Advanced Search

How top SEOs measure success in 2023
30 August 2023 (Edited )
Share this article:

Branded vs. non-branded traffic, Qualified leads are #1 & 2

How top SEOs measure success in 2023

Search Engine Journal last week released its State of SEO 2024 report based on a survey of 3,890 SEO professionals working in many countries and across wide spectra of backgrounds, job responsibilities, levels of experience and income.

Some key findings:

  • The majority of respondents overall (51.6%), owner-operator respondents (53.7%), and freelancers (77.9%) have fewer than 5 years of SEO experience.
  • Across all SEOs surveyed, top success metrics cited were:
    1. Clickthrough rate
    2. Branded/non-branded traffic
    3. Keyword rankings
  • Highest paid SEOs (>$100K/year) prioritized these success metrics:
  1. Branded/non-branded traffic
  2. Qualified leads
  3. Clickthrough rate
  • Distribution of reported SEO monthly budgets:
    • <$500 7.89%
    • $501-1000 21.8%
    • $1001-5000 28.56%
    • $5001-10000 17.12%
    • >$10000 12.96%
    • No specified budget 8.05%
    • Don't know 3.60%
  • Top 5 most difficult SEO tasks cited were:
    1. Content (production/marketing/strategy)
    2. Technical SEO
    3. Algorithm changes
    4. Rapid onset of new technologies
    5. Analytics
  • Top 5 most effective SEO strategies cited were:
    1. Content strategy
    2. Topic clustering
    3. Link building
    4. Long-tail keywords
    5. Competitor replication
  • Top 5 most common misconceptions about SEO respondents said they encounter:
    1. SEO is a quick fix
    2. SEO is all about keywords
    3. Black hat techniques work
    4. SEO is easy
    5. SEO is all about rankings
  • % of website traffic you estimate comes from organic search:
    • 0-25% 10.1%
    • 26-50% 46.1%
    • 51-75% 25.5%
    • 76-100% 15.1%
    • Don't know 3.3%

  • % of agency and freelancer SEOs who said they plan to add non-SEO offerings this year:
    • Yes 57.5%
    • No 9.2%
    • Maybe 27.3^%
    • Don't know 6.0%


Most people doing SEO - more than half (51.6%) overall - and especially most freelancers (77.9%) have fewer than 5 years experience. Anyone contemplating hiring or contracting out SEO capability should take note of that. Can you afford to invest $500 to $5000 or more per month in the search results you'll get from that level of inexperience?

Note also the difference in success metrics cited by the general population of SEOs with mean experience of less than 5 years vs. highest-earning ($100K+) SEOs. Only the experienced SEOs mentioned a metric that directly puts more money to your bottom line: Qualified leads. Good keyword rankings and lots of nonconverting clicks won't pay your bills or put money in the bank. Qualified leads will.

The misconceptions cited by these SEOs are instructive for anyone who is thinking about investing in SEO but questions the median monthly budget range of $1001-5000 found in this survey. SEO is hard, it is not a quick fix, and keyword rankings are a vanity metric. Some people equate SEO to black-hat techniques, and that's wrong. SEO done the right way works and keeps Google happy. Black-hat SEO tricks can work for a while, but, sooner or later, Google will spot them and penalizer the culprit.

Could SEO being hard and not a quick fix be factors driving intent of SEOs to add non-SEO offerings this year? If that's happening because clients are impatient for results and don't appreciate the skills and experience needed to do SEO effectively, I sympathize. But a big part of the problem is that we're not doing enough to educate clients and prospects about what it takes to do SEO right. We need to try to fix that.

Share this article:

And if you have questions or comments, you can easily send them to me with the Quick Reply form, below, or send me an e-mail.

David Boggs MS    - David
View David Boggs's profile on LinkedIn

Google Certifications - David H Boggs
View my profile on Quora
Subscribe to my blog

External Article:

Subhead Branded vs. non-branded traffic, Qualified leads are #1 & 2
Visit Website
5/5 based on 1 vote.
Show Individual Votes
Related Listings

Sorry, you don't have permission to post comments. Log in, or register if you haven't yet.

Please login or register.

Members currently reading this thread: