You would be surprised how often off page teams operate without defining a clear objective, or even worse, work to the wrong objectives.
If you're able to sell the benefits of off page SEO, then you should already have an idea of some objectives you'd like to achieve by partaking in the activity in the first place, but more often than not, somewhere between the contract being signed, and a team starting work, the whole reason "why" has been long forgotten.
You need to work to a clear objective, because an objective will naturally shape your strategy, and keep your focus on what the ultimate goal of your marketing efforts is.
What are KPIs?
KPIs are a measure of how well you are progressing towards achieving the objective, through the actions in your strategy.
If you set your KPIs first before setting your objective, you're letting your KPIs dictate what the objective is.
For instance, if you have already decided that measuring rankings will demonstrate how close you are to your goal; then you've already decided that your goal is to achieve high rankings (you've lost your focus on what you're really trying to achieve). You'll probably obsess over every tiny slip in positioning and become overjoyed at gaining a single place over the competition.
Historically, rankings meant visibility in search and visibility meant traffic to your site, so you can see how rankings have become so important to SEOs and why so many were willing to risk their reputations by relying on temporary and often dangerous strategies to get those rankings.
Somewhere along the way, rankings became everything, and this attitude has found its way into our client's heads.
Convincing clients that rankings are not the be all and end all can be a tricky job, and offering up other KPI's as replacements is even trickier.
A Decrease in Traffic isn't Necessarily Bad
Search has continually evolved and Google in particular has strived to make results as personalised and location specific as possible. Today, some 67% of the time ranking in the top 30 for any given keyword in one location will mean not ranking for the same keyword in all other locations. Throw into the mix people logged into Google whilst searching (personalised results) and you're unable to measure anything of any significance anyway, and rankings for specific keywords seem pointless.
We use rankings as a KPI to measure our success in achieving the wrong objective... the objective of "getting more traffic". Each month, you're likely reporting on the amount of organic traffic in total that your customer has got, and an increase in this is good, and a decrease in this is bad.
Traffic is not an objective, it is just another KPI. More traffic doesn't necessarily mean more relevant traffic!
If you're objective is to get to number 1 for terms X, Y and Z, then your strategy (broadly) is going to look like:
- Get authority backlinks from high page rank sites
- Use targeted anchor text as a signal to increase relevance
One slight change in the algorithm, and your business could be finished overnight...all because you needed that number 1 spot to survive.
Rankings don't always mean traffic, and traffic doesn't always mean sales.
How to Sustain Website Traffic
A more sensible objective would be "to increase sales / sign ups / enquiries" and your strategy (again, broadly) to achieve this would be:
- Increasing brand awareness through multiple channels
- Increasing customer interaction through multiple channels to build brand loyalty
- Conversion rate optimisation and usability testing to increase traffic successfully passing through your "goal" funnel
- Position the brand as a thought leader in relevant market sector
Your KPIs could be:
- Correctly attribute visits and determine which activities have contributed to the sale / sign up / enquiry
- Measure reach and sentiment
- Does the implementation of CRO and split testing results reduce the drop offs in the "goal" funnel?
- This might be a little hard to measure! But the results will be clear for all to see!
Other misleading KPIs
- Likes, +1's
- Shares, Retweets
- Page Rank, Page / Domain Authority
- Links Count
- Followers, Page Likes
Without defining a clear objective for your off page activity (or any SEO activity for that matter, you can see how easy it is to lose focus, and to stray from the correct (ethical) path. Defining goals and objects from the start shapes your strategies, and your KPIs, not the other way around!