush.

Search visibility

While keyword rankings measure a single term or phrase, search visibility reflects how all your tracked keywords rank. It’s a way to measure the success of your entire keyword portfolio.

Checking search visibility for your site and benchmarking the results over time is helpful. But it’s just as useful to compare visibility for your site against your competitors.

Search visibility

You can keep an eye on search visibility with tools like SE Ranking.

SERP features

Getting your site highlighted in a SERP feature can boost your visibility and drive more clicks. It can also signal that you’ve added site content with unique value to the featured page.

SERP features are the elements that appear at the top of organic search results. They vary based on the search term and other factors, but they might include:

  • Featured snippets

SERP features

  • Image packs or video carousels

Image packs or video carousels

  • People also ask panels

people also ask panels

SE Ranking

You can track SERP features in tools like SE Ranking.

Click-through rate (CTR)

CTR compares how often your site appears in search results to how often people actually click through. To get people to convert and buy, you need them to click on your link — not just scroll past your site in the SERPs.

A higher CTR means your titles and meta descriptions stand out in search. It also means your content matches people’s search intent, which signals you’re providing more value.

Click-through rate

The top-ranking search result above does a lot of things right. Its title and meta description include the exact keyword searched for, and the article matches the intent to find a list of the best running shoes. The article is also easy to read, clearly organized, and has plenty of images and helpful links to help readers make a buying decision.

the previous time period

You can measure CTR using Google Search Console.

Domain authority

Domain authority (DA) probably isn’t what you think. It doesn’t reflect how authoritative your site is—at least not exactly. Instead, it indicates how likely your site will rank in organic search.

Each SEO tool has its own algorithm for calculating DA or domain rank (DR). But all use a scale from 1 to 100, with sites closer to 100 being more likely to rank.

They all consider dozens of factors when calculating DA. Some of the most common factors include:

  • Number of backlinks
  • Number of linking domains
  • Quality of the site’s content

Domain authority

You can track this metric using tools like Semrush.


Backlinks are one of the most important off-page SEO metrics, and they’re a critical complement to your on-page SEO strategy. Most SEO experts measure two different metrics:

  • The total number of backlinks, which can include multiple links from the same site
  • The number of referring domains, which reflects the diversity of your backlink portfolio

In both cases, higher numbers are better, as they show that you’re using SEO best practices for link building. Ideally, you’ll see both increase over time.

Some best practices for attracting links include:

  • Publishing content with original research or other unique value
  • Guest posting on other relevant sites
  • Building relationships with industry influencers


You can monitor backlinks and referring domains with tools like Mangools.

Bounce rate

Most SEO consultants aim for a low bounce rate. A lower rate means people are less likely to click away from your site after visiting just one web page—which signals a good user experience.

Keep in mind that bounce rate isn’t an SEO ranking factor. But it can help you get a better sense of the quality of your content marketing and the intent of your search traffic.

For example, the top-ranking result for the query below aligns perfectly with its search intent. As a result, it likely has a low bounce rate. Search intent mismatch typically happens when searchers use keywords with various meanings — and Google generates a SERP that doesn’t fit the intended meaning.

Google generates a SERP

Bounce rate refers to the percentage of single-page sessions on your site. It’s a way to measure how often people visit a specific page and click away quickly without doing anything else.

Bounce rate refers

You can track bounce rate with Google Analytics.

Session duration

Along the same lines as bounce rate, session duration measures how long people spend on your site. Longer visits can mean better content that fits better with search intent, which again is a good thing.

Some SEO experts also measure user engagement time since it signals higher intent than a site session alone. Engagement time shows how long people actively viewed or interacted with the page.

Session duration

You can monitor session duration with Google Analytics.

Conversion rate

A conversion indicates that a visitor took an action related to your business goals, making this metric one of the most important for SEOs to track. Conversion include outcomes like:

  • Submitting a contact form
  • Signing up for a free trial
  • Booking a meeting
  • Making an ecommerce purchase

The conversion rate reflects how often people complete the action. To calculate it, divide the number of people who did the action by the number of visitors to the page.

For example, let’s say 100 people visited your landing page, and 20 clicked a button to book a meeting. Your conversion rate would be 20%.

conversion rate

You can view conversion data in Google Analytics.

Return on investment (ROI)

The metrics above are all important for tracking SEO performance. But none of them tell you the value of your work. That’s why it’s essential to measure ROI.

The higher your ROI is, the greater the value your SEO efforts are per dollar you spend. If you need to make a case for a bigger SEO budget, tracking ROI is key.

You can calculate ROI by adding up your investment in SEO and the revenue from any conversions.
ROI = Revenue / Investment x 100.

If this seems too complicated, an SEO audit service can help. Reach out to HawkSEM to get a complete audit of your website and SEO efforts.

Page speed

One of the most important components of technical SEO is page speed — the amount of time between when your browser sends a request for a page and when the browser completes processing and rendering the content.

Page speed can vary widely, but should take 2.5 seconds or less for the content on the page to load. Staying on top of page speed ensures your technical SEO is top-notch.

8 Tools to track SEO campaigns

To track your SEO results, you need the right tools. But you don’t need all the tools.

From the list below, choose those that best fit your budget and allow you to track key metrics. Then use them to monitor website performance over time and create weekly or monthly reports.

1. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free tool that helps you understand how people use your website. It shows the path searchers take as they navigate your site and the actions they complete—like clicks and landing page visits.

Google Analytics

With Google Analytics 4 (GA4), you can set up conversion goals to track the outcomes that matter to your team. For an easy-to-follow walkthrough, see below.


  • Comprehensive data on a large number of Google services
  • Free to use
  • Customizable SEO reports for easy-to-understand results


  • Limited keyword data for organic search traffic
  • Complex, especially for new users
  • Data sampling for high-traffic websites, which is less granular and accurate than non-sampled data


  • Free

2. Google Search Console

Google Search Console (GSC) is a free tool that monitors Google search performance. In short, it shows you how Google views pages on your site.

Google Search Console

From the GSC dashboard, you can see total organic search traffic, as well as search terms that drive traffic to your site. We’ll walk through the setup below.


  • Completely free to use with no paid plans
  • Provides direct data from Google about your website’s search performance
  • Helps identify and fix technical issues and security problems
  • Offers insights into search queries, impressions, clicks, and rankings


  • Limited to data only from Google Search
  • Lacks competitor analysis and more advanced SEO features
  • Has a 16-month limit on historical data
  • Can be complex for beginners to interpret the data


  • Free

3. Ahrefs


Ahrefs is a suite of SEO tools that monitor metrics like domain authority, keyword ranking, search visibility, and backlink portfolios. With Ahrefs, you can use AI-powered tools to track SEO performance across your website and do competitor and keyword research.


  • Data accuracy
  • User-friendly interface with simple navigation
  • A wide variety of tools for a comprehensive data experience


  • Can be cost-prohibitive
  • Limited Google integration
  • Lack of historical data


  • Starts at $83 monthly for Lite plan

ConversionIQ screenshot

4. ConversionIQ™

ConversionIQ is HawkSEM’s proprietary platform. We designed it to take your SEO tracking beyond metrics — like search traffic and keyword ranking — so you can focus on advanced measurements like lead scoring and lifetime value (LTV). It measures conversions, attributes lead sources, and helps you make data-driven decisions about your SEO program.

“We know that tracking can be a pain in the you know what. That’s why we implemented our own system, ConversionIQ, to better connect the dots from search to sale,” explains Sam Yadegar, CEO of HawkSEM. “We use it for our clients, namely Verizon, Datadog, and Appdynamics to drive results and know where SEO conversions are coming from, what value they create, and how to find more similar opportunities.”

What does that value look like? Our SEO campaign for Datadog increased sales demos by 75% while drastically reducing cost per action (CPA).

5. Mangools


Mangools is a group of SEO tools that measure content and site performance. It’s particularly helpful for finding and monitoring backlinks, which can boost your site’s authority and help it rank in organic search.


  • Very easy to use with an intuitive interface
  • More affordable compared to other popular SEO tools
  • Provides enough data and features for beginners and small businesses
  • Excellent customer support from an experienced SEO team


  • Lacks some advanced features offered by competitors
  • Has a smaller backlink and keyword database compared to industry leaders
  • Mainly focused on Google with limited data from other search engines


  • Starts at $19.90/month for the Basic plan when billed annually

6. Moz


Moz is an all-in-one SEO suite and rank tracker that measures the impact of your campaigns. With Moz, you can conduct an SEO audit and track metrics like top-ranking keywords, search ranking distribution, domain authority, and backlink portfolio. It’s an alternative to tools like Ahrefs, SE Ranking, and Semrush.


  • In-depth keyword analysis
  • Technical issue identification
  • Less expensive than paid alternatives


  • Less comprehensive than competitors
  • Difficult to navigate
  • Some technical snags make the platform occasionally “buggy”


  • Starts at $79 monthly for Standard plan

7. SE Ranking

SE Ranking

SE Ranking is a set of SEO tools that track metrics like search visibility, search volume, SERP features, and keyword rankings across your site. Like Moz, Ahrefs, and Semrush, SE Ranking can also help with keyword and competitor research, making it a useful dashboard for SEO campaigns.


  • Offers a complete set of SEO tools in one platform
  • Uses unique data processing algorithms for precise insights
  • Provides highly customizable reports for agencies and businesses
  • Excellent customer support with live chat available


  • User interface can feel overwhelming initially due to the number of features
  • Higher plans required to access certain advanced features and increased limits
  • Lacks some third-party integrations offered by competitors


  • Starts at $44/month for the Essential plan when billed annually

8. Semrush


Semrush is an SEO tracking tool that monitors keyword performance, backlink portfolios, and search visibility. It’s a solid alternative to tools like SE Ranking, Ahrefs, and Moz—but Semrush also has powerful writing and research tools that can streamline your digital marketing strategy.


  • Comprehensive SEO analytics covering a wide variety of metrics
  • In-depth insights that form firm foundations for decision-making
  • User-friendly interface that is easy to navigate


  • Can be cost-prohibitive
  • Limited historical data
  • Can have substantial learning curve due to breadth of features


  • Starts at $108.33 monthly for Pro plan

How to start tracking SEO with Google tools

The first steps for tracking your SEO include setting up your GA4 and GSC dashboards. Here’s how to get started.

How to set up GA4 for SEO tracking

GA4 is your destination for monitoring on-page engagement and conversions. The dashboard automatically tracks engagement metrics, but you might not see them if you don’t add them to your reports.

Here’s an easy way to start tracking them.

From your GA4 dashboard, open the Reports panel and select a report under the Engagement subheading. I chose the “Pages” and “Screens” report since it shows engagement per page.

GA4 dashboard

Click the pencil icon in the upper right corner to edit the report, and then add or rearrange the metrics. For example, I added “Bounce Rate” and “Average Engagement Time” to this report.

Average Engagement Time

To track conversions in GA4, open the Admin panel and navigate to the “Events” section. Click to create a new custom event and use GA4 settings to configure it. Take a look at Google’s walkthrough for step-by-step instructions.


Once you’ve set up events, you can measure conversions across your site. But keep in mind that it isn’t always easy to attribute conversions to SEO.

“Attribution can be really tricky. Many people’s buyer’s journeys start with an informational search,” shares Manley. “You may get their interest here, but if they wind up converting as direct traffic down the road, it’s easy to miss. I utilize GA4’s Assisted Conversion and Conversion Paths reports.”


How to use GSC for SEO tracking

Unlike GA4, GSC needs much less setup. Once you connect and verify your domain, you can start checking website performance right away.

The Search Console Insights panel offers a quick snapshot of your search performance. For example, you can see how search compares to other acquisition channels, and you can view your top queries at a glance.


For a deeper dive, open the “Search Results” tab to monitor impressions in search, clicks from SERPs, and CTR. Use the automated comparison to see how your current performance measures up to the previous time period.


Then scroll down to the Queries panel. Here, you can see top search queries your site ranked for — including the clicks that resulted.

Click any search query to take a closer look. You can chart activity over time and see a list of pages where your search traffic landed.

Keep in mind that GSC and GA4 are powerful tools for measuring search traffic and conversions. But they’re just the first step for tracking SEO success. By adding a dedicated SEO tool to your tech stack, you can monitor metrics like specific keywords, search visibility, and DA as well.

Strategies to make the most of your data

Data collection won’t impact your bottom line unless you’re using the insights you collect to take action.

Now that you’ve integrated SEO analytics into your content, let’s look at how to apply that data to your business.

Optimize your content based on keyword insights

Keyword research will help you understand the search terms people use to access your site. Once you know those terms, you can incorporate them into your web copy and digital ads.

Keywords can be integrated both into your copy, as well as into your backend ad campaign set-up. The most straightforward approach is to create quality content that incorporates keywords naturally throughout the headings, meta descriptions, and body text.

Create a better user experience

User behavior data says a lot about how users navigate your site — the pages they frequent, the time they spend on different pages, and where they drop off.

Take advantage of this information to create a more seamless website experience for your users. Use page performance metrics to optimize your site for the way people use your site.

And by incorporating the terms users search for into your navigation bar, you can make it easier for them to find the information they want.

Improve & expand your technical performance

An SEO audit of your site will pinpoint areas where your website is technically underperforming. Whether there are broken internal links or suboptimal mobile capabilities, an SEO audit will offer opportunities to improve your website’s technical components.

Build a larger backlink network

Most of the above-listed SEO tools provide a backlink analysis that assesses your off-page SEO. Looking at your results is a great way to expand your backlink profile.

Doing outreach to build high-quality backlinks is an ideal strategy to bolster your domain authority and expand your off-page SEO performance. Regularly audit your backlinks to ensure your strategy is delivering results.

Why is SEO tracking important?

SEO data has short-term and long-term benefits your business. Let’s take a look at some ways you can take a data-driven approach with your SEO strategy.

Gain insights into consumer behavior and preferences

The primary advantage of SEO data analysis is that it gives a deeper understanding of your target audience.

And that brings enormous benefits to your company. When you use SEO data to get to know your users, you can tailor your content marketing, keywords, and website to the exact problems, challenges, and goals of your users.

Having SEO data at your fingertips gives you the tools to deliver a better user experience to engage your customers. And by drawing on SEO forecasting, you can predict your users’ behavior with confidence.

Enhanced decision-making based on real-time trends and analysis

SEO data gives you a firm foundation for decision-making — whether you’re selecting the direction for your marketing strategy or analyzing markets to reach with your ad.

The result is a more surefooted, data-driven approach to decision-making. Real-time data lets you base your marketing strategy on your customers’ desires and preferences, putting you one step ahead of the competition.

Optimize marketing campaigns based on keyword performance and user engagement 

SEO data gives you a crystal-clear picture of your audience. You can identify specific, granular patterns about the terms they’re searching for and the content your ideal audience engages with.

Keyword performance and user engagement data allow you to optimize your marketing campaigns to target your ideal users specifically. You’ll know exactly the language, format, descriptions, and content to drive your readers to take action.

Identify new product opportunities

One unexpected benefit of SEO is its potential to open up new marketing opportunities. You can use insights about your ideal audience from your SEO data to pinpoint market gaps you can fill.

For example, if you’re an ecommerce business, SEO data provides rich insights into your users’ interests and preferences. For Shopify business owners, using SEO best practices can help you cover all the bases and have a massive impact on your bottom line.

If your ecommerce product covers most of your audience’s needs. For example, your SEO data will help you understand what those remaining needs are — so you can upgrade your product line and provide a richer shopper experience.

Ongoing improvement in website traffic and user engagement

When you regularly monitor your SEO data, you have constant opportunities to improve your site and user experience. From on-page SEO to technical elements, effective usage of SEO data results in a sustained improvement to your website’s metrics. 

SEO data in action: Moneta Group

Teaming up with SEO professionals like HawkSEM is a great way to get more out of your SEO data. SEO analytics is one of our core competencies — and we specialize in turning insights into action.

Our team at HawkSEM applies our SEO strategy across industries and business types. From roofers to plastic surgeons, we’ve proven that SEO data can deliver results.

Take Moneta Group, a wealth management group. Moneta felt their website wasn’t reaching its potential and wanted to expand its local organic traffic and improve its SEO performance.

Our team took a multi-pronged approach to improve the Moneta Group’s organic reach. We created a local SEO strategy and conducted thorough keyword research. We then developed quality content built around their target keywords to reach more of Moneta’s ideal customers.

The results?

A 326% increase to the Moneta Group’s keyword portfolio. Plus, Moneta’s organic keyword positioning in spots 1-3 grew by 164%.

At HawkSEM, we take SEO data seriously. In fact, we use our own proprietary software called ConversionIQ to help companies gain the richest insights possible.

ConversionIQ dahsboard

ConversionIQ tracks each user’s experience, from click to customer. We use this data to understand what parts of the buyer’s journey are moving flawlessly and what areas need more attention.

Our approach to analytics means your marketing efforts will be based on rock-solid data.

How does SEO tracking work?

Whether you’re managing SEO for a local business or a national brand, the SEO tracking workflow looks similar. Here’s a quick overview of the key steps.

Start by setting goals. What do you want to accomplish with SEO? Sure, you want to rank at the top of relevant search engine results pages (SERPs). But take it a step further. What’s your business goal? For example, do you want to get more traffic to make more sales? Or do you just want leads to herd into your email nurturing campaigns?

Next, identify the most important metrics to track. We’ll cover some of the most common metrics below. But in short, they should reflect the goals your team wants to achieve with SEO. If you want to make more sales, for example, you’ll likely track conversion rate and lifetime value.

Then set KPIs for each metric. This step is essential for quantifying SEO success. If you aren’t sure what you can achieve with SEO, check your past results. For example, say your conversion rate is stuck at 2%. You may aim to increase it to 5% in three months using SEO tactics.

Finally, choose a tool to monitor your results. You can track some basic metrics like search traffic for free. But you’ll typically need a paid tool to measure more advanced metrics, like search visibility, target keyword rank tracking, and backlinks. We’ll cover some of the top SEO tools for tracking and reporting below.

When can you expect to see SEO results?

“It depends,” most SEO experts would answer. Typical results vary. You should see results in 3 to 6 months according to Ahrefs, and in 6 to 12 months, according to Semrush.

Many factors affect SEO outcomes — some of the most common ones include:

Age of your website.

Is your site brand new? If so, you may need more time to establish authority so you can rank for important keywords.

Competition in your industry.

Are you angling for a lot of difficult keywords? If so, you may need more time to outrank competitors.

Investment in SEO.

Does your executive team want to start small and test out SEO? If you only have limited resources, you probably won’t see results quickly.

“The challenge with SEO tracking is the delay in data crawling and time taken to see the results after implementing SEO strategies,” says Abhi Bavishi, Growth Marketer and Automation Expert.

“Personally, I use tools like Semrush and Ahrefs, as they provide up-to-date keyword rankings, backlink analysis, and site audits. I also use a combination of GA4 and Google Search Console to track down the performance of keywords on the website, and find out which keywords are bringing the highest quality traffic.”

The takeaway

When you know what you want to achieve with SEO, you can find the right metrics and tools to measure your results. Start tracking search traffic with free Google tools, and then choose a paid SEO tool to monitor keyword rankings, search visibility, and backlinks.

Not sure where to start with SEO tracking or want expert advice to improve your SEO campaigns? Reach out to HawkSEM to learn more about our SEO service.

This article has been updated and was originally published in December 2023.

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