Measuring SEO Success
- how to ensure you get traction from your website optimization efforts
- how to analyze your link acquisition strategies
- how to track keyword rankings with actual search volume
- how to cut through the noise and review the most important traffic analytics
- how to measure conversions and be assured of your firm’s ROI
Reviewing Traction from On-Site SEO Endeavors
If you start a new exercise regimen, it’s probably with some specific goals/targets in mind (be it weight, cholesterol, etc.), so you check in regularly to see how progress is being made towards them. However, it’s also important to measure the impact that each individual exercise is having on those ultimate goals. You want to be sure that you’re doing the right routine, in the right repetitions; otherwise, you’re not maximizing your energy and time.
Likewise, you can make thousands of granular modifications to a website and all of them have some impact…but it’s crucial to be sure that the actions that you’re taking are the ones that most efficiently address the overall goals of your firm’s SEO efforts.
In the case of measuring your law firm website’s performance, we recommend Ahrefs Site Audit.
Why Ahrefs Side Audit?
Ahrefs Side Audit is a cloud-based diagnostic tool (so there’s no software to install). It provides detailed reports on the health of your site. Those reports filter to display the most common SEO issues, but they’re also sortable, allowing for a large degree of customization and drilling down to the fine details. You can also schedule the tool’s crawls of your site, letting you generate regular progress reports at your convenience.
Ahrefs is a paid tool, so if you’re looking for a free diagnostic, check out Google Search Console and Screaming Frog.
How to Hold Your SEO Agency Accountable for Link Building
As the owner of an SEO agency, I frequently see a lack of link acquisition and/or acquisition of low-quality links. As mentioned previously, backlinks are the #1 ranking factor, so it’s imperative that this aspect of SEO be done properly and on a regular basis.
Link building in the legal vertical is difficult, but there are effective tactics (which we outlined in Chapter 7). Even if you’re generating content and have a well-optimized site, without link building, your visibility will most likely suffer.
Don’t let parasitic agencies leech off of your hard-earned money. What should you do?
Get an account with Ahrefs.
I don’t have an affiliate link to offer and I am receiving no consideration for making this recommendation. This is genuinely my professional opinion about the best tool for the job (measuring link acquisition).
How to Use Ahrefs Site Explorer
I primarily use Ahrefs Site Explorer to evaluate the quality of backlinks and to measure link acquisition progress.
When evaluating the quality of a link, I look for:
- the DR (Domain Rating)
- I tend to look for the highest DR sites I can find and avoid sites with less than 30 DR
- the number of keywords indexed
- I put more emphasis on this metric, as opposed to organic traffic, the estimates of which tend to be unreliable; a website with a high number of keyword indexed is likely healthy
- the total backlinks
- Fairly self-explanatory: I’m looking for large inbound link profiles.
- the UR (URL Rating)
- This takes into account both internal and external links to give a weighted score (between 0 and 100) to a given page
A thorough explanation of all Ahrefs’s metrics can be found here.
Ahrefs’s head of marketing and product strategy agrees. He says:
From Tim Soulo, Head of Marketing & Product Strategy at Ahrefs
“When evaluating link quality, the basic rule is to ask yourself a very simple question: ‘Is this website legit?’
And by “legit” I mean that the website should be actually valuable for its visitors, and not exist for the sole purpose of selling links to other people.
Now if that’s a legit quality website, the metrics I would look at are of course Ahrefs’ DR and RD, which stand for Domain Rating and Referring Domains respectively.
By looking at these two metrics, you can get a very rough idea of this website’s “link popularity” compared to the rest of the internet. Because as a general rule you want to get links from “popular” websites.
One other thing I highly recommend you factor in is how fast is this website acquiring new backlinks. In Ahrefs there’s a graph that shows you how many referring domains this website is acquiring over time. If that graph is plateauing – then the “value” of your link won’t really grow over time. Moreover, there’s a good chance that this website will be eventually abandoned, and your link will simply vanish in a few years.
But if the graph of new referring domains is going up – it means that this website is gaining more and more popularity over time, so the value that you get from your link will only grow over time.
These are the very basics that you can check in about 15 seconds.
And if you want to go deeper in assessing the link quality of a website, there’s nothing better than actually digging into the websites that link to it.
I mean Domain Rating and Referring Domains may seem high, but these metrics can surely be manipulated. So, if something seems sketchy – always dig deeper.”
Track the Keywords You Actually Care About
Tracking your keywords is essential for any campaign. You want to make sure that your efforts, both on-site and off-site, are having an impact on your SEO.
Google Search Console is a nice free tool that can give you a granular look at keyword queries, their impressions, and total clicks. However, it does not allow you to insert the keyword for which you’re striving to attain and improve rankings, so important phrases can be lost in the midst of this clutter of data.
That’s why our preferred keyword rank tracker is Agency Analytics.
You can read our case study here.
To give you a brief overview of why we prefer Agency Analytics:
- you can segment your rankings by organic, local, mobile, etc.
- rankings are updated every 24 hours
- they have a clean, customizable dashboard
- their UI features numerous integrations (Google Analytics, CallRail, etc.)
Don’t Let An SEO Send a Report with All Traffic Voodoo
When it comes to measuring traffic for an SEO campaign, you need to be primarily looking at organic traffic. Oftentimes, there are individuals that will send “all traffic reports,” but these can be arbitrary when measuring the impact of SEO implementation. If your report contains referral, direct, and social traffic, it’s very likely that the agency you’ve hired is trying to pull the wool over your eyes. SEO strategies are geared towards organic results, so the reporting should reflect that.
Our tool of choice in this area is Google Analytics (free). Here are the main views you should use:
- Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels > Organic Search (primary dimension: keyword)
- Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels > Organic Search (primary dimension: landing page)
- Audience > Geo > Location (primary dimension: city) > (secondary dimension: source/medium)
The first view will look at your organic traffic in the keyword queries that Google will provide. This information is limited and you can get more queries within Google Search Console.
The second view provides a look at the destination URLs that are generating the most organic traffic. Sometimes a report may show a spike in organic traffic. However, it’s important to measure where those spikes occur: if they are happening in a page without the proper intent, they’re unlikely to result in a growth in the number of cases.
The third view allows you to look at the city in which search sessions are originating. Not to belabor an obvious point, but you want your SEO efforts to impact your actual locale. If your organic traffic is increasing in Chicago and you’re in Philadelphia, this is of little worth to you and your firm (although you may want to consider looking for a referral partner in Chicago; if you can’t find one, let me know). This view also has the advantage of allowing you to consider strategically opening offices in new locations.
Getting a Return on Your Investment Through SEO Conversions
Everything that we’ve mentioned above is a leading indicator for what’s most important to you: conversions (or new case acquisitions). It doesn’t matter how optimized your site is, how many backlinks you acquire, etc.: if you aren’t getting new cases, you won’t care.
The real question is, how do you know if your SEO efforts are affecting your conversions?
There are three primary methods that we recommend: tracking your contact form submissions (using Google Analytics Goal Tracking), your live chat conversions (using a service like Ngage), and your phone call conversions (using call tracking, such as CallRail).
Google Analytics Goal Tracking
While useful and accurate, Goal Tracking through Google Analytics does require a bit of fine-tuning in the setup phase. Here’s how you set it up:
- While logged into Google Analytics, click on Admin > Goals > New Goal > then fill in the “Name” field and click the box marked “Destination.”
This goal will resolve on a “Thank you” page after a contact form is successfully submitted. Google will log a conversion once a prospective client enters a contact form and then redirected to the “Thank you” page.
The “Thank you” page is the destination URL.
Here’s a video that shows in more detail how to set this up properly.
Live Chat Conversion Tracking
You’re probably familiar with live chat already, but in the legal vertical, there are two primary providers: Ngage and Apex. Live chat is an additional tool for capturing conversions. You can set up goals for live chat similar to how we’ve mentioned above (each provider has a different method for connecting with Google Analytics). Many of the popular tools will also integrate with your case management system.
Phone Call Conversion Tracking
In principle, tracking conversions from phone calls is a fairly simple task. The goal is to take different phone numbers that you own and task them to different purposes, allowing you to track the success rate of calls coming into each.
There are two ways to set up call track: static and dynamic.
Static call tracking involves using a single number for all website interactions, while dynamic takes a pool of numbers and assigns them to individually to each referral source
We recommend dynamic call tracking, simply because it allows for a much more detailed breakdown of the data. The caveat to this recommendation is that the wealth of data generated by dynamic call tracking can be overwhelming if it isn’t managed properly, so you’ll need to be sure to filter out repeat callers and referral sources to get an accurate look at your conversions.
Chapter ROI by Chris Dreyer, CEO of Rankings.io
Properly measuring the success of a campaign is critical, so it’s important to consider multiple metrics/KPIs. Contact form submissions, calls, live chats, rankings, and organic traffic are just some of the leading indicators of a successful SEO campaign.