How to Set SMART Goals for SEO

SEO has gotten a little more challenging since I started around 1999.

The search engines are smarter and there is a truckload more competition.

To get good results from SEO you have to focus on being the best possible result.

To succeed in SEO in 2022 and beyond you have to set smart, achievable goals and work hard toward those goals.

Fortunately, there is a helpful system known as SMART Goals that you can use to help with your SEO goal setting.

SMART Goals for SEO

Goals are essential for anything you want to work towards.

Without a target, how can you ever hit the mark?

Goals should push you forward, but they should also be achievable and measurable.

SMART Goals do all of this and much more.


SMART goals break down as follows:

Specific – your goal should be clearly defined

Measurable – it should be easy to track progress

Achievable – the goal should be realistic (a big one in SEO goal setting)

Relevant – the SEO goal should be linked to your marketing and business goals

Time Bound – progress should be trackable over time increments

The purpose of SMART goals is to create realistic, achievable goals that push you but are not impossible.

SMART goals also provide a kind of sanity check – is this a sensible goal or am I just chasing my (long)tail?

Let’s break each of these down to help you with your SEO goal-setting.

S) Specific

Setting specific goals with SEO is pretty simple and we have a number of metrics we can apply to a given keyword or landing page.

  • Rankings
  • Organic Clicks (search console)
  • Organic Impressions (search console)

As an example, let us say you are a small van hire company in Sutton Coldfield and you want to rank for “van hire Sutton Coldfield”. You are looking to rank for this in the local listings and the organic results.

You could keep this simple or you could add more detail here and have a number of specific metrics under this goal. Rankings, organic impressions, organic clicks, etc.

M) Measurable

You now need to ensure you can measure progress toward your goal.

Things to consider here are:

  • Where am I now?
  • Where do I want to be?

The specific metrics you look at here would depend on the keyword to some extent: is it a local keyword? Is it a national keyword? Do you need to rank for a term like “plumber near me” but over a 3-mile radius etc?

For local businesses you really should look at tracking results over your geographic catchment area using a local ranking grid or similar tool.

For national businesses, you will want to check your national rankings (but I would also check the same keyword in different cities if they are important).

I would generally also consider clicks on the page, search console average position, search console clicks, etc.

Figure out what is important for you and measure your progress toward it!

A) Achievable

Achievability – this is a really important aspect of setting SEO goals.

It is very easy to set unrealistic and unachievable SEO goals – and be under no illusion, there will be an agency ready to take your money to try.

You could also squander lots of your time and effort chasing your SEO dream with little to show for it after 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, 3 years, etc.

Creating aggressive, yet obtainable goals is crucial.

  • I want to rank for “online marketplace”, in all countries, by tomorrow – not achievable
  • I want to rank for “plumber” across all of London by end of the month – likely tough
  • I want to rank for “plumber” in a small borough of London in three months – ok

Checking whether your goal is achievable is a powerful way to ensure you spend your time working on things that will make a difference – rather than on the SEO hamster wheel to nowhere!

R) Relevant

A relevant SEO goal is one that feeds into your higher-order goals.

  • Rank for keyword
  • Generate more traffic
  • Get more leads
  • Close more deals
  • Grow your business

This may seem simple but ensuring you are chasing SEO goals that connect to your marketing and business goals is crucial. This ensures your precious time and money is spent on activities that will drive your business forward.

T) Time-Bound

This is another crucial step to ensure that you are making progress toward your goal and not wasting time on goals that are unachievable. Of course, you should have weeded out any unachievable goals by now, but SEO is difficult to predict and is an ever-moving target.

We would typically suggest that you track your metrics and measure progress weekly and monthly. What you are looking for is an overall trend toward your desired endpoint.

Let’s say you wanted to rank for the keyword “van hire ” in the top 3 results for the local pack and organic.

You started in position 47 organic and no local.

You have given yourself 3 months to achieve this goal.

Each week you want to see steady progress toward your goal at a rate that would indicate you are on track.

We can do the simple maths here and be specific with our measurements.

47th – you want to be 1st – so we need to move forward, on average, 4 spots per week.

SMART Goals as a Feedback Loop

Another powerful feature of SMART goals for SEO is how they provide a feedback loop.

Are the SEO tactics we are using working? If not what else can we try?

  • Are we moving fast enough?
  • Do we need more resources?
  • Is this moving well and we can move effort elsewhere?
  • Is this just not moving? Should we review how achievable this really is?

We are all limited by our resources and using SMART goals as a feedback loop for your SEO tactics ensures we can focus our efforts where they will provide the best possible returns.

If you are not making progress then maybe your goal is not as achievable as you thought it may be – with the resources you have currently at least.

SMART Goals for SEO

Using SMART goals for SEO will help you set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound goals that ensure you get the best possible results from your SEO resources.

Regularly reviewing progress and tweaking your goal will ensure you identify and focus on the areas where you can get the best possible results.

Even failures can be useful input into your goal setting, and if something is not working, then you can either switch up your tactics or try something new. This kind of strategic input and tactical pivot is preferable to just pounding away for weeks, months, or even years at a goal that you are making no progress towards.

You can use SMART goals to measure your SEO agency’s performance or to guide your internal team.

Get Smart

If you would like some help turning your SEO goals into SEO SMART Goals then drop a comment below or get in touch.


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