If you want to get anywhere with Search Engine Optimisation, you need to understand what you are optimising in the first place. Search Engines use many factors to decide the order of results on any Search Engine Results Page (SERP). These factors are what you are trying to improve with SEO.
However if you log in to Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools, there is a heavy emphasis on just four metrics. Understanding these four metrics is the key to understanding (and improving) your performance in search.
Impressions, Clicks, CTR, Average Position
While these four metrics seem self-explanatory, it’s always worth re-familiarising yourself with the basics. Here is a quick overview of each, with an easy to digest Infographic further down.
The amount of times a link is actually loaded. This means that if your link is on the first page of results for a search term, then every time someone makes that search your link will gain an impression. However if your link is on the 2nd page or lower, than your link will only gain an impression when people actually click-through to those pages.
Overall – impressions is a good measure of whether your link is being noticed by anyone in the first place, and is the most basic measure of SEO success.
The amount of times a link is clicked on from a search results page. It’s worth noting that if someone makes a search and clicks on the same link multiple times, Google will only count it as one link (so that the system can’t be gamed).
Overall – clicks are kind of the most important thing you are working towards in SEO, so in terms of measuring your raw success, clicks are an important metric.
CTR (Click-Through Rate)
The percentage of impressions that lead to clicks. This is an important measure as it makes it easy to compare your success on search terms with different volumes.
For example if you have a link which does well for the search term “Apples” then it will likely get a lot of clicks, just because that search will happen a lot. However if you are situated in Antarctica and selling apples, then it’s not people searching for general information about apples you are interested in – it’s much more important that you do well on the search term “Antarctica Apple seller”.
The thing is, no matter how well you do on “Antarctica Apple seller”, it’s unlikely you will ever get as many clicks as on the search term “Apples” simply because very very few people search for the term “Antarctica apple seller”. Therefore instead of comparing the raw number of clicks, you should compare CTR, so that you can see how many clicks you got relative to the percentage of people who saw your link.
Overall – to improve your CTR, you generally have to improve your appearance within search results. This means improving the Title of your page, and the Meta Description of your link. This is the only metric that you can directly affect in SEO.
The position your link appears in on a search results page, counting down from the top of the page. This means that the top organic search result is position 1. There is traditionally 10 links on each search results page, meaning that position 10 is the bottom of page 1, and position 11 is the top of page 2.
Note: I say there are traditionally 10 links because Google is constantly making updates to search results pages and that is not always the case anymore. On top of that the new additions (such as the panel on the right, or local results, etc) are numbered differently. This makes any average position after 10 a bit suspect (as the right hand panel for example counts as position 11). However I am sure they are working on this problem, an aiming for a higher average position is still important in terms of getting more clicks.
Overall – a higher average position is generally the result of good SEO comparative to your competitors.