Search engine optimization (SEO) is definitely a strategy that depends on planning. What you plan for at the beginning of a campaign can set the tone and effectiveness for your entire execution. Set the wrong goals, or aim for the wrong targets, and you could wind up wasting time and energy pursuing a result that doesn’t align with your original vision (or else, doesn’t earn you a high enough return).
If you want to get your SEO campaign started on the right foot, you’re going to need these five targets, at a minimum, guiding your campaign.
Choosing an audience isn’t exactly easy. You may already have an idea of who your audience is as a brand—the target demographics who are most likely to buy your product—but when it comes to search, you’ll have to consider a completely separate set of factors. For example, is there a specific segment within your audience more likely to use search than another? Is there a major competitor monopolizing a certain segment of your audience?
Don’t just think in terms of demographic data like age, sex, or education level, etc. Broaden your reach by thinking about user dispositions. At what stage of the buying process is your audience going to be? What’s their mindset going to be like when they’re performing searches? Set these targets carefully, as they’re going to dictate the rest of your strategy (including your other targets).
Next, you’re going to need to settle on a niche. This is highly important, as SEO is a competitive strategy, and it’s only going to get more competitive as time goes on. It’s possible, with enough time, money, and resources, to rank in a “general” space, but major corporations and organizations have been cementing their positions here for years. Instead, it’s better to seek out a niche—a highly specialized area with less visibility, yet far less competition. Consider this carefully, and compare yourself to your competition. What makes you unique? What can you offer your audience that nobody else in the world can offer?
This may come down to offering something unique to your audience, targeting a unique segment of your audience, or adding a unique spin to your content—whatever it is, it needs to define you and give you an edge in the competitive landscape.
Keywords are a very important—yet frequently misunderstood—element of SEO. They’ve always been important, and they still are important to some degree, but they’ve evolved dramatically thanks to the semantic search-focused Hummingbird update. I won’t get into the Hummingbird update here, but you need to know that the keywords and content topic targets you set at the beginning of the campaign will dictate the strength of your end results.
You need to strike a balance between keywords with a high search volume and keywords with a low competition rating—but at the same time, you need to choose keywords that fit within your niche and have a high relevance to your target audience. It’s easier said than done. Do your research exhaustively here, and hedge your bets with a wide berth of selections.
With your audience, niche, and keywords in place, you’ll have a good idea of how to execute your strategy—at least in terms of what angles to take. Your momentum, however, is derived from the intensity of that execution. For example, you may know what type of content you want to produce or what links you’ll want to build, but how many of each will you need? How much will you invest? The bottom-line goal to worry about here is your total organic traffic. How much do you want to see, and how quickly do you want to build to that point?
Understanding these dimensions of your “traffic” goal will allow you to allocate your resources appropriately, and establish a baseline measure for success in your overall campaign.
5. Conversion Rate
Your conversion rate isn’t technically a part of your SEO strategy; optimizing your site for conversions isn’t going to have a positive impact on your search rankings in any capacity. However, your conversion rate will, to some extent, dictate the eventual profitability of your SEO campaign. Imagine a scenario where you’re getting 5,000 visitors a month through organic search traffic, but none of them are converting—all your efforts will have been for naught.
Accordingly, I think it’s important to consider your conversion rate targets as a complementary, if not integral, part of your overall SEO strategy. What can be done to increase conversions on your site? Can you set up specific landing pages? What AB tests are you going to perform to learn more?
It’s not easy to set these targets effectively or accurately. Obviously, it’s better to go into the goal-setting process with some objective research to back your reasoning, but at the same time, there’s a little bit of guesswork involved. Fortunately, while it’s important to set targets early in your campaign, there is a degree of flexibility here; if you find that one of your targets isn’t yielding the results you’d hoped, or if you over/underestimate your ability to execute, you can always make revisions later.
This isn’t about charting a perfect course from the get-go; it’s about giving yourself a foundation and a frame of reference for your growth.