Telltale Signs That Your SEO Campaign Is Just Burning Money

Do you recognize any (or all) of these 4 signs that your SEO campaign is a dud?

#1 – You’ve been stuck on page 2 (or worse) of Google search results.

#2 – You haven’t see any improvement in the organic search traffic coming to your website.

#3 – You aren’t ranking in the local Maps 3-Pack – (searching while at your office doesn’t count!).

#4 – Your Google My Business listing isn’t generating phone calls from potential clients.

If that sounds like you… it’s time to find out if you’re being taken for a ride.

 

Yes, SEO Is A Long-Term Growth Strategy
And,,, most business owners understand that investing  in law firm SEO services is a long-term investment in the success of their firm, but at some point it gets tough to keep paying for a service when you aren’t seeing results.

And at the end of the day, results are all that matter.

The problem is that you won’t see results from your law firm SEO campaign overnight.

So how can you be sure that your campaign is making progress?

 

No, You Don’t Have To Go On Blind Faith 

There are 5 basic KPI’s you can easily check to find out if your SEO campaign in on-track – even if you aren’t seeing results from it yet.

You don’t have to wait until your site lands on Page 1 of Google, or in the Maps 3-Pack to see if progress is being made, or to discover if your money is being wasted.

 

Ahrefs – Your ‘007’ Spy Tool For Monitoring SEO Progress

Ahrefs is one of the most powerful SEO research tools available, and is very popular among SEO professionals.

Yet as powerful as it is, Ahrefs has some very easy-to-use features and reports that allow virtually anyone to easily check (and comprehend) the SEO metrics recommended in this Cheat Sheet.

So you won’t have to learn a bunch of technical jargon, or try to become a ‘DIY expert’ in order to use this awesome tool.

No matter how much (or how little) you know about SEO, you’ll be able to make sure that you’re is getting your money’s worth from the SEO services you’re paying for every month.

 

Ahrefs has powerful features for:

  • Competitive analysis
  • Keyword research
  • Backlink research
  • Content research
  • Rank tracking

 

NOTE: A subscription is required to use Ahrefs beyond the 7-day free trial period.

 

But if you’re having any doubts about whether or not your SEO agency is actually doing the work you’re paying them for – you can create an account and use the Free Trial Period to check up on what is (or what isn’t) going on behind the scenes with your SEO campaign.

 

5 KPI’s That Can Tell You If You’re Actually Getting The Service You’ve Been Paying For

 

image of ahrefs on a laptop screen

STEP #1 – Check The Backlink Growth For Your Site

Outreach and link-building are the foundation of any successful SEO campaign. You should see an increase in the number of links pointing to your website

 

When to start checking:

If you hire a ‘generalist’ SEO agency, you can start checking this metric about 5-6 months after your campaign is launched.

If you hire a company that specializes exclusively in SEO for lawyers, you should start seeing new backlinks being indexed (in the form of Referring Domains – RD’s) within 2-3 months.

 

How to check:

Go to ahrefs.com and login, or create a free account.

Click the Site Explorer link in the top navigation menu.

Enter your website URL in the field next to ‘http + https’

 

screenshot of ahrefs field for entering website URL

 

Make sure *.domain/* is selected in the drop-down next to the orange magnifying glass (as shown in the screenshot above)

Click the orange magnifying glass icon

You’ll be looking at the Overview screen by default.

Scroll down to the Referring Domains chart

Click the One-year filter (it just looks like a blue link)

Also click the last 30 days filter (it also looks like a blue link)

 

screenshot of date range option in ahrefs for referring domains growth

 

What you want to see:

You’ll want to see that the number of Referring Domains (RD’s) (websites with links pointing to your site) is increasing.

 

Keep checking until:

You should continue to see backlink growth as long as your SEO campaign is active.

The velocity of new backlinks will begin to level off some as your site climbs into the top spots of search results, but your SEO company should never completely stop building backlinks – because your competitors won’t stop building backlinks to their sites.

 

STEP #2 – Monitor The Domain Authority Of Your Website

As you acquire more quality backlinks from authoritative websites, the domain authority (DA) of your site will begin to increase. You can track this using the Domain Rating (DR) metric that displays on the Ahrefs Overview screen.

 

The definition of Domain Rating (DR) according to Ahrefs:

 

Domain Rating (DR) shows the relative “backlink popularity” of the target website compared to all other websites in our database on a 100-point logarithmic scale (higher = stronger).

We calculate DR based on the number of websites linking to the domain’s URLs and their backlink profile strength.

 

When to start checking:

You can start checking for an increase in your Domain Rating (DR) about 4-5 months after your SEO campaign begins.

 

How to check:

If you’re still logged into your Ahrefs account (having just checked your Backlink growth in Step 1) you should still be on the Overview screen.

Just scroll back up a little bit, and you will see this:

 

screenshot of the Domain rating (DR) metric in ahrefs

 

NOTE: If you’re not logged into your Ahrefs account, or you haven’t created your Free account yet – go back to STEP #1 above, and follow the instructions to login & enter your website URL into the text field under ‘Site explorer.’

 

What you want to see:

Increases in Domain Rating (DR) can be agonizingly slow, and they trail Backlink Growth (Referring Domains).

You won’t see big jumps within short time periods. What you’re looking for is a consistent increase over time.

 

Keep checking until:

You should continue to check for increases in your Domain Rating (DR) every couple months.

Until your site has reached the top few spots on the 1st page of organic search results – and begun generating increased website traffic.

Once your search engine rankings are where you want them to be, and you’re showing up in the Maps 3-Pack, you can check this metric every 6 months or so.

Expect to see smaller, less-frequent increases in your DR after the first 12-18 months.

 

WAIT! What if… the number of backlinks to your site keeps going up, but your Domain Rating (DR) stays relatively low?

 

Before we move on to Step 3, now is a good time to answer that question.

That’s a bad sign. A very bad sign.

If you’ve accumulated dozens of new backlinks, but your Domain Rating (DR) is still mired in the low-mid teens, then those links being built to your site are most likely very poor quality links.

If you see this dynamic as you check these KPI’s… you should have an SEO audit performed by another company to determine if your site’s backlink profile is filling up with low-quality – even potentially toxic links.

 

STEP #3 – Keep An Eye On Your Rankings Growth

This metric takes a little longer to become useful – because there is a lag (of several months) between the time you acquire new backlinks – from unique Referring Domains (RD’s), and when you actually see any movement in your rankings.

When to start checking:

The timeframe to start checking this metric can vary from as little as one month to as much as 5 or 6 months – depending on a variety of factors such as:

  • where your site is currently ranking
  • any Google penalties
  • previous SEO work
  • the quality of your website architecture
  • existing backlink profile

The potential for on-page optimizations that can be done in the early stages of your campaign can contribute to some early-stage movement in rankings.

Nothing earth-shattering, but movement in the right direction.

 

How to check:

Assuming you’re still logged into your Ahrefs account, make sure the URL for your website is still showing in the white text field below the ‘Site explorer’ link in the top-navigation menu.

From the Overview screen, look to the right of the ‘Site explorer’ navigation link, and you will see a link titled ‘Rank tracker’ in the top-navigation menu.

Click the Rank Tracker link.

Here’s a screenshot from the early days of our company’s website as an example of what you’ll see…

 

Screenshot of the chart illustrating Rankings Growth in ahrefs

 

The Last 30 days date range is selected by default, but you’ll want to look at the Last 90 days, Last 12 months, and All time once your SEO campaign has been in progress for a sufficient length of time.

 

Screenshot pointing out the Date Range drop-down in ahrefs when reviewing Rankings Growth

 

What you want to see:

As with the other KPI’s we’ve covered, you want to see consistent improvement – over time, in the metrics on this screen.

Don’t expect massive increases on a monthly basis, but if it’s been 6 months, and you haven’t seen any meaningful change in your:

  1. Visibility
  2. Average position

 

Screenshot with red circles around Visibility and Average Position in Ahrefs

 

Note about the Traffic metric: The Traffic number will begin to increase as the two metrics mentioned above improve.

 

Keep checking until:

Check this one monthly until you see the Visibility % start to move up.

After that, you can check this every month or two until your website is ranking in the top half (5 positions) of Page 1 of the SERP’s.

By that time you should be seeing significant increases in your traffic from organic search – otherwise known as Google.

 

Screenshot explaining that Organic Traffic stats are estimated figures in Ahrefs

 

(I’ll show you how to easily check your Organic Search Traffic numbers in a follow-up to this Cheat Sheet)

Once you’re in the Top 5 on Page 1 of the organic search results, you can check this KPI every 3 months or so – since you already know your SEO agency is doing their job.

Expect to see smaller improvements in the metrics on this page after the first 12-24 months of your SEO campaign.

Ranking in the Maps 3-Pack will contribute to your Organic Search Traffic to some extent.

However, what you’ll mostly be looking for from Maps 3-Pack visibility is an increase in phone calls from prospective clients – many of whom won’t even bother to visit your website.

 

 

STEP #4 – Monitor Your Organic Keywords Growth

This is a very important KPI to keep an eye on.

As you add new content to your site, and continue to build backlinks – from quality websites, your own website should become relevant in Google’s eyes for more and more keywords related to your business.

You want to see that your site is continuing to become relevant for a greater number of keywords – over time.

 

When to start checking:

You should typically begin to see at least some increase in organic keywords after 3-4 months.

Your organic keyword growth may begin as a trickle, but should begin to pick up steam after the first 6 months.

 

How to check:

From the overview tab in Ahrefs Site Explorer, look just below the URL Rating (UR) in the top row of information, and you will see a link for ‘Organic search’ – it’s sandwiched between links for ‘Backlink profile’ and ‘Paid search.’

 

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is different from the Organic search link in the left-side navigation menu.

 

Screenshot illustrating the correct Organic Search tab to click in Ahrefs to see Organic Keywords growth

 

Then scroll down a little bit until you see the ‘Organic keywords’ chart.

 

Screenshot of Organic Keywords growth chart in Ahrefs

 

Look at all three date range options in this chart: Last 30 days, One year, and All time when checking this KPI.

The number column on the right coincides with the number of organic keywords shown in the circle on the screenshot above.

 

What you want to see:

As with all the other KPI’s, you want to see consistent increases – over time.

You want to see that your website is ranking for a continually increasing portfolio of keywords related to your business.

 

Keep checking until:

You can check this KPI for the first 6 months so that you can see that your SEO company is doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and everything is on the right track.

You will have been able to confirm this for yourself using the first three metrics we’ve covered.

Seeing continued growth in your Organic Keywords as shown in this chart essentially confirms what you’ve already learned from the first three KPI’s.

 

WHAT IF… you’re seeing lots of new backlinks for your site, but you aren’t seeing much growth in your organic keywords – or in your rankings?

Same thing as before… you know you have a problem with your SEO agency.

 

At that point, it’s time to have an SEO professional perform an audit on your website – to find out if you’re being put at risk because someone is building low-quality, potentially toxic links to your site.

 

STEP #5  – Overall Organic Visibility

Our final KPI is a widely misunderstood SEO metric.

Organic visibility is often mistakenly referred to as a traffic measure – it’s not.

Organic visibility has nothing to do with the traffic coming to your website.

 

What it actually means…

Your site’s ‘overall organic visibility’ refers to your position in the search engine results pages (SERP’s) – relative to your competitors’ sites.

 

When to start checking:

After your SEO campaign has been active for about 3-4 months.

As with organic keywords growth, increases in overall organic visibility begin as a trickle, and then pick up momentum as you continue to build backlinks to your site – which in turns helps increase your rankings in the SERP’s.

 

How to check:

From the Overview tab in Ahrefs, click on the same Organic search link you clicked in Step 4.

 

Screenshot illustrating the correct Organic Search tab to click in Ahrefs to see Organic Keywords growth

 

Scroll down until you see the ‘Organic keywords’ chart.

 

Screenshot of Overall organic Visibility chart in ahrefs

 

Here you can mouse-over any point on the chart to see your Position Distribution grouped into 3 categories (as shown in the red rectangle on this screenshot):

 

Dark Orange = keywords you rank in positions 1-3

Medium Orange = keywords you rank in positions 4-10

Light Orange = keywords you rank in positions 11-100

 

While the number column on the right indicates the total number of organic keywords you rank for, the Position Distribution feature of the chart shows how many keywords you rank for in each range of positions in the SERP’s.

 

What you want to see:

You should see the number of keywords in each group continue to increase as time goes on.

Your ultimate goal is to rank for an ever higher number of keywords in Positions 1-3 (dark orange on the chart)

 

Keep checking until:

You can check this KPI along with #4 (Organic Keyword Growth) for about 6 months or so to verify your progress, and confirm that your SEO company is (successfully) doing the work your firm is paying them for.

As with the Organic Keyword Growth metric, seeing progress here is the result you will see if your site is improving with the first 3 KPI’s.

 

15 Minutes To A Better Night’s Sleep

Checking these metrics on your own may seem like a fair amount of work, but when it comes to confirming that your agency isn’t just pocketing the money you’ve invested in your SEO campaign the sooner you find out – the sooner the better.

Because trust me, it happens.

It can happen with small to mid-size agencies.

And it can happen with the biggest, most widely-recognized digital marketing companies on the planet.

So take the time to snoop around on your SEO campaign for a few minutes – it’s the absolute best way to protect yourself, and your firm’s finances.

 

Get SEO Insurance If You’re Too Busy To Do-It-Yourself

If you don’t have the time to find out what’s going on yourself, check into our SEO Insurance Audit service.

An SEO Insurance Audit allows you to invest a small amount of money – to protect yourself from losing A LOT of money.

We can dive into the weeds for you, and deliver a detailed report that highlights the good, the bad, and (sometimes) the ugly.

You’ll be able to see right away whether you’re getting all (or some) of what you’re paying for, or if your marketing investment is being squandered.

Either way, you’ll be able to make informed decisions… and you will sleep better at night.

If you have questions about whether or not your SEO company is doing what they should be with the money your investing every month, or you have a few questions you’d like answers to – feel free to schedule a FREE 30-minute Q&A session with our team of analysts.