Digital marketing is about merging art and science, fusing creative ideas with actionable and traceable steps.

But before you change your on-page content or restructure your website, you need to know what’s already working well and where you have the potential to grow.

This is where search prediction comes into play.

What is search forecasting?

Search forecasting is the practice of predicting what your organic traffic will look like.

All good SEO strategies start with hard data. This is ultimately what should shape your next move, not best guesses and assumptions.

With the data in hand, you’ll be able to predict what the search traffic might be for your business and use that to plan your next campaigns.

When working on organic traffic forecasts, here are some key details you should keep in mind.

Focus on the right metrics

Starting with keyword research is truly the backbone of any SEO strategy.

You may think you know exactly which search phrases will be most beneficial to your business, but it’s best to put those assumptions aside in a separate column of your spreadsheet and look at the actual data.

There are dozens of possible metrics you could look into when it comes to keyword data.

Regardless of the industry you work in or the type of content you work with, your research should include data or evidence on:

  • Estimated search volume.
  • Keyword difficulty.
  • Your business’s current ranking and the URL for that ranking for relevant keywords.
  • Search intent.
  • Click through rate (CTR) estimates.
  • Information about the type and quality of placement of content in the desired location.
  • Related questions and relative ranking.

If you’re unable to find data for some of these, your predictions won’t be as accurate but can still be valuable.

The most accessible piece will be search volume data – you need to know if your traffic goals match actual user behavior in search results for the keywords you intend to use.

The rest of the metrics here will help you prioritize beyond search volume and come up with more realistic predictions.

They give you important insights into how competitive certain phrases are, where you rank among current players on search engine results pages (SERPs), and where there is an opportunity for further optimization to capitalize on changes in business intent. ‘user.

Use the tools to help you

Keyword data is not expected to magically come out of nowhere and there is only so much that tracking your site can tell you.

But Google Search Console (GSC) is a good place to start.

Where other tools may provide you with general keyword metrics, GSC will provide you with company specific historical data to give you a good (internal) benchmark to work from.

Bot traffic can impact anything in GSC, and if you’re trying to rank for local results, search volume depends on where a search is actually being made in relation to the keyword being used.

There will also be differences in the numbers GSC pulls versus Semrush, Moz, Ahrefs, or any other SEO tool you may be using.

Once you have it all together in a spreadsheet, though, the averages will be enough for you to put together a reasonably confident prediction.

Google Keyword Planner may be another option to check out, but its accuracy is questionable.

In many cases, search volume data is exaggerated due to estimates combined with similarly phrased keywords, so take this data with a grain of salt.

You may find that this type of data is best used to calculate ad savings after capturing rankings as another data point of organic search return on investment (ROI).

Don’t forget the competitors

Outside of keyword data specifically, you should use competitor analysis as part of your overall traffic forecast.

See who already appears on the first page of the SERPs you want to be on.

Enter competitor URLs into keyword tools to see what they rank for and, more importantly, what they don’t rank for. Combine some of this data with your keyword research to find opportunities.

This is where knowing keyword difficulty can come in handy.

If competitors rank for phrases that have good volume but low difficulty, you may have a chance to produce better, more useful content and outrank that competitor in the SERPs.

This will naturally change some of your predictions for search volume if you can move from page two or three to page one.

This is also the time to consider whether some related queries might also have content updates or development opportunities.

Are your competitors still using a single keyword per page strategy? (You’d be surprised!)

This could be where you can catch up competitively by building keyword families.

Look at seasonality and trend data

Whether you’re working on a one-year SEO strategy or a fixed-term campaign, it’s essential to understand how both your business and keywords are performing seasonally.

One of the most important things to remember with seasonal traffic, and something a lot of people get wrong, is that the busiest time of year for your business doesn’t always equate to high search volume.

Customers don’t usually buy right away, so you’ll often have weeks, even months, of lead time from high search volume to tangible increases in sales.

Depending on the industry you work in, you may already be working on this type of accelerated marketing program. Retail is a prime example of this – fashion weeks in early fall are already debuting spring/summer lines for the following year.

And for most product companies, you’ll be looking forward to the holiday season around May or June, certainly no later than July to start planning.

It’s important to know what the lead time from search to sale is because this will impact not only your forecasts for search traffic, but also the content strategy you put together based on these forecasts.

Launching holiday gift guides in November in hopes of instantly ranking and making big sales within the first week due to good search engine rankings is simply not realistic.

(If that’s something you’re looking to do, paid advertising will be a better option.)

Tools like Google Trends can be useful for getting overall estimates of when search volume starts to pick up for seasonal queries.

Use this data with what you know about your business’s results to map out how soon before the increase in search you need to publish content and optimize for jumps in traffic.

Not everything is predictable

While we already know that we can’t account for mass changes in search algorithms or unforeseen world events, there are other unpredictable factors that also need to be accounted for on a smaller scale.

Particularly in product-based businesses, other marketing efforts can have a positive or negative impact on overall search forecasts.

Products can quickly go viral on social media, even without any exhaustive marketing effort on your part.

When they do, research demand can increase significantly in ways you weren’t prepared for.

And when you run these searches through SEO tools, they won’t account for that unexpected traffic surge.

It is nearly impossible to plan a reactive question versus a predictive question, particularly if creating a lookalike or fake product for a viral product.

If you find yourself running into these situations, factor them into your search traffic forecasts in future years where possible, and reallocate your resources accordingly.

Why is research prediction important?

Predicting your organic traffic means having a rough idea of ​​the expected results if the conditions remain as expected.

It allows you to better allocate internal resources, budget for your next campaigns and set internal benchmarks. This can cover everything from expected new traffic if rankings are captured to increased revenue based on current conversion rates.

Knowing this information upfront can be critical in gaining stakeholder buy-in, particularly if you work in corporate SEO and your growth goals are set once or twice a year.

If estimates don’t align with expectations, you have the option of asking for a revised goal or additional resources to make those expectations more achievable.

Of course, there has to be a disclaimer here.

Large-scale algorithm updates, a new website design, changes in user behavior and search trends, or even another round of “unprecedented times” will all have drastic effects on how search results look in reality. .

It is nearly impossible to plan or predict its exact impact.

But issues aside, it’s still worth investing time in SEO forecasting.

You don’t have to be a data scientist to predict your search traffic.

With the right tools and approaches, you can start to get a clear picture of what you can expect to see in the coming months and set more realistic benchmarks for organic search growth.

In short

The goal of predicting your organic search traffic is to help you make more informed decisions about your ongoing SEO strategy.

Opportunities are out there, you just have to find them.

You will always hit roadblocks with forecasting, and it will never be 100% accurate, but with solid data to back it up, you’ll have a good baseline to work from in building a strategically sound search marketing plan.

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