When setting up an SEO strategy, one important step is translating the SEO goals - namely keyword ranks or Visibility - into business metrics.

SEOmonitor's Forecasting module offers the unprecedented ability to predict the traffic and conversion results that can be obtained by reaching the set ranking targets. It works with estimations but, as the great statistician George Box put it, "while all models are wrong, some of them are at least useful". The applicability of our forecast comes from painting the picture of how achieving specific SEO goals could impact the business. This makes the business case tangible. 

By anticipating the additional organic traffic and revenue resulted once certain SEO goals are reached, the Forecast will not only help you set a realistic objective, but also translate it into figures any budget owner can work with.

This article gives you some insights into the forecasting algorithm behind our award-winning Forecasting module.

The purpose of this module is to predict how the non-brand organic traffic of a website will grow if specific keyword ranks are reached. Therefore, the brand/non-brand segmentation represents one of its foundations.

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Now imagine an SEO forecasting methodology that takes into account:

  • The current non-brand organic traffic.
  • Its inertial trend, based on search seasonality only (as if the website’s rankings would stand still).
  • The additional visits generated once a specific visibility improvement is achieved, calculated using device- and SERP-based CTRs.
  • The performance in time, towards that visibility improvement target.
  • The Year-over-Year search trend of the keywords included in the Forecast.
  • The ranking improvements of long-tail keywords (that are not part of the forecast) and their impact in traffic.
  • Next to these: a “chance” indicator (difficulty) and the Google Ads budget for obtaining the same clicks.

Let’s take each individual “piece” and explain it.

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1. The Forecast configuration

Performance in Time

The forecast is based on achieving an SEO goal in a specific timeframe: Current state (0%) >> Desired state (100%). This parameter sets an estimated speed for the progress towards the goal, speed that can grow exponentially, linear or custom.

CTRs

The CTR is a key parameter in the forecast projection. From our research, we've determined the average CTR curve for the top 10 positions on each individual combination of SERP features and devices. These CTR curves are correspondingly allocated to the keywords included in the forecast and used in the calculations. If you want to override our values and use another average CTR curve, you can choose the "Custom CTR" option.

Conversion Rate

The estimation of the additional conversions is based on the estimated additional visits multiplied by the corresponding conversion rate of each keyword included in the calculation.

The "Best Match" option will use the first available conversion rate for each keyword, from the following (in this order): 1) the keyword conversion rate, 2) the keyword groups' conversion rate, or 3) the overall non-brand organic traffic conversion rate.

The last option (3) can be enforced for all the keywords, or a custom one can be set up, if there's also an estimated improvement to the conversion rate in the selected timeframe.

Use Search Seasonality

Both the monthly Inertial Traffic and the Improved Traffic are using the search seasonality of the keywords that generate them, in the calculation.

Use Year-over-Year search trends

The search volume of the keywords changes over time. When selecting this option, the forecast will adjust the search volumes based on their current Year-over-Year trend.

Use the device search segmentation

Each keyword has a different distribution of the search volume on the two devices. When selecting this option, the forecast calculation will split the search volume between desktop and mobile and use it correspondingly, with the CTR curves on each device.

Use long-tail effect

The improvement in the rankings estimated in this forecast will impact keywords that are not part of the SEO target. When selecting this option, the system will estimate the impact on those keywords and their contribution to the estimated improved traffic.

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2. Setting the SEO goal

The forecast is based on achieving an SEO goal over a specific timeframe. This is where you select the keywords for which you’re estimating to improve rankings in the selected timeframe. You can do so by choosing the keyword groups and the corresponding targeted ranks for the keywords within. If the same keyword is included in more than one group, it will only be taken into consideration once, with its highest targeted rank. 

Based on the search volumes of the keywords in the selected groups and the targeted improvement in their visibility, along with all the configuration above, the forecast will be calculated.

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3. The Output

Keywords

The number of keywords included in the forecast.

Search Volume

The total average monthly searches of the keywords included in the forecast.

Search Seasonality

The total searches on each month of the year for the keywords included in the forecast.

Mobile Search

The percentage of searches that come from mobile devices, out of the total search volume, based on Google Ads' search data breakdown by device.

Year-Over-Year Search Trends

The Year-over-Year search trend of the keywords included in forecast. It is calculated by comparing the search volume of the last month to the volume of same month in the previous year.

Inertial Traffic

The total number of visits estimated to be received through the duration of the forecast, based on the current traffic and the search trends and granted that there would be no changes in the site visibility.

Improved Traffic

The total number of visits estimated to be received through the duration of the forecast, based on the current traffic and the search trends, assuming that the desired ranks would be reached (so also taking the Visibility improvement into consideration).

Additional Traffic

The number of additional visits estimated to be received, in total, through the forecast period, if the targeted ranks are reached at the end of the campaign, with the chosen progression speed (exponential, linear or custom).

Additional Conversions

The number of additional conversions estimated to be received, in total, through the forecast period, if the targeted ranks are reached, and corresponding to the additional number of visits estimated.

Google Ads Value

This is what it would cost to generate the same number of additional visits through Google Ads only. The estimation is done at a keyword level, taking the individual estimated visits and CPCs into consideration.

Chance

The chance of reaching the targeted ranks in the selected timeframe based on the SEO difficulty of the keywords. The forecast could either be realistic, ambitious or too ambitious.

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Beyond Accuracy

Transparency. Sophisticated for the sake of accuracy, but fully transparent for trust and understanding.

The detailed calculation, at a keyword level, can be explored through the “Calculation Analysis”. You’ll find the button in the top side and here's what you'll see:

You will find all of the metrics presented earlier, with the addition of:

  • The average CTR curve, based on each keyword's individual curve, weighted by search volume.
  • Long Tail Sessions which give us the estimated impact in monthly traffic, from keywords that are not included in the forecast, but will be influenced by the targeted performance.

Accountability. Transform a forecast scenario into an Objective.

Once satisfied with a certain forecast scenario, you can set it as the Objective for your campaign. This way, you are able to constantly track if the actual traffic matches the projected traffic or not. If the real traffic for the last 30 days is equal to or higher than the projected traffic for the same period, the Objective will be highlighted as being On Track (green). If the result of dividing the Actual Traffic by the Projected Traffic is below 100%, but above 50%, the Objective will be marked as Behind (orange). And if the result is below 50%, the Objective will turn red or At Risk.

Efficiency. An SEO proposal that won’t be refused or get “ghosted”.

When an SEO proposal includes a PPC-like business case, by taking almost anything that can influence the further performance of the non-brand organic traffic into account, it simply wins.

This changes the conversation with a client, sets realistic expectations, and helps justify the SEO budget. We wrote more on crafting winning SEO proposals in our Search Engine Journal article on how to avoid silent NOs.

And to further emphasise on efficiency, the Proposal Builder will help you create a beautiful Google Slides deck with SEOmonitor data, within minutes.

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