October 19 2023


The Metrics that Matter: How to Evaluate SEO and PPC Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) 

What is a KPI? 

KPIs or Key Performance Indicators are measurable objectives that quantify progress toward a business goal. The trick to any KPI is that it is relevant and achievable to that specific business and its products and services.  

Digital marketing KPIs should align with the overall business goals but often get bogged down with metrics and benchmarks. This is understandable given the metrics split between various data platforms available to digital marketers. GA4 alone offers hundreds of metrics through its existing dashboards and custom reports, and that is just one platform.  

All this available data and the performance expectation that stems from it makes it easy to get buried in the numbers and lose sight of those overall KPIs. So, what metrics really matter? In this blog, we look at the metrics that matter by simplifying the focus, aligning the right metrics to KPIs, and the process for evaluating true success to help manage expectations for digital marketing programs. 

Metrics and Benchmarks 

When it is time to kick off a digital marketing program, it’s common to see a proposal with an extensive list of metrics with corresponding benchmarks to measure monthly, weekly, and even daily.  

The most common metrics and benchmarks proposed include:  

  • Impressions – how many users potentially see your link in search results via SEO or PPC
  • Visits – how many users visit your website, which can be broken down by source (SEO, PPC, or direct) and by landing page  
  • Clicks – how many users click your result via SEO or PPC  
  • Conversions – an action by a user such as a form fill, download, or video view  
  • Conversion rate – Conversions / Total visitors x 100 = % 

These metrics and others not listed are important, but they are best used as a source of user behavior used to track a bigger picture versus a set number to achieve. Benchmarking can lead to unrealistic expectations, especially if based on industry standards data that may not consider the nuances of your own organization. Most importantly, they may not be relevant or affect the overall organization’s KPIs.  

For instance, an industry standard for total clicks means little if the actions taken don’t align with those goals or if comparing year-over-year, may not consider circumstances like algorithm changes or economic circumstances like supply chain that can affect a business in a set time. Understanding your business’s goals can help whittle down the metrics that matter. 

Most KPIs share something in common – customers.

Overall Business KPI Alignment

While many businesses share KPIs, the numeric goal and priority of each are special to every business. The common denominator not to be ignored is the number of customer and sales-centric KPIs. Simply put, the number of customers matters to overall revenue and profit goals needed to stay in business.  

Considering this, the digital marketing KPI that matters most is quality leads. Efforts to gain quality leads will always ladder up to overall business KPIs and this metric is the biggest indicator of marketing success. When looking at the usual metrics, how much weight do they really carry without quality leads attached? We emphasize “quality” leads here because more isn’t always better.  

When going out for steak, is bigger always better if there’s a lot of fat and gristle, or is a smaller, quality cut better? No matter how you feel about steaks, in industrial B2B where a specific and technical product or service is offered, having numerous leads that may not be in your market isn’t helpful to KPI progress.  

The number of quality leads reveals that many mainstay metrics like impressions and site visits, do not reveal true progress. For instance, not every company with a high amount of quality leads has a high number of search impressions or site visits. The reason is effective targeting through user behavior. 

Metrics for User Behavior 

We all want to be data-driven marketers and metrics offer concrete evidence of user behavior. Taking these metrics not as something to benchmark but as data that teaches us about our customers can help create effective targeting strategies for that all-important quality lead goal. Metrics help us make decisions like the appropriate cost per click, peak times to run ads, and other information that lets marketers know what customers are looking for.  

By studying behavioral data from marketing platforms like GA4, Google and Microsoft Ads, and our proprietary tool LOOP Analytics, a strategy to target your unique customer can be created via The B-SMART® Method. This method thinks about user intent and considers the brands, sizes/shapes/SKUs, materials, applications, requirements, and types they will be looking for. Now with metrics as a tool to discover your users versus a benchmark, you can track progress and see how marketing contributes to the overall business’s KPIs that leads feed in to. 

Leading and Lagging Metrics 

Further confusion on how metrics align with KPIs is that there are two types of metrics in the KPI puzzle—leading and lagging metrics, meaning there are metrics that look forward to potential outcomes (leading) and metrics that look back for insights (lagging). That all-important lead metric is a lagging metric because it takes time to achieve.  

Metrics like queries, views, and clicks are leading metrics that can come into the KPI puzzle and provide not only user behavior but potential insight into future lead progress. While they don’t always indicate that final lead total, they can potentially reveal progress and trends to look forward to in future rounds (when comparing a time frame) and help marketers understand their audience better. 

TopSpot’s 4 Steps 

The Key to KPI Expectation 

Now that you’ve established KPIs, metric types, and how they work together, how do you manage expectations and evaluate success? Again, this is about simplification; in this case, seeing is believing. TopSpot utilizes four steps when evaluating digital marketing success. 

Step 1 

Review the search landscape using the keywords and terms you are targeting. Ask yourself, are you showing up, and if so, how? This isn’t just to take rank, as there are tools that track that for you, but to see where you stand in terms of your competition and putting yourself in the customers’ shoes. What are they seeing when they search? This data along with your metrics paints a clearer picture of your overall SEO and PPC success. 

Step 2 

Next, understand your search traffic by evaluating search queries. Now that you understand your users and the landscapes you typically populate, try thinking like your customers and look at other search queries using B-SMART. Are these areas you should consider? 

Step 3 

The third step is the most important, evaluate your leads. LOOP Analytics makes this easy by providing form data, touchpoints, and other valuable information about these users. By looking at this information, are you seeing quality leads or irrelevant form-fills and attempts by cleaning services or other vendors to reach the business? The metric for total form-fills means little if there are few leads included. Each form-fill offers insight into your customer base and can be utilized in your marketing. 

Step 4 

Finally, look at the SEO trends of these leads to see if they match up with your efforts in steps one and two. Existing leads can tell us a lot about what is working, keywords to consider, and touchpoints taken. 

Altogether, this exercise can help manage KPI expectations and reveal the metrics that matter by viewing what aligns with lead quality, what is creating success in this area, and what is not. 

For more on the metrics that matter, B-SMART, and Tthe Four Steps, contact your account Team. Not a TopSpot Client? Contact us to learn more.