There are no KPI standards on the market ― each agency is responsible for the convenient indicators. Some promise growth of positions, others-leads and sales, and still others want to get a fix every month. Let’s see what each metric represents and which one will suit your project.

Why do I need KPIs in SEO?

KPIs help you understand how effectively your website promotion budget is being used. Digitized metrics make it easier for the client to evaluate the contractor’s performance from the first days.

Unlike other marketing channels, in SEO, the first noticeable changes appear only after two or three months, and KPI SEO guarantees the customer that the agency is doing business and not chasing teas, hiding behind beautiful reports.

What happens if you leave the choice of the KPI model to the agency

If the agency doesn’t track KPIs, the performer will choose the most uncomplicated and most achievable indicators. And the company will not only have to pay for this in full and lose its budget, time, and competitive position on stupid promotion.

Not all agencies work according to the KPI scheme that the customer prefers. But knowing the specifics of each model makes it easier to speak the same language with the performer and defend your interests in controversial situations.

We recommend that you study the pros and cons of each option to evaluate your progress before making a deal.


What are the KPI models?

The market most often uses several KPI models: by position, by traffic, leads, hourly or fixed payment.

Each SEO performance indicator has its specifics — it is selected based on the project. But most often, the agency works according to already established rules.


When SEO first appeared, it was considered mandatory to put the site in the top 10, or better ― in the top 1 for specific queries. First place was supposed to guarantee traffic, leads, and sales.

At that time, search engine algorithms were not yet able to recognize user interests and context. Now there are a lot more requests than sites. It is not so difficult for a low-frequency query to get into the top 1 issue. However, there will be no traffic for this.

By agreeing on KPIs for positions, you pay because the site goes to the top of the search results for keywords you have decided to advance with the agency.

KPI SEO by position is an outdated criterion for the agency’s performance. The main reason why this indicator has died is the development of search algorithms. According to statistics, 15% of Google searches are seen for the first time. 25% of search queries do not include the 100 million most popular keywords.

It is considered that narrow and low-frequency queries are the most conversion-oriented. Users who search for “buy a samovar in Tula” really want to buy it. But agencies that practice KPIs by position do not make up the semantic core of several thousand keys.

They are usually limited to a couple of hundred requests, including treble and LF queries. And they always leave themselves “garbage” semantics, on which it is easy to pull out a complex project.

Agencies don’t work only with high-frequency requests because then the projected receipt will be too small.

For example, the semantic core consists of three hundred keywords. Inside, they are distributed in the following proportions: 10 high-frequency, 100 mid-frequency, and zero or single. The agency does not go beyond the core. The client can change the niche, launch new sections on the site, and so on. It will not be profitable for the contractor to revise the keyword list because it will kill their KPIs. And a possible bonus.



Using this KPI model, the company pays for a certain number of users on the site. The terms and volume of traffic are fixed in the contract with the contractor. Here, unlike the KPIs for positions, the rating in the search results is not essential.

This KPI model is suitable for large projects: large online stores, marketplaces, and portals. They have a wide range, which means many pages and critical queries. Working on traffic is the best option for them.


Paying for traffic is also suitable for young sites with no promotion history. At the start, it is easy to increase traffic through standard SEO work, such as technical page optimization.

When a website rises to the top 5 in search results and encounters an aggregator, it will likely become impossible to catch up with traffic indicators. Then you’ll have to choose a different KPI model.

When working under this scheme, it is difficult to predict the budget, the risk of cheating is high, and it gives a controversial result. Therefore, we do not recommend using the traffic KPIs as the only criterion for site performance.

It is better to choose a combined model: a fixed payment and a premium for achieving planned traffic indicators.


Leads and Sales

Under this scheme, you only pay for leads: calls or customer requests. KPI reduces your commercial risks to a minimum and forces the agency to work across the entire sales funnel.


It seems that KPIs for leads is an excellent tool for evaluating the effectiveness of website promotion, but it is not suitable for every project. Restrictions apply to both the customer and the contractor.

Working on this model is more protracted and more expensive. The agency will need to analyze the site’s performance. Collect statistics, give recommendations on improving the project’s tasks, and connect additional promotion channels. To do this, the staff must have specialists: a marketer and a web analyst.

The site needs end-to-end analytics. A good agency will not agree to work on leads if there is no data on the effectiveness of each channel for at least six months. Without dynamics, it is impossible to manage the budget for promotion properly.

Working on this KPI without preparation is guaranteed to fail. If you can’t meet all the conditions, or the agency doesn’t have enough expertise, it’s better to choose the more obvious option.


Hourly rate

A clear and transparent work model. You come to the agency and describe the task. The contractor suggests a strategy and calculates how many hours it will take to implement it. During this time, you buy the hands and brain of the optimizer.


This model involves the deep involvement of the client in the project. It is suitable for companies with advanced SEO competencies. The critical link in the scheme is the strategist.

For example, you are launching a new product category in an online store. The task goes down to the team leader (marketer, strategist, performance, or brand manager), who will develop a promotion plan and assign tasks to the agency. They will also monitor the site’s performance indicators and deal with complex issues themselves: non-standard situations or deep analytics. Only the resource will be available from the contractor.

If you are developing a complex project, such as a thousand-page online store, it is more profitable to offer the agency to work on a fixed fee with an additional KPI. This way, you will save yourself from endless approvals of technical specifications with the contractor and paying for extra hours. And they definitely will.


Fixed payment

The most popular KPI model in SEO (according to Rush Agency) You pay a monthly subscription fee for a specific list of services and regular site monitoring.


The fixed payment is a model that is beneficial to the agency because it brings stable money transfers. Whether there is a profit from it to the client is a big question. The scheme of work is not transparent, and it is not easy to assess the effectiveness of site promotion. The method works only if the parties trust each other.

The model will be profitable for the customer if you combine it with an additional KPI. For example, with traffic KPIs. It is the best option for sites that need to attract as many visitors as possible. For example, websites that sell ads or information projects: blogs, news portals, or thematic resources.


What you should keep in mind for any KPIs

The customer and the agency are jointly responsible for the project outcome. No matter what KPI model you use, it doesn’t guarantee success — the site will have to be updated anyway. The agency will send you technical specifications for developers that you will perform. Your income depends on it. If you don’t do anything, the site will crash.

KPIs encourage both parties to work better. Agency owners are interested in getting a bonus for their work. Company representative — so that investments in the site pay off. If the project has consistent KPIs, the client will get more than without them.

We conducted an internal mini-study: we divided customers into two groups: those who paid extra for traffic and worked at a fixed rate. We looked at who creates and optimizes new pages faster based on our recommendations. We analyzed the effectiveness of website promotion: 60% of clients who worked without KPIs did not implement anything.


Let’s sum up the results.

  • The KPI model by item is outdated, and we don’t recommend using it.
  • The traffic KPI model is best combined with a fixed payment.
  • The KPI model based on leads is suitable if you have set up end-to-end analytics and resources for improving the site.
  • Hourly pay is good if you have an SEO strategist or other competent specialist on your team.
  • If you don’t have either end-to-end analytics or a full-time employee, it’s best to choose a fixed payment for the project. We recommend combining it with an additional traffic KPI.


If you don’t know which model to choose, shoot out a message to further discuss. We will discuss your website promotion and choose a comfortable and honest KPI.

How to Write KPIs – 4 Step Approach



Nick Jonas
Hi, I'm Nick Jonas, a marketing expert and SEO enthusiast. I have been passionate about the world of SEO and digital marketing for several years now, making it my mission to help businesses succeed online. With a track record of success, I've been honored with multiple prizes and awards for my contributions to the field. As the author of several books on marketing and SEO, I strive to share my knowledge and expertise with others. Through my website,, I aim to provide valuable insights and tips to empower businesses to improve their online presence. From SEO strategies to marketing techniques, my goal is to equip readers with the tools and knowledge they need to thrive in the digital landscape. I believe that a successful online presence goes beyond just technical know-how. That's why I take a holistic approach, considering both the technical aspects of SEO and the human elements of effective marketing. By understanding your target audience and crafting engaging content, we can drive organic traffic and increase conversions. I am thrilled to be on this journey with you, and I look forward to helping you achieve your SEO and marketing goals. Together, we can navigate the ever-changing digital landscape and unlock the potential of your online presence. Let's connect and create a meaningful impact in the world of digital marketing!