How To Estimate Traffic From A Ranking Increase Using Actual Metrics, Not Generic Studies
Columnist Erin Everhart shows you how to prove SEO value with traffic estimates based on your own organic data rather than generic web studies.
When it comes to proving the value of SEO, one of our biggest hurdles is figuring out how much traffic (and then revenue) we can expect when our rankings increase.
It’s an issue many folks have wrestled with when asking for more budget from the C-Suite. They want to know how much it’s going to cost them, where they’re going to end up, and what they can expect.
That’s not an easy question to answer.
Many have tried to make it easier by studying the organic click-through rate (CTR), which started in 2006 when AOL released 20 million search queries. Since then, Chitika, Catalyst, Slingshot, Optify and Enquiro all have done slight variations of search engine results page (SERP) CTR studies.
They’re helpful, yes — but these numbers can’t be trusted.
Advanced Web Rankings’ most recent study separating keywords by brand and search intent was the one of the most comprehensive I’ve seen recently; and, one of the methods described below is similar to theirs. (You can read about the findings at Moz.)
Still, you have the same variables as the others. It’s an isolated month and doesn’t account for seasonality. It’s not your industry; it’s not your users; it’s not your data.
To make matters even more complicated, we’re living in the Ever-Changing SERP Era, where SERP formats are rarely the same and new elements are introduced often — Schema, Knowledge Graph, thumbnails, sitelinks, map listings — that affect where and how much people click. A No. 1 ranking above a 7-pack map listing will probably have a higher CTR than a No. 1 ranking below that same 7-pack.
We’re lucky to have large amounts of data readily available to us; so, instead of relying on someone else’s, use your own. There are a few different ways you can do this, and I’ll walk you through each option. One method isn’t necessarily better than the other; it just depends on what data you have and how far it goes back.
Disclaimer: The below is just an example, but it is based on real numbers that could be achieved.
Finding Your Own CTR
First, you’ll want to estimate your CTR. Below are two ways you can do this: with Google Webmaster Tools or with your organic average rankings.
Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) is going to be your best friend here, but only if you have historic data. GWT only allows you to go back three months — so if you’re not already downloading your Search Query data every month, start doing it now. Google has a Python script that automates this.
GWT notes CTR and average rank of every keyword for you. It’s up to you to take the average over the length you maintained that average rank. I like having at least three months in order to get a more accurate average. You can also use this same principal with a group of keywords.
Still, Google’s made things even easier for us. Now, when you click on a keyword, you can see a CTR breakdown of that keyword whenever it was ranked in a certain position. (Brilliant, but I am confused how a No. 1 position received the fewest number of impressions.)
Let’s say you used to rank for something, lost it, and now are trying to get it back. If you use a keyword tracking tool like seoClarity, BrightEdge or Authority Labs, you have historic data of when you had that ranking.
Use organic entries to that keyword’s landing page from when you had that ranking and average search volume of the keyword to find your CTR. If you held that ranking for more than one month, take the average.
Organic Entries/Exact Match AVG Search Volume = AVG CTR of that keyword
Now that you have an accurate CTR to work off, estimating traffic from that keyword is easy.
Projected Entries = AVG Search Volume X CTR
Translating That To Dollars
Now that you have estimated traffic, you need to translate that into a metric stakeholders really care about: revenue. Traffic is great, but it doesn’t pay the bills. There are a couple of ways you can do this.
Per Value Visit: Organic Revenue/Organic Visits
Find the average over multiple months, as many as you have available, to account for any seasonality. Once you have your average value per visit, multiply that by your new projected monthly keyword visits to see how much that keyword actually matters to your business.
Conversion Rate: Organic Sales/Organic Visits
Find your site-wide organic conversion rate by dividing organic sales by organic visits.
Then, multiply that by projected monthly keyword visits to get the estimated number of sales that keyword will bring. The last calculation is multiple project orders by average order value to get your monthly revenue.
The above method isn’t perfect, but it’s a more accurate way to measure expected CTR and traffic from a ranking because you’re using your own data. You’re not relying on other industries or other keywords.
It is limited because we’re assuming you’ve at some point ranked for that keyword, even if it wasn’t No. 1, in the past. I’ll go through how to use this same methodology for a keyword you’ve never ranked before in another post.
In full disclosure, I’m not completely happy with how we’ve extrapolated revenue because on each of those methods, we’re comparing a number that was derived from organic visits (per value visit) and applying it to keyword visits, which can’t entirely be compared to one another. It’s not apples to oranges, but maybe more like tangerines to oranges.
You could argue that we need to be using visits instead of entries when calculating estimated CTR, but that would give you an inflated metric.
Every organic visit that goes to your party supplies landing page may not have entered from an organic keyword; visitors could have come from another page, which they got to from a SERP. In that scenario, your party supplies landing page would still get credit for an organic visit, even when there was no way it was a keyword-driven entrance.
What are other ways you’ve found that you can accurate estimate CTR and revenue from an increased organic ranking?
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