How Do You Set Smart SEO Goals for Your Team/Agency/Project? – Whiteboard Friday
Are you sure that your current SEO goals are the best fit for your organization? It’s incredibly important that they tie into both your company goals and your marketing goals, as well as provide specific, measurable metrics you can work to improve. In this edition of Whiteboard Friday, Rand outlines how to set the right SEO goals for your team and shares two examples of how different businesses might go about doing just that.
Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about SEO goals, how to set smart ones, how to measure your progress against them, how to amplify those goals to the rest of your organization so that people really buy in to SEO.
This is a big challenge. So many folks that I’ve talked to in the field have basically said, “I’m not sure exactly how to set goals for our SEO team that are the right ones.” I think that there’s a particularly pernicious problem once Google took away the keyword-level data for SEO referrals.
So, from paid search, you can see this click was on this keyword and sent traffic to this page and then here’s how it performed after that. In organic search, you can no longer do that. You haven’t been able to do it for a few years now. Because of that removal, proving the return on investment for SEO has been really challenging. We’ll talk in a future Whiteboard Friday about proving ROI. But let’s focus here on how you get some smart SEO goals that are actually measurable, trackable, and pertain intelligently to the goals of the business, the organization.
Where to start:
So the first thing, the first problem that I see is that a lot of folks start here, which seems like a reasonable idea, but is actually a terrible idea. Don’t start with your SEO goals. When your SEO team gets together or when you get together with your consultants, your agency, don’t start with what the SEO goals should be.
- Start with the company goals. This is what our company is trying to accomplish this quarter or this year or this month.
- Marketing goals. Go from there to here’s how marketing is going to contribute to those company goals. So if the company has a goal of increasing sales, marketing’s job is what? Is marketing’s job improving the conversion funnel? Is it getting more traffic to the top of the funnel? Is it bringing back more traffic that’s already been to the site but needs to be re-earned? Those marketing goals should be tied directly to the company goals so that anyone and everyone in the organization can clearly see, “Here’s why marketing is doing what they’re doing.”
- SEO goals. Next, here’s how SEO contributes to those marketing goals. So if the goal is around, as we mentioned, growing traffic to the top of the funnel, for example, SEO could be very broad in their targeting. If it’s bringing people back, you’ve got to get much more narrow in your keyword targeting.
- Specific metrics to measure and improve. From those SEO goals, you can get the outcome of specific metrics to measure and improve.
Measurable goal metrics
So that list is kind of right here. It’s not very long. There are not that many things in the SEO world that we can truly measure directly. So measurable goal metrics might be things like…
1. Rankings. Which we can measure in three ways. We can measure them globally, nationally, or locally. You can choose to set those up.
2. Organic search visits. So this would be just the raw traffic that is sent from organic search.
3. You can also separate that into branded search versus non-branded search. But it’s much more challenging than it is with paid, because we don’t have the keyword data. Thus, we have to use an implied or inferred model, where essentially we say, “These pages are likely to be receiving branded search traffic, versus these pages that are likely to be receiving non-branded search traffic.”
A good example is the homepage of most brands is most likely to get primarily branded search traffic, whereas resource pages, blog pages, content marketing style pages, those are mostly going to get unbranded. So you can weight those appropriately as you see fit.
Tracking your rankings is crucially important, because that way you can see which pages show up for branded queries versus which pages show up for unbranded queries, and then you can build pretty darn good models of branded search versus non-branded search visits based on which landing pages are going to get traffic.
4. SERP ownership. So ideas around your reputation in the search results. So this is essentially looking at the page of search results that comes up for a given query and what results are in there. There might be things you don’t like and don’t want and things you really do want, and the success and failure can be measured directly through the rankings in the SERP.
5. Search volume. So for folks who are trying to improve their brand’s affinity and reputation on the web and trying to grow the quantity of branded search, which is a good metric, you can look at that through things like Google Trends or through a Google AdWords campaign or through something like Moz’s Keyword Explorer.
6. Links and link metrics. So you could look at the growth or shrinkage of links over time. You can measure that through things like the number of linking root domains, the total number of links. Authority or spam metrics and how those are distributed.
7. Referral traffic. And last, but not least, most SEO campaigns, especially those that focus on links or improving rankings, are going to also send referral traffic from the links that are built. So you can watch referral traffic and what those referrers are and whether they came from pages where you built links with SEO intent.
So taking all of these metrics, these should be applied to the SEO goals that you choose that match up with your marketing and company goals. I wanted to try and illustrate this, not just explain it, but illustrate it through two examples that are very different in what they’re measuring.