It’s easy to fall prey to the day-in and day-out minutia of managing a search engine optimization campaign, but it is so very important to remember where all of those little changes lead! It is my belief that too many SEOs put the process ahead of goals and success metrics. The truth of the matter is, your goals should inform your process and shape your SEO campaign.
Choosing the Right Success Metric(s)
There are countless data points that you can track for SEO. You can look at rankings in the SERPs, site traffic, conversions or usability data, and frankly, you can drive yourself mad tracking all of these things. So what does this mean for you? Before you step in and get on with the process of optimizing your website, you must understand what metrics matter to you and set goals accordingly!
Just to set the record straight: In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, basing your SEO success off of rankings alone simply doesn’t cut it! Rankings don’t give you the full picture, and they can fluctuate day to day (heck, hour to hour!). Think of rankings as the means to an end – you are using a high ranking in the search engines to achieve a desired result, your chosen goal.
So, if rankings don’t define your success, what does? Ask yourself some simple questions. Was your website designed for brand awareness and to be an information resource? Then your goals likely are to have the site’s content be bookmarked and read. In which case, the right metrics would be time on site, pageviews and the number of new versus returning visitors. Do you operate an e-commerce site? This one’s a no-brainer – track sales and revenue from search query through close! Is your site a lead-gen machine? Again, a no-brainer – track conversions and revenue.
Now you understand which metrics are right for your SEO campaign, so it’s time to set goals. How many returning visitors means that your sight has become an information resource? How many sales must organic traffic generate to be profitable? How many leads must your SEO campaign drive to make money? It’s that pesky term everyone likes to use: Return on Investment. Decide on goals and stick to them.
Goals and the SEO Process
Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Cheesy phrase, I know, but it serves my purposes well today. SEO, like so many other tasks that require active management, has a well defined path and process. But your SEO process can and should be influenced by the goals you set.
As you begin to perform keyword research, your goals will guide you in choosing keywords with the best performance indicators. A website that is designed to generate traffic and awareness may lean towards the more general keywords. Whereas a sales driven site may lean towards the long tail, specific keywords. When you begin to develop new content, your goals will dictate the copy writing approach. Informational resources and sales-driven copy read very differently! Your web design, usability and any content that you plan to develop for your website should be compared to your goals. If a particular feature, keyword or piece of content doesn’t help you reach your SEO goals, than you should think twice!
Choosing the right success metrics and setting goals is one of the most important pieces of any search marketing campaign. As such, those metrics and goals should be considered in the proper order! Decide the right metrics and set your goals before diving headfirst into the grand SEO process. Let your goals inform the process and you’ll find SEO success.