What exactly is going on in your SEO department? That question is one of the most common—and most challenging—questions to answer since “it depends.” A variety of factors impact rankings. For a single webpage, you may use several tools with dozens of metrics each, depending on the area of search engine optimization you would like to improve.
That said, it is possible to cut through the clutter and get a true sense of SEO performance. Here are 11 metrics and tools we recommend.
1. Technical Audit
It’s difficult to really say what’s going on with a website without looking at the bigger picture. A technical audit is one way to break down SEO performance metrics into a series of checks that either pass, fail, or need improvement.
Some tools we use for technical audits:
- Screaming Frog – Spider, List, Custom Extractions for open graph tags.
- SEO Quake – SERP analytics, link inspection, and keyword density checks.
- OpenLink Structured Data Sniffer – for checking schema and meta information.
- Ayima Redirect Path – Manual checks for redirect and statuses.
- HeadingsMap – On-page SEO and small part of ADA check.
- Google Search Console – Sitemaps, indexing, linking domains, page speed/UX.
- Google Analytics – Organic channel, behavior flow, top pages, goal conversions.
- PageSpeed Insights – Page speed improvements.
- GTMetrix – Waterfall view and page speed “second opinion.”
- Mobile-Friendly Test – Mobile page rendering.
- Moz Domain Authority Checker – Domain competitiveness and spam score.
- SEMRush Backlink Audit – Scoring and backlink metrics.
Following a technical audit, it’s easier to break down some of the “hidden” factors that can cause a website to take a tumble down the rankings.
2. Indexing and Status Reporting
A handful of SEO metrics are somewhat hidden. Barriers to indexing your website can create errors and poor page experience. Google Search Console (GSC) is a good place to start when it comes to investigating what is actually happening with your website in search results. There are many views within this dashboard that offer key insights, even if the data shown in GSC isn’t fully complete.
- Performance – Measures the number of Impressions and Clicks from Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for each of the Landing Pages, Queries, Countries, etc.
- Page Experience – Combines Core Web Vitals and Mobile Usability metrics with other factors such as site security (https) to determine user experience (UX).
- Core Web Vitals – Focuses on page speed and UX, measuring FCP (First Contentful Paint), LCP (Largest Contentful Paint), and CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift).
- Mobile Usability – Shows any issues with mobile indexing, since Google uses “mobile-first” indexing (mobile-friendly sites are ranked with priority).
Google Search Console is a choice tool to use because the data comes straight from the horse’s mouth. If Google says your website is not mobile friendly, it is because the search engine spider (Googlebot) has crawled the website and reported issues.
A primary insight found in GSC is the indexing summary of your website (under the Coverage tab). Indexing, page statuses, and inconsistencies can also be explored further by crawling the website manually, using crawling tools like Screaming Frog or DeepCrawl, or by checking server log files.
Metrics to use: Impressions, Clicks, Indexed, Status
3. Analytics Tracking
Another commonly used tool is Google Analytics (GA), since it is based on data collected from Googlebot. That said, its accuracy can be limited without customization.
GA data is only pulled and recorded for the indicated domain in the way the dashboard is set up, which leaves room for error. GA only records what you tell it to record, and it will filter historical data—meaning you no longer have access to what was filtered out.
It’s possible to slice the information in GA with the precision of a surgeon and extract the insights you need to contribute to the overall goals of a website.
- Audience – Shows pages users view by Mobile Device, Age, Location, etc.
- Acquisition – Focuses on Channels of acquisition, so you can filter for organic.
- Behavior – Displays the Behavior Flow and top Landing Page rankings in search.
- Conversions – Records click events or Conversions, such as goal completions.
The biggest consideration is having your GA set up properly. Only then will you be able to measure unique insights using Segments.
Metrics to use: Users, Pageviews, Bounce Rate, Time on Page, Conversions
4. Page Speed and Rendering
Google focuses on serving quality answers to your searches. In fact, it took this one step further by adding page speed to its page experience quality guidelines. Page speed can be measured using tools like the Lighthouse Chrome extension, PageSpeed Insights, and GTMetrix.
GSC has a dashboard view that focuses on Core Web Vitals. It shows the three main metrics that indicate how fast the page loads, or how it loads.
- FCP (First Contentful Paint) – Time between loading and first content is painted on the screen.
- LCP (Largest Contentful Paint) – Time between loading and all content is fully loaded.
- CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift) – Records spacing shifts in layout.
Core Web Vitals measure SEO success using the most recent ranking factors, page speed, and page rendering—all of which are part of Google’s overall quality guidelines.
Metrics to use: FCP, LCP, CLS, TTFB
5. Mobile Page Experience
Each time a page is crawled, there are many technical considerations that amount to a quality score. Google Mobile-Friendly Test can help you determine whether or not the page is mobile friendly. Each time the page is crawled or viewed by a user, these interactions or user signals are recorded and used to index and rank the page. Having blocked resources on a page or long load times can contribute to mobile rendering issues.
This tool is also built into Google Search Console so that you can see historical data at the individual page level. In GSC, the Mobile Usability dashboard flags items that contribute to UX or accessibility issues (under ADA guidelines), such as fonts being too small or close together, without having a formal tool to check these more closely.
Metrics to use: Resources Loaded, Page Rendered
6. Keyword Tracking
SEO is the art of connecting the keywords on your website with the search intent of your audience. Keywords are the queries that someone types into search engines to find your website pages, and can also indicate how well a website is performing.
If you’re wondering how to measure SEO success with keywords, try using SEMRush and BrightEdge AI (along with Moz, ahrefs, and others). These tools help identify keyword gaps, track long term progress with specific keywords, and research the best keywords to use for optimization.
Other considerations are how competitive a keyword is, indicated with a competitiveness score or the Cost Per Click (CPC), and if it shows up in Universal Results, such as People Also Ask questions, Local Pack map results, etc.
Metrics to use: Ranking, Volume, Competitiveness, CPC, Traffic, Universal Results
7. Backlink Analytics
Surprisingly, backlinks are a big deal. To add to the SEO mythology, someone once recommended that a homepage have at least 200 backlinks, and interior pages have at least 25 at minimum.
When you look at individual keywords, those also need backlinks to rank. And the more difficult the keyword, the more backlinks it needs. But not just any backlink will do. Backlinks must be relevant (related to the linked page), and the greater the trust is with the linking domain, the more valuable the link is to Google.
A couple of tools that measure link analytics and help you discover linking opportunities are Majestic and ahrefs (while other sites like SEMRush and Moz contain dashboards and research tools for link metrics, toxic links, or spam scores).
Metrics to use: Linking Domains, Linked Pages
8. Domain Authority
How exactly does a bot measure trust? Google does this on its own, and doesn’t exactly give you the full details. But Moz developed an authority checker tool that can help indicate the perceived authority of a website based on “trust signals.” This measurement is called Domain Authority (DA). At an individual page level, trust can be measured with Page Authority (PA).
Although these two ideas are not based on actual ranking factors, they are very useful in measuring how you stack up against the competition in terms of trust. This metric takes into account top linking domains, the number of links, and the amount of perceived spam from your website.
Metrics to use: Domain Authority, Page Authority
9. Target Audience
Is it possible to have a website with tons of traffic that ranks for all the right keywords, and still not succeed? Yes. Target audience can help you determine if your users are located where your services are offered or qualify for your services based on other factors.
Metrics to use: Channel, Device, Age, Language, Country, Region, City, Referring Domain
10. Reporting Dashboard
If you’re wondering how to report SEO success, then Google has an answer. It’s possible to pull in data from Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and keyword tools (with the right connectors) automatically using Looker Studio reports. What makes these reports so wonderful for SEOs is that they can be set to update automatically on a monthly or even quarterly basis.
One of the most beneficial reports for a growing website is the ability to view top Landing Pages in a table with respective CTRs for Goals. What makes these dashboards such a great solution to reporting is the ability to also add Segments and begin filtering pages for specific User or Page sets using Regular Expressions (regex).
Connectors can also allow for more data to be pulled in from keyword tracking tools, such as volume and rank changes. But keyword changes can also be uploaded to a Google Sheet and added as a table in your Data Studio report.
Metrics to use: CTR, Landing Page, Goal Conversions
11. SEO Skills
SEO skills span from data warehousing to content production. Most know you can focus on content and technical SEO specializations, but what about some of the “soft skills” like managing clients and vendors? A recent article by SEO MBA outlines SEO success by showing the progression of skills development using this SEO Skills Matrix sheet.
Metrics to use: SMART Goals
There are a ton of metrics when conducting SEO audits to keep in mind, and ranking factors continue to evolve with new trends and updates to the algorithm. Keeping track of these different metrics, now and in the future, can help with problem-solving issues, pinpointing a breakdown in the funnel, or brainstorming new campaigns that put your website on Page 1 or rank your pages #1.