Goal setting in SEO – How to measure your SEO successes


What goal have you set yourself in SEO for the next one, two or five years? What specifically should be achieved and how do you measure whether your SEO measures were really successful? If you simply optimize without a clear goal and evaluate your successes after the fact according to your gut feeling, then you should urgently read this article. Here you get impulses why goals are also important in search engine optimization, which of them actually make sense, how you measure these goals after certain time intervals and how you evaluate your success.

Why goals are important in SEO

How would you rate the following statement?

We have increased our traffic by 210 percent in the last 2 years using SEO. 

Sounds very good at first, doesn’t it? However, without knowledge of the initial figures, potentials or competition, this statement cannot be evaluated.

If the traffic via search engines was almost non-existent two years ago and the potential was enormous, 210 percent is probably not much. But if the traffic here was already at a very high level and the competition is still enormous, 20 percent in two years can also be a lot.

As in all disciplines where energy, effort and money are invested, it is important to have scheduled goals in mind that everyone on the team shares. These goals should be realistically achievable so that they are not demotivating, but challenging enough to pull everyone along.

The best strategies, measures, documents, the most beautiful slides and Excel tables are of no use if no one is aware of the urgency to implement them in order to achieve the jointly defined goals.

Long-term goal setting

When setting goals in SEO, it is important to know that a search engine optimization strategy takes time until the corresponding measures really show effect. This depends on many different factors. These include, among others:

  • status quo

  • Budget

  • Team size

  • Potential

  • Industry

  • Competition


It is not uncommon for measures to take effect only after a few months or for significant improvements to be seen only after one or two years. It is important that all those involved are aware of this and have the patience and perseverance to keep up with the initially stagnating progress.

Anyone who has been offering search engine optimization as a service or implementing it in-house for a while is certainly familiar with this situation: An SEO strategy is classified as a failure after a few months, teams are replaced or restructured, although it was discussed in advance that the project would take its time.

After the conversion, the success is suddenly visible: rankings, traffic and sales increase. The fact that the work that was invested in the last few months is responsible for the “sudden” success, and not the radical conversion, is in most cases already irrelevant.

If fixed targets are set in advance that the defined key figure should only increase by 10 percent after 10 months, for example, it is less likely that SEO measures will be classified as a failure.

Firmly defined KPIs as targets

Which KPIs (Key Performance Indicator) are useful in the context of search engine optimization and which are not, depends on the various factors that I have already mentioned above. It also doesn’t have to be the one KPI that is targeted. In some cases, it is quite conceivable to take several KPIs as objectives.

NOTE: While key figures reflect the quantity or frequency of a certain fact, key performance indicators are precisely those figures that are directly related to a goal. They represent what is decisive for the company’s success. See also “Measuring Success in Marketing” by Tanja Josche.

The visibility index (SI) as a KPI for goal setting?

Even if the SI is a metric that shows the perspective from the outside on the SEO performance of a website, it makes perfect sense. The SI becomes even more interesting if it is based on a specially defined keyword set, which can be used to exclude less relevant keywords that could distort this value.

When we ask ourselves why invest in SEO or online marketing in general, the overarching goal should be to generate more sales, whether directly or indirectly. With this overarching goal, the metric of conversions from analytics tools is probably the closest metric to this.

So could the number of conversions or the deposited value in Euros be a good KPI?

Unfortunately, this key figure is only of limited significance, because when considering “conversions” from the “Organic Search” channel, all visitors are included who came to the website via an entry of brand keywords. This means that visitors who wanted to visit the site of this brand anyway are included in the SEO success and distort this value. The bigger and better known the brand, the greater the deviations.

Non-brand clicks as the most important KPI in SEO?

Is it even possible to define “non-brand traffic” in SEO? The answer is relatively clear: not really! At least not exactly. The reason is quite simple: The keyword that a visitor has entered via organic search is not provided in analysis tools (“Not Provided”). This means that brand and non-brand traffic cannot be separated.

The Google Search Console can help. But be careful: The measurement methods of the Google Search Console are different than those of Google Analytics or other analysis tools. Deviations from “clicks” in the Google Search Console and “sessions from organic search” in Google Analytics of 10 to 40 percent are not uncommon.

Nevertheless, it makes sense to use this metric from the Google Search Console as a KPI for measuring SEO successes, since an increase over a certain runtime has a meaningfulness. It is only very important that the viewer of the data should always be communicated which methods were used to extrapolate the data.

For information on how to measure non-brand clicks in Google Search Console, I wrote about it here: Non-Brand Measurement in SEO 

Realistic calculation of a case

In the following I present an approach how to evaluate planned SEO measures. At the beginning, all key figures needed for the Precast should be defined and known. In the calculation, these key figures are again clarified with an example.

Important key figures for case calculation

KPI: With the key figure, it should be ensured that only numbers that can also be directly influenced by SEO measures should be considered.

Example: Non-Brand Clicks (Google Search Console).

Status quo: Once the KPI has been defined, the status quo of this key figure must be recorded in order to be able to define where the starting point lies. Seasonal effects and trends should be taken into account.

Example: 10,000 non-brand clicks / month

Search interest: What is the search interest and potential of the defined keyword set in search engines? This answer should be provided by a detailed keyword analysis or an approximation. Seasonal effects, trends, languages and country selection should be taken into account here.

Example: 1,000,000 search queries / month

Market share: Once the defined search interest and the associated potential has been calculated, the status quo can be used to define how large the current share is in the search engine results. This only refers to the share of the defined keyword set and not the actual market share in an industry.

Example: 10,000 non-brand clicks / 1,000,000 search queries * 100 = 1 percent

Target value: This key figure states how high the slope of the KPI should be. As already mentioned, many factors play a role here, such as status quo, budget, team size, potential, industry, competition and others, so this value should be defined realistically.

Example: 5 percent * 1,000,000 search queries / 100 = 50,000 non-brand clicks per month

Duration: In what time can this goal be achieved? As already mentioned, it takes time until SEO measures show effect, therefore long-term goals are more reasonable. Here, too, empirical values should be taken into account.

Example: 2 years

With a baseline of 10,000 non-brand clicks per month, the goal is to reach 50,000 non-brand clicks per month after 24 months. But what do the click numbers look like over the course of these 24 months? For this, a realistic increase in clicks is necessary. In this example, an S-curve formula, which was determined by empirical values, serves as the data basis.

If you add up the clicks of the 24 months, you get a value of 681,209. Here, the initial value of 10,000 clicks per month must be calculated out (681,209 total clicks – (10,000 clicks * 24 months)). The clicks generated by the SEO measures within the 24 months would amount to 441,209 in this case.

With an average conversion rate, the investment and the ROI can also be planned in such a case, in order to find out whether the planned budget for achieving the goal is also justified. How such a calculation can be carried out and which possibilities there are to approach an ROI in SEO, is explained in this e-book: ROI in SEO – measurability of the economic success in organic search. 

Measurability and target tracking

In order to track and report these goals regularly, the Google Data Studio is suitable. Here, the target values can be compared with the data of the Google Search Console. Figure 2 shows an example of how something like this could look.

Current Month: The first key figure (Current Month) shows the non-brand clicks achieved in the current month. The key figure below provides information on how far the achieved value deviates in percentage terms from the defined target value from the current month.

Total: The second key figure (Total) shows the non-brand clicks achieved, cumulated since the start time. In this example, it is two months. The key figure below tells you how far the achieved value deviates in percentage terms from the defined target value from the current month.

Gap Total: The third key figure (Gap Total) shows the difference between the current non-brand clicks and the target value. In this example, it is 2,402 clicks above the target.

Additional: The last key figure (Additional) shows how many non-brand clicks were generated in total, starting from the initial value for the runtime.


Goals are also important in SEO. They help you work together as a team, both in-house and with an agency or consultant, towards a common goal. In the course of the project, monitoring goals shows you whether you are on track or whether you should perhaps rethink your strategy. In the end, you will know whether your measures were a success or not, what is possible and what value you have created for your company with SEO. What goals are you pursuing with your SEO team?



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