By now we all know how important a good SEO strategy is for any business but having a strategy without measurable goals will make it very difficult to understand the ROI of your SEO campaign, what’s working and what areas need improving. In order to have a strategy that can be implemented through a step by step process you have to start with achievable goals that will move your business in the direction you want. But how exactly do you go about setting these goals and what key points should you be focusing on?
In this guide, we’re going to be taking a detailed look at why SEO is so important and the best ways businesses can set their own SEO goals. In order to do this, the guide will be broken down into the following sections:
- Why SEO is so important to businesses
- Why you need to set goals
- Defining your SEO goals
- 8 ways to set SEO goals
- A guide summary
Why SEO is so important to businesses?
SEO is so important for businesses because it makes them more visible to a proactive audience. The higher your website ranks on search engines like Google, the more chance it has of being seen by prospective customers – it’s that simple! Not to mention, if it ranks well it is likely to receive more clickthroughs and high-quality traffic, which ultimately results in a better brand presence and higher sales/conversions.
To show just how important SEO is, it has been estimated that a website or content that holds position one on SERPs will get around a 30% clickthrough rate. This then falls to 12% by position three and by the time you hit the bottom of page 1 (positions nine and 10), the websites will only attract around 2% of the clickthroughs.
It’s clear from this data that ranking well is important and a strong SEO strategy is the key to making this happen. That’s also why setting specific, achievable goals is vital for success. In the next section, we’ll take a look at why you need to set SEO goals in your business if you haven’t already.
Why you need to set goals
Setting SEO goals, or any goals for that matter, is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, goals give you a focus, they give you something to aim for. This, in turn, helps to keep you motivated and on track. They also allow you to measure your progress and success by setting deadlines, regularly checking up on how you’re doing and looking at actual data to see where your businesses strengths and/or weaknesses lie.
In terms of SEO, setting goals can help you to target specific, relevant keywords and to keep track of how well you rank for those terms. They can also help you to understand how SEO contributes to not just the marketing or sales teams, but to the business as a whole. Any good SEO agency will always establish tangible goals at the start of the campaign. If your SEO agency or in-house team is reluctant to set achievable targets then you need to ask some questions. Next, we’ll take a look at how you can define your SEO goals and align these with the company’s overall objectives.
Defining SEO goals in accordance with the rest of the business
As with any business function, those in charge of the SEO strategy might be asked to outline their objectives and report on how successful their current efforts have been to the senior team. This might be monthly, quarterly or yearly depending on how the business runs. As such, it’s vital that everyone on the team is able to define the goals of the campaign and understand how these align with the overall business goals.
For example, in the first instance, this could involve things like improving clickthrough rates, or boosting page speed. And while these are certainly things you should aim for, they don’t define how this will contribute to the overall business goals. When you consider your SEO goals with the bigger picture in mind, it makes it easier to set your goals based on how they’ll impact the business’ bottom line.
As such, your SEO goals should address how your efforts will be contributing to the growth and future of the company and this will often depend on how established the business is. So in the case of a new website, you might just be focusing on brand visibility and the subsequent steps you’d need to take to get there. Alternatively, a more established company might want to prioritise boosting sales or collecting and sharing feedback from existing customers.
8 ways to set SEO goals
So as you can see from the above, it’s important that your SEO goals extend beyond your department and that they are defined by (and therefore aligned with) the overall goals of the company. Below we’ll look at some of the other practical steps you can take to set your SEO goals and make this happen!
- Stick to the SMART method
We’re going to start with this as our first point because the SMART method encompasses many of the other steps we’re about to look at. When setting your goals it pays to be SMART. In this case, we mean being:
For each of your SEO goals you set, ask yourself this “are they ticking all the right boxes?”. So are your goals specific? Can they be measured? Are they both achievable and realistic? And have you set a deadline in which you hope to reach your goal? We’ll look at some of these points in more detail as we move on, but it’s helpful to always have the SMART method at the front of your mind when setting your goals.
- Be realistic
Search engine optimisation is not an overnight solution, improving rankings and organic traffic takes months, sometimes even years. This is because some industries and keywords are more competitive than others, making it even harder to rank well on SERPs for them. And of course, everyone wants to rank number one on Google, but you need to be more realistic in your goals and not shoot for stars right away.
Unfortunately, you can’t expect miracles (no matter what some SEO service providers may promise you). That’s why it’s so important to set realistic goals with realistic deadlines. For example, in the early stages, you should set lower targets perhaps to rank better for long-form keywords. Otherwise, you’ll end up frustrated, disappointed and feeling overworked.
- Set goals based on historical data
If you have access to past data, be sure to use it – otherwise, you could just be taking a shot in the dark. If you can, avoid setting arbitrary goals that may or may not be achievable because like we’ve already said, you need to be realistic in your goal setting.
For example, don’t set yourself a target like ‘increase traffic by 100% in the next three months’ if you’ve never been able to do that in the past. Using past data is the key to helping you set realistic, achievable SEO goals. Of course, if you’re a new business you may not have any past data – and that’s OK too! As you collect this data over time be sure to analyse it and make note. This can help you with setting/amending your goals in the future.
- Review your SEO goals quarterly
Things are always changing, especially when it comes to search engine algorithms. Therefore you need to make sure you’re reviewing your goals regularly. Doing this quarterly is a good idea, but it can also be helpful to check up on your targets monthly to make sure you’re on track for reaching your goals.
- Set goals with measurable results
Setting goals with actual measurable metrics could be the key to your success. This is because they are much easier to stay on top of and give you a better idea of how you’re doing. For example, you should outline a specific number of organic visitors you’d like to drive your site or decide by what percentage you’d like to increase your website traffic.
It is no good simply saying ‘I want to rank number one’ or even ‘I want to rank in top three’ on Google because that’s up to the search engine and can’t be measured by your business – you’re either number one or you’re not. In that respect, there’s no real insight to let you know how you’re doing and how close you are to becoming number one.
- Make your goals specific
Being too vague when setting your goals will make them much harder to achieve. Simply listing something like ‘increase traffic’ is very non-specific and it doesn’t set out any actionable steps that you can take to reach your goal. So instead, when setting your SEO targets you need to be as specific as possible, this will give you a better indication of what needs to be done to reach your goal.
- Make a record of your starting point
How can you know if your traffic or business is growing if you don’t know where you started? As you begin to get a strategy in place and start setting your goals, you need to make sure there is a record of the current state of your SEO efforts. This means making notes of metrics such as where you currently rank on search engines and for what keywords etc. This will give you a marker on which to measure yourself in the future.
But more than this, recording your starting point will help you to get a clear idea of where you’re at. Then you can get a better understanding of what you want to achieve and begin breaking this down into separate, specific goals.
- Keep conversions in mind at all times
When setting and monitoring goals, too many businesses focus on vanity measures such as rankings and traffic. While these things are important, they mean absolutely nothing if they aren’t converting to sales or even leads. In fact, it has been predicted that SEO spending will hit around $80 billion this year. If your company is part of that figure and you’re investing heavily in your SEO efforts, but it’s not resulting in more conversions then you’re wasting your time and money!
The overall aim of your SEO strategy should be to increase conversion rates, so this needs to be at the forefront of your mind when goal setting. And remember, if you’re not seeing the results you want you can always go back and amend your goals at any time.
So as you can see from the guide above, SEO is important for a number of reasons, but most crucially to help businesses be more visible, drive traffic to their websites and ultimately convert this into sales or leads. As such, it should be treated like any other important business function with a strong strategy and a series of SEO goals being put into place.
These goals need to be specific, actionable and align with the overall business goals, and should help to keep the team motivated and on track. It also gives managers and C-suite employees a way to measure the success of the company’s SEO efforts and see how this is contributing to the bottom line.
But setting strong, achievable goals can be tricky. When the time comes to setting out your SEO objectives, remember the following:
- Always use the SMART method to ensure your goals are going to be effective
- Keep a record of your starting points so you can see how things have changed
- Be realistic in your goals, great SEO doesn’t happen overnight
- If you’ve got it, use past data to help you set measurable results instead of pulling figures out of the air
- Remember to review your goals regularly – quarterly is best
- Setting goals with measurable results is the best way to track your progress
- Focus on conversion over vanity metrics