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SMART Goals: Examples for Search Engine Marketing

Consider using SMART goal setting to move your SEO goals forward. See ways it's used in search marketing to achieve better results.

Are you trying to improve results from your search engine marketing? Whether you want better rankings in organic or paid search, SMART goal setting can help you track and achieve those results.

In this article, we’ll look at SMART goals and how to apply them to your search engine marketing.

What are SMART Goals?

SMART goal setting first appeared in the business world in 1981. It is an acronym that stands for the following.

S – Specific

Specific goals are clearly defined with an exact amount. Common, but unspecific, goals for SEO could be:

  • Improve search rankings.
  • Increase organic search traffic.
  • Build a diverse link portfolio.
  • Develop new content.

Overall, the main goal of any SEO campaign is to increase visibility in search engines. To make your goal specific, you need to state precisely how you will increase visibility in search engines.

A local business, for example, may set a specific goal to claim new local listings/citations in the next quarter.

M – Measurable

Measurable goals can be quantified. The above example of a specific goal needs an exact amount of local listings to claim.

To make it a measurable goal, the local business may update it to claim 25 new local listings in the next quarter.

Now, it is specific and measurable.

A – Achievable

Is the goal you have set for your SEO strategy achievable?

To answer this question, you have to know if the end result you want is attainable. With the local listings goal above, they would have to know there are still 25 local directories left for them to claim.

Note that while a goal should be achievable, it should also be a challenge to achieve it. If a goal is too easily or quickly obtained, it shows that the measurable portion of the goal wasn’t ambitious enough.

Historically, A stood for Assignable. This is also a good component of a SMART goal.

Who will be involved in completing any tasks necessary to achieve the goal? Make certain that someone is accountable for each step in the goal completion process.

R – Relevant

Is your goal relevant to your business needs? In the case of a local business seeking to claim local business listings, the answer is yes, the goal is absolutely relevant to the business and the success of its marketing efforts.

By claiming local listings, a local business will increase its visibility in search results. The listings themselves have the potential to cover most of the first page of search results, as well as help boost local rankings in the map pack.

In the past, R has also stood for Realistic when A was for Assignable.

Is your goal realistically achievable with the current resources you have to invest in it? Or will you need to invest in resources before you can start the goal.

A small business with a single owner may not be able to realistically achieve the goal of claiming so many business listings while simultaneously managing other business operations.

A local chain with a marketing team, on the other hand, may be able to claim even more listings in the same timeframe.

T – Time-Bound

Time-bound goals are simply goals that have a time frame for completion.

With the local business example, the goal may be to claim 25 listings by the end of the quarter.

Assuming this is realistic, it will ensure that you work toward completing your goal in a timely manner.

What happens when we don’t add a time frame to a goal?

In most cases, the goal without a deadline gets put on the back burner while the goal with a deadline gets the focus until the goal is met.

Why are SMART Goals Important?

Unfortunately, it turns out that often-cited study from Harvard or Yale that shows success for MBA students based on goal setting is a myth. However, we do have research that shows the effectiveness of goal setting for marketing.

According to a study by CoSchedule, marketers who set goals are 376% more likely to report success in their marketing efforts versus those who do not set goals. What’s more, 68% of the marketers surveyed set deadlines always or most of the time.

The success of SMART goals is generally linked to the specificity of the goal. Unlike a very loosely defined goal, a specific goal has to be thought out. You have to analyze where you are, where you want to be, and exactly what it will take to get there.

Even the American Psychological Association includes the fundamental components of SMART in their dictionary as the definition of goal setting:

“…a process that establishes specific, time-based behavior targets that are measurable, achievable, and realistic.”

Locke’s theory of goal setting explains why these components improve performance:

“At least four mechanisms explain why goal setting improves performance: (a) It focuses and directs activities, (b) it regulates expenditure of energy, (c) it enhances persistence because the effort is continued until the goal or subgoal is reached, and (d) it can promote the development of new strategies for improving performance.”

SMART Goal Examples for Search Engine Marketing

Using some of the top general goals of SEO campaigns, the following are examples of SMART SEO goal setting.

Search Rankings

One of the top goals for most SEO campaigns is to increase search rankings.

Of course, saying that this is your goal is far from specific. And it’s hard to be specific with a metric that fluctuates regularly.

With that in mind, here is an example of a SMART search rankings goal.

Increase search rankings for [specific keyword] from second to the first page of search results by the end of the year.

To determine if this is attainable, you will need to assess your competitors in organic search. Compare the quality of your content with theirs and incoming backlinks.

Traffic Generation

Generating traffic from organic search is the ultimate goal of efforts to improve search rankings.

To create a SMART traffic generation goal, consider modifying the following:

Increase organic search traffic by 25% by the end of the following quarter.

To determine if this is attainable, you will need to assess your competitors in organic search for your top keywords.

Link Building

Links are key to helping Google discover your content and determine its quality and relevance for search queries. To create a diverse link profile, you will need to set a SMART link building goal.

Acquire 50 relevant links to our website in the next quarter.

To determine if this is attainable, create a list of pages that are most likely to win links.

If you have 10 link-worthy pages of content, it’s realistic to assume you could get five links for each page.


Do you want your search engine optimization to result in driving qualified leads or sales on your website? Create a SMART goal that focuses on revenue-generating conversions.

Increase [sales revenue/leads generated] from organic search by 10% by the end of the year.

If you know how well your organic search traffic currently converts, you should be able to extrapolate a realistic increase.

Key Takeaways

If you want to achieve your SEO goals, consider using SMART goal setting.

Create Smart, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals that are well thought out.

Use these additional tips to ensure SMART goal success:

  • Know why you are setting a specific goal. Your reason why (such as the potential in ROI) should motivate you and your team to complete the goal.
  • Write down your SMART goals – don’t just formulate them in your mind and forget them.
  • Create accountability for each step in the process with regular meetings and progress reports.

More Resources:

Featured image: It for you/Shutterstock

Kristi Hines

Covering the latest news in AI, search, and social media.

SMART Goals: Examples for Search Engine Marketing

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