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.
So, first off, Taft Boots, they’ve been advertising like crazy to me on Instagram. Apparently, I must need new boots.
- Grow online sales. Let’s say that their big company goal for 2018 is “grow online sales to core U.S. customers, so the demographics and psychographics they’re already reaching, by 30%.”
- Increase top of funnel website traffic by 50%. So marketing says, “All right, you know what? There’s a bunch of ways to do that, but we think that our best opportunity to do that is to grow top of funnel, because we can see how top of funnel turns into sales over time, and we’re going to target a number of 50% growth.” This is awesome. This can turn into very measurable, actionable SEO goals.
- Grow organic search visits 70%. We can say, “Okay, we know that search is going to contribute an outsized quantity of this 50% growth. So what we want to do is take search traffic up by 70%. How are we going to do that? We have four different plans.
- A. We’re going to increase our blog content, quality and quantity.
- B. We’re going to create new product pages that are more detailed, that are better optimized, that target good searches.
- C. We’re going to create a new resources section with some big content pieces.
- D. We’re going to improve our link profile and Domain Authority.”
Now, you might say, “Wait a minute. Rand, this is a pretty common SEO methodology here.” Yes, but many times this is not directly tied to the marketing goals, which is not directly tied to the business goals. If you want to have success as an SEO, you want to convince people to keep investing in you, you want to keep having that job or that consulting gig, you’ve got to connect these up.
From these, we can then say, “Okay, for each one, how do we measure it?” Well…
- A. Quantity of content and search visits/piece. Blog content can be measured through the quantity of content we produce, the search visits that each of those pieces produce, and what the distribution and averages are.
- B. Rankings and organic traffic. Is a great way to measure product pages and whether we’re hitting our goals there.
- C. Link growth, rankings, and traffic. That’s a great way to measure the new resources section.
- D. Linking root domains plus the DA distribution and maybe Spam Score distribution. That’s a great way to measure whether we’re improving our link profile.
All of these, this big-picture goal is going to be measured by the contribution of search visits to essentially non-homepage and non-branded pages that contribute to the conversion funnel. So we have a methodology to create a smart goal and system here.
Another example, totally different, but let’s try it out because I think that many folks have trouble connecting non-e-commerce pages, non-product stuff. So we’re going to use Book-It Theatre. They’re a theater group here in the Seattle area. They use the area beneath Seattle Center House as their space. They basically will take popular books and literature and convert them into plays. They’ll adapt them into screenplays and then put on performances. It’s quite good. We’ve been to a few shows, Geraldine and I have, and we really like them.
So their goal — I’m making this up, I don’t actually know if this is their goal — but let’s say they want to…
- Attract theater goers from outside the Seattle area. So they’re looking to hit tourists and critics, people who are not just locals, because they want to expand their brand.
- Reach audiences in 4 key geographies — LA, Portland, Vancouver, Minneapolis. So they decide, “You know what? Marketing can contribute to this in four key geographies, and that’s where we’re going to focus a bunch of efforts — PR efforts, outreach efforts, offline media, and SEO. The four key geographies are Los Angeles, Portland, Vancouver, and Minneapolis. We think these are good theater-going towns where we can attract the right audiences.”
So what are we going to do as SEOs? Well, as SEOs, we better figure out what’s going to match up to this.
- Drive traffic from these regions to Book-It Theatre’s pages and to reviews of our show. So it’s not just content on our site. We want to drive people to other critics and press that’s reviewed us.
- A. So we’re going to create some geo landing pages, maybe some special offers for people from each of these cities.
- B. We’re going to identify third-party reviews and hopefully get critics who will write reviews, and we’re going to ID those and try and drive traffic to them.
- C. We’re going to do the same with blog posts and informal critics.
- D. We’re going to build some content pages around the books that we’re adapting, hoping to drive traffic, that’s interested in those books, from all over the United States to our pages and hopefully to our show.
So there are ways to measure each of these.
- A. Localized rankings in Moz Pro or a bunch of other rank tracking tools. You can set up geo-specific localized rankings. “I want to track rankings in Vancouver, British Columbia. I want to track rankings from Los Angeles, California.” Those might look different than the ones you see here in Seattle, Washington.
- B. We can do localized rankings and visits from referrals for the third-party reviews. We won’t be able to track the visits that those pages receive, but if they mention Book-It Theatre and link to us, we can see, oh yes, look, the Minneapolis Journal wrote about us and they linked to us, and we can see what the reviews are from there.
- C. We can do localized rankings and visits from referrals for the third-party blog posts.
- D. Local and national ranking, organic visits. For these Book-It content pages, of course, we can track our local and national rankings and the organic visits.
Each of these, and as a whole, the contribution of search visits from non-Seattle regions, so we can remove Seattle or Washington State in our analytics and we can see: How much traffic did we get from there? Was it more than last year? What’s it contributing to the ticket sales conversion funnel?
You can see how, if you build these smart goals and you measure them correctly and you align them with what the company and the marketing team is trying to do, you can build something really special. You can get great involvement from the rest of your teams, and you can show the value of SEO even to people who might not believe in it already.
All right, everyone. Look forward to your thoughts and feedback in the comments, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.