How to Set SEO Goals That Drive Real Business Growth

Search engines are the bustling crossroads of human curiosity; this is where we all come together, seeking knowledge, connection, and inspiration. Google, the largest of them, handles over 8.5 billion searches every single day and does a fantastic job of connecting us to what we are looking for.

While search engines deploy complex and ever-more sophisticated algorithms to make these connections accurate and meaningful, businesses online must also shine their beacons brightly to signal their offerings with SEO, or search engine optimization.   

However, as the internet and its users have grown more complex and smarter, so have SEO techniques. It has now become a complex, time-consuming, and expensive field that requires a more structured approach with strategic goal-setting to make it effective and efficient.

In this article, we will explore some of the more critical aspects of setting SEO goals to drive tangible outcomes for your business. Let’s begin!  

Why are SEO goals important, and how do we set them?

SEO is a set of different activities that signal your intent and offerings to search engines. Organizing these activities around measurable and time-bound objectives can help you focus your efforts on your key business requirements.

Without a goal-setting activity, you could end up shooting in the dark, wasting your resources without hitting the target.

Characteristics of well-defined SEO goals

Marketers and owners often approach SEO in a knee-jerk fashion; they see their competitors climbing up the Google pole and want to do the same. This often leads to vague goals like ‘Let’s get more traffic on the site’ or unreasonable ones such as ‘Let’s start ranking for keywords immediately.’

To ensure efforts and expectations align, we recommend you approach SEO goal-setting SMART-ly.

  • Specific: remove ambiguity right at the start. Define goals very clearly. For example, instead of ‘improve traffic on the website’, we can frame the goal as ‘increase organic search traffic by 30% in the next six months.’
  • Measurable: to track progress, goals must be quantifiable. Deciding on a set of metrics, such as organic traffic, keyword rankings, or conversion rates, will give you a clear sense of how your efforts are progressing.  
  • Aligned to the business: SEO must serve the business and its marketing goals. If you are looking to drive sales of a certain product, your SEO must also be designed to make your specific products discoverable to a specific target audience. There is no point in publishing white papers to show thought leadership or working on improving keyword ranking for terms that are not directly connected to your offerings.
  • Realistic: While setting objectives for your SEO activities, always keep in mind that resources are finite and SEO is a competitive field. Avoid aiming for metric values that are unattainable.
  • Time-bound: Make all your goals adhere to a timeline. Avoid open-ended targets to keep your efforts focused and trackable.

Here is an example of a goal that follows the SMART approach:

“We want to increase organic leads from search by 20% over 6 months. We will do this by moving our target keywords from positions 6-10 to positions 1-5 in a 12-month timeline.”

It is specific; it sets out, without ambiguity, what the desired outcome should be. Because it has specific numbers and percentages, it is measurable. The stated goal is to increase sales, so it chimes with the business objective. It is realistic; the plan factored in that keyword ranking takes longer and gave it a longer deadline.    

Different Types of SEO Goals

With the SMART style to guide you, it is time to delve into the different types of goals and their relative importance in crafting a successful SEO strategy.

1. Ranking Goals

From the beginning, keyword ranking has been one of the key SEO ranking factors that can be tracked using two main metrics.

Keyword Rankings: Track the position of your target keywords in search engine results pages (SERPs) with tools such as Google Search Console or SEMrush. Some relevant keywords will have a high search volume and will therefore be more competitive to rank for, while others with low or medium search volume, like long-tail phrases, will be easier to rank for.

Here, your goal should be to achieve top positions for a specific set of keywords.

Visibility Score: If you want to look at a more holistic view of your website’s performance across all keywords, then a visibility score via a paid third-party tool (Ahrefs or SEMrush) is also something you can consider adding to your ranking goals.

2. Traffic Enhancement Goals

Organic Search Traffic: If the goal is to increase footfalls by x percentage, then measure the visitors coming to your website through organic search results via Google Analytics.

Click-Through Rate (CTR): Another good way to add traffic-related goals is to add a number to organic search CTR (CTR = clicks/impressions). A higher CTR shows that your website is getting traffic that is engaging with it. They like what they see, and you are meeting their needs.

3. Conversion SEO Goals

Conversion Rate: Chase a specific conversion SEO goal. For example, increase the conversion rate from X% to Y%. The conversion rate is the percentage of website visitors who take a  desired action, such as purchasing, signing up, etc. Google Analytics is a great tool to track organic conversions.  

Establishing SEO KPIs

Setting SEO goals is important but not enough; you must pin down key performance indicators (KPIs) to track your progress. Here are the top seven KPIs marketers and business owners should consider:

  1. Conversions: Whether your stated goal is sales or just a newsletter subscription signup, you need to know how your SEO is impacting your end objective. Set baseline numbers and track how much of your organic traffic is converting to your ultimate CTA over a specific time period.
  2. SEO ROI: SEO activities come with long-term costs and results often take a long time to show up. This usually puts the financial ROI on the back burner; however, we recommend that you keep an eye on whether your SEO-related expenses are leading to an increase in revenue. Tracking your Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) will help you decide if your SEO investments drive any uptick in consumer acquisition and revenue.
  3. Organic Sessions and Visibility: Tracking how many people are seeing your brand and interacting with it is one way to measure the impact of your SEO strategy.
  4. Keyword Rankings: In terms of pure visibility, monitoring your ranking for your targeted keyword set is critical. It might not affect the conversions directly, but it is important to put your business on the map.
  5. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic: SEO and paid ads are inexorably linked; they both contribute to driving up each other’s metrics. To attribute success correctly, measure the split between branded and non-branded traffic. Branded traffic may or may not be due to SEO activities; hence, tracking non-branded traffic (for example, traffic through keyword searches) can help you give credit where it’s due.
  6. Backlinks: Great for building domain authority and credibility, backlinks form an important part of search engine rankings. Building backlinks is a resource-heavy activity, so keep this one on your KPI list and track how many reputable backlinks your website acquires over time. 
  7. Organic CTR, or Click-Through Rate: This is the number of people who reached your website, landing page, or business profile via Google search results or listings. This indicates how useful people find your meta description and title tags. While it is not a direct SEO ranking factor, it is certainly important, especially when seen in conjunction with other factors. For example, if you see a high CTR but very low conversion, it could mean the content on your website is not enticing enough or that your meta description and tags are misleading.
  8. User Engagement: Google is all about providing the best answer to a user’s search query. What the user does once he or she lands on your site gives Google an inside peek at whether it made the right choice in recommending you. Its automated algorithms will judge your site on engagement metrics like bounce rate, average time on page, and pages per session. So, this definitely goes on the KPI list.

Learn more about how user experience impacts SEO! 

Overcoming SEO Challenges

Acing SEO is neither simple nor fast. It takes time and is very competitive. After all, the websites you are trying to replace on Page 1 of Google are not going to give up their spot without a fight. 

Here are some of the challenges you should prepare yourself for:

Changing Google Algorithms

When it comes to Google’s search algorithms, change is the only constant. It is continuously evolving to provide a better user experience for every visitor and user. The only way to factor in the unknown changes coming your way is to think like Google.

Keep users at the centre of all your activities online, diversify your SEO strategy, build an SEO roadmap that works on various ranking factors, and make sure you stay updated on all the SEO industry trends. 

Constant Competition

There are less than 10 spots on page 1 of Google, and the competition to get one of these is cutthroat. The only way to combat the competition is to level up your SEO game.

Analyze your competitor’s SEO initiatives, identify gaps, and exploit opportunities in their SEO strategies. Diversify your SEO efforts by leveraging niche content and long-tail keywords. Find out popular content themes from an analysis of other industry players and offer valuable content in the same area.  

Lack of Resources

SEO is not a one-time or short-term activity; it is also a resource-heavy, specialized job. Hence, the business must budget for resource costs for a long time. To work with limited budgets and time constraints, focus on high-impact activities and use third-party automated tools for routine tasks like keyword tracking and reporting. Also, consider hiring a professional SEO agency to help with these tasks.

Connecting SEO Goals to Business Goals

If you already have an SEO strategy in place, you may be asking: Why do you need SEO goal setting when everything is going fine? 

Well, just because something is ticking along fine doesn’t mean you can’t achieve better results. Framing SEO activities in a structured, objective-based approach can help you spot gaps and align your SEO efforts with business goals. 

Here’s how:   

Increasing Brand Awareness

If your business goal is to improve brand visibility, then a SMART SEO goal such as ‘increase organic search traffic by 50% within 12 months’ is an excellent way to sync your efforts with a larger business need.

SEO activities like integrating keywords into content and improving a website’s UX will directly support your business needs by making your brand more discoverable.

Driving Sales

Increasing sales revenue can be supported by an SEO objective, such as increasing organic conversions by 30% in 12 months. This will ensure that SEO professionals concentrate on making your product pages more discoverable and fine-tuning the buyer lifecycle and the checkout process.   

Establishing Brand Authority

For a B2B organization, the value of SEO lies in helping it stand out as an industry expert. Publishing blogs and articles as an SEO activity will directly help them boost their brand credibility and indirectly lead to more revenue.  

SEO Success: Where Goals Meet Strategy

SEO without specific goals is like a top-notch GPS without a destination; it will take you nowhere! Given that SEO can be time-consuming and expensive, make sure you don’t waste your efforts. 

To bring more structure and clarity to your SEO efforts, get in touch with professionals to build and execute an end-to-end SEO program.

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