How to Set SEO Goals
SEO goals are essential for measuring the success of your SEO strategy. Without goals, it's difficult to track your progress and make sure that your efforts are paying off.
But setting SEO goals can be difficult. How do you know what goals to set? And how do you know if your goals are not only realistic but achievable, especially in SEO where so many factors can influence performance?
In this article, we’ll walk through the importance of setting SEO goals and how to choose realistic targets that will help you measure your success and achieve your business objectives.
Why are SEO Goals Important?
SEO goals are important because they help you focus on what matters most and track your progress over time. Without goals, it's easy to get lost in the weeds and lose sight of your objectives.
SEO goals allow you to:
- Focus on desired outcomes: Specific goals allow you to focus on desired outcomes and the impact of your work on priority metrics such as increasing leads, sales, Organic traffic, or keyword rankings.
- Measure the impact of your work: Once you have goals, you can track your progress and see if SEO tactics are driving a positive ROI
- Understand when to adjust your strategies: If you're not seeing the results you want, it's important to adjust your strategy. Having goals will help you identify what's working and what's not, so you can make the necessary changes to improve performance.
What Makes a Good SEO Goal?
A good SEO goal should be specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). SMART goals clarify where to focus your efforts and provide a framework for setting realistic goals.
We'll break down each part of a SMART goal and how to apply it to your SEO goal-setting process:
Specific goals clearly define what you want to achieve or influence. A specific goal clarifies what metric you want to measure, its importance, and how to take action to achieve it. This should be your main SEO objective, like improving Organic traffic, increasing conversions, or reducing site load times.
Having a clearly defined goal is great, but without measurement and tracking, it's useless. When setting goals for SEO, make sure that you can track them in the appropriate tool like analytics. If you aren’t able to track a metric, it shouldn’t be one of your goals.
Without proper measurement, you won't know if you're making progress or need to adjust your strategy, which can cause misalignment with leadership and a lack of accountability. With reliable tracking, you will always be able to answer the question ‘Are we meeting our goal? Yes or no?’
An achievable goal means that it’s realistic and attainable given your resources and capabilities. This allows you to break the goal down into specific steps and develop a roadmap for success.
For example, an achievable SEO goal could be to improve the website’s keyword rankings. You could accomplish this with keyword research, quality content, and on-page optimizations.
A relevant goal means that it’s in alignment with your objectives or business goals. This makes it easier to communicate the importance of SEO and how it supports the overall business.
For instance, if your main business objective is to grow revenue from a new product, a relevant SEO goal would be to increase keyword rankings for that specific product or improve the conversion rate on the product page.
A time-bound goal means there's a specific timeframe in which you want to achieve it. This also helps when tracking progress toward a goal over time during measurement.
For example, setting a broad goal of “increasing Organic traffic by 20%” isn’t helpful because it doesn’t clarify the timeline to achieve this goal. This makes it difficult to focus on actionable steps as there is no clear deadline for success. When setting your goals, think about the timing. What can you achieve in 6 months? What about in a year?
How to Set Realistic SEO Goals
When setting goals for SEO, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the number of data points and metrics you can report on, in addition to all the potential external factors. Keep your SEO goals focused on the metrics that drive the highest impact and be realistic about their growth potential.
Here are a few steps to take when setting your SEO Goals:
Step 1: Determine Your Business Objectives
Every SEO goal should align with your business objectives. Before you think about specific SEO KPIs, take the time to determine what your business goals are. Think about what you ultimately want to achieve - is it driving revenue, building a brand, or launching a new product?
For example, if your business goal is to increase revenue, you might set an SEO goal of increasing Organic traffic. By aligning your SEO goals with your business goals, you can make sure that your SEO efforts are working towards your ultimate objectives.
Step 2: Review Historical Data and Benchmark Performance
It’s always important to take the time to review your current site’s performance before setting any goals. Use tools like Google Analytics or SEMRush to benchmark historical metrics like traffic, conversion rate, and keyword rankings.
This exercise will allow you to identify performance trends and set realistic goals for growth. For example, if your website traffic has been growing steadily, you might set a goal of increasing traffic by 10% in the next year. Or, if your conversion rate has been declining, you might set a goal of increasing your conversion rate by 5% in the next six months.
[TIP] Consider Seasonality - If you plan to track your SEO goals monthly, don't forget to consider seasonal trends. Does Organic traffic dip during the summer period? Do you see increased conversion rates during the holiday season? Incorporate these trends into your goals to be more realistic about performance.
Step 3: Assess the Search Landscape and Industry
Once you have a better idea of current site performance, the next step is to analyze your competitors, the SERP landscape, and industry trends. Here are a few things to look at in your research:
- Keyword Opportunity: What is the search volume opportunity for your main keywords? How difficult is it to rank for the keywords you want to target?
- SERP Landscape: What SERP features are showing up for your priority keywords - video, PAAs, featured snippets? What do you need to do to capture those?
- Competition: Who are your competitors? Is a new competitor taking away market share? Why are they outperforming your site and what will it take to fill those gaps?
- Industry Trends: What are the latest trends in your industry? Has interest increased or decreased over the past year?
By assessing the search landscape and industry, you can get a better understanding of the competition and the opportunities that exist. This will help you set realistic goals and develop a strategy to achieve them.
Step 4: Be Realistic About Your Resources
SEO strategies can take a lot of time and effort to implement, especially if you're not working with a team of dedicated SEO experts. Make sure to consider your team's bandwidth when setting SEO goals by asking some of these questions:
- How much time can your team realistically dedicate to SEO?
- How much can your team accomplish over this goal period?
- What resources are available to your team?
- How long does it take to get approval for SEO strategies?
- How long does it take to implement SEO strategies?
- How much is currently in the backlog?
Once you have a good understanding of your team's bandwidth, you can start to set realistic SEO goals.
[TIP] Don’t Ignore Other Teams’ Plans - Are your developers planning a site migration or a redesign? Is the content team consolidating low-value content on the blog? Make sure to consider site changes and projects from other teams in your goal-setting process so that you can account for these updates and prepare for any impacts.
Step 5: Track and Adjust Your SEO Goals
Once you have set your goals, it's important to track your progress. This will help you identify areas that are working well and areas that need improvement. If you're not meeting goals each month, it's a call to adjust your strategy to align with these objectives.
It's also important to remember that SEO is a long-term strategy. It can take months or even years to see results. So, don't get discouraged if you don't see results immediately.
Examples of SEO Goals
SEO goals can take many forms, but remember that they all should be SMART. When forming your goals, make sure they reflect the following structure: Influence [metric] by [percent] in [timeframe].
Here’s an example of a SMART SEO goal:
Goal: Increase Organic traffic by 25% in 6 months.
Specific: This goal is specific because it clearly states the desired outcome, which is to increase Organic traffic.
Measurable: This goal is measurable because it provides a specific metrics, which is a 25% increase in Organic traffic. This can also be tracked using a tool like analytics.
Achievable: This goal is achievable because it sets a reasonable target of Organic traffic growth.
Relevant: This goal is relevant because increased Organic traffic is a core objective for SEO.
Time-Bound: This goal is time-bound because it sets a specific time frame of six months to achieve the desired result.
Looking for some other SEO goal examples?
- Improve conversion rate by 5% in 12 months
- Increase purchases by 10% in 4 months
- Increase revenue by 30% in one year
- Build 50 high-quality backlinks to the site in 6 months
- Reduce the website’s load time to under 2 second in 3 months
- Increase the average ranking position from 15 to 8 in 6 months
Ready To Set Your SEO Goals?
Setting SEO goals can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. With a little research and planning, you can set goals that are specific, achievable, and relevant to your business.
It’s easy to overthink your goals, so keep them simple and focused. If your goal is specific, supportive of business objectives, achievable through your work, and completed in a clear timeframe, you’re on the right track.
Need help with reaching your SEO goals this year? Let’s chat!
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