Often we get caught up in looking into various vanity graph visualizations that tell us nothing useful, but for example, a simple fact that the number of our website visitors has increased or decreased.

What does that really mean?

Well... Obviously, only that the number of the site visitors went up or down, and that’s pretty much it.

However, there are certain metrics that contain some important insights we often overlook: we either have no idea they exist, or we don't know how to measure them, or both. We aren’t talking about average Google Analytics metrics, but the ones that really tell us whether our online business is moving in the right direction, and if so, at what speed we are heading there.

Website overview summary in Nightwatch
Website overview summary in Nightwatch

We could compare those metrics with an analogy of sailing. Imagine you’re sailing on a boat in the Pacific Ocean. The boat is your business, the captain is you, and your survival and success depend on you making the right decision for reaching the right point of the land.

Those metrics are the same importance as is a compass and wind speed for the sailboat captain. Invented in the 11th century, a magnetic compass changed the world by becoming the must-have tool for every traveler. The things started to change as sailors did not have to orientate inaccurately by the Sun and stars anymore. Today, of course, instead of compass we would use GPS for even more effective navigation.

In this article, we are going to show you the 5 essential SEO metrics that every successful entrepreneur or business owner should know and measure on a frequent basis.

Understanding these indicators will give you an enhanced knowledge of how to make a step forward with your online business growth and take advantage of the essential and meaningful analytics data you can use in practice.

So, let’s start…

1. The distribution of your top keywords is improving

This visualization is a representation of how the ratio of your top 3, top 100 and non-ranking keywords is changing. Besides the keyword distribution, it also gives you a good indicator of the stability of the rankings in different ranges, which makes it especially beneficial when tracking changes on large enterprise websites.

Keyword distribution graph in Nightwatch
Keyword distribution graph in Nightwatch

2. Your average rank is going up

One of the most essential visualizations is the one telling you how your search rankings (overall) are improving. Observe the metric in a longer period -- 1, 3 or 6 months, or even years:

Average rank metric in Nightwatch
Average rank metric in Nightwatch

Grouping the keywords
You may want to split your website keywords into groups. We suggest using at least 2 of them:

  • branded phrases
  • non-branded phrases

People who search for your brand on Google are already familiar with your brand, and those keywords have different characteristics (these are normally ranked higher and have a higher CTR).

For bigger websites you might want to use additional groups for longtail, high volume, and other subsets of keywords.

You can easily tag your keywords with an appropriate tag (usually we use the term “branded”).

How exactly is average rank calculated?
The actual average rank metric that we should look at should be called more precisely “adjusted average rank.”

This means that every non-ranking keyword is used in the calculation as ranking the lowest on the scale. Another thing we usually like to put on the same graph is “total number of tracked keywords” as the average rank is likely going to change when you add or remove tracked keywords.

3. Your average rank compared with competitors

This is another variation of the previous graph. To know who is doing the best on the market, we need to observe average rank of each of the competitors (again, non-branded sets of keywords):

Average competitor rank comparison in Nightwatch
Average competitor rank comparison in Nightwatch

The important thing here is that we should do a comprehensive research on all the keywords that our competitors and we are ranking for to get a more accurate and representative insight of who is the real leader on the market.

This graph serves as a powerful insight into who we should learn from by reverse-engineering their SEO strategies and tactics.

Fortunately, you can use Nightwatch intelligence to do an automatic keyword and competitor research, but even if you want a complete control it’s important to ensure that you have all the relevant keywords tracked in Nightwatch (by doing a manual keyword research, for example, using a Keyword Planner tool). Otherwise the data won’t be that accurate.

4. Indexed pages are stable or going up

These metrics tell you the number of indexed pages shown on Google search result pages. If the number starts going down and you haven’t removed any pages from your site, this indicates that something is not going well.

Indexed pages graph in Nightwatch
Indexed pages graph in Nightwatch

In an ideal world of SEO blooming websites, the number of indexed pages should grow up linearly. You should also use this graph to observe a healthy growth of your site pages and content.

5. Search visibility and click potential are going up

These are 2 new metrics we recently introduced in Nightwatch, and they give you a very useful representation of the SEO traffic potential of your site. These are search visibility and click potential:

Search visibility and click potential graphs in Nightwatch
Search visibility and click potential graphs in Nightwatch

Search visibility index is a metric representing the percentage (values between 0 and 100) of a potential conversion traffic a given keyword (or set of keywords) has based on their ranking. Each rank is given a 'visibility factor' number which is used to calculate the keyword's share of potential conversions. Rank #1 is considered to attract all of the traffic, so its factor is one (100%), while lower rankings keywords are considered to result in fewer conversions, and their factors are proportional to their average CTR values.

Click potential tells you an estimated number of clicks you should be expecting based on your current rankings and search volume for these keywords.

Your site search visibility metric and click potential could also serve as an alternative to “adjusted average rank,” with the difference that you should aim at the stable increase (even though reaching maximum of 100 with search visibility is unlikely to be achievable). The difference between average rank and search visibility is that the second one also takes search volumes impact of the ranking keywords into the consideration, which makes it more accurate.

6. Daily clicks are correlated or higher than expected (or expected CTR)

This is a powerful metric when used correctly: it serves as an indicator if you’re losing clicks on search keywords because of a poor title or meta description.

Keyword CTR vs Expected CTR graphs in Nightwatch
Keyword CTR vs. Expected CTR graphs in Nightwatch

The metric should be used on the keyword level to make sense: you might want to start looking at keywords with the highest search volume (and rankings) first, and then with all the rest.

Observing this metric and adjusting your site titles and meta descriptions with the goal of improving the CTR is one of the easiest and fastest ways to boost SEO traffic to your site.

These are the metrics with which every successful entrepreneur and business owner should get familiar. Mastering and having control over those is essential to stay ahead of the game and ensure that your boat is heading in the right direction.

Now that you got familiar with the essential SEO metrics, you should consider adding them to your dashboard among other main business KPIs.

They should remind you when more work is required on positioning your website for a long term success, or perhaps just to evaluate the quality of work of your outsourced or in-house growth agency.