Defining Strategic Objectives for SEO Audits in 2018
This is the second post in our How to Conduct an SEO Audit in 2018 series. If you're just joining us, we recommend starting at the introductory post.
Business First: Define Strategic Objectives For Your SEO Campaigns That Support Business Goals
Before we can dive into actually conducting an SEO audit we need to either determine or define what your long-term business goals are and use these to structure specific and measurable goals for your SEO campaign(s).
While we're going through the steps to a successful SEO audit always keep in mind that SEO is a means to an end. While it may seem like a black box of mystery on the surface (mainly because it's an ever-shifting ecosystem), at the end of the day SEO is just another marketing tool you can use to help your business succeed.
This is why strategic objectives are key - they help you define in quantitative terms how you're utilizing SEO to help the business. They help drive focused decisions within your campaign, which further helps business goals by limiting resource expenditure both internally and externally.
If you've been involved in marketing and business strategy development before you've probably noticed the use of some words relating to the S.M.A.R.T. approach to goal-setting. For those with experience using the S.M.A.R.T. principle, you likely already understand why it's so important when setting business goals. For those of you who don't know about the approach...
What is S.M.A.R.T.?
Simply put, it's an acronym for an approach to goal-setting. It defines five objectives that your goals should meet:
Note: The S.M.A.R.T. principle is applied in other industries as well where the letters have other meanings. However, 'Specific' and 'Measurable' are almost always the same.
So, why is it so important to make sure your strategic objectives line up with the S.M.A.R.T. criteria? The simple answer is that it prepares you for success by setting a framework that helps you avoid common pitfalls. We could write an entire post on building robust and well-developed smart goals, but for this series, we'll keep it to a short overview
It's vital to be specific about what you want to accomplish. This can be thought of as the mission statement for your goal.
Keep in mind that Specific is NOT a detailed list of how you’ll meet your goal.
It should answer a few of the popular "W Questions":
Who needs to be involved? Who are the key stakeholders? Who does this impact internally and externally?
What specifically are you trying to accomplish?
When do we need to accomplish this by? The Time-bound component will get more granular with this, but it's good to set an overall target.
Why is this goal important? Why are you undertaking the effort and time to actualize it?
Which things do we require? Which things are going to be obstacles? This is an opportunity to inventory necessary assets and potential pitfalls.
An SEO-related example that we see often is that a company wants to execute an SEO campaign but lacks the expertise or experience. This is a major pitfall since they likely won't be successful executing the campaign on their own. The resulting requirement is that they have to train someone internally on SEO, or they have to hire someone who is an SEO expert.
One of the most important parts of the S.M.A.R.T. approach is defining and tracking quantitative values to determine success and guide decision-making. Defining the metrics you'll use to determine if the goal has been met is essential. If you've ever heard of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), these are them!
An added benefit of having measurable metrics is that it makes progress tangible. This is great for two reasons: It helps you build out dashboards that summarize progress visually, and it provides the team with a morale boost as you can literally watch your success grow against your benchmarks.
On longer-term goals, it's advisable to set milestones at shorter intervals and tie them to specific goals. This helps keep the project on track, and also ensures that the stakeholders don't feel like their effort isn't realizing any results.
There are two aspects to attainability. The first is simply ensuring that your goal is attainable. If you're a new company and your goal is to sell more shoes than Nike within your first year, it's simply not an attainable goal. In SEO terms, wanting to rank #1 for a short-tail keyword like "shoes" within a year or more is also not attainable. Focusing on long-tail, low-hanging-fruit style keywords would be a much wiser and reasonable approach.
The second component is what you can or need to do in order to make your goal attainable. Do you have the tools, skills, and resources to attain the goal? If not, are they themselves attainable?
The essence is that you want to make sure your goal is something that you can reasonably accomplish given your current situation.
Relevance makes sure that your actions make sense relating to broader business goals. If you're a B2B company it wouldn't make sense to waste your marketing efforts and budget on reaching B2C markets. By building your buyer personas and understanding the behavior of your target market you'll be extremely well prepared to build relevant SEO goals.
Setting successful goals requires realistic timing. Ensuring that goal and project deliverables have a target date for completion is essential. As we mentioned before, setting milestones for goals with long execution times will help keep things on track. There's also the added benefit of creating a sense of urgency as well as a sense of accomplishment for the team when milestones are reached.
Setting Your Objectives
As you can see, utilizing the S.M.A.R.T. approach will help you identify any key stakeholders or obstacles, ensure that you're able to quantitatively track progress, helps you check that you aren't over-reaching or over-extending your organization, and generally makes sure you're building goals that are built to succeed.
So now is the time to either set or review your strategic objectives and make sure they're S.M.A.R.T.
If you need a jumping off point we've put together a few examples of strong strategic objectives. You'll notice how they lead into each other - this alludes to building aligned campaigns in different marketing channels, which should be your ultimate goal.
To increase organic traffic by 50% (from 10,000 to 15,000) per month via an SEO campaign targeting [buyer persona A] searching for [product/topic category], specifically focusing on premium content offers offered on targeted landing pages, within 3 months.
To increase website leads driven from the organic search channel by 25% (from 1,000 to 1250) per month via Inbound Marketing campaigns informed by our SEO campaign criteria and goals.
To increase lead-to-sale conversion by 33% (from 300 to 400) per month through lead nurturing campaigns, primarily email marketing campaigns informed by lead engagement and behavior on our website and social media.
To increase customer first-purchase value by 100% (from $50 to $100) through the development of new products, discount/promotional codes, and the implementation of a loyalty system.
To increase customer-lifetime-value by 300% (from $400 to $1200) through a loyalty program, targeted drip nurturing email campaigns, and remarketing.
As you can see, your business strategic objectives should be aligned and offer a combination of KPIs for both SEO and your general business.
Now that we've discussed why determining your business objectives matter and how to set them, our next step is to evaluate your existing content and keyword strategy, determine if it's working and worth it, and to determine 'low-hanging-fruit' keyword opportunities that can help get you some easy wins quickly.
Now that we've covered how business goals influence your SEO strategy, it's time to move on to keywords analysis.
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