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Useful Metrics for Chief Marketing Officers to Measure SEO Success

Episode Overview: SEO success can be measured by a multitude of different metrics but knowing which ones are right for your business and goals pose a particular challenge. Join Ben as he concludes CMO Week with Searchmetrics’ Chief Marketing Officer Doug Bell reviewing which KPIs CMOs should utilize to create success in their marketing strategies.


  • A key metric to begin measuring success is SEO visibility to examine how your company or brand fares against competitor performance.
  • The next metric to analyze is how many unique users visit your website and whether they’re converting to leads.
  • Metrics to evaluate nurture campaigns are slightly different depending on the buyer. They’re a mix of user visits, determining if they’ve consumed evergreen content, etc.


Ben:                 Welcome to SEO for CMOs week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro and this week we’re going to publish an episode every day covering what the head of your marketing department needs to know about SEO.

Ben:                 Joining us for the last time for SEO for CMOs week is Doug Bell, who’s the chief marketing officer at Searchmetrics, which is an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data-driven decisions. And today Doug and I are going to wrap up SEO for CMO week by talking about the KPIs for measuring SEO success.

Ben:                 Okay. Here’s the last part of SEO for CMOs week with Doug Bell, CMO of Searchmetrics. Doug, happy Friday, and welcome to the last episode of SEO for CMO week.

Doug:               Hi Ben. Glad to be back.

Ben:                 So, Doug, we’ve boiled the ocean when it comes to SEO for CMOs this week. We’ve talked about everything from how do CMOs think about SEO, who’s doing it right and how, where CMOs getting in trouble when they’re implementing their SEO strategy. And yesterday we talked about some of the operational tips that help CMOs hit the ground running, put the right infrastructure and the right team in place to be able to drive SEO success. I think the last part of our conversation here has to be around performance and metrics. When you think about evaluating SEO as a CMO, what are some of the KPIs CMOs look at and where are they right and were they wrong?

Doug:               Good question, Ben. So I very much start with this idea of am I progressing my SEO visibility over time? In other words, if I look at the full body of our presence on Google, am I seeing that my content is continuously growing in terms of its ability to attract new audience? That’s the start. And that metric is SEO visibility. And I’m also looking at that and saying, “How am I doing versus the competition?” There’s only so much market size, if you will, for those keywords that we’re all competing for. I start there and that’s an early indicator for the next most important thing, which is unique users to the website. Are those folks, in fact coming to the website and when they’re on the website, are they converting? And then we started to get into these nuances around CRO or LPO, but effectively am I consistently converting those visitors to the site into, in our case, leads? In our case specifically, sales. So that’s the starting point.

Ben:                 So, the first thing you mentioned was you’re looking at visibility and this seems to be more of a brand metric, right? An awareness driven metric. How often is your content being surfaced by Google? I compare this metric very much to be about impression levels, how much and how often are you getting in front of your users? This is something that’s actually shifted a fair amount for SEOs in the past year. Talk to me a little bit about how SEO is becoming more of a relevant brand channel and how should that be tracked?

Doug:               Yeah. Ben, you’re speaking to one of the wonderful things about SEO as a channel. It is not simply something that is going to support your ability to drive additional revenue. It is an unbelievably useful and frankly extremely cost effective branding tool or brand awareness tool. And so the content that you would use really for those two goals can overlap quite a bit. If you think about the content that exists at the top of your funnel, that helps, again, theme for the week, users along the way when it comes to their buyer journey that content quite typically also is very good branding content, if you will. And as you work your way down through the rest of the funnel, you’re starting to get to content that’s more appropriate for, say, transactional needs.

Ben:                 I’m going to go a little SEO geek here and talk about something called position zero and voice search, things that are sort of at the tip of the spear in terms of SEO geekness, but SEO has changed a fair amount where it is not necessarily a medium that is driving a click but is also very much about delivering answers to the consumer where brands are developing content assets that are meant to answer the user’s question but not necessarily get them to the end destination of your website.

Ben:                 As we think about evaluating SEO as a brand channel and how it integrates into voice search or how Google is just answering people’s questions on their domain, how do you think CMOs need to interpret this change in the landscape?

Doug:               I think that’s asking them to have an advanced degree, but I would say ultimately what, Ben, you are speaking to is how SEO is becoming integrated into more … let’s say in the case of position zero, more of the consumer’s interaction with devices other than their phone or their desktop. What we’re speaking to is my nine year old’s tendency to order things via Alexa or via Google device in the house.

Doug:               Ultimately we’re talking about is does your brand appear at the top in this case position zero? And is it just a commercial benefit or also you’re getting brand awareness benefits? But I feel like maybe that’s a conversation for CMOs later on, Ben, when we start talking about how the content strategy and the SEO strategy tends to have multiple different benefits, but if we’re looking at, “How do I prove this to you, Mr. CMO?”, how do I prove the value of SEO? I’m probably a nuance or two away from saying we’re justified in thinking about that ultimately consumer benefit when it comes to awareness.

Ben:                 I think in a year from now your brand team is going to come to you and say, “You know what we need to be doing? We need to be creating more content because SEO is actually an increasingly important brand channel.” We’ll save that podcast episode for next year. Outside of thinking about awareness, as you start thinking about going down the funnel and not just how many impressions you’re driving to your prospective audience and customers, when you start thinking about nurturing, are there metrics that you look at to understand sort of the repeat adoption or how you’re moving people in the direction that you want them to go in your buyer journey?

Doug:               Yes, there are. And I have to say perhaps we’re more sophisticated than your average bear because we have to be, but we look at our ability to nurture buyer personas through their user journey on the site. So those metrics will be slightly different depending on the buyer, if you will. So as an example, the audience we’re speaking to today, CMOs, we’re very much going to be targeting content to them. That’s at the top of the funnel. So I would expect them to consume shorter form, quicker understanding of SEO content for the CMOs, and so my metric for regarding success with them is very simply, did they come to the site? Did they consume one of those evergreen pieces of content? Whereas if we get further down, let’s say a tech SEO, that’s effectively an SEO who bridges between the product team or the IT team and the SEO team, our conversion rates should go from top to bottom of funnel, and I’m looking ultimately at the percentage of tech SEOs that visit the site and convert to a lead, as an example.

Ben:                 I think about this, when you think about your site and the content that’s on your site, you have your top level question, answer, categorically relevant content. If you’re a fashion brand, talking about some of the trends in fashion does not necessarily educate the consumer, but it helps you understand which consumers are relevant to your brand. Then you have your product content. How are you describing your content? How do you compare against your competition? To me, this is where the actual competition of SEO really comes into play.

Ben:                 And then there’s the third piece when you talk about direct response and actually getting people across the funnel. When you think about revenue attribution for SEO, talk to me about what the KPIs are there.

Doug:               Good one, Ben. I have to say that when we think about how we attribute … so, the first thing is what’s the attribution model? And then we get into this conversation about first versus last touch. I tend to lean towards last touch and as I look at attribution for SEO, what I’m looking at is content consumption, so if I have a prospect visiting the website and they’re consuming content that’s designed for that prospect, in other words, SEO content, they tend to be attributed to the SEO channel. Otherwise it’s getting attributed elsewhere.

Ben:                 So, Doug, as we wrap up SEO for CMO week, we’ve talked about everything from how there are misconceptions about SEOs, who’s doing it right, who’s doing it wrong, some operational tactics. And now metrics. Help me put a bow on this.

Doug:               Okay.

Ben:                 When you’re landing the plane on what CMOs need to know about SEO, what are the biggest things that you’re trying to drive home?

Doug:               Three things, Ben. The first is that SEO is not magical, that it’s a discipline like any other in if well-managed and given the right perspective, it should be a foundational strategy for you. It’s the first. The second thing is that ROI can’t be measured. It’s not true. Again, it’s a matter of scope and time. And then ultimately that SEO results aren’t predictable. Those are the three myths I’m trying to break down. And I do think that the highest performing SEO organizations in the world also tend to be the ones with the highest earnings per share. So it’s not a function of what I believe per se, but it’s really what the market will bear and why. Well, it’s because your typical organization that is using SEO well has a lower cost per acquisition and therefore has more money to invest elsewhere in things that typically drive better funnel results like brand and like SEO. So it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy or self-fulfilling cycle.

Ben:                 I think the last thing that I’ll say to land the plan on this week is performance marketing is great. It obviously serves its purpose and performance marketing is like eating sugar. It gives you an immediate burst of energy and immediate response. SEO is eating your broccoli. You have to consistently do it to get bigger and stronger and if you do that over time, you A, aren’t as reliant on sugar to have enough energy to get by, but you also have the muscle to be able to handle the bumps in the road that may happen. I’m mixing metaphors, hopefully understand what I’m saying. Go home, eat your marketing broccoli, think about your content marketing strategy and don’t wait till it’s too late by being dependent on performance marketing to start thinking about content marketing.

Doug:               Great job, Ben.

Ben:                 Hey Doug, I’ve had the opportunity to work on this project for, I don’t know, a year and a half, and without your support and sponsorship, I wouldn’t be able to figure out nice little ending metaphors like that. So thanks for being our guest. Thanks for sponsoring the show. And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Doug Bell’s CMO of Searchmetrics.

Ben:                 We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Doug, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter. His handle is @marketadvocate, or you could visit his company’s website, which is

Ben:                 Just one more link in our show notes that I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast head over to where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions.

Ben:                 You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is @voicesofsearch on Twitter and my personal handle is @benjshap, and if you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish episodes every day during the work week. So hit that subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed soon. All right. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.

Tyson Stockton

Tyson Stockton

Tyson has over 10 years' experience in the digital marketing industry. As Vice President of Client and Account Management, Tyson manages the Enterprise Client Success team and SEO Consulting efforts at Searchmetrics. Tyson has worked with some of world’s largest enterprise websites including Fortune 500 and global eCommerce leaders. Prior to Searchmetrics, Tyson worked on the in-house side managing the SEO and SEM efforts of a collection of 14 sports specialty eCommerce companies in the US, Europe and Australia.

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