As SEOs, we have a tendency to generalize targets as a result of there’s a lot outdoors our management. “We can’t promise results.”

The issue is that with no clear imaginative and prescient of what a win is, we’re unlikely to obtain outcomes at all.

The identical is true if we set imprecise and arbitrary targets.

On this information, you’ll find out how to set the proper SEO targets utilizing the SEO aim pyramid.

  • What SEO targets are
  • Why SEO targets are necessary
  • How to set SEO targets
  • 3 SEO aim examples

SEO targets are particular and measurable aims that you simply goal to obtain over a time period. Every aim ought to contribute to the goal of SEO: attain extra potential customers by way of natural search and switch them into clients.

SEO targets are necessary as a result of they convey focus and readability to your technique by offering a transparent goal. For those who don’t have SEO targets, you’re taking pictures in the darkish. That’s by no means a good suggestion since you’re unlikely to obtain one thing except you goal for it.

Entrepreneurs typically make the mistake of setting arbitrary SEO targets like “get more traffic.”

The primary problem with the sort of aim is that it utterly disregards the what and the how. What are you going to do to make it occur? How are you going to get there?

To assist remedy this drawback, we created the SEO aim pyramid:

Right here’s how to use it:

  1. Create an end result aim. That is the factor you need to obtain and the timeframe you need to obtain it in. Consider it as the match you’re making an attempt to win.
  2. Break the end result aim down into efficiency targets. These are smaller targets that every contribute in the direction of the end result. Consider these as the particular person matches in the match.
  3. Break efficiency targets into course of targets. These are even smaller targets which can be 100% inside your management. Persevering with with the soccer analogy, that is who you’re going to play and the place you’re going to play them.

The thought is to break issues down into stepping stones to make your total aim extra achievable. As you full course of targets, you’re well-positioned to meet your efficiency targets. As you full your efficiency targets, you’re doubtless to obtain your end result aim.

Let’s take a better take a look at what every step entails and create our first framework.

1. Create an end result aim

Your end result aim ought to instantly align your SEO efforts with firm targets, so ask your self:

What SEO end result contributes in the direction of the firm’s broader targets?

mission statements, incessantly requested questions in conferences, and so forth., will help reply this. For those who get caught, ask your boss or shopper.

No matter you do, don’t fall into the entice of claiming “get more traffic.” Whereas getting extra site visitors might assist the firm obtain its targets, it’s far too broad. Your end result aim wants to be SMART: particular, measurable, achievable, related, and time-based.

So, a greater aim than “get more traffic” could be to “rank in the top 3 for [high-value keyword] in 6 months.”

This aim is particular and related as a result of rating for [high value keyword] will enhance income. It’s measurable as a result of you may monitor key phrase rankings with any good rank monitoring device, resembling Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker. It’s achievable since you already assessed key phrase issue. And it’s time-based since you specified the timeframe.

Here’s a visualization of our SEO aim pyramid to this point:

2. Set efficiency aim(s)

Efficiency targets are the goalposts you set for your self, so begin by answering the query:

What short-term wins will almost definitely get us to our end result aim?

You may have one or a number of efficiency targets. What they’re will rely in your end result aim and bandwidth. Simply watch out not to fall into that very same entice of setting arbitrary targets like “increase backlinks.” This might show you how to obtain your end result, however it isn’t SMART. There’s no method of understanding when or if you happen to’ve achieved the aim.

Persevering with with our instance end result aim of “rank in the top 3 for [high-value keyword] in 6 months,” a SMART efficiency aim could be to “get 40 high-quality backlinks to the page within six months.”

It’s particular as a result of we’re aiming for a sure variety of backlinks.

It’s measurable utilizing the referring domains graph in Ahrefs’ Website Explorer:

Cumulative referring domains by way of Ahrefs’ Website Explorer

It’s achievable as a result of it’s reasonable. There are duties inside our management that can get us one step nearer to reaching the aim.

It’s related as a result of we all know backlinks are a rating issue, and there’s proof that our goal web page is underperforming when it comes to backlinks.

Our put up has ~40 fewer web sites linking to it in contrast to the top-ranking put up.

It’s time-based as a result of it has a set ending level of six months.

Most significantly, reaching this efficiency aim will assist place us effectively for reaching our end result aim.

Here’s a visualization of the SEO aim pyramid to this point:


When you have to set 4+ efficiency targets in your desired end result, that’s an indication your end result aim is simply too broad and unrealistic. Revisit the 1st step and set a extra reasonable aim. 

3. Set course of aim(s)

Course of targets are measurable actions which can be 100% underneath your management. It’s the place you reply the query:

What’s going to I want to do to obtain our efficiency aim(s)?

Persevering with our instance, we have now an end result aim to rank in the prime 3 for key phrase “x” inside six months. And we have now a efficiency aim to get 40 high-quality backlinks to the web page.

What’s going to we want to do to get 40 high-quality backlinks to the web page inside six months?

Let’s say that we plan to run a ‘skyscraper’ marketing campaign. If we get a 5% conversion fee on common from our outreach emails, we will work backwards to create a course of aim that can put us in a wonderful place to obtain our efficiency aim.

Let’s do the math:

40 backlinks / 5% common conversion fee = 800 emails

800 emails / 6 months = ~133 emails/month

So our course of aim is to ship 133 ‘skyscraper’ outreach emails per thirty days for six months.>

Here’s a visualization of our SEO aim pyramid to this point:


Like with efficiency targets, you may create a number of course of targets. For example, you might wrestle to discover sufficient skyscraper prospects to ship 800 emails. In that case, you possibly can add one other hyperlink constructing tactic into the combine, like useful resource web page hyperlink constructing, and set that as one other course of aim. 

As a result of your SEO targets ought to align with firm targets, I can’t say exactly what SEO targets to set. Your trade, how established your model is, and the competitiveness of your area of interest all issue into the equation—amongst different issues.

However what I can do is stroll by way of just a few extra examples to get you snug utilizing the SEO aim framework.

  1. Enhance natural share of voice by 20% in 12 months
  2. Enhance natural engagement fee by 10% in 6 months
  3. Obtain $10,000 in gross sales from natural site visitors in month 6

Instance SEO aim #1: Enhance natural share of voice by 20% in 12 months

Search engine marketing is a extremely aggressive type of advertising and marketing. Primarily we’re all vying for a spot (and a focus) inside a restricted subject of area.

It’s possible you’ll hear your boss or shoppers saying, “just crush the competition.”

What does this imply? How will this be achieved? What determines whether or not or not we’re profitable?

Crush the competition” is far too broad.

Utilizing the SEO aim framework, you may flip “crush the competition” into a selected, measurable aim.

Step one is to align SEO efforts with firm targets. What end result contributes in the direction of the firm’s broader aim of (*3*) could be a SMART end result aim.

It’s particular as a result of we’re specifying a proportion in a timeframe—not an open-ended aim.

It’s measurable utilizing the Rivals Overview report in Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker.

It’s achievable as a result of 20% in 12 months is way from a ‘pie in the sky’ proposal.

It’s related to firm targets as a result of it’s basically our website’s natural search visibility in contrast to rivals.

And it’s time-based as a result of we specified a timeframe.

Now for the second step: setting efficiency targets.

Keep in mind, this must also be a SMART aim. To maintain issues easy, we’ll set only one: “win 50 featured snippets for high-volume tracked keywords in 12 months.”

Featured snippets are items of data that typically show at the prime of search outcomes for a search question. Getting extra featured snippets is a straightforward method to get extra SERP visibility and clicks.

Right here’s how to discover the finest featured snippet alternatives:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker
  2. Choose your challenge
  3. Select the Overview report
  4. Filter for key phrases with featured snippets that you simply don’t rank for
  5. Filter key phrases the place you rank in positions 2–5
  6. Kind the key phrases by site visitors quantity from highest to lowest

You’re in the dwelling stretch now. The third and ultimate step is to escape efficiency aim(s) into course of targets by outlining the how.

As a result of it’s typically doable to win featured snippets with a easy on-page change, a course of aim could be to “make on-page changes to 50 pages to increase our chances of winning the snippet.” We are able to measure progress by monitoring the variety of owned featured snippets in Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker:

Right here’s our accomplished SEO aim pyramid:

Additional studying
  • How to Optimize for Google’s Featured Snippets
  • What Is Share of Voice? How to Measure It Throughout Channels

Instance SEO aim #2: Enhance natural engagement fee by 10% in 6 months

It’s possible you’ll be pondering person engagement is a CRO metric. However keep in mind, Google’s personal SEO Starter information says, “any optimization should be geared toward making the user experience better.”

Traditionally, SEOs measured engagement utilizing bounce fee and time on web page. These are poor metrics to use as a result of they typically don’t align with person conduct.

For instance, let’s say that you simply sit down to learn a ~2K phrase weblog put up. This web site says that even a gradual reader would get by way of that in 20 minutes. For those who shut the browser as quickly as you’re performed, that session would technically rely as a bounce.

Fortunately, Google Analytics 4 has a extra strong metric we will use to measure UX: Engagement fee.

Engagement fee extra precisely measures whether or not a person interacted with your web site or left, so end result aim could be to “increase organic engagement rate by 10% in 6 months.”

It’s particular as a result of it specifies a proportion and timeframe.

It’s measurable utilizing the Person Acquisition report in GA4:

It’s achievable as a result of there are issues inside our management we will change to impression this metric.

It’s related as a result of we wish to enhance UX, and engagement fee measures this extra precisely than bounce fee or time on web page.

It’s time-based as a result of we specified a timeframe (6 months).

Now for the efficiency aim(s).

Let’s preserve issues easy once more and simply set one: “increase the number of unique user scrolls by 30% on low scroll pages that have high-value to our company.”

To seek out the pages the place we want to enhance UX, we will examine the Engagement Pages and screens report in GA4, filter to natural customers, and think about the desk by distinctive person scrolls.

Given our efficiency aim, our course of aim could also be rewriting introductory paragraphs on low scroll pages in order that extra individuals are bought on the article and stick round to learn it. Once more, this may be measured manually.

Instance SEO aim #3: Obtain $10,000 in gross sales from natural site visitors in month 6

Making more cash is the final aim of SEO. To face the finest likelihood of this taking place, we want to convert the imprecise aim of “make more money” right into a SMART end result aim like “achieve $10,000 in sales from organic traffic in month 6.”

This aim is particular as a result of we’ve specified the quantity and timeframe.

It’s simply measurable with Google Analytics.

It’s achievable as a result of our hypothetical website isn’t notably seasonal and is already doing ~$9K/month in gross sales from natural—so that is solely a rise of ~11%.


An excellent end result aim has to be each motivating and reasonable. When setting a sales-based aim, take into account the natural channel’s earlier gross sales historical past and upcoming seasonal traits.

It’s related as a result of, once more, making more cash is the final aim of SEO.

It’s time-based as a result of we specified a timeframe.

Now for the sport plan: efficiency aim(s):

Preserving issues easy and setting only one efficiency aim once more, we’ll go for “increase organic traffic to high-value pages by 20% in 6 months.”


Setting a timeframe and proportion right here can get a bit sophisticated. You basically want to work backward from the “top sellers” you select and work out what number of extra you’d have to promote to hit your gross sales aim, what the buy-to-detail fee is, and the proposed site visitors elevate to hit the gross sales aim. 

The only method to discover “high-value pages” is to ask which merchandise are the most worthwhile for the firm. Contemplate the price of manufacturing, price of delivery, fee of returns, and so forth.

Measuring whether or not we meet our efficiency aim is simple sufficient in Google Analytics. Simply head to Behaviour > All Pages, evaluate durations, phase by natural site visitors, and take a look at the entrances metric:

Lastly, the course of aim(s)…

I can’t define precisely what the course of targets will probably be as these will range relying on what sort of services or products, search intent, enterprise assets, and so forth.

Listed below are only a few examples of actionable course of targets which will assist enhance natural site visitors:

  • write product schema for goal pages
  • optimize merchandise in an natural product feed
  • optimize all photographs on the goal pages

As a result of course of targets are duties that you simply or your staff carries out, finishing the aim is measured manually utilizing your private challenge administration type.

For instance, if the course of aim is to optimize all photographs on each high-value web page, we might manually examine that every picture has an optimized file identify, descriptive alt textual content, and meets file dimension necessities.

Right here’s our accomplished SEO aim framework for this instance:

Last ideas

Setting SEO targets might seem to be an unimaginable process, however a robust framework is all you want to get began.

For those who keep on monitor and full your course of duties, you may have likelihood at assembly your efficiency targets. Whenever you meet your efficiency targets, you might be very effectively positioned to hit your end result aim.

Success is in the particulars.

Bought questions? Ping me on Twitter.