7 min read
Today I’m going to show you how to get started with setting and tracking your SEO goals.
Any time you put your effort, money, or any other resources into something, it’s a great idea to both set goals you want to achieve and have the right tracking set up so you can see when you’ve achieved it (or how far you have left to go).
Unfortunately, many online creators fall short on this. They either have the tracking part down, and no goal, vice-versa, or worse yet, they spend their time and effort somewhat randomly because they have neither proper tracking nor a clear goal.
So to get meta for a second, the goal of this article is for you to be able to set up your own simple SEO goals and goal tracking.
Let’s dig in.
Goal setting is one of those topics that sounds simple enough, but what does it really mean?
This guide on setting goals is a great place to start to demystify the topic. There are some goal setting shortcuts that can make the process more manageable, like setting your goals in 90-day increments, and breaking your goal into smaller tasks.
Once your SEO goals are set, it can also be really helpful to use a simple goal tracking tool like an old-school written journal or a free online and mobile app like Todoist to hold yourself accountable.
Once you’ve got a firm grip on the basics of goal setting, you’re ready to set up your own measurable SEO goals.
Seeing how you rank for keywords you’ve purposefully created content around can help determine how effective your keyword research was, how relevant your content is to what searchers are looking for, how well you executed your on-page SEO, and how effective your off-page SEO link building efforts have been.
You should shoot to rank 10 or lower for your target keywords, which puts you on Google’s first page, but ideally you’d like to be in the top 5. Why? Because over 50% of the searchers’ clicks go to those in the top 5.
If your page is ranking outside this range, ask yourself these questions to determine how to get there:
Head to semrush.com/position-tracking, enter your domain, and click Set up. The first time you do this you’ll have to create a login, but this part of the tool is free to use.
Here we’ll use the great travel blog oneikathetraveller.com as an example.
The tool will walk you through a bit of setup where you’ll enter the keywords you’d like to track. Enter your target keywords for any content you’ve published– you can track rankings for up to 10 keywords for free.
Once your target keywords are added to your project, you’ll be able to see where you rank for these keywords and then celebrate or take action accordingly.
SEMRush shows us how we’re ranking for each keyword right now, how that ranking has changed for whatever time frame we’ve selected (Diff), and how often that keyword is searched every month (Vol.).
It looks like the pages targeting ‘what to wear in egypt’ and ‘overseas dating’ are performing really well! The page targeting ‘teaching abroad’ is still ranking outside the top 10, so we can run through the list of questions above and take action to push it onto page 1, and with enough effort and patience, into the top 5!
A specific amount of overall traffic from search engines is a great SEO goal because it gives you a bird’s eye view of how your individual content-based SEO efforts are contributing to an overall trend.
Without getting too technical, once you get several content pages performing well for organic search, your entire website’s overall search authority should rise. When this happens, a jump in the performance of one page can have small positive impacts on several other pages in a sort of flywheel effect that rewards anyone patient enough to stick with SEO.
Shoot to gain 3% more search traffic each month than the month before. This may sound modest, but because this growth builds on itself, over a timeframe of even just a year you’d see annual growth of over 40%!
If you don’t yet have Google Analytics set up for your website, that’s really step zero here. Follow this beginner-friendly guide to get up and running.
Once you’ve got Google Analytics set up, head over to the Channels report in the left hand navigation menu by going to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels.
This shows you all of your website traffic broken down by how they got to your site. Since we’re only concerned with organic search traffic, click on Organic Search in the column called Default Channel Grouping.
Now we’re seeing information on only visitors from organic search. Almost there!
To see your search traffic from last month and compare it to the previous month, click on the date range in the upper right corner, and set the start/end for the first and last days of the most recent full month. Then check the box next to Compare to and select Previous Period from the options.
The goal and results we’re after are now on the page, but there’s a lot of information here. So which number is the one we want?
Look for the number directly underneath the column title Sessions. This is the percentage change, either up or down, for your organic search traffic for last month compared to the month before.
We can see here that for our example, we had just under 12% more search traffic during April than we did in March, which is well over our 3% per month goal – this is great!
To make finding this report quicker in the future, while you’re here, you can bookmark this URL in your browser. When you want to come back, just click your bookmark, adjust the date range, and you’ll be all set with way less fuss!
If you’re below your goal, you can adjust this report to show you the positive or negative growth of organic search traffic to each page on your site, so you can find out what pages are struggling and what could use some on-page SEO or off-page SEO attention.
You can also click on Landing Page above the main table on the page. This will adjust the table below it to display each page of your site line-by-line.
Check out the % Change Row for each page. Scroll down the list until you find a page that’s below your 3% goal– it may even be negative if it got less traffic than the month before– and get to work figuring out which on-page or off-page SEO factors may need some extra love.
Having a routine around tracking your goals is part of any successful online creator’s business.
Almost every good goal is measurable, which means dealing with numbers and tools that can seem intimidating. But following this process to set up and track your search traffic goals should allow you to start checking them and following up when needed part of your regular routine.
So right now, set a reminder on your calendar or phone for the first week of every month to see how you’re tracking toward your business’s SEO goals.
Start this reminder for the first week of next month, then make your very next step to have the above tracking set up by then so you have something to track when you get your first reminder!
Download this issue of Tradecraft as a PDF to read and reference at your own pace.