Why Performance Tracking Metrics are Different in SEO and SEM

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are two closely related but slightly different ball games. As such, they require different approaches for tracking and analysis. While both strategies are designed to enhance website performance in searches, they target different types of web traffic (SEO attracts free, organic traffic, while SEM attracts paid traffic) and must therefore be treated differently when it comes to measuring metrics.

Which SEO metrics should you track?

Every business and website is unique, with metrics that matter more than others, but there are critical metrics that you should pay most attention to in order to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your search optimization campaign. These include:

  • Search engine share of traffic sources
    Each month, you should closely keep watch of which traffic sources are contributing the most to your traffic share, such as direct navigation traffic, referral traffic, and search traffic. Direct navigation traffic typically comes from typed in traffic, email links, bookmarks, etc. Referral traffic comes from trackable emails and links across the web, as well as branding campaign and promotional links. Search traffic on the other hand, come from queries originating from any minor or major search engine.
  • Referrals from search engine terms/phrases
    Tracking most used keywords, terms, and phrases is also critical to your overall SEO strategy. This will help you identify trends in terms of keyword demand as well as gauge your performance on certain key terms while finding the best search queries that are bringing you the most significant traffic.
  • Conversion Rate
    This is the metric which mostly lay impact on your bottom line. Knowing the queries or search terms bring you the most conversion, and you can further check your rankings on these specific keywords and improve on your position relative to these terms this could lead to even more conversion. These metrics will also tell you which landing pages these key terms direct to, therefore allowing you to focus efforts on enhancing visitor experience on these pages as well.

Which SEM metrics should you monitor?

Just as there are SEO metrics critical to your overall search performance, certain SEM metrics are also crucial to your website’s profitability such as:

  • Quality Score
    This is determined by different factors like click-through rate of keywords and corresponding ads, keyword and ad relevance to search queries, keyword relevance to ad groups, landing page quality, and click-through rate of display URLs. Quality score is what Google uses to measure the relevance of your keywords. It is what the search engine uses to make sure that searchers see relevant ads as they make their queries, therefore ensuring a positive search experience. Maintaining a good quality score is critical to your SEM efforts as Google uses this to determine ad rankings and at the same time measure how much per click you should be paying.
  • CTR or click-through rate
    Ask any SEM expert what their top PPC metric is and they will most-likely say click-through rating. One of the many reasons why click-through rates are important to SEM is because they are among the main factors that determine your quality score. More than this, CTR tells you whether or not your PPC ads are actually relevant to searchers. Low CTR is an obvious indication that your keywords or ad choices need improvement.
  • Conversion rate

Conversion rate is where SEO and SEM find common ground when it comes to metrics that should be closely monitored. Conversion rates, when it comes to PPC metrics tell you how many of those who clicked on your ad went to complete a call to action on the landing page the ad directed it to, whether it be singing up for your free trial, making a purchase, or subscribing to your website. conversion rate is just as critical as CTR because you don’t want to be paying for traffic and clicks if none of them are leading to a meaningful action. High conversion rates are a strong indication that the money you are paying per click is returning to you in profits.

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