While SEO benchmarks aren’t a sexy topic, you can’t ignore them.
Here’s the deal:
You don’t need to benchmark 50 different SEO metrics.
Focus on the KPIs that actually matter.
In this guide, I’ll show you how to benchmark your SEO performance (the right way). Then I’ll show you what you should ignore and why.
Let’s get started:
Benchmarking SEO Performance: Let’s End the Confusion
Benchmarks and KPIs are relatives, but they aren’t the same. Some people use them interchangeably, which creates some confusion.
Let’s clear it up:
What is an SEO Key Performance Indicator (KPI)?
A KPI is a metric you can track to measure performance over time.
What is an SEO Benchmark?
A benchmark is where you stand right now with a specific KPI. For example, last month’s organic search traffic can be a benchmark. That benchmark is your starting point. In short, benchmarks are NOT KPIs.
So with that out of the way, here’s where you should focus:
6 SEO Benchmarks Worth Establishing
I like to benchmark SEO using two categories:
Lagging and lead metrics.
You can’t control a lagging metric today because it’s the byproduct of yesterday’s work.
And that’s why most of your focus should be on “Lead” metrics.
“Lead” metrics are the actions you’re taking right now to improve the lagging goal.
Let’s start with lagging metrics.
1. Organic Search Traffic
No lagging KPI is more important than organic search traffic from Google Analytics. So you should review it every month.
For your benchmark, I recommend the previous full months of data.
Don’t benchmark too far into the past because it’s irrelevant today. The goal is to beat the closest benchmark.
Go to “Acquisition” and click on “Traffic Acquisition.”
Click on “All Users”:
Next, click on the “Audience name” drop-down and select “First user source / medium”:
Lastly, click on the “Dimension values” dropdown and select “google / organic”:
Now you can benchmark the total organic search traffic from the previous month:
Keep in mind:
You’re looking at your cumulative organic search traffic for the entire website.
Here’s how to benchmark organic search traffic on the page level. Go to “Engagement” and click on “Pages and screens”:
Then click on the data icon and export the report:
Now it’s time to move on to the next SEO benchmark you should establish, which is:
2. User Experience (UX) Signals
I recommend using Google Analytics 4 (GA4) for benchmarking and tracking critical UX signals like:
“Bounce rate” is replaced with “Engaged Sessions” with GA4. Google claims that bounce rate is no longer useful because of phone apps (and various reasons). So now it’s wise to benchmark “Engaged Session” instead.
Go to “Engagement” and click on “Engagement Overview”:
Look for “Engaged sessions per user”:
Ideally, you’ll want to increase this number because it increases your chance of conversions.
It’s also a positive UX signal if someone visits multiple pages on your website.
Average Engagement Time
You want your visitors to stay on your website for as long as possible. That’s why benchmarking “Average engagement time” is important:
There are many reasons why average engagement time can be low:
- The user got what they needed.
- The intent of the keyword.
- The content is low-quality.
- The experience is poor (slowing loading speed, aggressive ads, etc).
I would investigate any page that’s lower than 30 seconds.
You can also look at these UX metrics from GA4 on the page level by going to “Engagement” and clicking on “Pages and screens”:
Now you’ll see the UX metrics on a page-by-page basis:
Investigate pages that have UX metrics below the averages.
3. Impressions, Clicks, & CTR
Google Search Console isn’t complete, but it’s still super valuable.
Go to “Performance” and click on “Search Results”:
There are four KPIs to benchmark:
Your total keyword footprint (Impressions) should be growing overtime:
Like impressions, your total number of clicks should be growing:
Click Through Rate (CTR)
Improving CTR is the single best way to get more organic traffic without much work. I recommend benchmarking it:
Your average position should be climbing overtime.
Now you have benchmarked these metrics at a high-level. It’s time to benchmark your most important pages.
I recommend focusing on your top 25 pages.
Click on the “Pages” tab:
4. Organic Keyword Footprint + Keyword Value
You can use Google Search Console to measure your total keyword footprint. However, I recommend a tool like Semrush.
Related: Semrush review – Is it the best SEO tool?
With Semrush, you can measure keywords ranking #1, #2-#15, #15-#50, and #51-#100.
Although this seems excessive, it’s important for measuring SEO progress. In short, your total keyword footprint should be growing.
But you should also be earning more keywords at higher positions.
I also recommend tracking your keyword profile’s value (“Traffic Cost” by Semrush):
The “cost” is based on how much it would cost to rank for these keywords using Google ads. Try to grow it over time by targeting lucrative keywords.
5. Individual Keyword Rankings
Measuring individual keywords is more challenging than before because of personalization and localization.
However, it’s still something we track on a daily basis.
The reason is simple:
If the primary keyword is moving, so are the other long-tail keywords.
You can use Semrush to track keyword rankings. Go to “Keyword Research” and click on “Position Tracking”:
Enter your keywords, and Semrush will track performance:
6. Total Linking Root Domains
Your backlink profile should be growing at a consistent rate every month.
Go to Semrush, “Link Building,” and click on “Backlinks Analytics”:
If you view backlinks as “votes,” then a surplus of “votes” is a positive sign that your website is still valuable.
If your link profile is in a deficit, then it’s a signal that your site isn’t what it used to be. Backlinks are critical for your long-term SEO performance.
Related: Are backlinks still important? Find out the truth.
Not only do you need them to rank, but you also need them to maintain your rankings.
It’s a never-ending process.
It’s Time to Benchmark Your SEO
Now you know the six SEO benchmarks you need to establish. All you need to do now is document your benchmarks and develop a plan to improve them.
Here are some resources to get you started:
How to Get Backlinks – There is no ranking factor more important. Learn how to build them (the right way).
On-Page SEO Checklist – Get more out of your existing SEO assets and make sure new content ranks (fast). Follow the checklist and watch your rankings climb.