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How to Measure SEO ROI (Incl. 6 Challenges of Calculating It)

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SEO ROI (return on investment) estimates the business value of all SEO activities in contrast to their cost. It’s one of the most common topics any SEO consultant or manager has to address when it comes to allocating marketing budgets and resources.

In its essence, calculating ROI is quite easy and straightforward. But in SEO, there are many caveats you should be aware of. Those ultimately make measuring and interpreting ROI one of the most complex and challenging problems you can face in SEO.

But we’ve got you covered and will share the ins and outs of measuring SEO ROI. In this article, we’ll go through these:

Let’s dive in.

The ROI formula for SEO is simple in essence:

SEO ROI = (value of organic conversions – cost of SEO investments)/cost of SEO investments

In other words, you need to divide the SEO profit by the associated SEO costs. Let’s expand on each variable because it can be quite tricky to get to some final numbers.

1. Calculate your SEO investments

Organic search is often viewed as a “free traffic” channel, but that’s devaluing the huge time investments that usually go into it. And those are not the only associated SEO costs.

SEO investments can usually be divided into four categories:

  1. In-house employees – It’s obvious to count in dedicated SEO and content creation staff, but you should also account for the required designer and developer resources.
  2. SEO freelancers and agencies – This is straightforward. And if you hire SEO freelancers or agencies, they can and, in many cases, should be the ones measuring SEO ROI.
  3. SEO tools – Count in all your subscriptions for dedicated SEO tools like Ahrefs. You can also partially include the costs of tools used by the broader marketing department if you also use them for SEO (e.g., Similarweb, BuzzSumo, HARO, PR software, etc.).
  4. Content distribution and link building – As we know, SEO doesn’t end with publishing content. Consider partially including costs of content promotion efforts. Also, if you buy links as one of your link building tactics, count that in. Google and many SEOs warn against buying links, but the reality of link building is often different.

Combine these costs over your desired period of time. Now, choosing the time period is one of the big challenges. We’ll expand on that later, but you can start with monthly comparisons for the sake of simplicity.

2. Calculate the value of your organic traffic conversions

You need proper conversion tracking in Google Analytics (or its alternatives) to get this number. Segment the traffic to “organic” and check the value of conversions that you want to account for in the ROI calculations:

Conversions data in GA4

The type of conversions and how you assign conversion values will differ from business to business.

It’s pretty straightforward for e-commerce businesses, as they send the value of sales conversions to GA.

But, for example, it may be more complex for lead generation businesses. For them, it can be helpful to assign dollar values to new marketing or sales-qualified leads.

3. Account for the value of assisted conversions

Historically, we often had to get used to working with the default “last non-direct click” attribution model in Universal Analytics.

It’s a flawed model in most cases because it assigns 100% of the conversion credit to a single marketing channel closest to the conversion event.

Here’s a good sports analogy for understanding this: It’s similar to you only praising players who score a goal. Goalkeepers and those responsible for defense won’t be too happy.

Your website likely drives organic traffic at all stages of the customer journey. Even one piece of content can target multiple steps in the marketing funnel:

Table showing four questions with corresponding answers that are used to decide which stage(s) of the marketing funnel a blog article servesTable showing four questions with corresponding answers that are used to decide which stage(s) of the marketing funnel a blog article serves

For example, people may land on 10 of your articles from Google and then convert after clicking a search or retargeting ad. In that case, you’ll want to see that initial organic search contribution.

The shift to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) partially solves this problem via utilizing a data-driven attribution (DDA) model by default (more on that later).

The conversions and the values you see in all GA4 reports already account for the partial contributions of organic traffic to the overall website conversions. If you already use GA4, you don’t technically need to dive into the assisted conversions report.

Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to check and analyze the conversion paths of your visitors and how each channel contributes to conversions.

For Universal Analytics, I already covered the process of analyzing assisted organic conversions.

In GA4, go to Advertising > Attribution > Conversion paths, select the conversion event you want to analyze, and check the impact of organic search throughout customer journeys:

Data on conversion paths in GA4Data on conversion paths in GA4

You can also filter the organic traffic only to get the most relevant data, as seen in the table below:

Conversion path data in GA4 (filter organic traffic only) Conversion path data in GA4 (filter organic traffic only)

The screenshots and data come from the official GA4 demo account, so the conversion paths are simplistic and won’t be like that in most cases. Also, feel free to play around with other attribution models to get some interesting insights there.

I can imagine this simplified process of calculating SEO ROI only raises more questions, so it’s time to dive deeper into all the nuances and caveats.

Six main challenges of measuring SEO ROI

You should be aware of these challenges to calculate SEO ROI and all the other related metrics as best as you can. I’ll provide a few recommendations to apply in practice along the way.

1. Marketing attribution is inherently flawed

Marketing attribution is one of those topics that provoke many discussions. We have experts on completely opposite sides of the fence.

Some say it’s almost never worth the resources to try and solve it properly and that you should trust your gut instead. Others are convinced that proper attribution can be almost always reasonably achieved.

One thing is for sure. Attributing conversions to marketing channels is inherently flawed regardless of the attribution model used. Heuristic models like the last non-direct click will just be much more flawed than the new DDA.

Customer journeys and touchpoints are often much more complex than analytics software makes them look.

Here’s a great example of a specific buyer’s journey of a SparkToro customer. (SparkToro is the SaaS company of Rand Fishkin, who is one of those experts on the “better trust your gut” side of things.)

Let’s take a look:

As mentioned earlier, organic search traffic is a marketing channel that can span the whole customer journey from awareness to retention. Attribution is especially tricky here, so let’s discuss the implications further.

DDA is a solid solution for this that will likely shift many people closer to the “proper attribution is possible” camp. But it still doesn’t solve many other problems. It’s a black box that gets more accurate with increasing traffic and conversions.

Unless you have “higher” hundreds (or ideally thousands of conversions) a month, I’d still take those numbers with a huge grain of salt. And ultimately, no matter the attribution model, you still don’t see data from sessions where the tracking code wasn’t fired (e.g., ad blockers and quick bounces).

2. The connection between SEO and brand-building

Let’s say you browse through some YouTube videos and see someone talking about an interesting product. You Google that brand or product, head to the website, and make a purchase. Organic traffic gets 100% attribution for the conversion.

You can come up with many other scenarios where the only organic search interaction is through branded queries. SEO gets the credit when it shouldn’t.

On the other hand, you can have strong SEO with high search visibility on the SERPs throughout the whole funnel. It’s perfectly capable of converting many prospects from start to finish by itself.

But social media ads, display ads, and search ads get in the way and make a bigger contribution to the conversion just because they’re more prominent.

DDA in GA4 partly solves this problem, but it still can’t take into account the branding aspect of SEO. The brand awareness and salience you build by being seen in top-of-the-funnel content either through your own content production or by outreach aren’t things we can measure well.

Not being able to segment branded vs. non-branded organic traffic with conversion data makes all of this difficult to assess.

3. We can’t measure the retention impact of SEO

Ahrefs is a great example of this. We produce product-led content that’s constantly educating our (potential) customers about all the ways they can use our tools to solve their SEO and marketing problems.

As we neither use GA nor store cookies, I can’t back this up with data. But I’d estimate that 20-30% of organic traffic visits to our blog come from people who are already Ahrefs customers.

The retention impact of SEO, in this case, can be divided into two categories:

  • As people learn to squeeze more out of our toolset, they start using the tool more and more, which leads to lowering churn rates.
  • Content about tools and features included in higher-priced plans makes some people upgrade their monthly subscriptions.

In other words, SEO has the power to increase the customer lifetime value, as many pieces of content also overlap with the retention and nurturing stages of the marketing funnel.

But again, it is difficult or even impossible to take this impact into account when calculating the SEO ROI.

4. Huge time discrepancies between “investment” and “return” periods

The variables in calculating ROI are the investments and returns over certain time periods. But when we look at that on the whole website and business level, it’s impossible to tie specific investments to specific returns in SEO.

This is where the simplified principle of comparing the same monthly periods of “investments” and “returns” fails.

SEO can take a lot of time to provide returns on the investment. Yes, you can certainly have quick wins. But nothing is guaranteed.

A good alternative to choosing arbitrary time periods is to be more granular and start calculating ROI on the category, page, or keyword level. You can measure well the “return” of ranking with particular pages and can also know most of the “investments” that went into it.

We’d still omit technical SEO and other related costs and efforts that are usually applied to a broader scope of the website at once. But these partial costs are unlikely to shift a specific page from positive to negative ROI, so feel free to leave them out for simplicity’s sake—as long as you’re aware of them.

5. SEO testing has limited capabilities

One way to better understand the contribution of a marketing channel to overarching marketing objectives is to stop running campaigns on it for a while and see what happens.

For example, we ran such an experiment with PPC channels:

What you’d be looking for here is marketing incrementality—the lift the channel brings on top of a specific outcome that happens anyway.

Let’s say the outcome we want to monitor is conversions, so we’d be looking at how many conversions we’d still get if we halted specific marketing activities.

The problem with SEO is that you can’t just turn it off. Or well, you can. But no sane marketer will ever deploy noindex robots meta tag on the whole website.

Organic search is simply one of the most important channels for many businesses, and sabotaging your own SEO can have long-term detrimental effects.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t run SEO experiments and tests. You absolutely can. There’s been quite a lot of development and coverage about SEO testing in recent years.

But for the purpose of measuring incrementality and ROI, it is close to impossible for the vast majority of websites to come up with a good hypothesis and valid testing scenarios.

6. Forecasting future ROI

Last but not least, as SEOs, we’re often asked about the expected outcomes and ROI of certain SEO activities. This can get even more complicated, as SEO forecasting is a discipline on its own and can clash with all the aforementioned challenges as well.

Don’t try to beat around the bush. Instead, face the uncertainty head-on. Setting up SEO objectives and making sure we’re on the right track to achieving them is a crucial part of our job. Having good communication skills is another.

A good way to approach this is to consider the following factors when coming up with specific numbers:

  • Past SEO performance of the page(s) or a website and its competitors
  • Compounded traffic potential of the content in question
  • Estimation of an average conversion rate (can be applied just to the bottom-of-the-funnel content for simplicity’s sake)

For SEO performance, a good start is to look up your website in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, head over to the Performance chart in the Overview report, and add all your relevant competitors:

Site Explorer overview of ahrefs.comSite Explorer overview of ahrefs.com

You can also check the traffic value (estimated monthly cost of traffic from all keywords a site is ranking for if paid via PPC):

Line graph and pop-up list showing overview of traffic value for ahrefs.com and three other competitors Line graph and pop-up list showing overview of traffic value for ahrefs.com and three other competitors

And the number of organic pages:

Line graph and pop-up list showing overview of organic pages for ahrefs.com and three other competitors Line graph and pop-up list showing overview of organic pages for ahrefs.com and three other competitors

This should give you an idea about the relationship between the content output and organic traffic in your niche. It still leaves out link building activities and technical SEO, but that will only complicate things here even more.

As for the traffic potential, paste all the keywords you plan to target with the new proposed content into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and take a look at the Traffic Potential (TP) column:

Keywords Explorer's Overview report results Keywords Explorer's Overview report results

TP in Ahrefs shows how much organic traffic the #1 ranking page for your target keyword receives from all the keywords that it ranks for in your target country. You can either analyze this on a keyword-to-keyword basis or export the list to sum up the column values.

And lastly, we have the conversion. You should already have this data available for similar content in the tracking software, and you can also look up and/or survey other websites in your niche.

By the end of this, you can extrapolate and estimate the outcome of all the proposed SEO activities. Or you can go more “granular,” as that information will always be more accurate and easier to communicate.

Of course, stay away from any guarantees. But saying something along the lines of “I expect that [SEO activity] can increase traffic by X, which could bring Y conversions” can work when you set up the right expectations.

Alternative approach to measuring SEO ROI

To be honest, I’m in the camp advocating that it’s not even necessary to calculate the ROI of your SEO and related content marketing efforts. This is especially true if you can prioritize content creation and other SEO tasks well.

Our CMO, Tim Soulo, wrote a great Twitter thread about the ROI of content marketing that’s highly relevant to this topic and also shows how we think about that in Ahrefs:

So what’s the alternative? Choosing and tracking the most suitable SEO KPI that’s not based on conversions.

The best candidate for this KPI, in most cases, is search visibility. It’s the SEO version of one of the most important marketing KPIs, share of voice (SOV), which measures how visible your brand is in the market.

That’s important because there’s a strong relationship between SOV and market share. Generally speaking, the higher your SOV, the bigger your share of the pie.

Line graph showing the higher your SOV, the more your market shareLine graph showing the higher your SOV, the more your market share

For the most accurate tracking of search visibility, paste the keywords that matter to you into Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker. Note that these should be the main keywords that encompass what your target audience is searching for (don’t bother with long-tails).

Rank Tracker page where user can add keywords to track; notably, "SOV" tag has been addedRank Tracker page where user can add keywords to track; notably, "SOV" tag has been added

From there, head to the Competitors Overview tab and check the Visibility column:

Competitor Overview tab showing visibility data for Ahrefs and two competitors Competitor Overview tab showing visibility data for Ahrefs and two competitors

That’s it. As long as you see a long-term growth trend in the search visibility for your website, you should be confident that your SEO efforts are paying off.

I know this isn’t a possible alternative for many teams that are required to show “money metrics,” but it’s definitely worth tracking as one of your SEO KPIs.

Final thoughts

I could have taken the easy path here and just touched the surface without diving into all the challenges and caveats of calculating SEO ROI. But this is what stakeholders care about the most, so we should all be knowledgeable and confident in communicating these matters.

Many topics covered here can be in-depth standalone articles. If you’re interested in learning more about everything related to marketing analytics and attribution, I highly recommend you check out the blog of Avinash Kaushik.

Got questions or interesting insights regarding SEO ROI? Ping me on Twitter.

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The Challenges & Opportunities For Marketers

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The Challenges & Opportunities For Marketers

Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., reported its fourth straight quarter of declining profits.

It made $76 billion in sales over the past three months, but it wasn’t enough to meet Wall Street’s expectations.

Google’s revenue was down 9% compared to last year, and its biggest business, Google Search, saw a 1% drop in revenue. Even YouTube’s advertising sales fell by nearly 8%.

Alphabet has decided to cut its workforce by 12,000 and expects to spend between $1.9 billion and $2.3 billion on employee severance costs.

This latest earnings report shows tech giants like Google are facing challenges in the current digital advertising landscape.

But Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, believes that the company’s long-term investments in AI will be a key factor in its future success.

In a press release, Pichai says he expects major AI advancements to be soon revealed in Google search and other areas:

“Our long-term investments in deep computer science make us extremely well-positioned as AI reaches an inflection point, and I’m excited by the AI-driven leaps we’re about to unveil in Search and beyond. There’s also great momentum in Cloud, YouTube subscriptions, and our Pixel devices. We’re on an important journey to re-engineer our cost structure in a durable way and to build financially sustainable, vibrant, growing businesses across Alphabet.”

Alphabet’s CFO, Ruth Porat, reported that their Q4 consolidated revenues were $76 billion, a 1% increase from the previous year. The full year 2022 saw revenues of $283 billion, a 10% increase.

Going forward, Alphabet is changing how it reports on its AI activities.

DeepMind, which used to be reported under “Other Bets,” will now be reported as part of Alphabet’s corporate costs to reflect its increasing integration with Google Services and Google Cloud.

What Does This Mean For Marketing Professionals?

It’s important to stay updated on the latest developments in the tech industry and how they may affect advertising strategies.

Google’s declining profits and decreased revenue in their search and YouTube platforms are reminders that the digital advertising landscape is constantly evolving, and companies must adapt to keep up.

Marketers should consider diversifying their advertising efforts across multiple platforms to minimize the impact of market swings.

Additionally, Google’s focus on AI and its integration with Google Services and Cloud is something to keep an eye on.

As AI advances, it may offer new opportunities for marketers to target and engage with their audience effectively.

By staying informed on the latest tech advancements, marketers can stay ahead of the curve and make the most of these opportunities.

Despite Google’s recent financial setbacks, the tech giant is still a major player in the digital advertising landscape, and its investments in AI show its commitment to continued growth and innovation.


Featured Image: Sergio Photone/Shutterstock

Source: Alphabet



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How to Use WordPress in 9 Simple Steps (Beginner’s Guide)

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How to Use WordPress in 9 Simple Steps (Beginner’s Guide)

WordPress is the world’s largest content management system (CMS)—around 810 million websites are built on it.

It’s free to use and includes all the features any website owner could need. And if it doesn’t have a feature you want or need, you can have a developer create it for you because it’s built on open-source software.

But with all of these features come some complications. WordPress has a fairly steep learning curve compared to other CMSes like Wix or Squarespace.

I’ve built dozens of websites using WordPress.org (not WordPress.com, which is a totally different beast) and have narrowed down the process to nine simple steps that anyone can follow.

Let’s start with…

Step 1. Get a domain name and hosting

Every website built on WordPress.org needs a domain name (www.thisisyourdomainname.com) and a hosting service that stores and displays your website on the internet.

You can buy a domain name for a small fee from a domain name registrar like NameCheap or GoDaddy. However, if you buy your domain name and your hosting from separate companies, you will need to change your website’s Domain Nameservers (DNS) to point your domain name from your registrar to your hosting company.

They look like this:

SiteGround DNS settings example

It’s a little cheaper to do it this way but not worth the hassle in my opinion. Instead, most hosting providers (such as SiteGround or Bluehost) can also sell you a domain name and connect it with your website automatically, allowing you to skip messing with DNS settings.

You can check out this guide to choosing a domain name if you’re not sure what to pick.

Step 2. Install WordPress

Once you purchase hosting, most hosting providers have a one-click install to set up WordPress on your website. Here are some links to guides on how to do this with common hosting services:

You can also opt for a faster (but more expensive) dedicated hosting provider like Kinsta or WP Engine. These companies will set up WordPress for you when you buy their hosting.

Step 3. Familiarize yourself with the UI

Now that you have a website with WordPress installed, let’s get into how to use WordPress. You can log in to your WordPress dashboard by going to www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin.

Once you log in, your dashboard will look like this (with fewer plugins since you’re on a fresh install):

WordPress user interface

Let me explain the options here:

  • Posts: This is where you’ll create blog posts.
  • Media: You can go here to see all the media on your site, such as images and videos. I typically upload media directly to my posts and pages and don’t visit media often.
  • Pages: This is where you’ll create static pages on your site, such as your homepage, about page, and contact page.
  • Comments: Here is where you’ll moderate any blog comments.
  • Appearance: This is where you’ll customize the appearance of your website, such as your website’s theme, font type, colors, and more.
  • Plugins: A plugin is an add-on to your website that adds functionality, such as custom contact forms or pop-ups on your website. I’ll discuss these in more detail later.
  • Users: Here is where you can add users to your website, such as writers, editors, and administrators.
  • Settings: Pretty straightforward; here is where your general website settings are located.

Now that you know what each option does, let’s get your website settings dialed in.

Step 4. Optimize your settings

Your WordPress website comes with some generic settings that need to be changed, as well as some things I recommend changing to optimize your website for search engines.

Specifically, you should:

  • Change your title, tagline, time zone, and favicon.
  • Change your permalink structure.
  • Configure your reading settings.
  • Delete any unused themes.
  • Change your domain from HTTP to HTTPS.

Let’s walk through each of these steps.

Change your title, tagline, time zone, and favicon

Head to Settings > General to find these settings. Change the title of your website and the tagline, which can appear underneath the title if you choose to display it.

Next, check that the time zone is correct (according to your local time zone) and upload your favicon. A favicon is the little icon that shows up in browser tabs next to the title of the page, like this:

Examples of favicons

You can make a favicon for free with Canva. Just make a 50×50 design with whatever you want your favicon to look like. Check out this guide to learn more. 

Change your permalink structure

Head to Settings > Permalinks. A permalink is the URL structure your blog posts take when you publish them. By default, WordPress displays the date in your URLs, which isn’t great for SEO or readability.

WordPress permalink structure settings

I always change this to the “Post name” option (/sample-post/) to add the title of the post by default. You want to optimize all of your URLs individually when possible, but this setting will make the process easier.

Configure your reading settings

Head over to Settings > Reading to choose whether you want your homepage to be a static page or if you want it to be a feed of your latest blog posts. 

WordPress homepage display settings

Personally, I always create a unique static page to use as my homepage because it gives me more control over the homepage. I like to add internal links to specific pages to help them rank higher on Google, as well as add an email opt-in form on the homepage.

Check out this guide to homepage SEO to learn more.

Delete any unused themes 

By default, you have a few themes installed. Once you choose a theme in step #5 below, you should delete any unused themes to remove vulnerabilities from your site (hackers can attack WordPress websites with outdated themes).

To do that, go to Appearance > Themes, click on the unused theme, then click the red Delete button in the bottom right.

How to delete unused themes on WordPress

Change your domain from HTTP to HTTPS

The “S” in HTTPS stands for secure. Adding this is done with an SSL certificate, and it’s an important step. It means your website is encrypted and safer for viewers.

Having HTTPS instead of HTTP gives you the “lock” icon next to your URL—Google (and most internet users) wants to see a secure website.

HTTPS secure "lock" icon

Most hosting providers automatically activate the secure version of your website. But sometimes, it needs to be manually activated by you. Here are guides on how to do this with common hosting providers:

If your host isn’t shown here, just do a Google search for “[your host] SSL encryption.”

Step 5. Select and customize your theme

Once you’ve optimized your settings, it’s time to start actually building your website using a WordPress theme. A theme is a customizable template that determines what your website looks like. 

You can browse for themes by going to Appearance > Themes, then clicking the Add new button at the top of the page. 

WordPress theme page

The generic Twenty Twenty-Three theme is actually pretty good. Most WordPress themes these days are optimized to show up in search engines and for requirements of the modern user, such as being mobile-friendly. 

However, some themes have a lot of added bloat that can slow a website down, so choose a theme that only has the features you need without extras you won’t use.

Alternatively, if you don’t like any themes or want something that’s more drag-and-drop, you can use a website builder like Elementor or Thrive Architect. These tools make building a website extremely easy, but they do add bloat that can slow a website down.

I use Elementor to build my websites but only use it to build static pages that I want to convert well. Then I use the built-in Guttenberg editor for my blog posts.

If you decide to go with a regular theme rather than a theme builder, you can edit the theme by going to Appearance > Customize. You’ll be taken to the following editor:

WordPress theme customization options

Depending on the theme you installed, you may have more or fewer options than the screenshot above. Rather than trying to cover every option you may encounter, I’ll just recommend that you go through each option to see what it does. 

For the most part, the options are self-explanatory. If you hit a snag, you can always do a Google search for that option in your theme to see forum posts from other users or even the theme’s FAQ or manual.

Step 6. Build your basic pages

After you’ve selected a theme, you can start building your website’s pages. Every website typically needs at least the following pages:

  • A homepage
  • A contact page
  • An about page
  • A privacy policy page
  • A terms of service page

Rather than going through how you should create each of these pages, I’ll refer you to the following guides:

Keep in mind that your privacy policy and terms of service (ToS) pages will vary depending on the country you live in. If you’re in the U.S., you can follow this guide for privacy policies and this guide for ToS pages.

That said, there are some general tips you should follow when building any page on your website. In general, make sure that your font is easy to read and a good visible size (18–20px is typical), your colors match, and you avoid too much clutter.

Here’s a good example of a webpage that is clean, legible, and thought out:

Ahrefs about page example

Here’s an example of a webpage that has too much clutter and displays an ad over half the page, causing confusion:

CNN poor website design

In general, less is more and legibility is better than fancy fonts.

Step 7. Install these essential plugins

One of the best parts of using WordPress is access to its massive library of plugins

A plugin is a custom piece of code written by a developer that anyone can install on their WordPress website in order to add specific functionality to the site, such as a contact form, extra customization options, or SEO features.

You can install a new plugin one of two ways. Head over to Plugins > Add New. From here, you can either:

  1. Browse the plugins directly on this page, then install and activate them directly.
  2. Download a plugin .zip file from the plugin’s website, then click the Upload plugin button at the top of the screen and upload the .zip file.
How to upload a plugin to your WordPress website

While many plugins are free, some are paid or have a premium paid version. It depends on what you need. However, I always install the following free plugins on my websites:

Rank Math: This plugin makes basic on-page SEO easier. It tells you if you’re missing basic things like metadata, image alt text, and more. It also allows you to create a robots.txt file and a sitemap, which are important for search engines to crawl your website the way you want.

Wordfence: This is a security plugin to help prevent your website from being hacked. I always install some sort of security plugin on my sites.

Insert Headers and Footers: One of the things you’ll often find yourself needing to do is insert code into the header or footer of your pages. You need to do this for everything from setting up Google Analytics and Google Search Console to adding the Facebook Remarketing pixel and more. Having this plugin makes it much easier to add this code.

Keep in mind that installing a lot of plugins on your website can cause code bloat and slow down your loading speeds, so only install plugins that you really need. 

Step 8. Start creating content

Now you know all the basics of how to use WordPress. But another important thing I want to talk about, which is probably why you wanted to start a WordPress website in the first place—how to create content for your blog.

Writing blog posts is an essential part of showing up on search engines like Google, having something to share on social media, and attracting more visitors to your website.

What you write about depends on your goals. I always start with some basic keyword research to figure out what people are searching for on Google that relates to my website.

A quick and easy way to do this is by plugging a broad keyword into Ahrefs’ free keyword generator tool to get some keyword ideas. 

For example, if I’m starting a website about farming, I may type “farm” into the tool. I can see keyword ideas like “farming insurance” and “vertical farming,” which are two potential blog topics I can write about.

Keyword ideas for farming, via Ahrefs' free keyword generator tool

If I want to get a little more specific, I can try a keyword like “how to start a farm.” This gives me ideas like “how to start a farm with no money” and “how to start a farm in texas.”

Keyword ideas for "how to start a farm," via Ahrefs' free keyword generator tool

Try different seed keywords—both broad keywords and more specific ones—to come up with some blog topics. Once you have a few ideas, go ahead and outline the article and then write it and publish it.

Check out our guide to writing a blog post to learn more.

Step 9. Monitor your website for technical issues

A regular part of maintaining your WordPress website is keeping plugins and themes up to date, as well as monitoring your website’s technical health.

WordPress automatically notifies you of updates to your plugins or themes with a red circle next to Dashboard > Updates. Log in to your dashboard at least once a week to update everything.

WordPress updates dashboard

Beyond weekly updates, use the free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools to run a technical audit on your site and see any issues your site may have, such as broken links, missing metadata, or slow loading speeds. 

Ahrefs website audit overview, via AWT

If you click the All issues tab, you can see every issue your site has—with an overview of what the issue is and how to fix it if you click on the ? icon.

All issues report, via AWT

You’ll also get email alerts when anything on your site changes, such as a link breaking or a page returning a 404 code. It’s a helpful tool to automatically monitor your WordPress site.

Final thoughts

Congratulations, you now know the basics of using WordPress. It may have a large learning curve, but learning how to use this CMS is one of the most valuable skills you can have in today’s digital age.

You can use your WordPress website to make money blogging, promote your services as a freelancer, or even sell products online. Knowing how to build a website is almost mandatory these days for anyone who wants to start a business.

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Top 5 Essential SEO Reporting Tools For Agencies

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Top 5 Essential SEO Reporting Tools For Agencies

Your clients trust you to create real results and hit KPIs that drive their businesses forward.

Understanding the intricacies of how that works can be difficult, so it’s essential to demonstrate your progress and efforts.

SEO reporting software showcases important metrics in a digestible and visually represented way. They save guesswork and manual referencing, highlighting achievements over a specified time.

A great tool can also help you formulate action items, gauge the performance of campaigns, and see real results that can help you create new and innovative evaluations.

The latest and allegedly greatest tools hit the market all the time, promising to transform how you conduct reports.

Certainly, you have to weigh a few factors when deciding which software to implement. Price, features, and ease of use are the most important to consider.

A cost-effective tool with a steep learning curve might not be worth it for the features. Similarly, an expensive tool might be more appealing if it is user-friendly but could quickly run up costs.

Just like any transformational business decision, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons carefully to determine the right one for you.

Key Takeaways

  • Cost, accessibility, and features are the common thread of comparison for SEO reporting tools.
  • To truly get the best use out of an SEO reporting tool for your agency, you’ll need to weigh several details, including scalability, customization, integrations, and access to support.
  • What might be considered a subpar tool could be a game-changer for an agency. Due diligence and research are the keys to knowing what will work for your team.

What To Look For In SEO Reporting Tools

It can be tough to make heads or tails of the available tools and choose which will benefit your agency the most.

Here are the 10 essential requirements of SEO reporting tools.

1. Accurate And Current Regional Data

SEO reporting is all about data. The software must have access to accurate and current data localized to your client’s targeted region.

Search data from the U.S. is meaningless if your client tries to rank for [London plumbing services], so localization matters.

The tool must update data regularly and with reliable accuracy so you can make informed decisions about where your client stands against the competition.

2. Integration With Third-Party Tools

Especially for full-scale digital marketing campaigns, the ability to report on all KPIs in one place is essential.

The more available integrations with third-party tools (e.g., Google Analytics, Google Business Profile, Majestic), the better.

Some tools even allow you to upload custom data sets.

3. Scalability

You don’t want to have to retrain or reinvest in new software every time your agency reaches a new tier.

The right SEO reporting tool should work well for your current business size and leave room for expansion as you onboard more clients.

4. Strong Suite Of Features

A great SEO reporting tool should include:

  • Position tracking.
  • Backlink monitoring.
  • Competitor data.
  • Analytics.

It is a bonus if the tool has reporting features for social media, email marketing, call tracking, and/or paid ads to make it a full-suite digital marketing software.

5. Continually Improving And Updating Features

SEO is constantly evolving, and so should SEO reporting tools.

As we continue the transition from website optimization to web presence optimization, a tool’s ability to integrate new features is essential.

6. Ability To Customize Reports

Each client will have different KPIs, objectives, and priorities.

Presenting the information that clients want to see is paramount to successful campaigns and retention.

Your reporting software of choice should be able to emphasize the correct data at the right times.

7. Client Integration

A good SEO reporting tool must have the client in mind.

It should have a simple bird’s eye overview of the basics but also be easy for clients to dig into the data at a deeper level.

This can mean automated summary reports or 24/7 client access to the dashboard.

8. Ability To White Label Reports

While white labeling is not essential (no client will sniff at receiving a report with a Google logo in the top corner), it helps keep branding consistent and gives a professional sheen to everything you send a client’s way.

9. Access To Support Resources

Quality support resources can help you find a detour when you encounter a roadblock.

Whether it’s detailed support documentation, a chat feature/support desk, or responsive customer support on social media, finding the help you need to solve the issue is important.

10. Cost-To-Value Ratio

With a proper process, time investment, and leveraging support resources, it is possible to get better results from a free reporting tool than one that breaks the bank.

This can mean automated summary reports or 24/7 client access to the dashboard.

Top 5 SEO Reporting Tools

In evaluating five of the most popular SEO reporting tools, based on the above criteria, here is how they stack up:

1. AgencyAnalytics

My Overall Rating: 4.7/5

Image credit: AgencyAnalytics, December 2022

AgencyAnalytics is a quality introductory/intermediate reporting tool for agencies.

Among the tools on this list, it is one of the easiest to use for small to mid-sized agencies.

It starts at $12 per month, per client, with unlimited staff and client logins, a white-label dashboard, and automated branded reports. The minimum purchase requirements mean the first two tiers work out to $60 per month and $180 per month, respectively. But your ability to change the payment based on the number of clients could help keep costs lean.

AgencyAnalytics comes with 70+ supported third-party data integrations.

However, this reliance on third-party data means you may have incomplete reports when there is an interruption in the transmission.

Though new integrations are always being added, they can be glitchy at first, making them unreliable to share with clients until stabilized.

With the ability for clients to log in and view daily data updates, it provides real-time transparency.

Automated reports can be customized, and the drag-and-drop customized dashboard makes it easy to emphasize priority KPIs.

2. SE Ranking

My Overall Rating: 4.5/5

SE Ranking has plans starting at $39.20 per month, although the $87.20 per month plan is necessary if you need historical data or more than 10 projects.

Setup is a breeze, as the on-screen tutorial guides you through the process.

SE Ranking features a strong collection of SEO-related tools, including current and historical position tracking, competitor SEO research, keyword suggestion, a backlink explorer, and more.

SE Ranking is hooked up with Zapier, which allows users to integrate thousands of apps and provide a high level of automation between apps like Klipfolio, Salesforce, HubSpot, and Google Apps.

SE Ranking is an effective SEO reporting tool at a beginner to intermediate level.

However, you may want to look in a different direction if your agency requires more technical implementations or advanced customization.

3. Semrush

My Overall Rating: 4.4/5

Semrush is one of the most SEO-focused reporting tools on the list, which is reflected in its features.

Starting at $229.95 per month for the agency package, it’s one of the more expensive tools on the list. But Semrush provides a full suite of tools that can be learned at an intermediate level.

A major downside of Semrush, especially for cost-conscious agencies, is that an account comes with only one user login.

Having to purchase individual licenses for each SEO analyst or account manager adds up quickly, and the users you can add are limited by the plan features. This makes scalability an issue.

Semrush has both branded and white-label reports, depending on your subscription level. It uses a proprietary data stream, tracking more than 800 million keywords.

The ever-expanding “projects” feature covers everything from position tracking to backlink monitoring and social media analysis.

Though it doesn’t fall specifically under the scope of SEO reporting, Semrush’s innovation makes it a one-stop shop for many agencies.

Project features include Ad Builder, which helps craft compelling ad text for Google Ads, and Social Media Poster, which allows agencies to schedule client social posts.

Combining such diverse features under the Semrush umbrella offsets its relatively high cost, especially if you can cancel other redundant software.

4. Looker Studio

My Overall Rating: 3.6/5

Looker StudioScreenshot from Looker Studio, December 2022

Formerly known as Google Data Studio, Looker Studio is a Google service that has grown considerably since its initial launch.

Though it is much more technical and requires more time investment to set up than most other tools on this list, it should be intuitive for staff familiar with Google Analytics.

If you’re on the fence, Looker Studio is completely free.

A major upside to this software is superior integration with other Google properties like Analytics, Search Console, Ads, and YouTube.

Like other reporting tools, it also allows third-party data integration, but the ability to query data from databases, including MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Google’s Cloud SQL, sets it apart.

You can customize reports with important KPIs with proper setup, pulling from lead and customer information. For eCommerce clients, you can even integrate sales data.

Though the initial setup will be much more technical, the ability to import templates saves time and effort.

You can also create your own templates that better reflect your processes and can be shared across clients. Google also has introductory video walk-throughs to help you get started.

5. Authority Labs

My Overall Rating: 3.2/5

Authority Labs Ranking ReportImage credit: Authority Labs, December 2022

Authority Labs does the job if you’re looking for a straightforward position-tracking tool.

Authority Labs is $49 per month for unlimited users, though you will need to upgrade to the $99 per month plan for white-label reporting.

You can track regional ranking data, get insights into “(not provided)” keywords, track competitor keywords, and schedule automated reporting.

However, lacking other essential features like backlink monitoring or analytic data means you will have to supplement this tool to provide a full SEO reporting picture for clients.

Conclusion

There are many quality SEO reporting tools on the market. What makes them valuable depends on their ability to work for your clients’ needs.

SE Ranking has a fantastic cost-to-value ratio, while Looker Studio has advanced reporting capabilities if you can withstand a higher barrier to entry.

Agency Analytics prioritizes client access, which is a big deal if transparency is a core value for your agency.

Authority Labs keeps it lean and clean, while Semrush always adds innovative features.

These five are simply a snapshot of what is available. There are new and emerging tools that might have some features more appealing to your current clients or fill gaps that other software creates despite being a great solution.

Ultimately, you need to consider what matters most to your agency. Is it:

  • Feature depth?
  • Scalability?
  • Cost-to-value ratio?

Once you weigh the factors that matter most for your agency, you can find the right SEO reporting tool. In the meantime, don’t shy away from testing out a few for a trial period.

If you don’t want to sign up for a full month’s usage, you can also explore walkthrough videos and reviews from current users. The most informed decision requires an understanding of the intricate details.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal



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