Columnist Ryan Shelley discusses the three essential goals any SEO campaign must achieve: visibility, traffic and ROI.
What is the benefit of an SEO strategy? This is a question I get asked quite frequently — and one that I usually have to answer more than once. While many business owners and companies accept the need for SEO, many are still confused or mystified by what SEO really provides. Being able to prove ROI to clients or your boss is essential to success and maintaining a good relationship.
In this post, I want to cover three essential goals you can fulfill with an SEO strategy: visibility, traffic and ROI. I will explain how these three goals create a positive impact and how you can show these results to the decision-makers.
The first goal SEO consultants can fulfill is increased online brand visibility. Consumers assume that top placement in the search rankings is a “stamp of approval” for the brand. While we know that this is not always the case, many searchers interpret high rank as a brand endorsement.
Making sure that you have a plan of action to increase the organic search exposure for branded keywords is extremely important. Just to make sure we are all on the same page about branded terms, here is a good definition: branded keywords are the search words or phrases that include the brand name or a variation of the brand name. While branded terms typically drive traffic from people who have already heard of your company, they are still important.
The goal of SEO is not just to protect your brand; it’s also about increasing the visibility of your brand within your targeted niche. As you can probably guess, this is where non-branded terms are essential. While I won’t get into keyword research, you do want to make sure that your target terms are specific to your core business.
Tracking your target keyword terms can deliver a ton of insight. While I do caution you not to obsess over rankings, it is important to know where you stand and which direction you’re moving. Being able to send these reports to your management team or clients can also help build trust.
To get started, make sure you have a list of your branded and non-branded terms that you want to track. There are a number of tools you can use to track your ranking, some free and some paid. As you can guess, the free tools will have some restrictions but can still get the job done.
One great free option is SERPs’ Rank Checker. They allow you to track by geolocation, search engine and device. The free version won’t let you keep a record of position history, so it will be important for you to save all your data in a spreadsheet for reporting over time.
Using a paid tool gives you a lot more flexibility as well as ranking history. Many enterprise- and professional-level SEO tools do have rank trackers built in and allow you to see you ranking history over time. The benefit of these tools is that you have all your data in one location, and you can report the success of your SEO efforts when it comes to visibility much more efficiently.
While “build it and they will come” sounds like a good mantra, the fact is, it’s dead wrong. Just having a website is not enough. That’s like opening a business on a road with little to no traffic and expecting people will just “find you.” Great SEO can deliver targeted, relevant traffic to your website.
It’s the goal of an SEO strategy to bring new prospects to your website — people who would otherwise never know that you even existed. Experienced search professionals will take the time to understand not just your products, services and business goals, but also the needs of the audience you are trying to reach.
I’ve worked with some companies that had done a less-than-adequate job of telling the population about what they provide. By aligning their on-site and off-site SEO activities to promote their services to their targeted audiences, we were able to bring prospects to their site who never knew they provided those services.
While traffic is just part of the sales and growth equation, it plays a significant role. Many site owners need reminders of the power of traffic. Giving your manager or client updates on their traffic and helping them understand its role in the overall success of sales and marketing can be difficult, but it’s not impossible.
Google Analytics and Data Studio are great free tools that can help you monitor and report the success of your SEO campaigns to your clients. When reporting on traffic, make sure you don’t overwhelm them with data. Never report more than seven KPIs — any more than that, and they will get overlooked. Here are a few KPIs we cover in our SEO success reports:
- Page views.
- Pages per session.
- Average session duration.
- Bounce rate.
Companies that invest in marketing demand ROI. If they can’t see or validate the return on their investment, they will stop investing. But determining ROI is not so cut-and-dried. Each business has its own set of goals, and all SEO activities need to align with them.
Some of the goals that typically cross all businesses are sales and leads. Being able to show how your SEO efforts have played a role in these requires appropriate tracking. Again, Google Analytics can be an excellent tool for this. Using the “goals” function, you can measure the impact of your efforts and then report your findings using Data Studio.
The goal of SEO is not just to drive traffic; it is to drive targeted traffic that takes action. When sales numbers go up, people tend to forget how they got there. This is why being able to show your results will help you continue to receive buy-in.
SEO can provide a number of benefits to site owners and organizations. From generating more buzz around your brand and growing your online visibility to increasing your traffic and driving conversions, search is one of the most cost-effective marketing tactics you can use today. By working on delivering on the goals above, you’ll be able to prove your worth and help those you work with (and for) understand the power of search.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.