Everyone loves a metric – but what are the important ones?

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  • April 13, 2016
Laura Crimmons

Laura Crimmons

Communications Director

Metrics seem to be an obsession for some SEOs – everyone wants to put a metric to something to judge how good it is. While I understand that metrics can be useful for measuring success, I also think that sometimes people get too hung up on the wrong metrics and on trying to have a metric for everything before they even do anything.

Examples of this include:

  • Judging a site’s quality by something like Domain Authority – there are so many reasons why I don’t agree with this. This is a metric made up by Moz, and the team behind it openly admits that it might not correlate with PageRank and is based largely on links, and we now don’t know which links Google counts for a site as many may be in a disavow file.
  • Judging someone’s influence by their social followers. This is an empty metric for a number of reasons: firstly, people can (and do) buy followers, so this doesn’t mean that they’re influential. Secondly, someone can be popular and therefore have lots of followers, but that doesn’t mean they’ll influence behaviour. For example, a parody account for a celebrity could have millions of followers but if they tweet about a product it doesn’t mean I’ll trust them and buy it.
  • Number of links – targeting someone based on number of links not only wrongly motivates them to just go after anything they can get, but also completely goes against any kind of quality notion. You’d rather have five links from national newspaper sites that pass on a lot of authority rather than 25 links from low quality sites, right? But putting metrics to number of links means you end up with the latter and also implies that you see that as more valuable.

But, in a world in which so many people do care about metrics, it’s clear that they’re not going anywhere – so what are the ones that do matter? I think a lot of this can be learned after a campaign, rather than assessing something’s value before you’ve done it, and you can then use these observations to inform your future campaigns.

Note: it’s not just SEOs that come up with pointless metrics – we were doing it in PR for years with the most ridiculous metric of advertising value equivalent (AVE), so this isn’t just an SEO critique!

Link value

If we really want to look at how valuable a link from a site is, then the only way we can do this is by looking in Google Analytics after we have the link to see how much traffic the link drove, as well as how many direct or assisted conversions it made.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting to have a high rate of conversions, as PR is not a DR channel, however we do see some coming through. This can then be used to inform strategy going forward, as you know which publications actually drive traffic to your site and potential customers. You can then look at who you might want to work on an exclusive with in the future, to ensure that you secure the link from them.

On-site engagement

Again in Google Analytics, we can look at metrics such as time on site and bounce rate. This can help to judge the success of a campaign, both as a whole and at traffic from individual sites. We can also look at the bigger picture and check the amount of views the campaign page(s) received overall to see how much interest it generated amongst the target audience.

Outside of GA, we can look at metrics such as social shares to see how many people were compelled to advocate and share with friends.

Downloads/data collection

Depending on the campaign, you might also have included a download or some form of data collection. These are good metrics to measure as they actually show engagement and interest level from people.

Response/success rate

Another metric to help shape future campaigns is response or success rate, which is really simple to work out from the number of people you contacted with the campaign and the number of replies you got (and, eventually, the number of links).

We use this to measure how different types of campaigns stack up for different clients, which helps to shape our strategy in terms of what’s performing best. It then gives you an idea of how many people you’ll need to contact in the future to get a decent amount of coverage and exposure.

Search visibility

Finally, you can use a metric like search visibility taken from Searchmetrics to look at the value of links and a campaign. You’ll probably need to wait a couple of months to see the impact, but you should be able to see an increase after a significant campaign. The example below shows how visibility for a client improved significantly after we launched a campaign for them in June 2014:

example 1

Metrics aside, what should we really be looking at to judge a person’s influence or a site’s quality?


A good way to judge the quality of a site is by looking at the amount of engagement it receives, which helps you to understand how it influences its audience. If a site receives a lot of social shares and comments, it clearly has an engaged audience, and if the social channel of the writer receives a lot of engagement it also indicates yet more influence.


One of the most important factors is relevance to both the campaign and the client. By this I don’t mean if you’re a fashion client only ever work with fashion blogs and magazines, as fashion has relevance for other niches – for example, travel is relevant if your campaign was about fashion capitals of the world. The relevance has to be there for both the campaign and the client.

Feedback and sentiment

Looking at the feedback that you get to the campaign is another great indicator of its success. This can be looking at responses from journalists or bloggers that you’ve emailed, or it could be from looking at tweets and other comments about the campaign.

This will give you a good feel as to the sentiment and whether it has been received well or not. Negative feedback can also be helpful to make sure you shape a campaign differently in the future.

Next pages

Google Analytics can show you the next pages that people went on to visit after your campaign page(s), which is great to see whether they went on to read more content or visit commercial pages. This shows how relevant your campaign was to them and what people generally wanted to do after viewing it.


Sure, you probably could come up with some metrics for these signals as well, and I’m sure some people will, but it’s so interchangeable depending on the campaign and the niche that you’re targeting that it becomes restrictive rather than helpful.  The point is that the person running the campaign should be expert enough to be able to tell if a person or website is going to be influential and valuable for the campaign, and you should trust their judgement.


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