Often, there’s a general lack of knowledge about how SEO tactics should be measured outside of generating website traffic. Because of this, goals tend to be much more difficult to get alignment on and ultimately drive the strategy in the wrong direction.
Goals are hard to build for any function, especially in marketing.
It’s not that there aren’t clear ways to build goals. You can find formulas for building just about any type of goal out there.
It’s that goals have a lot of weight to them. Your quarter, your year, your job or your entire business can FEEL like it’s on the line if you don’t set proper goals.
The stress from this pressure ends up turning a fairly straightforward process into one filled with indecision.
One of the more difficult marketing initiatives to build goals for is SEO-focused content.
We see SaaS content teams struggle with this all the time. It doesn’t matter whether they’re just starting to work on their SEO & content marketing efforts or they’re trying to set new goals after several years of effort.
Let’s work out what is likely holding your team up and lay out some straightforward goals that’ll point your team in the right direction.
SEO goals can prove challenging to build for a variety of reasons.
Often, there’s a general lack of internal knowledge about how SEO tactics should be measured outside of generating website traffic. Because of this, goals tend to be much more difficult to get alignment on and ultimately drive the strategy in the wrong direction.
Some of the most common challenges we see businesses struggle to wrap their head around are:
Results are delayed: It’s generally known that it takes time to generate results from SEO content. New content can take time to be indexed by search engines and once it is, take even longer to gain visibility and rankings that generate traffic and conversions. This can make it difficult to predict or anticipate what and when you may see SEO content perform.
Attribution to revenue can be difficult: Depending on your business model, direct conversions through content may not be a reality. SEO content tends to be an influencer in assisted conversions more than direct, which requires some nuance to report on. Therefore, you’ll need to educate internally on the value of SEO content’s contribution to revenue and align on metrics/goals further up the funnel.
Misconception about rankings: Rankings still tend to be something that businesses fixate on. Of course, they are important, but at a very granular level. Organizations tend to want to focus SEO content efforts on generating specific rankings for specific queries that may not have that much of an impact on the growth of the business.
There are a variety of metrics and KPIs to measure within the world of SEO. Many of which I alluded to in the previous section.
While there’s no “wrong” way to measure SEO content success, there are a set of core metrics that should always be prioritized from a measurement standpoint.
The most important things to keep in mind are:
Below are key metrics you should be prioritizing for SEO-focused content goals. All of these metrics we use to measure success for our clients on our shared dashboards.
Impressions may not be the “sexiest” of metrics to discuss or report on because they aren’t directly connected in any obvious way to revenue. That doesn’t mean they aren’t important to measure and ultimately build goals around, especially for SEO-focused content.
As defined by Google, impressions are:
“The number of times any URL from your site appeared in search results viewed by a user, not including paid Google Ads search impressions.”
That’s a pretty important metric to understanding how often you get eyeballs on your domain, brand and content.
Why are organic impressions important?
Organic clicks are going to be one of the more important metrics to prioritize because it’s the clearest representation of organic traffic to your website. So, depending on what type of content you're producing, or the topics you’re targeting, you’ll want to have a detailed understanding of what organic click behavior to your website looks like.
In the spirit of continuing to make sure we’re on the same page about what the metrics in this post are about, here’s Google’s definition:
“For most result types, any click that sends the user to a page outside of Google Search, Discover, or News is counted as a click; clicking a link that stays inside the Google platform is not counted as a click.”
Why are organic clicks important?
There could be an endless number of relevant keywords that could potentially drive traffic to your website. If that’s possible, it can be hard to know where to start with what you think a healthy number of keywords should be.
That’s because there isn’t one. It’s all about “healthy” growth over time.
Assuming you’re targeting the most appropriate topics for your audience, publishing content on a consistent cadence, and distributing across relevant channels, the number of relevant keywords driving traffic to your site will grow over time.
If it isn’t, either you’ve maxed out the number of relevant topics you can write about, or your product isn’t growing in ways that map new topics to ICP pain points.
Why is organic keyword growth important?
Relevant backlinks that you acquire to your site hold a tremendous amount of power. That doesn’t mean that all links hold the same value, but a high quantity of relevant links built over time will help increase your Domain Rating.
The higher your authority, the more likely you are to rank quickly for important queries and topics.
Why is backlink growth over time important?
It’s a bit controversial to bucket these two metrics and list them last as they are likely two of the most important metrics to your business. But the reality is that SEO content impacts your business in a variety of ways that don’t directly contribute to conversions and ultimately revenue (ahem, see previous metrics).
If you’re a SaaS business, assisted conversions are going to tell the best story for how your content is influencing conversion activity across the board. You can influence direct conversions depending on your content strategy (e.g.; if you’re pomoting a free tool, guide or calculator), but the journey for those users commonly have lower stakes than converting to try or pay to use a product.
Why are leads & revenue important?
Recommended Listening/Watching: Blogs and Conversions: Setting Yourself Up for Success
For any in-house SEO professional or even an agency (such as ours) that is tasked with building an SEO content strategy, aligning those goals to the broader content marketing strategy is critical.
It can also be one of the more challenging things to accomplish.
Generally, if you follow the below best practices, you should be able to not only align your goals to the rest of your team’s, but also impact each of the key metrics I discussed earlier in this blog post.
Don’t create your goals in a silo
This may seem obvious, but it happens all of the time. Make sure your SEO team works directly with your broader content team (if they’re separate) to ensure SEO content strategically maps to the metrics listed above and isn’t generating traffic for traffic’s sake.
Spread goals out across the funnel
While we’re on the subject of traffic, be sure to create goals across the marketing funnel (traditionally Top, Middle, and Bottom). That’s a great way to ensure that you’re still trying to generate a high volume of relevant traffic (i.e.; awareness at the top of the funnel) while supporting other content marketing efforts to help convince and convert users at the middle and bottom of the funnel.
Leverage your content distribution resources
Depending on the resources available to you on your team (e.g.; PR/comms, social media manager, etc.), you’ll want to make sure you align your strategy to their efforts and enable them with the content you’re creating. That way you can build goals that can help influence backlinks and authority over time through strategic content distribution.
Work with your sales team
Make sure that you have an ongoing feedback/conversation loop with your sales team. They’re the ones that are talking to prospects and collecting data on what pain points your ICP is trying to solve. This can help influence strategic SEO content meant to influence conversions further down the funnel.
A key to building SEO content goals is to use historical data as your starting point.
A lot of times, businesses will go with a more “finger in the wind” approach or place an arbitrary percentage increase across your key metrics.
These approaches typically end up generating unrealistic goals that set your team up for failure from the start.
The below process will help you build logical goals that are based on your organic channel’s historical performance, and not a completely made-up number.
But, before you start building, there are few caveats to emphasize:
You’ll also need access to the following organic metrics:
With those things in mind, let's start generating some goals!
For this process, we’re going to use the previous year’s performance numbers to generate goals for next year. You’ll typically be doing this without a full years worth of data, but that’s fine, you can just round up realistically based on where you think you’ll end for the year.
Here you’ll pull both impressions and clicks from Google Search Console for the previous year (e.g.; If you’re building goals for 2023, pull data for all of 2022).
Your “source of truth” for conversions or leads will differ from company to company. Google Analytics will likely be the most common source, but many have jumped for other platforms because GA can be pretty inaccurate.
Whatever your conversion source is, you’ll want to pull the previous year’s organic conversions for your desired or primary lead type.
Most SaaS businesses have three plans to choose from (or more). Typically there’s one that’s the primary plan that gets purchased most often (and is preferred by the business). Choose the primary pricing plan to help you understand what it will take to hit your revenue goals.
In order to extrapolate your traffic goals, you need to understand what your conversion rates are for both “traffic to lead” and “lead to customer”. If you know these already, that’s great, but you can calculate them from your clicks, conversions and customers data as well.
Once you have done all of the above, you can easily calculate what your overall organic goals should be for impressions, clicks, conversions and customers.
You’ll need to have a strong understanding of how much your SEO content (typically your blog + additional resources) are contributing to your overall organic KPIs.
For example, your SEO content (or blog) may make up 25% of your overall traffic, leads, customers and revenue numbers.
From there, you’d take 25% of your overall organic goals and apply them to your SEO content goals specifically.
BONUS: SEO Content Goals Calculator - Here’s a simple calculator that will generate the numbers I walked through above.
Building goals for SEO content requires a nuanced understanding of your business and it’s audience. Not every business will build them the same way, but there are fundamental metrics to include and frameworks to work with.
We’ve built an easy way to produce goals that give you the confidence that your SEO content is generating results that matter to the growth of your business. book a call with our CEO, Nate Turner to see if SEO-focused content is a good fit for your company.