Friday, 21 August 2020 19:29

Goal Setting in SEO - Understanding What You're Aiming For

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This should go without saying but anytime you perform any sort of edit on your website, whether it be a page heading change, meta description edit, button color, or even obtaining new backlinks, it must be done with a quantifiable objective in mind.

I speak as somebody who has accomplished goals, missed goals, discovered unintended results both positive and negative, and has jumped into projects and tasks completely omitting this fundamentally important step.

When I was a marketing rookie, I often made the mistake of jumping into projects fast, after thinking of “the best idea ever” based on my perception of what could perform well or look good. Sometimes I would implement these ideas without fully analyzing the data behind it, and oftentimes without having a thorough idea of what I was trying to accomplish.

Intrinsically, sure, I knew my goals were likely traffic-based or conversion-based. But I paid no attention to anything in between, i.e., the multitude of visitors within the various levels of the sales funnel.

And that’s what it comes down to - Your website visitors are in different mindsets and different discovery modes. Your individual actions do not need to cater to all levels! Maybe you simply want your users to navigate to a second page (decreasing your bounce rate) or spend an extra 30 seconds on the page (increase your average site duration). Guess what - These are all ranking factors! Good metrics will be reported back to the search engines, and the search engines will show you preference in the form of higher ranking. Unfortunately, the inverse scenario is also true.

The activity of every one of these visitor personas and so many more can be measured in many different ways. Lets look at the fundamental formula that gives organic prominence to any website on the web.

The SEO Ranking Cycle

Impressions > Clicks > Conversions

These are the three distinctive, tangible buckets of organic search engine measurement that can be used to assess how well your site is ranking and attracting traffic.

Here are the questions I ask myself when altering any element of a website:
What is the current iteration lacking?
Have I consulted the data?
Have I researched best practices?
How will I measure success?
Through this article, I am going to explore that fourth question in a handful of different contextual situations and scenarios.

Organic SEO Goals

Metric 1: Increase in Impressions

An impression is obtained any time a page from your website is displayed on a SERP that a user has navigated to. If you rank within the first 5 positions for any given query, it’s safe to say that you will have a near 100% impression share for users searching that query in your serviced region, since there are typically 10 organic results on the search engine results pages.

Let’s say you are ranking closer to position 18. You are toward the bottom of the second results page. To obtain an impression, the user must navigate to page two of the search results, but does not need to scroll to the bottom of the page to see your listing. Impressions are counted if a user touches the page your listing is on, regardless if your listing scrolls into view or not.

Here are some tasks you may carry out where an increase in impressions is your quantifiable SEO goal:

Create New Content - Regularly

When you publish or update old content, you are effectively incorporating new and updated keywords into your text. Speaking of which...

Incorporate Well-Researched Keywords

Broad, common or even generic keywords with high search volume can have large, long-term gains if incorporated correctly, however they can be highly competitive and difficult to rank for. Long-tail keywords represent longer variations of common keywords (3 - 4 or even more word phrases) that can incorporate specific qualifiers, adjectives, and even an actionable term. They have a lower search volume, but are typically easier to rank for and have a higher tendency to convert.

Metric 2: Increase in Average Position

Ah, the wonderful world of rankings. Average position is closely associated with impressions. You’re getting shown, but your positions are, well, subpar. Maybe your in the 40s or 50s range. The lower you rank (meaning, the farther away you are from page one), the less probability you are going to be clicked. If you’re ranking on the 5th page of Google, the user has scrolled past 50 listings - you are one in 50 listings the user has seen and has likely realized the query they used is not what they are actually in need of finding.

Here are some projects and tasks where an increase in ranking position is how you can measure the effectiveness of your efforts:

Build Backlinks

Linkbuilding is two-fold. First, it can potentially increase your referral traffic from users actually clicking your link in an article or post. Secondly, it can fuel your ranking position, especially if linked in the right way.

The amount of credit or “link juice” you get from the backlink is influenced by many factors, including how the linking sites link to it, the anchor text they use, the HTML attributes they use, the authority of the linking sites, and the vicinity they are in.

You can explore the effectiveness of obtaining links in different ways, and measure the effectiveness they have on your page’s average position as a whole and for the various keywords it ranks for.

Metric 3: Increase in Clicks / CTR

All this work so far just to be seen! Getting shown isn’t even half the battle. Getting those clicks is an entirely different game.

Google counts a click anytime somebody clicks on your listing, and thereby leaves the search results page. It’s important to note the distinction because there are some elements of the SERP where a user can click on a listing for more information to be displayed right on the SERP (such as expanding an FAQ). These are NOT counted as clicks.

Here are some actions you make take to help improve your click volume.

Tweak Your Page Title

You got the impression - Here’s your chance to make an actual impression and convince the searcher you are the answer to their needs. This is the first thing a searcher will see, and it’s important you hit them with what your page is all about. We will explore page title best practices in the future but for now my advice is this: If you’re having trouble finding a title that clicks, try Googling your service and see how your competitors are titling their pages. If you have access to a site explorer tool such as Ahrefs, you can take it a step further and can plug in a competitor’s page and see how many clicks they are estimated to receive based on their keywords, positions and and the search volume that keyword receives.

Alter Your Meta Description

Just like with page title, this description is displayed in your listing on the SERP. It gives you a little more space to add some context to your listing, such as your unique service prop, perhaps a call-to-action, or a statement about your company.

A word of caution: changing anything can have an adverse effect. Know what you’re already ranking for and try to not remove critical keywords from prominent locations such as these.

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