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There’s a fairly simple question I like to ask potential clients that they can almost never answer: How do you know if your SEO changes are actually working?
Google Tools to Track SEO Changes
I love telling people to check out Google Search Console. Search Console tracks your impressions, positioning and clicks from Google. The data is usually lower than Google Analytics but that’s okay because it’s still pretty accurate overall and gives you a good rule of thumb.
Within the application, I like to look at impressions because you typically get more impressions before you get more clicks and higher rankings. When you go from ranking #10 to #9, for example, you won’t see much more search traffic—but your impression counts will start going up.
With Search Console, you can look at your impression count from the most recent month. You want to make sure that compared to the previous 28 days, your impression count is going up.
I also like looking at Google Search Console search impressions when I make a technical SEO change. I make note of the date I made the change and then I go into Search Console. I have Google Crawl, which allows you to request in Search Console that they crawl your website. Whatever page you made the change on, have them crawl it.
That’s how I track whether my search or SEO changes are impacting ranking (and you should be tracking this yourself). Keep in mind that you don’t always see changes within 30 days. Usually you can see it if you make title tag changes or meta description changes. But more technical changes, like adding a sidebar link to all your guides, may take longer (up to a couple months).
Learn More: 15 Free SEO Tools to Improve Your Google Ranking
Set Up Weekly Growth Experiments
You probably need to have an experimentation framework set up as well. Brian Balfour has one that he uses at HubSpot. Sean Ellis also has a great post on how they conduct experiments over at GrowthHackers.
We’re surprised by the number of people who don’t talk about the marketing growth experiments and frameworks they have set up. All you need is a spreadsheet with columns. For example, the layout we have has the first column as EID, your experiment identification number. Then you have your baseline, your results, your hypothesis, start date, end date, which site it’s for, and a notes section.
To give you a clearer example, for one EID, we have “EID 13” with a goal of acquisition. The title is “Single Grain Title and Meta Description Change.” Our baseline was a 1.26% click-through rate (CTR). We made changes to the title meta description and waited 30 days to see what happened.
After about a month, our result was a 1.72% CTR. Not bad.
You have to make these changes. You have to be very methodical about them and make sure you’re tracking what’s going on. At the same time, if you have a team involved with this, you have to make sure you’re tracking something like this so there are no redundancies.
To really get people in the right framework, you should set weekly growth meetings to go over what happened. Why did something work, why did other things not work, and what are the next steps when you’re doing things like this?
Learn More: 7 Simple High-ROI SEO Tactics for 2017
Don’t Break the Habit—Stay Accountable
I track my changes, whether in Google Search Console or Google Analytics, every few days. I also take screenshots at least two or three times a month of my Google Search Console data because it doesn’t preserve your history for you forever.
You can also use these tools to track if you’re getting more impressions, higher positioning or more search traffic. Keep in mind that it is better to look at total impressions and search traffic than positioning because your positioning average throughout all your pages can stay flat.
Since some blog posts will rank well and some won’t, your positioning average may stay the same even if your impression count and total search traffic goes up. Within total impressions and search traffic, you can analyze page by page, even looking to see what keywords are driving traffic to a certain page.
You can also set up alerts. I have a tool called GrowthBot.io. It hooks up with Slack and your analytics report on how your organic traffic is doing over time. You can also cross-reference other tools out there, like Ahrefs. It can set up alerts to show you how you’re doing in terms of SEO and rankings.
So that's how to know if your SEO changes are actually working.
Learn More: Effective SEO Techniques that Work in 2017
This post was adapted from Marketing School, a 10-minute daily podcast in which Neil Patel and Eric Siu teach you real-life marketing strategies and tactics from their own experience to help you find success in any marketing capacity. Listen to the podcast version of this post below: