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In Chapter 1, we talked about the ubiquity of Google search in our daily lives and how integral it is to even the simplest things we do. With Google processing billions of searches every day, businesses simply cannot afford to neglect this online space if they want to compete in the modern-day marketplace.
We also took a peek under the hood of the Google search engine and briefly discussed how Google crawls web pages, indexes websites, analyses data, and serves information to search users.
Armed with all this knowledge, let’s dive into the fundamentals and discuss how to plan a successful SEO strategy. Now, at this point, you might be asking, “How exactly do you plan for SEO success? Don’t you just build links and put keywords in your content?”
To that, the answer is, “No.”
For a SEO plan to be truly considered a success, it must produce results that are favourable to your business’ bottom line. Simply appearing on Google for a search query doesn’t mean your business will benefit from it. Your approach to SEO cannot be “visibility for visibility’s sake.”
To ensure the success of your SEO strategy, you need to properly align it with your Business and Marketing Goals. How do you do that?
Logically, the first step to devising a properly aligned SEO strategy is defining your business goals. What are the goals that you’ve set for your business this year? From there, break down these goals into quarterly objectives, and then split them up into monthly targets.
Do you want to increase subscriptions to a new podcast by 40%? Are you looking to increase sales of a freshly launched product by 60%? Do you need to onboard 500 users to a newly built app for your business?
When setting your business goals, you can use the SMART criteria as a guide. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Using this set of criteria as a framework, let us look at how you can set goals that are attainable and beneficial to your business’ growth.
Specific: When setting a goal, be specific about what you are looking to achieve. This requires having a definitive idea of what success looks A clear and specific goal is like a “North Star” – it gives direction and focus to all your efforts moving forward. To make sure you are being specific in your goal setting, you can try answering these five questions:
When setting a goal, make sure you have a quantitative or qualitative scale in mind. It’s not enough to have a vision of what you want to achieve – it needs to be expressed in a way that’s measurable. Carefully consider the metrics you are going to use, as this will inform your decision-making and relevant efforts moving forward. For example, if you have a goal to hit X number of sales by the end of Q1, it’s best to set milestones to see how near or far you are from reaching your goal.
It’s understandable to want to set the bar high and shoot for the stars, it’s equally important to keep your feet on the ground and be realistic. If your new podcast has reached a milestone of 100 subscribers just last month, setting a goal of 1,000 subscribers by the end of this month might be a tad ambitious. Don’t set a goal that’s too daunting for yourself or your team. Instead, set yourself up for success by making your targets challenging but attainable.
A ‘SMART’ goal is one that’s relevant to your business success. How does achieving your goal help your business growth? Will it generate leads? Increase sales? Improve conversions? At the end of the day, your goal should have a definitive impact on your business.
Finally, set a timeline for achieving your goal. Framing your goal within a specific period allows you to measure the progress you’re making towards accomplishing it. Furthermore, it signifies whether you should be ramping up or allocating extra resources in order to meet your objectives by the deadline. Time-bound goals also enable you to more effectively coordinate efforts between team members.
The business goals you’ve set will be the building blocks of all your other efforts, including your marketing and advertising strategies. Every campaign you launch, every investment you make should all point back to achieving your fundamental business goals.
Once you’ve got those “set in stone,” you can build towards setting your marketing goals.
Marketing goals are the results that your marketing efforts need to produce to help meet your business goals.
Let’s say that your business has set out to be the number one car dealership in town, and you know that other car dealerships in your area are selling 20 automobiles a month and 240 automobiles a year on average.
Following the SMART framework, you’ve set a business goal to sell 300 automobiles a year – that’s 75 automobiles quarterly, and 25 automobiles monthly.
Based on that business goal, what is the appropriate marketing goal? Do you need to increase website traffic, improve conversions, enhance brand awareness, or a combination of the three?
Understanding the marketing efforts required will enable you to make informed marketing strategy decisions, such as fine-tuning your allocation for online advertising,
exploring alternative digital marketing channels, or expanding your marketing audience to include a wider demographic.
Additionally, formulating your marketing goals on the back of your business goals gives you a clear view of the justifiable cost of your advertising and marketing. This will help make sure that you aren’t overbudgeting (or underbudgeting) on marketing.After you’ve set your marketing goals, you can then drill down into setting your SEO goals.
As a key component of a business’s marketing engine, SEO can be a consistent source of leads, sales, and revenue if executed correctly. However, an SEO campaign can only be effective if it is built on SEO goals that are tightly aligned with overarching business objectives.
This means that each SEO goal incorporated into an SEO campaign must contribute to the core principles of SEO, such as enhancing the organic visibility of a business on search engines, improving the reach of a brand, and improving a business’s ability to turn audiences into customers.
Concrete SEO goals lend focus and clarity to an SEO strategy by providing defined outcomes to be pursued. Clear-cut SEO goals also help ensure that your efforts are contributing to the overall growth of your business. By being able to track and measure the tangible effects of SEO goals on your business, you can amplify strategies that are contributing to your bottom-line.
One way you can systematically set SEO goals is by following the SEO Goal Pyramid, which was originated by ahrefs.com.
You can think of the SEO Goal Pyramid as a hierarchy of three levels: Outcome Goals, Performance Goals, and Process Goals. Below is a sample of what a completed SEO Goal Pyramid looks like:
Based on the example above, we’ll take a deeper dive into each section of the Pyramid to understand how you can use this framework to plan for and achieve your own SEO goals.
One important thing to note is that the SEO Goal Pyramid is a top-down process, where you start with a bit picture idea, and then cascade that down into more specific information. That said, the first step of the process is…
The outcome goal is what you want to achieve from the SEO strategies that you will seek to implement under this framework. When conceiving an outcome goal, remember to structure it within a specific timeframe. One way you can start the process is by answering this question:
What kind of SEO outcome helps me reach my business’s bigger marketing and business goals?
In our example above, the Outcome Goal, “Appear in the top 3 Google search results for a high value target search phrase within 6 months” is a well-defined goal, as it follows the core pillars of SMART goals.
The goal is specific, as you have narrowed down the scope of success to the top 3 results of SERPs. It’s relevant, since having a business website rank in the top 3 for a high value target search phrase can help generate more qualified leads, which can in turn translate to increased revenue. It’s measurable since SERP ranking can be monitored using a reliable tracking tool. The goal is achievable if you have already taken into consideration keyword difficulty. Finally, with a timeframe of 6 months, you’ve made the goal time bound.
Once you’ve set an outcome goal, you move on to the next step, which is…
A performance goal is a specific result that must be realised to help achieve the outcome goal that you’ve set above. Depending on the outcome goal and your own existing capabilities, you may have one or more performance goals. One way you can make sure you are properly framing your performance goal is by answering this question:
What kind of results in the short-term will help me realise the SEO Outcome Goal that I have set?
Going back to our example, let’s take a look at our Performance Goal, “Get 50 high-quality, high authority backlinks to your target web page within 6 months” from a SMART framework POV.
By setting a total of 50 high quality, high authority links to be achieved, the goal has been made specific. It is relevant since getting high quality backlinks to your webpage is one of the best ways to build page authority, thus increasing your chances to rank in the top 3 of SERPs for your target key phrase. Progress towards the goal can be measured by monitoring how many backlinks are linking to you via a tool like the Link Explorer by Moz. The goal is considered achievable, as there is a wide variety of techniques that can be used to build quality backlinks, including digital PR and guest blogging. And with the 6-month period, you have met the time-bound parameter as well.
After you’ve set a performance goal, you then follow up by…
A process goal is a defined strategy that you plan to execute to meet your performance goal. These are goals that are completely in your control. Based on your performance goal, you can start framing your process goal by answering this question:
What tactic(s) will help me achieve my performance goal(s)?
At this point, you can begin brainstorming process goals or tactics that will help you meet your performance goal in time. In the example above, one process goal that we’ve decided to use is to execute what’s a called a ‘skyscraper’ campaign. A skyscraper campaign builds on one comprehensive, high value, long-form content piece that you are confident will be shared by people online. With this content piece at the centre, you then blast 133 skyscraper outreach emails every month, encouraging people to engage with the content and share it online through a simple call-to-action. If executed properly over a period of 6 months, the webpage will have been reshared by different people online on various platforms. This results in a rich organic backlink profile for the target webpage.
By establishing a benchmark of 133 skyscraper outreach emails each month, you have now made your process goal specific. You can measure your progress every month by maintaining a daily and weekly count of how many emails you have sent out. By implementing a carefully crafted emailer strategy and using an email marketing service like MailChimp, sending out 133 emails in a month is certainly attainable. The goal is relevant, as email marketing can significantly boost your organic link-building efforts. And since you are looking at a time-frame of one month to blast 133 emails, you have met the time-bound aspect of the SMART framework as well.
The SEO Goal Pyramid is an iterative process that can be used as many times as possible based on your SEO Goals, Marketing Goals, and Business Goals. With this simple procedure, you can build a comprehensive strategy for growing your business and competing in the online marketplace.
Knowing what you know now, try out this technique and see if you can lay out some Business, Marketing, and SEO goals for yourself.
In the next blog, we’ll build momentum on this topic and talk about the Top Aspects of Successful SEO.