Don't forget your goals

To succeed with SEO you need a measurable goal. This might seem obvious, but is often forgotten.

These days SEO is an obvious choice for more or less all marketers. You cannot afford to miss out on the effectiveness of it. Just as with all kinds of marketing efforts, an investment in SEO needs a clear purpose and goal to be truly effective. However, I surprisingly often come across sites that lack a measurable goal for their SEO.

As I am sure you know, SEO stands for search engine optimization. Anything you want to optimize needs a clear goal, if not, what are optimizing towards? If you dive into your SEO, head-first and planless, you increase the risk that it will be a bad investment.

The kind of goals to choose depend on what kind of company you are and what you want your SEO to achieve for your business. Most goals fall in one of these categories:

Sales

For e-commerce increased sales is the obvious goal with SEO. If you sell stuff online the most common goal is that your SEO efforts should lead to increased sales.

Your online sales are, more or less, always easily measurable. To calculate your real ROI, make sure to stay on top of things like your cost of sales and the lifetime value of your customers.

Leads

Not all companies sell their products or services online. Most B2B companies have a more complex sales process where more communication is needed. For most B2B sites the goal of the SEO is to generate leads for the business.

Here it is important that you know how much a lead is worth. To calculate this you need to know how many leads is needed generate one actual customer and how much profit a customer on average brings you.

Information

Not all sites have something to sell. Government sites, like the tax authorities, have a different kind of purpose. Their goal with SEO might be to inform the public regarding how to hand in their income tax return correctly.

Of course, this kind of goal is harder to measure, but not impossible. You can for instance map your increased visibility in search results and compare it to your number of customer support tickets. This way you can find the ROI for your SEO investment, even as a government site.

Traffic

Many businesses have increased traffic as their SEO goal. This can be a good secondary goal, but in most cases there are better primary goals. Traffic is an indicator of success, but traffic does not correlate to money in the bank in the same way as sales or leads do.

One exception are media sites who sell advertising based on traffic levels, then traffic is obviously a great goal.

Ranking

Just as traffic, search engine rankings are a common goal, basically how high you rank with certain keywords. Just as traffic, ranking can serve well as a secondary goal. It should preferably be accompanied with a primary goal that is closer to revenue and profits.

Even if you do not have ranking as a goal, keeping track of your positions is a crucial part of your SEO.

Brand awareness

One goal with traditional marketing is often brand awareness, which in turn is expected to increase sales. The fantastic thing with SEO is that you can circumvent the brand awareness phase and move directly to sales.

This does not mean that brand awareness is unimportant, or that SEO cannot help build your brand. To the contrary, you can have brand awareness as your primary goal for SEO. But it is often better to have a more easily measurable goal. You can measure increased brand awareness using brand lift studies. Alternatively, you can use a simpler and cheaper method and compare the number of searches for your brand on Google, before and after your SEO investment.