How to set SEO Goals, and calculate the ROI on SEO

How to set SEO Goals, and calculate the ROI on SEO

Setting Goals and calculating Return On Investment is an area in which SEO generally lags far behind the Paid Ads industry.

It’s painful to observe how readily companies will spend £100s or £1000s on Google and Facebook paid ads, simply because Google and Facebook give you statistics to justify your spend; while at the same time avoiding spend on SEO because they can’t see such a clear connection with results or ROI.

However much the marketing team believes in the value and return that SEO can bring, they still need to justify the spend on SEO to avoid being told by senior management that this is an ‘expense’ that they can no longer afford, even though it’s bringing in business that is keeping the company alive!

The solution lies in setting SEO goals that relate to bottom line results, and making the connection between the end sale and the initial SEO activity that helped to generate it in the first place.

Setting SEO Goals

There are 3 main types of goals you can set for an SEO campaign.

The first type is ranking goals, e.g.

  • Rank for 5 specific search terms (identified using Keyword Research), on page 1 of Google, within 6 months
  • Rank for 10 specific search terms, in positions 1-3 on page 1 of Google, within 3 months
  • Rank for 50 search terms, on page 1 within 12 months

Then we have traffic goals, e.g.

  • Double organic traffic to the website within 3 months
  • Increase visits to this key product page from 300 unique visitors per month to 1000 unique visitors per month
  • Decrease the bounce rate from 73% to below 50% (by attracting the right kind of visitors who are interested enough to stay on the website and browse around)

And then finally we have conversion goals, e.g.

  • Get 7 new customer per month, from organic visits (natural search visits, not paid ad visits) to the website
  • Get 15 new enquiries each week, from organic visits to the website
  • Get 1000 new email subscribers per week from organic search traffic

Normally it is best to have goals from all 3 categories:

  • It is the ranking positions that drive the traffic, so some focus on this is helpful
  • It is possible to have high rankings and yet unexpectedly low traffic, and/or low quality traffic, so monitoring traffic levels and quality is an important step
  • Conversion goals are the most crucial as they’re the ones that bring you the sales to keep the business afloat, but due to the extra effort required to track conversions, they are the SEO goals most often ignored…

SEO Goal Deadlines

Note: All the above goals have a deadline – SEO companies have a tendency to avoid setting deadlines for their achievements because there are so many variables involved that affect progress, but in reality, with enough focus and effort, pretty much any result can be achieved within quite a short timescale like the examples above.

Business owners and managers are interested in getting to a pre-agreed sales target by a pre-agreed date, and the unwillingness to commit to deadlines by SEO companies is a prime reason why business leaders so often dismiss SEO, saying it is a “soft marketing ploy that doesn’t produce tangible results”.

It only needs regular monitoring and focus throughout the campaign period, and extra effort putting in where results are lagging behind target, and it’s amazing what can be achieved, so don’t be afraid to put a timeframe to your SEO goals.

How to track SEO Goals

Ranking Positions are easy to track.

Your SEO company should provide you with some kind of dashboard where you can log in and view these, or at least they should report monthly on the ranking positions of the search terms that you’re targeting.

You may notice that if you do your own search in a standard web browser to validate the ranking positions on your SEO report, the search engine ranking position (SERP) that you achieve rarely ties up with the ranking position on the SEO report.

This is because Google likes to add a deliberate ‘bias’ to the search results in your browser, based on your past search history, your location, and other factors – if you’re logged into Google when you search the effect is even more pronounced,

To some extent you can nullify some of this Google Bias by using an incognito browser window and logging out of Google, but some bias will remain, so it is safer to go by the report from your SEO agency which is normally produced using software that checks average rankings over a specific region or country.

For the DIY SEO-ers out there, there is a great free keyword rank checking tool that utilises Google Sheets, produced by RankTank. This is limited to 100 keywords and doesn’t give you graphs or trends over time, but is a great free tool if you don’t want the expense of paid tracking software.

Traffic Goals are easy to track once you learn your way round Google Analytics. We will publish Google Analytics Setup Help Guide soon, in the meanwhile, if you need any free advice and help setting this up just send us a message through our contact page and we’ll be right back to you.

Conversion Goals can be more difficult to track, although some kinds of conversion are quite easy to measure.

If you run an eCommerce/webshop style website, and your goal is based on orders received through the online checkout, then this relatively easy to measure, as all the data is on your website – all you have to do is connect the website’s webshop data to your reporting dashboard. You may want to consider advanced tracking to trace the IP addresses of visitors so you can see when someone doesn’t buy on their first visit, but then comes back later and purchases on the 2nd or 3rd visit – this kind of multi-visit activity can give misleading statistics if you don’t track which visitors are new and which are returning.

Enquiry-generating websites (where the website just generates and enquiry and then the sale is closed off-line in the sales office rather than on the website) make it harder to track enquiries right through to sale conversions. You can either take the simple route and only measure the enquiries generated, along with a calculation of closing rate percentage from past data, or you can instruct your office team to manually track and record the original source of the enquiry against each end sale. Good CRM software is a great help here, Hubspot is a market leader when it comes to automatically tagging every new contact on your database with an enquiry source, and Ruler Analytics is a highly customisable software package to ‘close the loop between the enquiry and the sale’, and the team at Ruler are very hands on in helping you set up and implement this correctly. Ruler even allows you to vary the phone number displayed on your website, and then when people phone in to enquire, it tells you how that phone enquirer first found you, e.g. from a Paid Ad, Google Search, Direct Visit, etc. If going with Hubspot, you will also need a separate Callrail subscription in order to display a tracking phone number on your website and ensure that phone leads are tracked along with emails and form submissions.