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Goal-Focused SEM: Setting Realistic Goals

Posted on 12.19.2016

:: By Travis Bliffen, Stellar SEO ::


Sometimes even the best marketing agency, is not the best marketing agency for you. If you want to spend $300 per month on Google AdWords, paying a firm $1,000 to set up that campaign is not likely to yield a return on your investment, nor is paying a firm $100 to manage a $10,000 per month campaign.

You can find countless articles covering setting general goals for your business as well as more specific pieces covering setting goals for your online marketing campaigns. What most of them lack though is a firm dose of reality. Let’s say you are a small business owner and you set the goal of doubling your organic search traffic over the next six months. That is a great goal and very achievable, so long as your goals, budget and marketing plan are correctly aligned. While it can be easy to blame those around us for failed plans, more times than not, we bring failure upon ourselves.

You Are Planning to Fail with SEM

Stop for just a moment and think about a few times in the past when your search engine marketing (SEM) goals were not met. What went wrong? Did you fully follow the guidance of your marketing company and they failed to deliver? Did you disregard their suggestions and push for a price point you wanted instead of what they suggested? Perhaps you hired a cheap company that just didn’t do anything except collect your payments and send auto-generated reports. In any scenario, proper and realistic goal setting could have helped you avoid wasted time and frustration. The problem is, many people don’t realize they are setting themselves up for failure from the start. 

Trying to "Fix" for Less

Imagine this, you are driving down the road and your car starts knocking and smoking, followed by your dashboard lighting up with warning lights. You pull into the nearest shop and have their techs take a look at your vehicle.  After completing a thorough review, the mechanic returns and says you have a blown head gasket. The cost to repair it is $1,800. Let’s now apply the logic many people use when asking for SEM services to this scenario. 

Here is how it would go:

“I want my car to work but $1,800 is just too much, why can’t you just fix it for $800? If it runs good, I will pay you more next time I need a repair.” My last mechanic didn’t do a good job so, I want to spend $500 for the repair until I can see you are a good mechanic. I mean, I paid my last mechanic $1,800 and my car still doesn’t work, so, I need it fixed now, but, I am just not going to pay anything over $500 for that repair.

How many of you are guilty of statements just like those OR have heard those from potential customers?

In the context of automotive repair, doesn’t that sound ridiculous? You wouldn’t tell the mechanic to fix it for less so that next time you need a repair you can offer him a larger budget to fix the problem. You take his advice and pay the price needed to allow the time and resources to fix your vehicle properly. If not, you wouldn’t (or at least shouldn’t) be mad when your vehicle is not fixed. Now, I am sure some of you are thinking, “why not just take it to a few more shops and get some other estimates?” Great question.

Let’s say you go to five other shops that offer you a similar price but, one guy, who knew a guy your friend went to school with 20 years ago, said he would do it for $500. Do you think that guy is going to give you the same quality of service as the six-other licensed, insured, certified, shops quoting you about the same price? Not likely! It could happen but the likelihood of success is going to be much lower.

Why is it then that so many business owners think that with SEM companies you CAN just pick the cheaper company or negotiate the price down, yet still receive the same quality of service? SEO, PPC, social media, and content marketing all require time and resources if you want them to be successful.

3 Simple Questions for Goal Planning

Now, with that in mind, let’s put that old mindset behind us and get down to how to plan achievable and profitable goals for your business. Let’s say you want to double your organic traffic in six months. You need to ask yourself three questions about this goal: 

1. If I achieve this goal how will it impact my bottom line?

2. How much time and resources are my competitors putting into achieving this goal?

3. If I allocate the proper resources to achieve my goal, is there potential for a ROI?

The first question comes down to your most basic requirement as a business owner: understanding your numbers. If you show 100 people your product and five of them buy, showing your product to 200 people means that 10 people are likely to buy. In the real world, it doesn’t always happen this way but, as you track your marketing, your stats will grow in accuracy. For our example, let’s say that you can sell 10 products by doubling the number of people who see them. That brings us to point two, how much effort and resources are my competitors putting in to get 200 people to see their products? 

Point two is the very reason “SEO packages” are terrible for customers. If all 10 of your competitors are buying the “gold” package and you are paying for the “silver” package, you are not going to surpass them. When looking at SEO specifically, this means you aren’t going to outrank them, or capture their share of the online market for your product, leading to issues with point three. Can you make a return on your investment?

Let’s turn back to our mechanic example for a moment. If you pay the first mechanic to properly repair your vehicle so that it has a good shot at running well for a long time to come, would that vehicle be worth more than one with a blown head gasket? Would it also be worth more than a vehicle that had a chemical added to simply disguise the blown head gasket? In both cases, the answer is yes. Now think of this same scenario involving your website. If you pay someone to partially fix it, or even if you pay “some guy” to do cheap work, you are going to be left with an item of less value than if you had paid the price for proper repairs. ROI is just another way of evaluating cost vs. value. 

If in the above scenario, you pay for someone to “cover up” the issue with your engine, you have reduced the cost but you have also reduced the value. While mathematically it may make sense, in reality, the cost of reduced value actually exceeds the reduced cost, leaving you at the wrong end of a negative equation. To simplify, you may save $1,300 on the repair but drop your vehicle value by $5,000. 

Poor vs. Rich Mentality

I once read, the difference between millionaires and the poor is how they handle money. Poor people focus on saving money while the wealthy focus on investing money so that it grows. In the example above, a “poor” mindset would try to skimp on the repairs to save a few bucks while the “wealthy” mentality would elect the proper investment because of the potential return. Once you change your mindset as a business owner and think about earnings over savings, you are going to set better goals and be a lot more successful in 2017.

If you are only going to apply one piece of advice to goal setting in 2017, let it be the one discussed here today. 

I was once in the same boat as many of you reading this. I was broke, had a “poor” mindset, and a dream of starting my own business. It was tough in the beginning (2012!) but once I changed my way of thinking, my goals, although higher, became more realistic and achievable because I planned to achieve them. 

Go take what is yours in 2017.


About the Author

Travis Bliffen is the founder of Stellar SEO, a Web design and marketing firm located in Franklin, TN. Travis and his team are equipped to handle any size SEO project and have helped numerous businesses to date build a rock solid online presence. When you are ready for more leads and sales, it is time to get #stellarized. Connect on Facebook or Twitter @theseoproz

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