In financial terms, you can think of your SEO efforts as building long-term capital. The work you put in today will continue to pay out over time. This is why SEO tends to have a high return on investment.
Take, for example, a blog post. In the first few weeks after it’s published, you may only get a little bit of traffic. But over time, the same post will continue to drive more and more traffic. At that point, even if you need to pause your content efforts for a few weeks, your existing content will continue to drive both traffic and business. Here’s an example from a blog post published on our website:
How Long Does It Take to See Results from SEO?
Several factors influence the speed of results:
Industry — The industry you’re in impacts the timing of your results. Some industries are more competitive, so your results will usually take more time.
Commitment — The amount of energy and effort you contribute will directly impact how quickly you see results, and the consistency of your effort over time will impact how quickly those results compound.
Iterative — SEO is iterative; it’s not just about how quickly you can move. Your results will continue to layer over time as you deepen and refine your efforts.
Most Pathfinder SEO customers see initial results within two weeks of completing our SEO Checklist. Then, as our customers continue investing time in their SEO efforts, their results continue to build.
Establishing SEO Goals
Setting specific goals is paramount to any SEO initiative. The primary goals of an SEO campaign are to increase revenue, drive more sales, and/or generate more leads.
To achieve any of these, we need to increase traffic — and not just any traffic, but qualified traffic. To drive this kind of traffic, we need to increase your website’s visibility in the search rankings by focusing on keywords. Everything is interconnected.
Setting key performance indicators within each of these categories will both ensure you’re on the right path and align your team’s expectations. We’ll start setting goals at the keyword level, then move to the sales/revenue metrics.
When it comes to setting goals around specific keywords, think in terms of a keyword funnel. Keywords relating to your brand should be relatively easy to rank for so that you can see results in a matter of weeks. Mid-funnel keywords relating to your products and services may take a few months to rank. And upper-funnel keywords could take years.
When we first launched Pathfinder SEO, our keyword goals looked like this:
- Short-Term: Rank #1 for our brand.
- Mid-Term: Drive traffic to our blog posts for long-tail keyword searches like “how to connect Google Search Console and Google Analytics.” Drive traffic to our product pages for keywords such as “SEO checklist for small businesses.”
- Long-Term: Drive traffic to our homepage and product pages for competitive phrases such as “WordPress SEO” or “DIY SEO.”
When you improve your rankings, your traffic will grow. Use Google Analytics to track and measure this growth.
The biggest question is always around traffic growth. As you look at the search volume around your current keyword list and rankings, you’ll start to get a feeling about traffic growth. You could spend hours trying to model and project growth based on this data, but we recommend a more intuitive approach to setting goals around traffic growth.
Because there are many variables (some internal and some external), we almost never hit these goals spot on. Instead, we use a repeatable process.
We set a goal, measure our performance against the goal, and then update the goal based on real-time data. If we’re already knocking it out of the park, we need to raise the bar. If we’re struggling to meet the goal, we need to figure out why and then temper our expectations.
Of course, when it comes to traffic, it’s not just about volume — it’s about quality. You can measure quality with metrics like bounce rate, average time on site, and pages/visit. As your traffic grows, the goal is to maintain these metrics at original levels.
We’d rather have 10 really qualified website visitors than 100 poorly qualified people. Why? Because we care about sales, revenue, and leads.
Sales / Revenue / Leads
Most websites are focused on sales, revenue, and lead generation. Setting goals around these metrics is important to be able to calculate a measurable return on your investment.
Often, sales, revenue and lead generation goals are set by a business owner or marketing manager because they are higher-level business goals. For example, to grow a team or create a new product, a business may need to increase its sales from organic search by 25% this year. Knowing this bigger goal is helpful to assess if traffic and rankings are on track for this to happen.
Setting goals is hard; there are many external factors. But goal-setting ensures that everyone is on the same page while giving us benchmarks against which to measure and update our efforts.
Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching business owners and freelancers how to get found in Google, Yahoo, and Bing via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.