Is Your SEO Agency Measuring Up? How to Audit Your SEO Agency’s Efforts with Google Search Console

Recently I had to create an update for a client – and I wanted to put together a way to show the client the impact that my SEO had done for them. I had all ready been working with them for 5 months and you know – you want to show the client exactly what kind of ROI their SEO results are getting.

It was kind of a slow month as far as more traffic coming through goes – so I decided to compare the previous 5 months that I had worked with the client vs. the 5 months before that (before I started working with them).

No – Rankings Don’t Matter

This is the catch cry of all SEO’s – I see their posts on Facebook (as I am friends with a lot of them) – it’s usually a sheet that has a list of keywords and their position from the previous month to the current month.

So if you have a keyword like ‘bike repairs new york’ and you were position 9 last month and this month you are position 7 then you’ve gone up by 2 points.

However this actually means a lot less than you think it means. And here’s why.

Recently I optimised a keyword for my client who sells eco friendly toothbrushes – I got him on the first page – and I mean from nowhere. Now that may sound good but do you know what the CPC is?

It’s only $1.

Now $1 is still higher than other keywords but a lot of time an SEO person can share keywords which mean nothing – because the value of that keywords is what’s important.

Let’s say you optimise for a keyword that costs 10 cents per click – and has a volume of 50 searches per month. You may be getting 10 clicks from this keyword per month but it ends up being $1 that you’ve actually saved.

The SEO person looks good and you may feel good that some keyword that you thought was important is rising – but it really doesn’t mean anything and is not worth much.

No, Traffic Is Not Important

Well then why not go by traffic? If you are getting an extra 500 visitors per month – that’s great right?

The problem is many SEO’s don’t really compare their services to simply BUYING traffic.

Many people that start SEO don’t do AdWords – they’ve heard good things about organic optimisation but they don’t get the benefit of comparing.

So let’s say you join an SEO company that charges you $1,000p/m – they do SEO for you and you are getting an extra 500 visitors per month. That may sound great – and the keywords may be in your area – but how much is that traffic worth on the free market if you purchased it.

For some niches (industries) the cost per click is very low – simply because the price of the item being sold is low. So for my eco toothbrush company client – the cost per click is quite low – and this has to be factored in.

An example – let’s say I get my eco toothbrush client an extra 200 clicks per month – that sounds great – it’s more traffic – right? But the cost of those extra 200 clicks comes in at $200p/m – the SEO traffic has to be compared to the cost of the free market.

So that doesn’t work.

So how do we compare?

Hard Dollar ROI Is the Only Thing That Matters

The only thing that matters – as far as the decision maker being able to see if SEO is worth it – is hard dollar ROI return.

Here’s how it works – how much would we be spending to purchase this traffic had we not gone with SEO.

That’s it.

This is the only metric that matters.

We are getting this much additional traffic – and this would have cost $x dollars had we purchased it.

This moves SEO from the land of airy fairy metrics that no one cares about to the only metric that matters.

But Would You Just Look at my Cool Graphs!

Many SEO companies will send through some big, nice, colorful report with their branding on it – it’s probably going to raise more questions than it answers – but it will be optimised to look good.

This graph might mention various keywords that are rising in search – it might mention CTR.

It can mention Bounce rates.

All kinds of metrics that while great – hide the one metric that really matters.

And that is DOLLAR ROI.

The other issue with these reports (which I’ll get into later) – is the source of those reports. Whenever data is presented to you – you have to ask where that data came from.

Maybe I’m a little bit more traditional but I don’t trust data unless it comes directly from Google – there are many third party products out there and I just don’t know about an SEO company saying

“Well this is our software that gets data from god knows where and it says that things are going well.”

So not only are you getting some random metrics that raise a bunch of questions – but the data that those metrics are coming from can raise some questions.

So – how do we get the one metric that matters ($ ROI) – and make sure that we get it right from the source.

If It Ain’t Coming From Google Then I Ain’t Trust It

Sorry – that was a hip hop lyric reference.

In this article you’ll see Google making one thing clear - – the data it gives you for free is as accurate as it gets – and this data comes from Google Search Console – which any webmaster has access to.

Note: by the way if you are with an SEO company and you don’t have access to Google Search Console then think twice about what you’re doing. You should be given user-read access to your Google Search Console account – as this is where Google will tell you just how good your organic trafic/results are doing.

So the first thing we have to agree on – is that we should get our base data from Google Search Console – or in other words Google itself.

But how do we use Google Search Console to

[traffic uptake]

I could say “Well last month you had this many visitors and this month you had this many visitors”

So, How Do We Find Out the Only Number ($ ROI) That Matters

Firstly – you shouldn’t go to your SEO company and ask them for a $ ROI – if possible you should be able to determine this for yourself. In other words you should always be able to validate the data yourself about how your SEO is doing – if you do ask your SEO company to provide it make sure you ask them to explain how they came to that number.

In order to do this yourself (and by the way doing this yourself will take literally 10 minutes) here is what you will need.

What You Will Need to Determine ROI

Below are the following things you will neeed to determine ROI:

1. Access to Google Search Console

You should have access to Google Search Console – this is the central hub where Google sends you all the data it has on your website. It is arguably the most accurate representation of how your website is doing in organic search results.

If your webmaster or SEO person setup a Google Search Console account – they should have granted you access. If not you should send an email requesting them to grant you access.

Hi SEO Man,
Can you please grant the following email access to our Google Search Console?

If your SEO company refuses to grant you access to Google Search Console or even worse – has not set up an account for you then run. If an account hasn’t been selected you can follow the guide here to set it up for yourself – going into details on how to do it is outside the scope of this blog.

Warning: Google Search Console data only goes back 16 months. So if you have had an SEO company for the last 16 months+ you are fresh out of luck because you won’t have any data to compare to.

Double Warning: make sure that you are getting data from the ‘Domain Property’ in Google Search Console and not just a subdomain. You can see below for my own website I have 2 subdomains and a Domain Property (which Google Search Console clearly outlines) – use that one. If you don’t see ‘Domain Property’ as per screenshot below then follow the instructions here to setup a new Domain Property.

Make sure you select Domain Property for your domain – and not the others. It’ll clearly say ‘Domain Property’ underneath – if you don’t see that for your site you can create it.

2. Microsoft Excel (or Google Sheets)

In this example I use Microsoft Excel – you can download it on a free trial. If you absolutely cannot use Microsoft Excel – then you can use Google Sheets or really any spreadsheet software that you have access to.

Steps to Get Your SEO ROI

Step 1: Create a Comparison Performance Graph with Google Search Console

To start you’ll need to login to your Google Search Console account and click on ‘Performance’ in the left hand column – then from there click on the ‘Date: Last 3 Months’ filter at the top and then click the ‘Compare’ tab (by the way I will provide a video guide below on how to do this so don’t worry if it’s a bit confusing).

From here – if you have been working with your SEO company for 3/6 months exactly you can just select ‘Compare last 3 months to previous period’ – however if it’s an odd range like for example you’ve engaged them 120 days ago or so you would need to scroll down and select ‘Custom’.

In the example below I started working with my client on the 9th March, 2019 – since it’s the 23rd July, 2019 now – if I calculate that it comes to about 135 days roughly in total (4 months * 30 + another 15 days from 9 to 23) – I’m not the best with maths and I’m using rough figures here.

So then I back track 135 days from the day I started – or 4 months and 15 days so let’s do December, 15th (4 months from March 8th is November 8 – then minus 15 days is 23rd of October).

Note: in the above exmaples I’m just assuming every month has 30 days to make it easier.

So our final comparison period is:

9th March, 2019 – 23rd July, 2019
compared to
23rd October, 2018 – 8th March, 2019

Note: one thing I left out in those calculations is that Google Search Console only goes up to 3 days ago as the most recent date for its data (so you have to wait 3 days to get today’s data) – but it’ll come out of the wash in the next step if necessary.

Let’s see a video on how this is done on my end

Note: in the video above you can see after I do the comparison that I have an additional 3 days that are not being compared – to be fair to the SEO efforts you are auditing you want the same amount of days in between. I won’t go into this as this is just doing the astral calculations – after doing the video above I adjusted the date range to be 3 days in front so 26th October, 2018 instead of 23rd so we’re working with the same number of days.

Step 2: Download the Comparison Data into Excel

For this step you’ll need a copy of Excel open and you simply need to copy/paste the table data underneath the comparison graph that we created in the step above.

You’ll need to ensure that you select the maximum amount of rows per page and then drag from the ‘Query’ column all the way to the bottom and then press Ctrl+C or whatever your copy command is on your computer model – and then go into Excel and paste in the top left hand corner – if you do everything correctly you should have some very valuable data in your Excel spreadsheet.

If you have a long keyword list you’ll need to go to the next page.

Step 3: Create a ‘CPC Savings’ Column and Calculate the Total Value of the Extra Traffic

For this step you’ll need to make an extra column – in this case I’ve called it CPC Savings – and you want to create a calculation in this column. What this calculation will do is say what the dollar amount of the extra traffic is worth.

Since during our export from Google Search Console we have the column for ‘CPC’ – or how much each keyword costs per click – as well as the clicks for that keyword for our 2 comparison periods (before and after SEO efforts started) – we create a formula similar to this:


Now this is assuming that
F3 – the clicks for the particular row’s keyword done during the SEO period
G3 – refers to clicks made for keyword in the period where SEO had not been done
C3 – the cost per click for that keyword

The idea is that there should be more clicks in the SEO period then before – we simply find out how much more clicks e.g. 20 more clicks and then times that by the cost per click.

So if you have an extra 20 clicks at $5 per click – then that is $100 worth of extra traffic generated on that keyword.

The video at the start of this section will clear up any questions you may have – otherwise just contact me in the contact box in the bottom left and I’ll try and assist you best I can.

Finally we repeat the calcualtions across all the keyword rows (by double clicking in the bottom right corner of the cell where you wrote the calcuation when you see a black cross).

Finally we create a sum row at the bottom which adds up all the savings (or in some cases losses) from this campaign – and this final number is how much money was saved over that time period.

In my case – in the example video above you can see it was $16,056.01 over the 5 month period.

Note: keep in mind your SEO company doesn’t need to generate enough traffic to cover its costs for the month because the traffic is ongoing. So if you work with your SEO company for 3 months at a $1,000 retainer – and they generate an extra $1,000 worth of traffic in that time period – you haven’t lost $2,000 because that traffic (should) continue to come into your site for an extended time – I look at 1-2 years.

Step 4: Evaluate the Results

Once you have your final figure down from Step 3 it’s time to evaluate the results that have come through. How you make this decision is going to be based on a number of factors – the biggest one being how much you are paying your SEO agency per month.

SEO starts from $590p/m to $10,000p/m. The amount that you spend must always be compared with how much you get back in ROI. To be fair to the SEO agency you are working with you could look at their SEO efforts in the context of 2 years.

Note: every SEO agency is different in the way it achieves its results – some do a lot of black hat strategies that may not last once the next Google update hits or their efforts are discovered by Google – so the extra traffic you see may be only temporary and may not last 2 years – this calculation is done with the assumption that your SEO agency is fairly competent and that the traffic increase will last.

Let’s use the above example for our sample calculation:

  1. Take note of the total CPC savings and divide by the amount of months of the range taken. So in our example it’s $16,156 / 5 months = $3,231.20p/m of additional traffic.
  2. Times the average monthly traffic by 24 months. So $3,231.20 * 24 = $77,548.80.

Most of the time the answer will be apparent. In this particular case you can see there’s $77,548.80 generated over 24 months. If the total traffic generated per month is more than the SEO cost than it is a solid investment.

But really you don’t need complex calculations – in fact you could make the argument that if the additional monthly traffic generated from SEO is worth more than the monthly SEO fee then it is a good investment overall as long as that traffic remains.

Good luck and feel free to ask any questions you have – also I offer a free SEO Agency Audit if that interests you – just get in contact with me in the chat box below.

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