Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals for Your SEO


Understanding SEO is one thing, but setting actual goals beyond “organic traffic” is another. They key is to make sure you are setting S.M.A.R.T. goals – goals that are realistic and purposeful. Making sure your goals are properly focused will ensure your company vision meshes well and is incorporated into your overall marketing strategy.

But hold on – how exactly do you do that? The answer to this question isn’t exactly straightforward. At least, not until you break it down like we did right here in this post.

Let’s dive right in, shall we?

What are S.M.A.R.T. Goals?

Let’s start with what S.M.A.R.T. goals actually are. S.M.A.R.T. is the acronym used to define the elements that make up each of your goals.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • S is for Specific. Vague goals will never get you anywhere. How many new email subscribers do you want to earn this month or year? How many app downloads do you want to see? What is your goal for the number of qualified leads you’d like to contact? How many actual sales do you want to make? Assign real numbers to your goals.
  • M is for Measurable. Goals don’t mean much if there is no way to measure your progression. Your website’s analytics should be able to show you a month-over-month and year-to-year comparison of whether you’ve hit your visitor goals. Your newsletter subscription numbers will clearly show you how many new subscribers you gain. Order histories detail whether or not you’ve sold enough of your target product. Goals like “visibility” aren’t measurable and don’t mean anything to your bottom line.
  • A is for Achievable. Having specific and measurable goals are great, but only if you are able to act upon them. For example, wanting to rank for one of the most competitive keywords in your niche may be specific and measurable, but it isn’t an actionable goal if you don’t have the budget necessary to compete for that term. Finding that your goal isn’t achievable isn’t a failure; it’s simply a sign you need to make adjustments.
  • R is for Realistic. Let’s say you’ve decided you want to have a million new email subscribers in the last quarter of the year – a pretty lofty goal for a three-month period. Can it be done? Maybe. Do you have the resources to get the job done? Probably not. Is it a realistic number compared to other quarters, or is it a number someone pulled from the air? Likely the latter unless you’re a celebrity, Apple, Google, or some other large-scale corporation. A 20 percent increase over the previous quarter’s new enrollments is much more attainable.
  • T is for Timely. Your goals need to be achievable within a specific amount of time. Wanting to rank on the first page for a certain keyword “someday” is not timely. Wanting to rank organically within six months is more realistic. It’s tough to set specific timelines for SEO, but having a starting point on your calendar will help you to make the adjustments necessary as you move along, whether that means altering the goal or extending the timeline.

Keeping S.M.A.R.T. SEO in Mind

You can apply S.M.A.R.T. principles to just about any area of your business. Using this formula to come up with SEO goals not only gives you a set of metrics to work with, but can also help you to better compare your organic SEO, paid digital marketing, and offline marketing goals to ensure they all remain aligned with your organization’s core values and overall strategy.

Think of it like a pyramid. At the top of the pyramid rests the company’s general goals and desires for collecting leads or making new sales. The marketing team then creates a strategy for meeting those goals in the form of an email campaign, social media campaign, television commercials, radio spots, or straight-up ads. Marketing is responsible for creating the artistic vision that points everyone in the right direction.

SEO sits at the bottom of the pyramid, creating a solid foundation for everything else. It’s a support structure. Your SEO strategies create the foundation of your business’s website while also supporting your marketing team’s goals. The organic SEO work you do takes time, so it may not always be tied directly into short-term campaigns, but the way you choose the keywords you target will have an impact on the bottom line. For example, broader keyword targeting may get you initial visitors; narrow-targeting often shows gains in return traffic instead.

Measuring S.M.A.R.T. SEO Goals

So how do you actually measure your specific SEO goals? Your website’s rankings matter differently depending on your business type. A small local business might focus on local rankings alone, but a local business looking to start shipping product needs to expand from local rankings to include national keyword targets. A larger brand may even want to go global. Where are you starting and where do you want to end up in terms of your chosen keywords and their visibility?

Ranking and organic traffic often go hand in hand, but this isn’t a hard and fast rule and you should never assume it’s always the case. Ultimately, the true answer depends on whether or not you are ranking for popular keywords. Ranking for a great term that doesn’t receive as many searches will produce results – sort of.

The problem with low-competition terms is this: you’ll show up higher in the search engines for the term, but just won’t get as much traffic. Organic traffic is a measurable number and is impacted by the type of keyword you’re targeting for rank.

Link metrics are also measurable. It’s easy to run reports to find out how many root and deep links point back to your website. Keep track of this number and the ratio of strong authority links pointing at your content versus spam links that could be holding you back. We probably don’t need to tell you that you should aim for more strong links than weak links!

SERP statistics, search volume, branded keywords, and even referral traffic all make up the kaleidoscope of factors agencies consider in every SEO strategy. Take the time to stop and look up the funnel at your company’s overall goals. The more in tune you are with the big picture, the easier it will be for you to drill down into the specific components of your SEO strategy to create a strong and supportive strategy.

SEO virtuoso, CEO @Sachs Marketing Group. Focused on being of service to business owners - helping to better position them in the eyes of their audiences.

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