I hate having to put out a 12 month forecast for organic traffic. There’s just so much of it that’s not in our control. PPC forecasting is breeze in comparison. You know impression data, CTR, conversion rate per keyphrase etc etc. Before all you PPCers out there get up in my grill about forecasting PPC…yeah…it’s not simple but you gotta grant that it’s better and intrinsically more accurate than we can ever get for SEO.
What’s the number one hold up for SEO results? Clients. If you can’t get your recommendations implemented (or implemented correctly) then how can you expect to meet any kind of forecast?
The other piece of forecasting seo is a pure lack of data. In the PPC world we simply have more data such as CTR and impressions to make projections on. Also, we can bid to position to an extent and we know we will be there or not and we can adjust on the fly. SEO doesnít work that way.
Even if we knew total impressions for all keywords we couldnít get at much because we donít know click through. We can make some really terribly vague guesses like:
Letís pretend we know there are 100,000 impressions for some keyword every month. We also know that #1 organic will get clicked on roughly (very roughly) 7 times more often than #1 PPC (right side of page). What we donít know is how often weíre #1 on organic due to fluctuations. If we drop from #1 to #3 what does that mean? Nobody really knows exactly but we know itís a geometric (or logarithmic or some other math I don’t know) drop off of some sort. Every element of the equation is more vague than the previous and at the end of it all the number is largely meaningless.
At the end of the day a forecast for SEO is not even worth the paper itís printed on. There are simply too many factors out of our control. I understand that your client thinks your current forecast it too low but thatís based simply on the fact that they want bigger numbers. Does the current forecast make them money? Does it show a positive ROI? Are you meeting the expectations you set at the commencement of the contract? Iíd much rather put out a forecast thatís positive but conservative and then impress a client than put out a huge forecast that falls short. No matter how much money you make the client in that instance theyíll not be happy. 20 to 1 isnít acceptable if you predicted 25 to 1 just to make the client happy.
Set your client’s expectations at the outset and do your level best to ball park what you feel is an attainable ROI on natural search. Don’t let them move the goal posts on you during the game. Try to avoid getting tied to % increases from a specific search engine or on a specific phrase. You simply don’t have enough data or control to build a 12 month Excel spreadsheet that can predict with any accuracy at all what the monthly growth will be.
Do you forecast SEO results?