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Be Sure to Set Realistic SEO Goals

Writing by Shawna Wright in SEO


One of the biggest obstacles to long term SEO success is the fact that many site owners don’t set realistic SEO goals and expectations for their program. When you treat SEO like a marketing tactic as opposed to a long term investment you might be expecting to see results typical of an online advertising campaign (more money = more results quickly) and that’s not how SEO works. You can’t “pay to play” with SEO so it’s important that you set realistic SEO goals for your campaign. If you set the bar too high you’ll never be satisfied with the result. SEO expert John E. Lincoln agrees, saying, “With respect to results, we really stress setting realistic expectations at the outset of the campaign.”

One of our former B2B SEO clients was a large software company with a strong online brand. Over the course of a year our SEO efforts helped increase traffic from non-branded keywords but because the client was comparing their brand to industry powerhouses (large software companies like IBM) it was never good enough. Apparently the same thing was happening with their social media marketing campaign as well—they wanted to have the same reach as a company like Salesforce but had no real direction, internal investment, or plan for their efforts. The client would compare their SEO and social media against these enormous online brands and if the results weren’t the same then their campaign was deemed unsuccessful. Ultimately this client decided to stop investing in SEO because the numbers weren’t what they were expecting as quickly as they wanted, even though the numbers were definitely moving in the right direction.

We’ve also worked with smaller B2B companies that wanted to do well on a national level for broad keywords like “IT services” or “business financing.” While these keywords did accurately reflect their company, products, and services by pinning their SEO program on such competitive keywords any SEO success was never good enough to justify their investment in SEO. Their SEO goals weren’t realistic enough and any small SEO wins got lost in the shuffle.

For instance, imagine if you decided that your number one SEO goal was to increase organic non-branded traffic by 30% in a year. If your site was getting 5,000 visitors a month when you started that means by the end of the year you’d expect to be seeing 6,500 organic visitors. But what if your organic traffic only grew 20%? That’s still an extra 1,000 visitors a month—would you consider that a failure? And let’s say other traffic sources like referral links and social media were driving an extra 600 visitors a month—that pushes your total traffic to 6,600 a month (not included direct). You actually achieved your SEO goal, just not necessarily in the way you were expecting it to happen.

It’s important to think of SEO like any other long term campaign. If you set your expectations too high it’s much easier to get discouraged when you fall a little short. When you have realistic SEO goals to work towards those small wins keep you happy and motivated and not losing the forest for the trees!

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