Here’s the real truth:
It is tough to prove ROI or that your effort in SEO is working IF you haven’t documented what your overall goals are.
Your goals will help everyone on your team be on the same page about what you’re doing and how ultimately it’s driving overall organization/business goals.
It’s also important to be clear about what those goals are since SEO tracking tools and web analytics tools often have to be set up IN ADVANCE to measure your goals and success. This is why the critical first step is to think about your goals EARLY in your SEO project.
It’s also important to have clear documented goals as it can help prioritize your work.
You’ll find that as soon as you start “doing” SEO, you’ll quickly discover there are a million moving parts and things to tackle. Your documented goals will help keep things in perspective.
So how do you set website and SEO goals?
The first step is to understand the business or organization you’re supporting.
Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What are their business or mission goals?
- Does the website support those goals?
- How does organic traffic drive those website goals?
- What keywords/topics do they want to appear for organically?
- Who are their competitors?
- Who is their ideal target audience and what do you want them to do when they arrive on the site?
Once you have a sense of how SEO lines up to the business, the next step is to set up your SEO KPIs and then measure them.
Wait…What’s a KPI?
A KPI is a Key Performance Indicator. It’s a specific measurement that moves up or down, and as a result of that movement, you take some action.
- Measures that help you understand how you are doing against your objectives.
- Easy to understand
- Lead to action
Here are examples of a well-worded KPIs. (Note there are specific numbers and date ranges):
- Increase the number of visitors signing up for the email list or RSS feed by 10% month over month.
- Increase the purchases and the average order value by returning visitors by 20% in by Q4.
- Increase the share of search for top 10 target keywords by 10% by Q4 in 2013.
- Decrease the bounce rate for visitors driven by top 10 target keywords by 10% by Q4.
You can find additional KPI examples and their associated reporting dashboards here to get you brainstorming.
Not sure if you’ve got the right KPIs in place?
Here’s a tip (coined by Avinash Kaushik, Google’s Digital Marketing Evangelist):
Ask the metric “so what” 3 times, because each question provides an answer that usually raises a question. At the end of the 3rd question, you don’t get a recommendation for action, then you have the wrong metric.
Here’s the “so what” test in practice:
- “The trend of repeat visitors for our website is up month to month.” – So what?
- “This is fantastic because it shows that we are a more sticky website now.” – So what?
- “We should do more of xyz to leverage this trend.” – So what?
If your answer is:
“I don’t know… isn’t that a good thing… the trend is going up… hmm… I am not sure there is anything we can do… but it is going up right?”
This might not be the best KPI for you.
Think about your business and what KPIs will work for you. Generally, they break down into goals around driving awareness, engagement on your site and conversions (leads, email signups, etc). They should also be something that helps you answer questions and drive improvements and action (if things are not improving).
Questions to ask to determine if KPIs are helping include:
- Is my organic traffic improving?
- Are visitors from search doing what I want them to do on my site?
- What type of content on my site is getting the most traffic and why?
- Which marketing channel is converting visitors most effectively?
- IS my online visibility and brand awareness improving?
- What referring links are bringing in the most traffic and how well are those visitors performing on the site?
- How do we create more of those types of relationships?
Once you’ve documented your business goals, set your KPIs, and set them up in your tracking.
We then recommend that you measure your performance monthly (comparing against the month previous) to help you drive improvements over time. It’s easiest to set up that reporting in Google Data Studio, which is free and has great templates to get you started.