In my practice as SEO freelancer I often meet clients who have just created their website and now they only want one thing: to get ranked on the first page of Google. For these people success is defined by “being on the first page” full stop.
In my job I often have to explain that while being in top 3 of the search engine rankings is exciting, it is not always a guarantee of success. So in this article I’ll talk about how you should define success, how to set SEO goals for your business and why it’s important to do that.
Why it’s important to set SEO goals?
Sometimes SEO is like the real life – you cannot have everything; you have to compromise and prioritize. Setting up smart, realistic SEO goals will help you exactly to prioritize your SEO efforts, to be more focused and therefore more successful in your SEO campaigns.
When you set SEO goals, you can measure, track and report on the results. You have the final objectives on which you’ll need to focus your efforts, you’ll have the main KPIs to measure and you’ll next step would be to build the roadmap towards success.
How to identify your SEO goals ?
Let’s start by identifying your SEO goals. What are you trying to achieve online? Why did you create your website at first place?
The most frequent replies to these questions are: “To sell my products online.” or “To find new customers online.” Therefor you don’t really define success by solemnly being on the first page of the Google’s search results.
Imagine you own a small bakery and you’ve just created your website. You probably did it because you want to sell more cakes and cookies to as many new customers as possible. You also have a blog, and you’d like more people to read and share your content. And you’d like to build relationships with existing customers by offering them engaging content that they will react to and share — and hope they eventually return to buy from you.
You’ve just identified four goals for your website:
Goal 1 Acquisition: Getting new visitors.
Goal 2 Conversions: Turning website visitors into paying customers.
Goal 3 Content Reach: Getting more visitors to find and read your content.
Goal 4 Content Engagement: Getting more visitors to interact with the content on your site.
So far so good. But won’t being number one on Google help you achieve all those goals you will ask. My answer is not necessarily.
How do you define and measure success in SEO?
Let’s say your website ranks in the top 3 results when someone searches for “birthday cake”. That’s great! Your website is getting a lot of new visitors but there are no sales… and that’s not so great.
It’s very possible that many of these website visitors are in fact looking for a recipe for a birthday cake, or for birthday cake ideas, or maybe they just want to hear the new song by Rhianna entitled “Birthday cake”. That’s why being number one in search engine rankings it’s not a guarantee of success.
In order to know if your SEO efforts are successful of not you need to look back at your SEO goals and objectives and measure them.
How to measure your SEO goals?
We said that setting SEO goals gives you something to measure, track and report on. But how to identify the exact KPI to measure and track?
In our bakery case, we’ve already identified the main SEO goals and we saw why keywords rankings are not always the best (and definitely are not the only) metric to measure. Now let’s assign specific KPIs to each SEO goal :
Goal 1 Acquisition: Getting new visitors
If your SEO goal is to increase the number of website visitors through organic traffic, than you should measure the
- Organic traffic volume – the number of organic visits to your website
- Website Impressions – the number of times your business appeared in search results
- Website clicks – the number times the visitor click through the search results to visit your site.
Goal 2 Conversions: Turning website visitors into paying customers
Of course, four our bakery website, we don’t only want more visits, we also want to increase the number of website visitors who made a purchase on the website. Therefore, the traffic acquisition KPIs must be put in perspective with website conversions KPIs such as:
- Website conversion rate
- Organic traffic conversion rate
- ROI – the return on the investment you’ve made in SEO campaigns
Goal 3 Content Reach and awareness: Getting more visitors to find and read your content
- Unique visitors: the number of individuals who have viewed your content
- Traffic volume to content pages, blog posts: the number of visits of your specific content pages or blog posts
Goal 4 Content Engagement: Getting more visitors to interact with the content on your site
And the final SEO goal is to boost content engagement, we want persuade people to interact with the content on our site. Some of the engagement KPIs to measure are:
- Bounce rate: The percentage of single-page sessions in which there was no interaction with your content page. Basically these are the readers you lost because your content didn’t meet their expectations.
- Time spent – how much time your audience is actually spending with your content.
- Page views:
- Social sharing: how many times your visitors shared your content on social media.
Of course this list is not exhaustive. KPIs for SEO is a subject I will cover in details in one of my next articles, but for the purpose of this post I will focus on the main and most common KPIs in SEO.
Always set realistic SEO goals
And last but not least: your SEO goals should be realistic and grounded. If you have just launched a new website in a highly competitive niche and you expect a huge boost in organic traffic in two weeks, you’ll have to temper your expectations. Don’t forget that SEO is an ongoing effort and SEO results are seen over time. Always consider your available resources and the amount of time and effort you put into it, because it has a direct impact on the eventual results you’ll achieve.
Setting realistic goals for organic traffic and assessing them with achievable measurements will help you strengthen your SEO strategy.