The first step in crafting a successful SEO campaign – Goal Setting

Determining what it is that you want to accomplish with search engine optimization should be at the forefront of your thinking when you start a concentrated SEO effort.  In SEO, setting goals, whether for your site, for your SEO agency, or for another piece of the effort, is an important element to a healthy campaign.  Your goals can act as milestones and can be perfect check points to measure the success of a task.  Goals for an SEO campaign can of course come in all shapes and sizes (so to speak), and can be wildly different depending on who is setting them and how lofty their aspirations are.  Many site owners will undoubtedly want to rank first for all keywords that could even possibly drive related traffic to their site no matter how general those terms may be.  For instance, I just recently spoke with someone who listed as a goal for their site:  “ranking first for the term ‘win.'”  Now, I don’t mention this to imply that this person was dumb – they certainly are not, but I do mention it because this perfectly illustrates how some goals sound great until you dig a little deeper and look into attainability.  This goal would not only be difficult to reach (Microsoft sites are entrenched at the top of Google due to their windows products), but reaching the top position would almost undoubtedly not result in high quality traffic.

So, what are realistic goals for SEO?

I personally recommend you start by setting goals related to the following consideration before you even go further:

-Type of conversions desired

By type of conversion I mean determining what actions you want your visitors to take once they land on your page.  For example:  fill out a lead form, call a phone number, sign up for a newsletter, buy directly from the site, etc.

Goals from there can go in a lot of directions but make sure you at least consider the following:

-Goals related to what happens when people visit your site

Another type of goal will come from your actual site metrics.  Hopefully you have some sort of visitor tracking on your site and hopefully it has been running for some time now and you have insight into current and past metrics.  If you don’t, it is never too late to add web tracking.  Google Analytics is a free and robust web analytics program that many of our customers use.  We’ll get more into setting goals based on web analytics baselines next Friday when we discuss determining baselines.

-Goals related to where your site ranks for particular phrases

Your goals for rankings may be related to branding goals, traffic generation, quality traffic factors, and many other thoughts but generally I recommend having at least two buckets of keywords.  You’ll want your long-term goals and your short-term goals.  Your short-term goals will consist of long-tail phrases that probably won’t drive huge amounts of traffic from any one term but the traffic they do drive will generally be at least fairly qualified and these terms will be low on the competitiveness scale.  Your long-terms goals will consist of broader terms that will likely be searched rather frequently, will be more competitive, and will drive more general traffic than the long-tail phrases.  A discussion on choosing keywords that meet this criteria comes on January 22nd.

One last note regarding goals:  Give enough time to collect good data related to your goals but realize that goals may need to evolve.  In other words, don’t be afraid to change some of your goals if need be.

The next step in this SEO gameplan is determining and recording SEO baselines.