SEO Process

SEO Benchmarking: Key Metrics & Best Practices

Nick Eubanks
Last Updated: Mar. 24, 2024
SEO Benchmarking

There are a few questions I often hear from the SEOs in TTT Academy

One of the most common is: “What should I know and do to outperform competitors in organic search results?”

My answer is always the same. I recommend our students benchmark their websites’ SEO performance against their direct competitors and set realistic SEO goals. 

Imagine SEO benchmarking as an ultimate website popularity contest: you versus your competitors in a battle for search engine visibility. 

It’s about comparing your website’s performance against competitors and industry standards. Not only will it help you identify areas for improvement, but it will also help you develop a winning SEO strategy to outrank competitors. 

But with so many SEO KPIs, how do you know what to focus on?

In this advanced guide to SEO benchmarking, I’ll share what KPIs you should focus on, why this is critical for your website growth, and how you can successfully benchmark your website SEO.

Let’s move on!

Why SEO Benchmarking Is Important 

Competing for top-ranking positions will likely be tough regardless of your niche. If you don’t analyze what your top-ranking competitors do, your website might never hit the Google front page. 

That’s why benchmarking your SEO is critical for your website’s successful performance. 

However, there are a few more reasons why you should consider doing it. 

1. Track Your Progress

Benchmarking isn’t just about setting a starting point — it’s about charting a course forward. 

Like a compass guiding a ship, regular comparisons with competitors and SEO benchmarks by industry can say a lot about your SEO progress and highlight areas for improvement. 

This can also help you refine your SEO strategy and quickly identify what causes changes to your website performance on SERP.

However, you should be able to track your progress in organic search results over time and know which SEO metrics to use for comparison. That’s where SEO benchmarking comes into play! 

2. Set Realistic Goals

SEO benchmarks in different industries can give you a realistic overview of how your website performs compared to other websites similar to yours. Instead of blindly shooting in the dark, you can set achievable and data-driven goals for your own SEO campaigns.

At this point, I always recommend avoiding unrealistic expectations and using SEO best practices

You shouldn’t compare your website to giants! Instead, benchmarks should help you understand the SEO potential of your website based on its size, industry, and competition.

3. Identify Opportunities

In my opinion, it’s one of the most significant benefits of SEO benchmarking. 

You don’t need to come up with new SEO tasks and tactics on your own. Instead, you can easily discover areas where your website underperforms by comparing it to your rivals in organic search results. 

Maybe they’re ranking higher for keywords you haven’t targeted or utilizing backlinks from authoritative sources you haven’t considered. This knowledge enables you to adapt and stay ahead of the competition.

6 Must-Follow SEO Benchmarks 

Instead of collecting too much data, I recommend focusing on specific KPIs that can accurately showcase the performance of all websites. Tracking these KPIs for your website and analyzing the same competitor metrics can help you better understand where you succeed and fail.

I recommend tracking and analyzing the following SEO benchmarks:

  1. Organic search traffic
  2. Organic impressions
  3. Engaged sessions
  4. Individual keyword positions
  5. The number of linking domains
  6. Share of search

1. Organic Search Traffic

SEO benchmark: Your last month’s organic traffic or your best-performing month if your business is seasonal

How to track: Google Analytics 4, Semrush Organic Traffic report 

Organic search traffic reigns supreme as the king of SEO benchmarks. It’s not just about counting visitors but understanding how well your website attracts the right audience through search engines.

I recommend tracking organic search traffic monthly if you haven’t done so already since it’s the first thing your SEO lead or a client will ask you about the website’s performance. 

Ideally, your goal should be to surpass the previous month’s organic traffic every following month. 

If your business has a seasonality factor — let’s say you sell Christmas gifts — then you can use the best-performing month as a benchmark. 

For data accuracy, I recommend tracking your organic search traffic using Google Analytics 4. 

Navigate to Reports > Life Cycle > Acquisition > Traffic Acquisition

Traffic Acquisition GAv4

2. Organic Impressions

SEO benchmark: Your last month’s data about organic impressions

How to track: Google Search Console 

Many SEOs disregard organic impressions. However, I believe that’s one of the most important KPIs available to you. Organic impressions provide valuable insights into your website’s visibility and reach across search engine results pages.

Organic impressions serve as an indicator of how frequently your website appears in search results for relevant queries. They also shed light on your website’s overall online presence and the effectiveness of your SEO strategies.

Depending on whether your website impressions are growing or declining, you can estimate what will happen to organic traffic and keywords. 

Consider analyzing organic impressions with metrics like click-through rate (CTR), organic traffic growth, and keyword rankings.

For SEO benchmarking, you can use the data from the previous month. If you notice a sharp decline in impressions, like in the example below, it’s a sign to analyze the root cause of the issue. 

Declining impressions correlate with a decrease in organic traffic and keyword rankings. Therefore, I recommend keeping an eye on your website’s organic impressions monthly in Google Search Console. 

Search Console Impressions

3. Engaged Sessions 

SEO benchmark: Sessions longer than 10 seconds that include at least one micro or macro conversion

How to track: Google Analytics 4

Engagement metrics are crucial to check over time because you want people to stay on your website as long as possible. 

An engaged session means a visitor actively interacts with your website. It includes exceeding the minimum time spent, visiting multiple pages, or completing a desired action. This deeper engagement signals to search engines that your content resonates with users, potentially boosting your keyword rankings. 

You might know that “bounce rate” was eventually replaced by “engaged sessions” in Google Analytics 4. 

If you want to benchmark your website’s engaged sessions per user, I recommend using Google’s definition of an engaged session:

An engaged session is a session that lasts longer than 10 seconds, has a conversion event, or has at least 2 pageviews or screenviews.

Ideally, you should increase this number to keep users on your website longer and potentially improve the conversion rates. 

Google Analytics Engaged Impressions

4. Individual Keyword Positions 

SEO benchmark: Keywords ranking in the top 10 organic search results

How to track: Google Search Console, Semrush Position Tracking tool

Your website may rank for thousands of different keywords, but only some will help you achieve your business goals. These are usually product or service keywords that help your business generate revenue.

Ideally, your website should rank among the top five positions on Google for money-making keywords to attract the target audience and make sales. 

I recommend collecting all money-making keywords on your website and benchmarking individual keyword positions. 

For example, you can set an SEO benchmark for all keywords that rank in the 6–10th positions on Google to rank in the top five. Similarly, all money-making keywords from the second page on Google should rank on the first search engine result page.

I recommend using the Semrush Position Tracking tool to monitor your most important keywords daily and immediately see ranking changes.

Remember, the ultimate goal isn’t just ranking number one but attracting relevant traffic that converts.

Semrush Position Tracking

5. The Number of Linking Domains

SEO benchmark: The average number of referring domains your direct competitors build monthly

How to track: Semrush Backlink Analytics

Backlinks are still among the top-ranking factors based on the recent Semrush 2024 study, which is why you should ensure the number of high-quality backlinks grows continuously without sudden ups and downs. 

You won’t catch up with competitors if they build 100 backlinks per month while you only get 5–10. Therefore, I recommend analyzing competitors’ referring domains, the number of backlinks they get every month, and backlink quality. The average number of linking domains should be your SEO benchmark for link building. 

I also recommend conducting a backlink audit and backlink analysis using the Semrush Backlink Analytics toolkit. 

Remember, while quantity matters, quality reigns supreme. A handful of links from high-authority websites carry more weight than low-quality ones. 

Semrush Backlink Analytics

SEO benchmark: Your website’s last month of data or best-performing month in a season

How to track: You should calculate the share of search before using it for benchmarking 

Share of search shows how many people search for your brand in organic search results compared to other competing brands in your niche. 

If people search for your brand online, there’s a high chance they’re looking for something specific to buy. Consequently, a high share of search can translate into higher purchase intent. 

So, if you’re looking to measure your SEO effectiveness and the impact of SEO on your business, I recommend tracking share of search.

Unlike other SEO metrics, measuring share or search requires some effort. Therefore, I created this guide on share of search to show you how you can do it correctly. 

I recommend measuring share of search monthly and using the previous month’s data as your SEO benchmark. If your business is seasonal, you can use your best-performing month as a benchmark. 

It’s Time to Define Your SEO Benchmarks 

As you see, tracking a lot of KPIs isn’t necessary. Instead, you can handpick a few SEO benchmarks that can actually help you improve your website performance compared to your rivals. 

Now, let me show you how you can come up with SEO benchmarks for your website. 

1. Start With the Goals 

Defining your SEO benchmarks isn’t just about picking arbitrary numbers to chase. It’s about understanding your unique goals, analyzing the competitive landscape, and setting realistic targets to move your business forward. 

Start by identifying what truly matters to your business. To do it, I recommend answering the following questions:

  • Is it driving brand awareness?
  • Increasing organic traffic?
  • Converting visitors into leads?
  • Getting more product sales? 
  • Ranking high for the target keywords? 

Organic website traffic growth is crucial, but conversions or engagement might be better indicators if your target audience is niche. 

Once your goals are clear, you can collect the required data and delve into the world of your competitors. 

2. Collect Your Website Data

Let’s say your goal is to rank higher for particular keywords.

Before setting any benchmarks, you should know your website’s current rankings and who outperforms you in organic search results. 

You can use Semrush’s Organic Research report to quickly review ranking positions for your target keywords. I recommend exporting the data in an Excel spreadsheet since you’ll need to compare your data to your competitors later. 

Semrush Organic Research

You can also use Google Search Console to review clicks, impressions, and the average website position for the target keywords. 

Google Search Console graph controls

3. Analyze Competitors 

Let’s say your website ranks 8th for one of your target keywords.

Ask yourself: who’s ranking higher?

You can use Semrush’s Keyword Gap analysis toolkit to compare individual keyword positions and discover keywords your website doesn’t rank for yet.

We also have a brand-new course in TTT Academy I highly recommend checking out called How to perform an SEO competitor analysis with AI.

Imagine one of your competitors ranks 4th for your target keyword. Even though you are nowhere near that ranking position, it can be one of your next SEO goals. 

Remember, SEO benchmarks are like a compass. It’s not a rigid map. As you progress, you can adapt and refine your targets based on data-driven insights and keep your ultimate goals clearly in sight. 

Semrush Keyword Gap

4. Set Your SEO Benchmarks

At this point, you’ve already set up your goals, analyzed the current state of your website, and checked how your website performs compared to your rivals in organic search results. 

All that’s left is to document your SEO benchmarks and develop an actionable plan to improve them. 

For example, ranking in the top 10 organic search results can be your benchmark for the target keywords. At the same time, ranking in the top 3 organic search results could be your SEO goal. 

As you can see, setting effective SEO benchmarks isn’t about mimicking average website traffic by industry. It’s about tailoring benchmarks to your unique goals and competitive landscape. 

Regularly monitor your progress, adjust your benchmarks if needed, and celebrate every step forward on your SEO journey!

Become an SEO Pro with TTT Academy 

SEO is a long-term and challenging game. 

Instead of figuring out SEO alone, I encourage you to join our TTT Academy and learn from 40+ top SEO experts. Well-known SEOs, including Aleyda Solis, Matthew Howells-Barby, and Lazarina Stoy, will teach you and support your journey inside the TTT Academy.

Besides 200+ hours of advanced SEO lessons, you’ll also participate in live Q&A sessions, attend expert-led webinars, and build a network of like-minded friends you can turn to for advice anytime!

Learn more about joining TTT Academy today!