The Ultimate Guide to Year on Year (YoY) Analysis for SEO

As an SEO professional, you know the importance of tracking and measuring the performance of your efforts over time. One of the most effective ways to do this is through Year on Year (YoY) analysis.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll dive deep into what YoY analysis is, why it matters for SEO success, and how you can leverage it to supercharge your organic search performance. Whether you‘re an SEO veteran or just getting started, you‘ll gain valuable insights and actionable tips to take your analysis to the next level.

What is Year on Year (YoY) Analysis?

At its core, Year on Year analysis is a method of evaluating and comparing metrics or performance indicators over a one year period to assess change over time. It looks at how a particular data point, such as organic traffic or conversions, has increased or decreased compared to the same time period in the previous year.

For example, if your website had 50,000 organic visits in Q1 2022 and 40,000 in Q1 2021, the YoY change would be a 25% increase (10,000 / 40,000 = 0.25).

Example of YoY analysis showing 25% increase in organic traffic

The chart above illustrates how YoY works. By comparing the same metric at two different points in time separated by one year, you can easily visualize and quantify the degree of change.

YoY analysis originated in the fields of finance and economics as a way to gauge the health and trajectory of companies, markets, and economies at a macro level. However, the methodology has been widely adopted in digital marketing and SEO as an essential framework for measuring growth and identifying trends.

Why YoY Analysis Matters for SEO

So why is Year on Year analysis so crucial for search engine optimization? There are several key reasons:

1. Evaluating the impact of your SEO efforts

One of the primary goals of SEO is to drive long-term, sustainable growth in organic search traffic and conversions. By comparing YoY performance, you can see the cumulative effects of your on-page optimizations, link building campaigns, content marketing, and other tactics.

YoY provides a birds-eye view of whether your SEO strategies are headed in the right direction and contributing to positive business outcomes over time. If you see steady YoY increases, you know your SEO program is on the right track.

2. Benchmarking against competitors

Ranking well in search results is often a zero-sum game in relation to your top SERP competitors. Gains in visibility and share of traffic for you can mean a corresponding loss for them, and vice versa.

Analyzing YoY performance metrics not just for your own site, but your core search competitors as well, allows you to benchmark and determine if you‘re gaining or losing ground in your target market over time. A tool like Semrush makes it easy to chart your performance vs competitors:

Traffic analytics graph showing website vs competitors

If your competitors are making bigger YoY gains, it‘s an indicator you may need to dial up your SEO efforts to keep pace and defend your positioning.

3. Spotting seasonality, trends and anomalies

Many industries are impacted by seasonal fluctuations in search behavior that cause spikes or lulls in organic traffic and revenue at certain times of year. B2B software companies often see a slowdown around the holidays, while ecommerce retailers experience huge upticks on Black Friday through Christmas.

YoY comparisons make these seasonal effects readily apparent. They also help normalize for seasonality to give you a clear picture of your organic search trajectory outside of predictable calendar-based ebbs and flows.

Additionally, YoY helps uncover macro industry or market shifts that may impact your niche and SEO performance. If you operate in the mortgage space, for example, big economic changes like rising interest rates could dampen search demand for loans and refinancing. Detecting these trends equips you to adapt your approach.

Finally, YoY is useful for identifying anomalies, either positive or negative, in your analytics data. Major algorithm updates, site migrations, hacking incidents, and other one-off events can cause fluctuations that are easy to spot when studying YoY data.

4. Making data-driven budgeting and planning decisions

As an SEO, chances are you have a finite budget and limited resources to work with. You have to carefully decide where to allocate your time, money and effort for maximum return.

Year on Year analysis shines a light on which initiatives, campaigns and tactics are delivering the goods in terms of long-term SEO results, and which aren‘t moving the needle. These insights empower you to double down on high ROI activities and scale back or eliminate wasted spend.

YoY also helps with forecasting and goal setting. By looking at historical rates of organic growth, you can project future potential and traffic/revenue targets, then reverse engineer how much budget is needed to hit those goals based on the SEO multipliers you‘re seeing.

How to Calculate YoY Growth Rates for SEO

Calculating basic Year on Year growth rates is fairly straightforward:

  1. Choose the SEO metric you want to analyze (organic sessions, goal completions, search visibility, etc)
  2. Pull that metric for two time periods spaced one year apart (ex: January 2022 vs January 2021)
  3. Subtract the previous year‘s number from the current year‘s number to get the YoY change
  4. Divide the YoY change by the previous year‘s number
  5. Multiply by 100 to convert the growth rate to a percentage

So the formula is:

YoY Growth Rate = (Current Year Metric – Previous Year Metric) / Previous Year Metric x 100

Here‘s an example:

Let‘s say your Google Search Console data shows 100,000 organic clicks in July 2022 compared to 75,000 in July 2021.

YoY Growth Rate = (100,000 – 75,000) / 75,000 x 100
= 0.33 x 100
= 33%

Your YoY growth rate for organic clicks is 33%.

Most analytics and SEO software will automatically calculate this for you. But it‘s helpful to know the underlying math.

Once you have the growth rates, you can use them to plot YoY trends over time in an intuitive graph or chart. Here‘s an example from Google Analytics showing total users by month with YoY comparisons:

Analytics screenshot showing Year on Year growth rates by month

While a basic two-period YoY comparison can be informative, visualizing the data like this provides necessary context. You can clearly see the growth trajectory and whether increases or decreases are accelerating or decelerating.

Rolling, multi-period YoY calculations (ex: quarterly or monthly) generally provide more actionable insights than a single YoY data point. They are far less prone to being skewed by one-off anomalies.

Key SEO Metrics to Analyze Year on Year

There are many different metrics you could potentially analyze from an SEO perspective on a Year on Year basis. But some carry more weight than others in terms of painting a meaningful picture of organic performance. Here are a few of the most important ones to track:

1. Organic Traffic

Organic traffic refers to the number of visitors coming to your website from non-paid search results. This is usually measured in users or sessions within Google Analytics. It‘s the purest and most direct reflection of your SEO efforts.

2. Organic Conversions/Revenue

Driving more organic traffic is great, but what really matters to the business bottom line is how much of that traffic is translating into leads, customers, sales, and revenue. Tracking organic conversions and associated revenue value YoY is essential to demonstrate the ROI of SEO.

3. Organic Keyword Rankings

Your site‘s ranking positions in Google search results are precursors that lead to organic traffic and conversions. So the quantity and quality of keywords your pages rank for are key leading indicators of SEO health and growth potential.

Tools like Google Search Console, SEMrush, and Ahrefs let you analyze your organic keyword footprint and SERP positioning over time. Reviewing this keyword data YoY sheds light on whether your on-page optimization and other efforts are bearing fruit.

4. Organic Impressions

Impressions represent the number of times your webpages appeared in the organic search results and were seen by users, even if they didn‘t click through. It‘s a measure of your broad SERP visibility.

Google Search Console provides impression data at the page and query level. Evaluating impressions on a Year on Year basis can reveal opportunities to boost your click through rates.

5. Domain Authority

Domain Authority (DA) is a proprietary metric developed by Moz that predicts how likely a website is to rank well in search engine results based on its backlink profile. It‘s become an industry standard for assessing site quality and competitiveness.

Since links are the primary off-page ranking signal, looking at your Domain Authority score YoY is a good gauge of whether your link building efforts are moving the needle and strengthening your site. Moz updates DA on a monthly basis.

6. Core Web Vitals

With Google‘s page experience update, Core Web Vitals have become increasingly important ranking factors. These metrics measure loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability.

Tracking improvements or declines in your Core Web Vitals scores Year on Year can clue you in to any technical SEO headwinds or tailwinds that might be affecting your organic rankings and traffic.

Ideally you want to track these key metrics (and more) at a consolidated site-wide level as well as at a more granular level (subdomain, subfolder, landing page) to get an accurate, nuanced view of your YoY performance. Then you can connect the dots between macro and micro trends.

Leveraging YoY Insights for SEO Strategy & Decision-Making

Year on Year analysis isn‘t just an academic exercise. The real value comes from turning the data into action. Here are some ways insights from YoY can inform your SEO strategy and execution:

  • Reallocate budget and resources to the content types, topics, and keywords with the most promising YoY growth rates
  • Implement conversion rate optimization on landing pages with high YoY organic traffic increases but below average goal completions
  • Identify pages and topic clusters that are losing YoY organic visibility and prioritize them for content refreshes, new backlinks, and on-page optimization
  • Use Year on Year increases in organic traffic and revenue to make the case for more investment in SEO

The key is having a bias towards action. Don‘t let your YoY reports collect dust. Review them on a regular basis and proactively make changes in response to what the data is telling you.

Best Practices for Effective YoY Analysis and Reporting

To get the most out of your YoY analysis efforts, keep these best practices in mind:

  1. Consistency is critical. However you set up your YoY reports initially, aim to maintain the same format, metrics, and time periods each time so you‘re comparing apples to apples.

  2. Whenever possible, use the same analytics and SEO tools for your YoY tracking and calculations to minimize data discrepancies. If you have to switch vendors, run parallel data for some overlap.

  3. Integrate data from multiple sources (analytics, Google Search Console, ranking tools, CRM, etc) to get the full story and connect the dots between cause and effect.

  4. Use data visualization best practices in your YoY reports and dashboards. The right charts, graphs and imagery will make insights pop and grab stakeholder attention.

  5. Provide context and commentary. Raw YoY data points are not enough. Add your qualitative take on what you think is driving the numbers and recommended actions.

  6. Highlight quick wins and low-hanging fruit. Many companies are impatient when it comes to SEO. Pointing to short-term YoY improvements can buy you goodwill and runway for longer-range initiatives.

  7. Correlate your SEO data with other marketing and sales metrics. There are often insights to be gleaned in multi-channel YoY comparisons. Perhaps big increases in paid ad spend are cannibalizing your SEO, for instance.


Year on Year analysis is one of the most powerful techniques in the SEO toolbox for quantifying your progress, diagnosing what‘s working and what‘s not, and charting the course for continuous growth. It elevates you from tactical to strategic.

Committing to a rigorous cadence of YoY reporting and infusing those insights into your SEO approach puts you at a major competitive advantage. You‘ll be able to validate your efforts, secure more buy-in and budget, and generate the kind of compounding organic returns that make you an indispensable partner to the business.

Remember, SEO is a long game. Adopt a YoY mindset and you‘ll be playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers. Here‘s to a future of ever-increasing organic success!

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.