Search engine optimisation (SEO) should be treated like any marketing campaign and tracking the results is a key part of the process.
Without feedback, it will be unclear what search terms are being used to find your site, or which site elements attract the most traffic. Monitoring your site's traffic will show which aspects of your SEO programme are effective and which need to be changed in order to direct traffic to appropriate areas of your site.
Using web analytics
Web analytics is a key way of monitoring the success of online campaigns. A tracking code is added to each page of your website which collects user data. This can then be analysed with a free tool like Google Analytics which uses these codes to give you access to clear reports about how users are interacting with your site.
You will be able to access data about how many people visit a page, how long they stay on your site, and where they came from. You can also look at the search terms that lead users to your page.
Get reports from SEO partners
If you use an SEO agency, it should provide regular reports showing how their optimisations are working, along with any plans to improve current search engine ranking. It's also important that any reports include output from SEO analysis tools and from the site analytic services run by the major search engines. If your website is maintained externally, ensure you have access to your website statistics, so that you can monitor site performance and generate your own reports.
Use browser tools for quick information
You can quickly see the effects of SEO on your pages using browser tools. Google's Analytics plugin for Chrome can give a quick overview of on-page analytics. Tools like SEO for Firefox and SeoQuake can be used to analyse the search engine rankings of your site and your competitors' sites.
Once you have collected your key metrics over a reasonable period of time (at least six months), you can analyse your site's progress and the effects of any changes you've made. You can also compare your site's performance to your competitors' - helping you to identify areas for future improvement.