October 05, 2015

Are You Setting Realistic SEO Expectations?

Setting Realistic SEO ExpectationsPublishing a new blog post won't instantly get it on the first page of Google's search engine results. Even if you do all your search engine optimization (SEO) right, it could take quite awhile to get your content in good ranks. That's why it's important for your organization to set expectations straight — this way, no one on your team is waiting for the near-impossible. 

If overnight is off the table, how should you set reasonable goals for your SEO, then?

Determine what's right for your company.

“We want to be the best in the entire world” is a lot less likely than, “We want to be the most reliable and helpful in our city."

Whether you've had a website a long time or are just starting out, coming up with a goal and putting a number on it can be difficult. That said, set goals that focus on growth and improved performance. More visitors doesn't automatically mean more customers, and even increasingly engaged customers doesn't necessarily guarantee more visitors ... so track them both, and set unique goals for each.

Not every site will get the same results, of course. Focus your gaze on the long-term, and create short-term goals that keep you on track. Whether your goal is 5% growth in a month or 20%, use your historic data to determine average growth — and then aim higher.

As time goes by, you might need to adjust your projection rate if you've set it too high or too low — and that's fine! There is no magic number, so follow what's right for your business and always aim for improvement.

Track trends, not numbers.

Holding up a magic number as the be-all and end-all will only end in stress and uncertainty throughout the journey. If the number is way too high, it will create a feeling of never doing well enough.

Instead, keep track of what you're doing right and how it relates to the numbers. Is one content creator getting more responses than the others? If so, compare what they're doing versus others to see what they're doing right. Is the amount of engagement increasing on social media since last month or three months ago? Are you blogging more and getting more page views in turn?

Even if it's a small increase, it's still good news! Keep your team energized by noticing where things are going well, and not just where they could be better. It takes a lot of persistence to keep improving and get the results you want, so make sure you're fueling your team's enthusiasm!

Understand what you're up against.

Aiming to be first on Google for a broad search term such as "hats" will be near impossible. There is simply too much competition: Too many other sites are talking about the same thing and hoping to rank for it. Instead, aim to get your pages ranking for very specific phrases.

To make this easier, when coming up with your content, think of it in the perspective of your customers and how they may search out information. Instead of "hats," they may be looking for "how to fix my favorite hat." (But would your customers say "fix" or "repair"?) Also consider how your business is different from others, and make your strengths a focus of your content. What makes your company unique? What's your angle?

With that in mind, come up with a list of potential questions to rank for and make a series of content posts that answer them. It is much easier to rank as an answer to a specific question, so use that to your advantage. The more specific your content is, the better. What is your company an expert at? Let your team share this knowledge, but be sure it is actually helpful to customers. No matter how educational your content, if it isn't what your customers are looking for, they won't find it or share it. What do they care about? That's what you need to create content about.

Set your goal to be known as a trustworthy provider of information and expertise in your field rather than simply "the best."

Update, blog, Tweet, and share.

The last thing you want to do is post your content and expect that one click to be enough. Your SEO results depend on your efforts. Are you keeping the site up-to-date and creating new content (blogs, videos, etc.)? Are you sharing your content across social media and getting likes, retweets, and shares?

Search engines put heavy weight to your content's performance because they aim to give users the latest, relevant, and most popular material. Promote what you've spent time creating, and share what others have created as well. When it comes to online content, keeping your links self-contained will make your site an island. Search engines are reluctant to share "islands" because they want to list sites that provide useful information and will connect users to the best resources — even if it's not their own.

Follow standards.

It's easy to forget, but make sure every page is following the latest SEO standards. Is your meta description short enough to not get cut off on a search result listing? Do your images have alt tags? Are you using headings and SEO-friendly URLs? Does your site have a sitemap file?

Get yourself a checklist of these items to ensure none are forgotten. While it's not a huge deal to miss a few items as your content itself will always be the weightier factor in ranking, each of these can only help your page's performance, so it's in your best interest to do so. Try using SEO SiteCheckup's free tools to check your site, or HubSpot's free website grader.

Revise your actions.

If your efforts aren't performing and no growth is happening, something is wrong. Consult your team for their feedback, and reflect on your customers. Are you creating helpful content they care about? Are you communicating in a way they'd understand? What are your competitors doing? Can you look to your best performing content and find anything different from the rest?

Don't keep doing the same thing over and over again if it's not getting results. If your social media isn't engaging, try wording it a different way or posting at different times of the day. If you want comments but aren't receiving any, try a clearer call-to-action at the end of your post. Don't be afraid to make a survey for your customers if you're stumped! Keep it short, however, as most people don't want to spend too long on them (about five questions). 

Trek ahead.

In the end, your SEO results require putting in your all. Produce and share content, track performance, improve and revise goals where needed, and repeat. Try not to worry if a single post doesn't get great results today or tomorrow; every post only helps you in the long run.

When it comes to SEO, you're not going to see the long-term growth of your efforts until, well, it's been a long time! But short-term goals can begin building today, through every post you make.

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Laura Kajpust

Laura is a designer, developer, and illustrator because learning one thing seemed way too boring. While technology is easy, she still can't cook anything requiring more than three ingredients. Fortunately, her husband and dog are not very picky (except on weekends).