SEO KPI's For Lead Generation
Goals help get things done. Goals tied to specific, measurable, results will result in even more getting done. In the rapidly-changing world of search engine optimization, it’s important to measure the right stuff — indicators that are relevant and reliable despite changes in the game. For lead gen sites, measuring performance is different, and more difficult, than for advertising or e-commerce sites. In a lead generation site, the ultimate conversion of a potential customer to an actual customer occurs offline, but the website assists the sale by snagging qualified leads.
Some websites exist solely for the purpose of generating leads, but many sites that generate leads may also serve additional functions such as generating online sales, assisting customer service by providing information, or branding. This piece focuses on KPIs for the lead generation component that can gauge the performance of the entire SEO campaign on a macro-level.
Below we review the top key performance indicators for lead gen. Since the expertise of LunaMetrics lays largely in Google Analytics in terms of specific web analytics packages, readers may note a tendency to utilize specific Analytics verbiage and examples. However, I have made an attempt to state general principles that can apply to any lead gen site that has access to decent web metrics data. Also, please note that these are top-level performance metrics for use in determining overall SEO goals and ROI; these are not metrics for tactical-level analysis.
All lead gen sites should use the following 3 KPIs for SEO.
1. SEO Traffic (best metric = targeted non-branded organic traffic)
2. Leads (best metric = estimated total value of leads from SEO traffic)
3. Return on Investment
Properly measuring, attributing, and weighting these 3 SEO key performance indicators is where most companies fall short.
1. Traffic from SEO
Organic non-branded traffic is the go-to metric for determining the quantity of SEO traffic. Organic traffic is visits that occur from clicks in the non-PPC portion of the search engine results pages. You want further filter to non-branded organic traffic by excluding keywords that mention your brand(s), such as your website name or company name. The reason you exclude your brands’ keywords is that if someone is already searching for you, your SEO is not the marketing channel that is driving the traffic. Thus, SEO shouldn’t claim credit for branded traffic.
There is a caveat when excluding branded keywords however — other sites may be capturing traffic for your brand. For example, for the search term “2013 Honda Civic coupe”, there is a good chance that users will click on sites that offer third party reviews of that car rather than going to the 2013 Honda Civic coupe page on Honda’s official site. If you find that you are competing for keywords to your own brand, you may want to also look at two other traffic segments: total organic traffic and a segment I call semi-branded organic traffic. Semi-branded organic traffic excludes keywords that are show clear intent to find your site, but they include terms that are related to one of your brands but you are still competing for.
Another traffic segment you may need to look at is targeted non-branded organic traffic. Sometimes, non-branded organic traffic is not valuable if it is clearly outside your target market. For example, if you own a pest control company serving the New York City region only, visits from users based in the Los Angeles will are likely to be of less value than those of users based in New York. Organic traffic from your desired geographic target can still be untargeted based on search terms. For example, a co-worker at LunaMetrics once posted an article about the new office fish, and the photo of the fish happened to climb to the top of the Google image search for the term “fish”. “Fish” drove more traffic to our site than any other non-branded search term — a perfect example of un-targeted organic traffic. So, if you are targeting a local market or are getting un-targeted organic traffic, create a segment that excludes un-targeted traffic.
Finally, there is one other segment you may want to look at, and it isn’t organic traffic. It’s referral traffic from sites linking to you because of your SEO-related efforts. A critical part of nearly all successful SEO campaigns is increasing inbound links; often these links pass not only link juice but also targeted traffic (especially high quality links). It can become a little tricky to determine if a link was made because of SEO efforts or because of social media, offline brand-building, business partnerships, or other reasons, but most SEOs track their link building to some degree. To learn more, you can read an article I wrote about finding backlink traffic data in GA.
The discussion of un-targeted organic traffic illustrates clearly that quantity of SEO traffic is not everything: quality matters a lot. Engagement metrics are a large group of metrics you should look at to see if the SEO efforts are pulling in targeted visitors. Some examples good SEO engagement metrics include: average time on site, bounce rate, downloads, video plays, social shares, comments, and subscriptions. Use event-tracking Engagement metrics are especially useful when your figures on leads are insufficient to tell whether or not you’re drawing the right crowd. Engagement metrics can also help you gauge how well the website is working from a brand-building perspective.
As academic as it seems to state that lead gen sites should be looking at leads, it is rare that SEO leads are measured, attributed, and weighted properly.
SEO Lead Measurement
Some SEO leads are easier to track than others. Most people think of web contact forms or request for quote forms when they think of online leads. Yet there’s more; most users prefer other methods of contacting companies like e-mail or phone. You should set goals in your analytics package for as many types of leads as possible.
First, if you have different forms on your site, you should set different goals for each main type.
Also, event tracking should be applied to e-mail ‘mailto:’ links so that you can track and attribute when and where someone clicks on an e-mail link to contact your company via e-mail.
You should also make an attempt to at least estimate the number of phone calls made by potential customers who found your company via search engine. There’s a few ways to do this, all with pros and cons. For example, you can train the people answering the phones to ask, “How did you find out about us?” but this is inaccurate. You can also employ phone tracking to measure phone leads from SEO to high degree of accuracy; however there is a monetary cost and you will usually have to utilize different phone numbers.
The important thing is that you properly identify the types of leads that can be attributed to SEO and make an effort to estimate the number of each type of lead.
Properly attributing the leads to your SEO campaigns can get tricky. First, as discussed above, you have to properly segment or filter your traffic from SEO in your analytics package. Second, once you have properly set your SEO channel, you need to properly attribute leads to the SEO channel. A full explanation of multi-channel attribution is equivalent to a thesis paper, but I will breeze through the basics. A completion of a goal (online leads, in our case) can be considered either a last interaction conversion or an assisted conversion. An example of a last interaction conversion would be if a person got to your site customwidgets.com from a Google search for “manufacturers of custom widgets” and then contacted you on that same visit. An example of an assisted conversion would be if the person learned about your site from that search than visited you again through another channel like an ad or by directly typing in your URL, and contacted you on that second visit. For some industries, (like those known for aggressive direct marketing for example) it often takes multiple visits for the average user to become a lead. It is important to recognize that SEO may add value to your marketing campaign even if visitors from non-branded search are not converting on the first visit.
Weighting SEO leads
The number of leads from SEO is a primitive metric. The number of leads is much less indicative of campaign effectiveness than the total value of leads from SEO traffic.
A large number of leads means nothing if the leads are poor quality. One element of lead quality is likelihood of sale. For example, you may have created great informational content on selecting widget specifications that boosts SEO traffic and increases your leads by 50%. But if all the leads turn out to be unqualified because they were emails from college students asking questions about widget specs for research purposes, then no value was truly added.
Another element of lead quality is the value of the sale. For example, 1 lead for a deluxe custom widget worth $10,000 is far superior to 10 leads for $100 standard widgets, assuming a 50% close rate for both. It is much easier for an SEO to score leads for low-value goods or services than expensive high-consideration purchases. Also, when determining lead value, companies should look beyond the one-time sale and into the lifetime value of a customers’ repeat business.
The quality of leads tends to vary depending on type of lead and source of lead. Examine the close rates and revenue from each type of lead (remember you should be tracking by type) and assign a value for each lead type based on that data. You can then assign this value in your analytics package so you can get at-a-glance numbers on lead value.
The next step would be to estimate the value of conversions assistedby SEO. Again, we leave this lengthy and complicated discussion of multi-channel attribution for other articles to tackle.
Add the estimated value of the last interaction conversions and conversion assists together and you will have determined the approximate value of SEO leads.
Many SEO specialists are afraid to have their performance measured by leads.
One valid reason for this is that the amount of leads generated by is not entirely controlled by SEO. The SEO could successfully drive large amounts of super qualified traffic only to see no conversions because the company lacks credibility or because the site simply converts horribly due to poor usability.
Another problem is that some companies, especially companies (like in the legal industry, for example) that thrive on a small amount of high-value sales, may average small numbers of web leads per month. Such websites may see large fluctuations in leads that should be prescribed more to naturally statistical variance than SEO performance.
Finally, most companies simply are bad at accurately estimating the value of SEO leads.
Keep these factors in mind when establishing realistic performance goals for SEO lead value. Leads can be the ultimate indicator of how well the SEO campaign is driving quality traffic to the site — if you estimate lead value accurately, and you account for uncontrollable factors.
3. SEO ROI
SEO ROI = value added by SEO/cost of SEO.
It sounds so simple, but it usually isn’t.
Value added by SEO
The first thing is estimating the value added by your SEO endeavors. Value added by SEO = total value of leads generated by SEO + brand exposure value + miscellaneous residual effects.
We already discussed total lead value.
Brand exposure is important too and is highly correlated to your traffic numbers: a user may arrive at your site that had no intention to purchase, but this user may eventually refer a qualified lead to your site. Look at the SEO traffic metrics mentioned previously: when your SEO campaigns increase the number of engaged visitors, the SEO campaign is helping build your brand. I’ll leave the process of estimating the value of brand equity changes to you; this is another thesis statement topic.
Miscellaneous residual effects is a catch-all for any bonus value added by the SEO team. For example, I have written generating product copy for clients for SEO purposes that the client uses as material to assist in offline sale calls.
Cost of SEO
Cost of SEO = money spent directly on SEO + labor costs of SEO.
Be sure to account for payment for tools and services as well as outsourcing costs for money spent directly on SEO.
SEO is incredibly labor-intensive; if you do not outsource SEO, the internal labor costs of SEO will comprise the bulk of your SEO costs. If your company tracks time by activity for each employee, you can better estimate SEO’s labor costs.
If you properly measure and analyze traffic and leads, you will better position yourself to measure the ultimate performance indicator of any marketing campaign. Do your company’s SEO endeavors provide adequate return on investment?