search marketing

What is SEO? 2: Setting SMART, ROI-Based SEO Goals

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what-is-seo-search-engine-optimizationOver the 10 years we’ve been doing search engine marketing (SEO) for churches, businesses and nonprofits, we’ve had a few clients cancel their service out of the blue.

We give them a call to find out what’s up, and the answer we usually get is something like, “We think you’re doing a good job, we just don’t think we need the service anymore.”

We respond by asking, “Was the service helping you reach your goals?

They reply, “Well, I’m not really sure.”

“Did you get new clients/students/church members who said they found you online.”

“I think some did.”

“Did you track how many?”

“No, not really.”

“Did you have a goal in mind for how many new clients/students/church members you would need to get for the service to give you a positive return on investment?”

“Um, well, here’s the thing. We’re kind of facing some financial challenges, and the board was looking for places where we could cut back, and they decided website services was one place we could save money, and so that’s why we had to cancel.”

At that point, we realize the decision to stop the service was not based on whether it was working, producing results or providing a positive return. It was based on cost and “perceived value.”

SMART, ROI-Based SEO Goals

In our last post What is SEO? 1: Setting Goals, we talked about starting the SEO process by setting goals, and in particular making sure your primary SEO goals are not rankings or traffic but directly related to your organization’s mission and objectives.

In this post, we want to take that one step further by making sure the goals we set are SMART and based on return on investment or ROI.


SMART is an acronym for:

  • Specific – goals should clearly define what you’re doing to do
  • Measurable – goals should be measurable so you can determine whether the goal has been met or not
  • Achievable – goals should be challenging but possible
  • Results-focused – goals should measure outcomes not activities
  • Time-bound – goals should include the time frame in which they are achieved

So, when it comes to SEO, a SMART goal might be something like…

We will get X new clients who found us through search engines in the next 12 months.

Notice how it’s specific (“get X new clients”), measurable (will have to ask and track now new clients found us), achievable (we can do that), and time-bound (“in the next 12 months”)

ROI-Based Goals

In addition to being SMART, your SEO goals should be based on ROI or return on investment. What does that mean?

Notice in the goal above, we didn’t determine how many new clients we need in the next 12 months. That’s where ROI fits in…

Let’s say, you determine each new client generates a profit of $2,000 excluding marketing/acquisition costs. And let’s say you are willing to pay $1,000 in marketing/acquisition so you still end up with a net profit of $1,000 per client.

If your search marketing service you’re considering costs $500 a month, that’s $6,000 a year. That means you would need 6 new clients a year to meet your ROI goal. So, now we know our goal should be…

We will get 6 new clients who found us through search engines in the next 12 months.

(If you do your own SEO rather than hire someone, you still should set ROI goals based on the time you’re going to invest and the value of your time.)

Too Difficult?

Some people tell us determining SMART goals based on ROI is too difficult. But here’s my question… which is more difficult, figuring out ROI at the beginning of the process or explaining to your boss or board how you don’t really know whether your SEO service was worth it or not.

Most of the churches, nonprofits and businesses we work with struggle to set SMART, ROI-based goals, so in the last couple of years we started helping them with this part of the process, both in setting goals and in determining how to measure and track them.

We do that because it’s worth our time to have fewer conversations like the one above, and more in which our clients our clients call us and say, “We looked at the latest goal-tracking report and we’re excited to see we exceeded our goals again! Keep up the great work!”


  • Have you set SMART, ROI-based SEO goals? Why or why not?
  • What do you think is the most difficult part of goal-setting? Why?

Stay tuned for part 3 in the What is SEO? series…

1: Setting Goals <- What is SEO? -> 3: Defining Your Target Audience

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About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.


  • This website is shared interesting points to have knowledge on SEO. The website shared many smart settings to get basic knowledge on SEO. Every point they are updated with SEO goals and people can improve knowledge by using the following services.

  • You are right some people do not cancel the services for the reason they are not getting the wanted results but some do not have enough money or some oesn’t want to spend money on SEO . Well we all know that SEO is not that cheap and if you want your site to be in the results you got to spend some money and have keep patience as well

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