Search engine optimization is an increasingly popular strategy. Once confined to the realms of tech-based companies and major corporations with sizable budgets and dedicated departments, today, the availability of resources and broadened benefits of SEO have made it a top choice for businesses of all shapes, sizes, and industries.
A major part of the appeal is the sheer potential of the strategy; with time and effort, it’s easily possible to build up to earning thousands of visitors per month. However, this appeal sometimes morphs into a lust. The desire to pursue SEO as a strategy becomes something like a get rich quick scheme, where the idea of thousands of inbound visitors takes precedent over the realistic and patient applications of SEO tactics and best practices. Inevitably, entrepreneurs possessed by this rampant desire end up disappointed, feeling that the strategy wasn’t worthwhile because it failed to meet their expectations.
Without goals, it’s nearly impossible to objectively measure your progress, but with too lofty or unfounded goals, you’ll only set yourself up for a skewed sense of disappointment. Setting realistic goals is the remedy for this problem, and there are three rules to do it effectively:
Your goals need to be grounded in your means to achieve them. That seems obvious, but to many entrepreneurs and marketers new to SEO, building ranks is akin to switching on a light; you’re either making progress, or you aren’t. SEO simply doesn’t work that way. Instead, the amount of effort and type of effort you put into it has a direct impact on the eventual results you’ll achieve. Therefore, if you’re only investing a few minutes a day to your campaign, it would be unreasonable to set a goal that a large company with an entire dedicated SEO team might set.
There are several of these factors you’ll have to keep in mind. First and most obviously, consider the man-hours you’re pouring into your efforts. Are you doing this yourself in short bursts? Do you have one dedicated person? Five dedicated people? Next, consider how many outlets you’re using in conjunction with your SEO campaign—including how much onsite content, offsite content, link building, and how many social platforms you’re using. Finally, be realistic about your expertise. If this is your first company, or your first time launching an SEO campaign in this industry, be more conservative with your goal setting. There is no objective way to go about this, but do make sure to temper your expectations with the type of effort you’re putting forth.
This is almost two rules in one, but they’re both related to the way you measure your goals. First, use long periods of time to measure your progress. Don’t look for rapid climbs in growth in the span of a few days or weeks. Instead, you’ll have to look at periods of months or more—this is because it takes a long time for SEO to show results. It’s also important to use long time periods to compare against each other—for example, it’s better to compare a first three months with a second three months than one month to a second month. This is because traffic and rankings fluctuate, sometimes randomly, and could skew your data if you’re only using a small sample size.
Relative measurements are also important. Rather than aiming for an objective goal, such as getting 1,000 visitors a month by September, aim for something less concrete, like at least 10 percent visitor growth, month over month, until September. Using firm numbers can sometimes blind you to your otherwise substantial progress.
Under most circumstances, goals should not be changed. You set a goal at the beginning of a given period, and follow that goal to the end. In the world of SEO, it’s okay to make adjustments throughout the course of your ongoing strategy, and it’s because your strategy is ongoing. It is a fluid process that undergoes nearly constant changes, so it only makes sense that your goals and expectations should change along with those circumstances.
Let’s say you’ve set a goal to increase your monthly organic traffic by 25 percent within the first four months of your campaign. In month two, you bring on a new freelance writer to increase your onsite content and social media efforts. At that point, it would be reasonable to increase the expectations of your goal. On the other hand, let’s say in month two, Google releases a new algorithm change that sets you back several positions on a number of target keyword topics. At that point, you would need to lower your expectations.
SEO is an ongoing strategy, and in order to be successful, you’ll have to create ongoing, dynamic goals. They can, and should, change as you learn more about where your company fits and how your strategy is developing. When it comes time to evaluate your progress, compare your real results to your target results, but don’t sum everything up as a “hit” or “not hit.” Instead, take a look at the factors responsible for you meeting or not meeting that goal, and use those factors to shape your strategy for the next period. Eventually, you’ll arrive at a pace and an understanding that will allow you to adeptly measure your impact and find the greatest possible level of success for your campaign.