Nearly 30 SEO professionals share the top Google ranking factors they are paying attention to in 2021.
SEO | Jul 14
Masooma Memon on June 21, 2021 (last modified on June 15, 2021) • 12 minute read
You don’t need to be a data nerd to be able to use data forecasting for SEO.
Sure, it takes work. But it’s not tough if you divide all the work into steps such as gathering data from defined resources, studying it to spot patterns, and making predictions based on those patterns.
Plus, SEO forecasting is all the more easy if you understand what others like you are doing to make their predictions.
This is exactly what this post is about. We’ve covered the basics of SEO forecasting as well as curated strategies from others who are experienced at this kind of work.
Ready to learn? Dig in.
SEO forecasting involves using data to make predictions related to organic growth such as future traffic levels, expected value from the traffic (read: expected leads and conversions).
For agencies, SEO forecasting helps predict the impact of their search engine optimization efforts in the future while also giving an estimate of future sales to the client.
The importance of forecasting for businesses is the same. By using data forecasting for SEO, companies can predict essential metrics such as traffic levels, incoming leads, and sales. The forecast also helps decide resource allocation by revealing the current and future health of a campaign.
For example, you can decide whether to continue with a campaign or if you need to adjust it. Therefore, helping prioritize SEO efforts and resource allocation accordingly.
All this naturally brings up the question: how often should you make SEO forecasts?
The answer to this is mostly evenly divided between project-basis, monthly, and quarterly basis as 29.27% of the respondents we talked to dive into SEO forecasting on these three frequencies. Only 12.2% say they forecast less frequently than quarterly.
Tools these folks use for SEO forecasting are Ahrefs, Google Search Console, and SEMrush with 98.05%, 63.4%, and 53.66% using them, respectively. 43.90% and 24.39% also use Google Sheets and Moz, respectively.
We’ve divided the nifty nine strategies for SEO forecasting into three broad categories:
However, for any of these strategies to be successful, you need to start with two things. These are:
“Determine the issue you want to solve,” advises Daniel Foley from Litta.” I’ve seen many examples of forecasting without a business issue in mind throughout my career.
As previously mentioned, forecasting is commonly used to answer questions such as:
1. Where should I invest in SEO?
2. What keywords should I concentrate on?
3. Do I try to boost my ranking for brand keywords?
4. Will it be more profitable to prioritize non-brand keywords?
5. Which product categories should I concentrate my SEO efforts on?”
“Understand what to expect and how it would affect your behavior and decisions,” recommends Claims UK’s Sasha Quail.
“Make a list of the metrics you want to forecast. Given the relevance of forecasting to the CMO’s office and its position in resource allocation, I strongly recommend using metrics that relate to business outcomes.”
The key is to “understand what you’ll do with the prediction… Also, keep in mind that it’s not just about picking the right metric, such as conversion value. The importance of defining the business situation cannot be overstated. To put it another way, forecasted conversion value only makes sense when it comes to improving ranking for a category of keywords.”
With that, let’s dive into the details.
The tactics to use data forecasting for SEO for projects come from respondents who do so on a project basis.
This duo helps the team at Links Chemistry make SEO forecasts. “If you want an accurate estimate for your website or page, Google Analytics or Google Search Console are absolutely the best data to use,” shares Roberto Popolizio.
Here’s how it works: “I use these in combination with Ahrefs and some custom scripts. Example: to forecast future traffic one year from now, I export the ‘Organic traffic’ chart in CVS format. Then, I run my plug-and-play script on Google Colab.”
Another way to make SEO predictions is by studying trending data. The team at CocoFax does this. Olivia Tan explains, “For our campaigns, we consider trending the keywords and try to get estimates of the future rankings of our targeted keywords.
It helps us in getting an overview of whether we should continue with the same technique or if we need any changes in our campaign.”
Doing so helps save time, effort, and money. Plus, Tan shares they can decide whether to continue on with a campaign.
This SEO forecasting method starts with gathering data from sources like Ahrefs, Google Search Console, SEMrush, and Screaming Frog as Peter Fishman from MozartData suggests.
Then, identify trends in the gathered data. As Fishman explains, “We compile this data and to put it basically, we look for trends on where our clients should be putting their focus in.
We look for individual pages on their site that have potential based purely on data (Impressions vs clicks, impressions vs Ahrefs Keyword Difficulty, and a few other factors). We then provide our findings to our client in an easy to understand report with our actionable findings.”
Like the previous section, we’ve gathered these strategies from folks who study data forecasting for SEO on a monthly cadence.
Commercial intent involves identifying the likelihood of converting someone who is searching for specific keywords. By identifying this intention, you’re basically getting down to business right away, which saves you time and resources.
For SEO forecasting, Brafton’s Jeff Baker takes this approach. “I always measure the aggregate number of commercial intent clicks (organic clicks to product/service landing pages that target commercial intent keywords).”
After getting a hold of the commercial intent clicks, Baker uses the following formula: “I then divide [the aggregate number of commercial intent clicks] by the number of days in a given month to get the average number of commercial intent clicks generated on a daily basis for that month.”
“Months that fall outside that normal range of commercial intent clicks, while maintaining keyword rankings will likely show progression,” Baker comments further. “The opposite is true as well. This also helps me forecast inbound lead generation.”
You can also see how well your keywords are ranking to forecast performance.
This tip comes from Mudassir Ahmed of Blogging Explained who typically looks at only one metric for SEO forecasting: existing keywords with their rankings.
“I think we often lose ourselves in trying hard to create new content and target new keywords, that we miss the potential of existing keywords,” Ahmed comments.
Based on the data gathered on this metric, Ahmed shares, “my goal is to work on my on-page SEO such as content and keyword optimization, Interlinking, title and meta tags, technical fixes, page speed, and building links. I use Ahrefs to pull my current search rankings for the keywords I targeted and to forecast the traffic potential if I improve.”
Editor’s note: Keep an eye on your ranking keywords – all on one dashboard – using this Keyword to Pageview Dashboard template. It shows you your top keywords by positing and volume as well as page views.
For project-based data forecasting for SEO, we’ve talked about studying trending keywords and all available data from Google Search Console and other tools.
This strategy is, however, helpful for monthly SEO forecasting too. Story Sells’ Danny Peavey reveals, “we currently analyze past trends and historical data once a month on various tools like Uber Suggest, SemRush, and Moz to forecast our SEO potential. We also use Google Search Console for real-time analytics.”
All this data, in particular, enough historical data helps determine patterns and cycles in the way traffic flows. This gives you a picture of how it’ll possibly turn out in a given month.
Miranda Yan from VinPit talks about how they follow this strategy. Sharing their objectives, Yan outlines, “we are currently focused on building a pipeline that matches the goals of our organization. We follow a detailed process that moves from managing sales to improving engagement.”
To this end, the team uses “in-house data metrics and analyzes data sources like Google Analytics and the Google Console for forecasting SEO results and potential room for improvements.”
To study all this data and drive forecasts from it, Yan shares their forecasting process involves:
Actions can be subjective and counterproductive at the same time. We pay more emphasis to forecasting results like conversion value, CPC, PageRank, Avg. Value per conversion, etc.”
In this section, we’ve sourced strategies from only relevant sources with hands-on experience with quarterly SEO forecasting.
This strategy works best for businesses only started out with their SEO efforts.
It comes from Nelson Jordan who is recently starting SEO forecasting efforts at Obodo. “Having recently joined Obodo, a new design and development agency that have a limited web presence, laying the foundations for SEO are front-of-mind right now,” Jordan writes to lay out their goals.
“In order to forecast SEO potential, I look at two main metrics – search volume and keyword difficulty. As our domain is so new, we stand little chance of ranking for high-volume, difficult keywords. Instead, my job is to find ‘hidden gems’, low-difficulty keywords that still have a reasonable volume and search intent that relates to our services. I use Ahrefs to find and compile these, and Clearscope to help optimize content.”
In short, if you are new and your domain authority isn’t high enough to beat prevailing ranking content, go ahead and use data from search volume and keyword difficulty for SEO forecasting.
This trio is great for SEO forecasting too. It takes a bit of work, but Tracey Wallace from MarketerHire makes it sound easy.
Sharing their process, Wallace points out, “I use Ahrefs, Google Search Console, Google Analytics, Hubspot and a Google Spreadsheet for SEO forecasting.”
Then, the process divides into the following steps:
“I find that Ahrefs and even Google Search Console seem to under-report what I’m actually seeing in terms of traffic for posts,” observes Wallace.
“So, I just use GA and then figure out the percent of monthly volume I’m getting based on Ahref’s monthly volume prediction.”
Continuing with the steps, Wallace writes:
Now, I can clearly see how many more leads and sales I can drive MoM within 6-12 months if I can get the investment for content based on the existing topics. It’s a definitely a process – but it’s worked time and time again!”
Editor’s note: Track your sessions, page views, bounce rate, revenue by source, and lots of other metrics without getting lost in Google Analytics using this Google Analytics Traffic Quality Dashboard Template. It shows you all the essential metrics you want at a glance.
Lastly, you can use this elaborate SEO forecasting strategy too – same as Alex Birkett does.
Birkett lays out all the details: “my favorite way to use SEO forecasting is as a planning tool, and my second favorite way to use SEO forecasting is as a diagnostic tool.”
Here’s how both work beginning with using forecasting as a planning tool:
“For the first use case, all you do is build a content growth model. Map out the keywords you’re planning on ranking, your assumptions on how much traffic each keyword will bring if you hit a given SERP position, your likelihood of hitting that position, the CTR of that position, your average conversion rate and LTV, and the cost of your content.
You’ll never be able to perfectly predict the output and ROI of your program, but a simple growth model exercise will make sure you’re aiming in the right direction.”
As for using SEO forecasting as a diagnostic tool, here’s how things unfold:
“For the second use case, I like to use historical data to project future feasible traffic. Then, if I change something or produce additional content that causes my data to sink below or rise above the expected future traffic, I can typically attribute those changes to my actions. This gives you a little bit stronger attribution, which is typically hard to do in SEO.”
There’s no correct way to use data for SEO forecasting. Simply aim to choose (and stick with) a strategy that suits your goals and objectives the best. See how it works out for you. And, only change your strategy if you aren’t able to make close-to-accurate predictions.
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