SEO Outcome Prediction & Goal Setting

 approx 35 minute video

Nettl Academy SEO Live Event! Session 9

This session is the ninth in a new series of live events from Nettl. Each week they’ll explore a different subject relating to SEO.

What’s it all about?

Demand for SEO has increased 4-fold. Find out why with our online educational sessions. Our SEO expert sessions are usually reserved for our existing SEO subscribers, but given the significant increase in demand for SEO, we thought it would be useful to open these up to every Nettl customer to help businesses boost their online presence.

In session #9 the team use their knowledge to guide you through the world of SEO outcome prediction and goal setting.

We covered hot topics such as:

  • Aligning business goals to SEO goals;
  • Understanding how SEO differs from paid channels;
  • Setting realistic goals for your budget;
  • Understanding how other marketing activity impacts SEO performance;
  • Setting timeframes and expectations;

Plus the team were on hand to answer questions.

Check out the next video in our SEO webinar series

So the schedule today: we’re going to look at what SEO outcome prediction is – so why are we predicting the success of SEO – and why is forecasting SEO hard and why do you want to predict the traffic that you could get from organic? By organic in SEO, we use those words quite interchangeably, they just mean the traffic that you don’t pay for from search engines. Then how you can actually predict your success of the search engine optimisation work, some examples of this, and then how sort of setting goals for SEO is important and how you can work with your Nettl SEO team on that. Also how you track your return on investment as a business owner I know that you are always going to be tracking the return on every bit of money that you spend on marketing – whether that’s SEO, direct mail, posters, printed activity – you always want to track the success of that work and see if it’s providing a return for you. The good thing about SEO is you absolutely can track this and some more traditional channels but obviously it works to have a few different channels working for you. We want to show you today how you can measure the return on your search engine optimisation activity. 

What is SEO outcome prediction?

So first of all, what is SEO outcome prediction? It’s basically accurately forecasting the financial value of your SEO, or in other words, what impact would your SEO activity have on revenue and return on investment? So it’s the same with any of your marketing channels, whether you’re doing PPC or traditional, you always want to work out ‘is the money I’m spending giving me a positive return on investment’? Notoriously, that’s quite difficult with SEO but it’s still very important. 

So we’ll just look at why that’s difficult. It’s being asked to predict not only a constantly evolving algorithm from the search engines, but also changes to market demand, as well as the impact of not just your own efforts but competitors. So if you’re spending X amount on SEO and you’re putting in X amount of hours, you could have a competitor that’s got two or three times the resources. So you’re battling not just this algorithm, but also your own efforts and competitors. Also the algorithm, it’s very complex and it’s largely unknown how it all works. It’s a very closely guarded secret. This makes predicting SEO quite a challenge compared to channels like PPC, but it’s not impossible. It’s still essential that you do this for your business. 

Why should we predict our SEO?

If it’s difficult, why would we try and predict your SEO? The first is to manage your business expectations and your expectations. You want to understand that if we start SEO today, you’re not going to have 10,000 new clients by Saturday. So you need to understand what is possible within your SEO. It’s really useful to help you plan your budgets, not just within SEO, but your entire marketing budget and where SEO fits within that. Really importantly, understand your return on investment, as I said, every marketing channel, you need to know what type of return you’re getting. Is it working? Where can you improve it? How can you get the maximum ROI? I think it’s really important that, no matter what your budget is, you can still predict some kind of outcome and use that to measure your success. 

It is really important that you target your revenue and your leads, not just traffic increases. So just because you’re getting a thousand more visits per month that might not equal revenue and leads. So I think it’s really important as a business to tie everything back to revenue or leads so that you understand the actual impact of these efforts. To be realistic because, it’s a long game SEO so we need to factor in what’s actually possible within your industry, within the power of your website and against your competitors. 

How do we predict our SEO?

Now we’re going to look at how to predict SEO. We’ve got a few steps of how we do that or how your SEO manager would do that. I’m not expecting everyone to be able to go away and invent these steps themselves because some of them require tools and experience in doing so. I think it’s good to give you an overview of how your SEO manager and account manager would go about this so that you understand the process. 

On the basic level, it’s two steps. We’re projecting out your website traffic, and then we’re relating that website traffic back to either your revenue, if you’re something like an e-commerce business or your leads, if you’re a more traditional business that uses leads. 

Step one. We plucked out the current website traffic that you’re getting from Google, and we plot that out across maybe the past year would be a good range to do, which you can get from your Google analytics or your search console, if you’ve got this, and you could get your SEO managers help you with that as we plot out each month and how much traffic we’re getting. Then we use that to calculate what the percentage increase or decrease is in the previous month and that gives us an average rate of growth. So we can use our average rate of growth to plot out how the next six to 12 months look, if we were to carry on working as we are now. That gives you a really nice baseline that you can measure your success from because you know if you then get results above this red line, you’re increasing growth. Then you can see how successful campaigns have been. 

This is very simple to work out, it’s just inputting your monthly traffic and then the calculators work out what your percentage change would be. It’s a fairly straightforward graph, but that gives you somewhere to start from.

The next step, which does require some tools, so again, not expecting people to necessarily go and do this. What we would do is we would map out your keywords – the things that you currently show up in Google for, so if someone’s searching for terms related to your business – and we use tools to work out how many clicks those search terms are getting. So how many people are searching for something and then clicking through to a website. It’s really important because we then use these clicks to work out how many customers you might be able to convert and how much that conversion might be worth to you. We would identify really relevant keywords for your business, remove anything that’s out of reach, so possibly it’s something that’s really competitive and there’s people in your industry that are just dominating that query so you wouldn’t be able to target it and see what’s going to work for you and how many clicks we can get for that. 

The next step would be to calculate if we could show up in Google for those terms, those search queries. How much potential traffic could we get? If you understand that the higher up in Google you show, the more clicks you are likely to get. So if you were number one for a plumbers in Bristol, and you could anticipate getting 28.5% of the clicks for that term. So if you see this example I’ve done here, where the keyword is ‘buy euros’, that gets 16,000 people a month searching, clicking for that term, which means if you were number one in Google for that term, you could expect to get around four and a half thousand clicks. This is really useful information because we can tie this back to expected revenue based on how much your average conversion rate is and how much your average profit margin is. 

Once we have that kind of data, and we’ve got your baseline, we’ve got your potential traffic if you were to target these new keywords and show up in Google for them, and the amount of traffic that would bring you. We work out what’s a realistic impact that we could have within your SEO and we look at things like how competitive is the industry and how strong is your domain. By that, I mean how trusted it is, how many good links are going through it. Your budget, what’s realistic within the budget, how much time and resources do we have, how much content resource you might have, are you able to produce one article a month or 20 articles a month? That’s sort of what the SEO will be doing, but there’s also intern activity. So as the business manager, are you collecting reviews? Are you producing your own content? How are you helping your internal activity? Then, of course, things like seasonality and global pandemics. If you’re a Christmas business, you want to plan for that, you can’t expect huge growth in January. If you’re a summer business, you can’t expect huge growth around this time of year. 

Calculating your SEO revenue

Once you’ve worked out what you think your efforts will result in. The final thing to do is to calculate your SEO revenue, and that is different by each industry. But, for example, e-commerce, which is a fairly straightforward model, your revenue is the traffic times your average conversion rate times your average revenue margin. If that’s a local business where you’re doing lead generation perhaps, you would have your traffic, the conversion rate of those leads, and then the average lead value. 

Managing your expectations

Managing expectations. Obviously this is very key. Once you’ve planned out all your work, you need to understand that SEO is a long-term strategy that can take months to start working and that’s something you need to be aware of and you need to put that longer term mentality in place. Have a really clear and open communication with your team, with your business, with your SEO manager and understand that if your website is brand new, it will take you a while to build up authority. So something good to do here is maybe run some PPC whilst you’re building up your SEO and then you get kind of additional learnings from doing both of those. 

Here is an example of how this might look: if we were to take a keyword or something that people are searching for, that your website doesn’t show up for at the minute, and we started showing up in Google on the first page, how many more clicks our website could get, the conversion of that, and then the additional profit we might be able to get. Then we can use that to project out and work out ROI. So for this term ‘buy euros’, which I used before, there’s 16,000 people searching and clicking for that term each month in the UK. So we see here that if we got our websites to position four in Google for that term, we could be looking at an additional 1200 visits a month. Let’s say our conversion rate for those customers is 5% and our profit is eight pounds. That’s an additional 500 pounds a month profit. 

Again, if we climbed up the rankings within Google and we were number one, it could be an extra 1800 pounds in monthly profit. If you’re then spending 500/600 pounds a month on SEO, you can see how that relates to your return on investment. This is for a quite simple model for one keyword, but you could also use it to project out for multiple pages across your website. So maybe you offer multiple services and you were planning out if you could improve all of those service pages and get more traffic to all of them, and then you can predict how much your gains would be. 

So here I’ve got the graph from the earlier slide where you’ve got your current traffic in blue, we’ve mapped out our predicted baseline in red so if we were to carry on working as normal. Then the yellow line is what we would achieve if we start implementing the SEO strategy that we designed, how much more traffic we can get, and then obviously  how that traffic relates to conversion and revenue. 

An alternative approach

This is another approach, which is probably easier to run through. It’s a good one because it means you can sample and scale-up. So for this activity, what we do is take a sample of similar blog articles or similar pages on your websites – maybe you’ve got ones that are very similar for each location, or they’re all on the same topic – we calculate the current growth rate for this, as we did before with the blue line and the red line. Then we would optimise a small portion of these pages, maybe 10 or 20 pages, we’d make changes to them, we’d wait a few weeks/several weeks, and then we’d measure the results. We’d look at those results against our baseline and against the pages that we didn’t optimise. Then we can see that the sample set that we did our SEO on has improved by 30%, the baseline improved by five. So we can say, that’s great, we can then predict if we roll this out across all of our pages, we can predict a 25%/30% growth. So that’s something really good that you can do, on a much smaller scale. 

How does goal setting relate to forecasting?

How does goal setting relate to forecasting and outcome prediction? If you are looking to invest in SEO, or if you already have a package with us, you will want goals. There’ll be goals as to why you’re paying for SEO. You’re not just paying to have a website, you want that website to do something for your business. Everyone knows how to set goals, but really with SEO it’s similar to general business goals or life goals about those ‘smart goals’. So it’s about setting the goals that are your business goals, not just search engine optimisation goals. So if you have a goal to grow your business from X size to this size by next year, then that is your business goal and you need to work backwards from that and see how search engine optimisation fits into that goal or any other marketing channels. 

There’s so many marketing channels out there that you could be investing in and trying, there’s too many for you to just invest in all of them, but if you’re choosing to invest in SEO  you need to relate that back to the business goals and not just look at vanity metrics.

Be realistic

Be realistic about those goals. We spoke about how SEO can take time. It is a marathon, not a sprint. If you want to invest in SEO, I’m not saying that you won’t see quick results, because that is quite possible. If you have a website that has a lot of technical errors or a lot of things that can be fixed quite quickly in quick wins, then you may see quite quick results. But if it’s a brand new website and the domain hasn’t built up any authority yet, it’s going to take time. Also if you’re in a competitive industry, it might take time. If you have particular keywords that have quite high search volume and are competitive, it might take time. So it’s basically setting realistic goals that you feel you can achieve so that you’re not going to be disheartened or feel like SEO isn’t successful for you. 

Have reporting in place

It’s really important to set those goals from the off and from the start so that you know if the work is successful. Make sure you have reporting in place, or, if you’re on one of the enterprise packages and you have an account manager, that you have a relationship with them where you can understand the success of your SEO and have some reporting in place.

Set goals on historic data

Also set goals based on historic data, historic data is invaluable. You need to look at the data on your website. If you don’t already have anything set up to track success on your website, you absolutely should. I would recommend going away today and setting up Google analytics and Google search console, because a lot of businesses just have a website because they should nowadays but actually there’s a lot of success in having a website. You also have costs associated with having a website, like your hosting and things like that, so you want to make sure that you’re setting goals and you’re looking at the success of your website and tracking it and seeing how much you’re getting and where that traffic is coming from. So if it’s coming from organic or if it’s coming from your Facebook page, for example. 

As I’ve mentioned before, SEO doesn’t happen overnight, but it can be really successful when it’s working well for you because unlike other marketing channels, you don’t have to pay every time someone comes to your website with search engine optimisation, because once your website is optimised, you will get that traffic if you’re ranking well. But it does require constant investment because things are always changing. So you can’t get to position three and then suddenly say, ‘oh I don’t need to invest in SEO anymore’ because that will change. 

Use measurable goals

Using measurable goals, those goals need to be tangible, they need to be like metrics. So how many leads or how many inquiries do you want from SEO and then we can work back backwards from that. If you understand the value of a customer to you, then you can understand and you can set measurable goals. Looking at customer lifetime value, for example, if someone buys a product from you or a service or comes to your business, will they come again? Do they then become a valuable customer that’s going to keep returning or do they just buy once? What is the value of one customer to you, or one inquiry? How many people convert when they go on your website? 

Avoiding those vanity metrics. So I’m just going to talk about those vanity metrics on the next slide, but they are useful in some respects with SEO.

High level goals

High-level goals. So your high level goals that you should be setting are your leads so inquiries and forms and calls. Anything that people use to get in contact with you, using your website or your online search engine presence. So for example, you’ve probably got one of these Google listings where it has your website or directions or a telephone number. You can track the success of all of these, and you should be tracking the success because these are here as a result of search engine efforts and optimising your Google local listing is search engine optimisation. You need to be reporting on the success of that because often people think that it’s just people filling in a form on the website, which is SEO, but if people are calling you from this search engine result, because there’s a telephone number there, they found you as a result of searching on Google and organically seeing your result and then phoning you straight away. So actually that is SEO success. So you want to just make sure that SEO is being recorded correctly and the right goals are being set up and the right things are being reported on so you understand the success of it. 

Measuring your success

Revenue, profit, return on investment – you’ll probably have a way that you measure success of all your different marketing channels, if you are investing in different things. How can you measure the return on investment from SEO? The standard formula for measuring that and then also benchmarking it against your other channels. So I often see people say, ‘I don’t feel like SEO is working for me’, but then when you ask to look at their other marketing channels and how much they’re spending on something else, I say, ‘what are you getting from that?’ and they say ‘I don’t really know’. They’re spending more and they’re not seeing as much. I think often because people don’t understand SEO that well, they don’t think it’s successful but it’s a really valuable channel because once you’re investing in it and once you start seeing results, those results will drive traffic to your website or drive calls to you, which are essentially free. They’re not free because you’re spending money on SEO, but you’re not paying every time. You’re not paying for an advert in the local magazine because actually you’ve invested and you’ve got a good ranking on Google. 

Secondary goals

Secondary goals, which are the vanity metrics I was talking about. So when we talk about search engine optimisation, everyone looks at rankings, which is fine because that is what it’s about, you want to rank number one in Google search in order to get traffic because that’s what we just spoke about in terms of forecasting your traffic. But what’s the point in having all that traffic, if no one is inquiring and no one’s actually coming to your business or inquiring about your services, that is pointless. So the way we like to report on SEO success is looking at the bottom line. So looking at those commercial metrics like your revenue. 

These secondary goals, like how much ownership do you have of the search engine or your traffic, or how many reviews you have, or your page speed score. You might get a review for it from other businesses and an audit that says you’ve got a low page speed score, low health score – all of this is important to SEO and it’s SEO ranking metrics, but these aren’t the metrics that you should be detailing success on. It should be how many leads and the revenue that you’re getting because these are just metrics that we at Nettl SEO will look to improve in order to drive more money to you.

Return on your investment

Return on investment. It’s really important to track your SEO success against your business forecast and goals. If you set a forecast for 2021 for your business, set that forecast against SEO. So how much of your revenue or sales that you want in 2021 should come from organic search? Then work backwards from that. Don’t focus on rankings. Obviously I know you will look every day at what your position is on Google, but try and move that towards looking at and understanding how many inquiries you’re getting from Google or Bing or whichever search engine you’re focussing on. Also understanding and appreciating that it won’t happen overnight. If you really do want leads straight away – like tomorrow – and you’re investing in SEO today, then you probably want to have a look at potentially adding ad-words onto your package if you have an SEO package or doing additional activity that will bring in leads. 

SEO requires continuously changing and improving and adjusting on what you’re doing. As we said, there’s an algorithm behind where you rank on Google and how many people come to your website, and that is changing every day. You can’t stay still with SEO. You have to be continuously optimising, updating your website, creating quality content to show Google that you’re an authority. 

Also compare your leads or calls against your spend on SEO. Really simple example here, but say you had a package which was 500 pounds and you got 50 inquiries in December and you spent 500 pounds. If 15 of those inquiries actually led to a sale and that sale value of those 15 inquiries was 5,000 pounds, then you’ve essentially made profit. Your revenue taking away what you spent on SEO is 4,500. Then obviously work backwards from there for your fixed business costs and everything that you have to pay out for and how successful SEO is for you. Always be looking at essentially what you’re spending and the revenue coming in from that channel. Then start to benchmark each of what you’re spending your marketing on and where you should be spending your money. 

Brief summary

Just to recap: forecasting helps manage your expectations. So if you want your Nettl SEO manager to look at some sort of forecast for you or help you understand return on investment, please ask. It’s not easy so you probably won’t get the world, but you can get some sort of forecast to help understand where you might be in the next 3, 6, 9 or 12 months. Please be focused on leads and revenue or whatever reason you’re doing SEO, focus on that metric, not rankings and other vanity metrics. 

Make sure you set measurable realistic goals that are based on your overall business goals. So don’t set goals that are completely irrelevant to what you’re actually trying to achieve as a business, because that won’t make sense. Then also use the secondary goals to track your success. You don’t necessarily need to look at those, but if you want to, they might help you understand why the work that has been done is successful. So has your page speed score improved from this to this? Then as a result of that, are more people staying on your website and inquiring because you don’t have a slow site for example? Then always report your SEO success against your business forecast and your business goals. 

What we’re trying to say here is search engine optimisation is difficult, it’s complex, but you can absolutely try and forecast the success of it. You can also forecast based on what you’ve seen. As long as you set goals, and as long as you set your expectations, you’ll see success from investing in SEO. 

Wherever your new customer or your existing customer, or you’re looking to potentially invest in SEO, if you want this we can try and have a look at doing it for you to forecast. Obviously it’s really important to re-forecast because we didn’t know that there was going to be a pandemic this year so the amount of businesses that forecasted their success this year and that has probably gone downhill whereas others may have done really well.