• Chris Green

The SEO Metric Chain

Updated: 3 days ago

One of the areas you need to spend your time understanding is all the different metrics to report on in SEO. There are a dizzying amount of metrics for you to get lost in, but I have created the Metric Chain in order to help show how they connect, and how they should be used together.

As part of this approach, I have intentionally removed complexity in favour of making this approachable. There are elements missing and exceptions to some of the general rules I establish - that's fine!

Introducing the Metric Chain

So the metric chain is made to show the progression of all the most important SEO metrics in relation to their distance from illustrating financial value.

The metric names may change as your data sources vary, but I would argue the chain, the progression from left to right should help structure your thinking and how you use this information.


If you are reading this and are thinking that you only need to worry about the financial value - then this post isn't really aimed at you. It will show that there is a lot that proceeds revenue, but it won't really go into more depth than that.

If you are, on the other hand, so disconnected from the financial reporting that it doesn't matter to you, then this isn't directly aimed at you.


Most SEOs will need to understand the detailed technical information AND how to communicate efficiently with those people who - frankly - aren't interested.


Distance From Revenue, or Technical Value Vs Financial Value


The key element we need to consider is the value difference between the different metrics types. Technical metrics provide immense power to understand what is happening, diagnose, troubleshoot, and correct. Someone monitoring the technical metrics and proactively working to improve them will have a far higher chance of succeeding.


Financial metrics are the crowd pleaser - all senior team members and stakeholders will want to see these. They can paint an overly simplistic view of a situation - and sometimes can make things appear worse than they are - but the narrative is easy to understand and act on.

...utilise technical metrics when they contribute to your story and add clarity rather than add complexity.

Then there is everything in between - we have performance metrics that can illustrate visibility through to clicks and traffic. Neither are as tangible as $$$ but give more than the number of crawl requests (for example).


It is critical to understand that technical metrics are often leading indicators. A technical metric showing green may soon translate into more tangible improvements further up the chain.


Metric Groups

Along this spectrum, I have created smaller groups to illustrate how best to approach each - with further rationale.


Technical


Purpose - to give detailed information about how search engines are requesting pages from your site, what is getting crawled, and where possible which pages are getting successfully indexed.


Who is this appropriate for? - Technical teams and analysts. Those who can work with the most often least-friendly data, analyse, understand and translate it into actions.


Where can I find it? - Google, Bing & Yandex Search Consoles all contain this kind of information, but also any kind of access logs - whether from the server or CDN - can help give insight here.


Avoid providing these metrics to senior teams (or higher) unless you're reporting on early progress OR it's part of a wider picture. Anything else will lead to frustration/confusion.


Visibility


Purpose - To understand how more/less likely you are to be shown in search results. These should be viewed as relative to your historic performance - "are we doing better or worse" - but also against your competitors too.


Who is this appropriate for? - For the team who are hands-on with the project, but often a great set of data to show to senior members and even stakeholders with the right caveats and positioning.


Where can I find it? - Third-party tools will provide visibility metrics based on their datasets (SISTRIX, Semrush, Bright Edge, etc), but also rank tracking specifically set up for your campaigns.


If you are using visibility metrics to present to leadership ensure that other performance metrics closer to revenue are also being used. Don't assume a link between visibility and value is always well-understood.


Search Engine Performance


Purpose - The performance metrics from search engines to show how many clicks & impressions have been driven, alongside click-through rate and average position.


Who is this appropriate for? - Again, this can assist almost everyone working in the team as well as presenting upwards.


Where can I find it? - Google, Bing & Yandex Search Consoles again are the best place to find this.


The narrative around search engine performance is easier to understand, but you need to show how impressions and clicks translate into business value.


Traffic & Revenue


Purpose - Showing the number of users landing on your site, their engagement with the site as well as contacts & revenue generated.


Who is this appropriate for? - A pretty-universal source of data (within Digital Marketing), there's enough detail for analysts, but the top line is essential for presenting to key project stakeholders.


Where can I find it? - Web analytics platforms, like Google or Adobe Analytics.


Generally, a favourite when reporting upwards, revenue data can be used as a stand-alone set of metrics IF the success is clear. Just beware that some stakeholders and subject experts will ask "why"? You may need Search Engine performance data at least to assist in answering this.


Delivering Data which Tells a Story


To master reporting is to understand how to tell this story, and how to utilise technical metrics when they contribute to your story and add clarity rather than complexity.


A couple of questions I use to help create reports. First on the narrative:

  • Do I have data that shows the status quo before your activity?

  • Do I have data that illustrates the change brought about by my activity?

  • Can I easily show the business impact as a result of this change?

Next on the chart selection itself:

  • What is the point you are trying to make and what are the fewest charts you can use to make that argument?

  • What insight does this data give me? Can I act on it? Is it useful?

  • Can you easily explain those metrics, where the data comes from, and what it all means?

Finally on the format:

  • Who am I presenting this to, what is their knowledge level and how much do they enjoy detail?

  • How long do I have to present this? Is it your presentation or part of a wider session where you have less time?

  • If someone picks this up without your voice-over will they understand what they need to?

Some of these may be difficult to answer - but if you can cover most of the bases here, the quality of your reports will improve dramatically.


Working With It

Sometimes this process will be frustrating and difficult. Some elements don't have convenient answers, and some people are inconsistent or aren't interested when they really should be.

You probably care about this more than anyone else but learn discipline enough to give them the information they are interested in, not you.
  1. First, ensure you have access to the software required to capture all elements of the data within the chain (and they are correctly set up).

  2. Be sure that you know your own goals/targets and which metrics you need for each.

  3. Embrace negative signals as much as positive ones, it's all data to learn from.

  4. As you interact with other teams, understand their duties and which metrics may also be of interest to them.

  5. Watch other people present data, and take note of which elements people engage with & which elements leave people flat.

  6. Use all your metric chain to do your job, to understand what to change, what has worked & why. BUT when telling that story only use the metrics appropriate for your audience.

  7. Ask for feedback and change the format if it isn't working.

You probably care about this more than anyone else but learn discipline enough to give them the information they are interested in, not you.


I'm rooting for you though, go smash it!


Learn More About SEO


If you want to learn more about the Metric Chain and are just getting started in SEO, then you should check out my Certified SEO & SEM Marketing Manager course. Link & Coupon Code Below.


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