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SEO 9 min read

Why Can't SEO Performance Be Forecasted?

Sarah Edwards photo

Written by Sarah Edwards

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed

Jigmit Gwari photo

Expert reviewed by Jigmit Gwari

SEO Product Director @ Galactic Fed

Published 22 Sep 2022

People who have not worked in search engine optimization (SEO) sometimes wonder why SEO experts can’t just predict how their site will perform after a certain amount of work.

After all, other aspects of marketing, such as pay-per-click (PPC) and email marketing, have very predictable results. So why can’t we say the same for SEO?

The answer involves the nature of search engines themselves. Search engines are constantly changing the algorithms they use to rank sites and track how users search, which means that what works today might not work tomorrow, and vice versa.

This volatility makes it very difficult to predict how your site will exactly perform in the future. Even though we have a good track record of getting results, there are too many variables to ascertain what will happen in the future. 

Focus on Your Goals

Focusing on your SEO campaign goals is more important than predicting exact results. Setting realistic goals and measuring progress along the way can ensure that your campaign is successful, even if the exact results are difficult to predict.

SEO aims to improve organic search results and tie those results to revenue. We want to ensure that your website appears as high up on the results page as possible for relevant searches, as this will boost the likelihood of people clicking through to your site.

However, it’s important to remember that we can’t directly control organic search results. All we can do is influence them.

That’s why the focus should remain on what we can control: your website. By ensuring your website is optimized for search engines and users, we can increase your chances of appearing higher up on the search engine results pages (SERPs.) This placement will eventually lead to more traffic and by ranking relevant keywords, hopefully, more conversions.

Our goal is to make projections about what we think will happen that are as close as possible to what will happen based on the limited data available to us. When we can’t do that, we can still recommend what tactics will be the most effective for your website’s long-term success.

The Science of Search Engine Optimization

Think Long Term

It’s important to remember that SEO is a long-term strategy. Where PPC can be a sprint, SEO is a marathon. It can take months to see the full effects of an SEO campaign, which is why setting realistic goals and measuring progress over time is essential. Trying to predict exact results is often fruitless and can lead to disappointment.

The SEO landscape is in a never-ending state of change. What was successful last year may not work now, and what works today may not work tomorrow. You must continually monitor and adjust your strategy to stay ahead of the curve.

SEO is an ongoing process, not a one-time effort. Galactic Fed monitors your progress and continuously makes changes as needed. 

Understand the Google Algorithm

We can’t control certain factors related to search results. The Google algorithm is proprietary and constantly changing, making it impossible to know all the factors influencing rankings. 

Depending on your project, you may target other search engines, like Bing or Yahoo. And then, there are all the external factors, like user intent and searcher location.

We also can’t control how users search, what they click on, or other user-related factors. We can focus on learning the current state of search engines and user behavior with available data, which means always being up-to-date on the latest algorithm changes and search trends.

Maintain Realistic Expectations

It’s essential to have realistic expectations for an SEO campaign. Just as you wouldn’t expect a new website to generate a flood of traffic instantly, you shouldn’t expect an SEO campaign to produce results overnight. Instead, focus on the long-term benefits of SEO: ongoing increased visibility, traffic, leads, and sales.

A well-planned and executed SEO strategy will provide a positive return on investment over time. Maintaining realistic goals and measuring progress can ensure that your SEO campaign is successful. SEO is a long-term strategy with many moving parts, so we must focus on what we can control and be patient.

Narrow Your Focus

Predictions become a bit easier as we narrow our focus. Looking at pages for a particular product that we want to rank for a specific keyword, we can observe many on-page factors, like title tags and meta descriptions. We can also use programs like Ahrefs to measure the quality of inbound links pointing to the page.

However, other important traffic quality factors, such as click-through rate (CTR) and dwell time, are more difficult to predict. CTR tracks the percentage of users who click on your listing in the search results. Dwell time is the time someone spends on your website after clicking through their search results.

These are important traffic quality factors because they signal to Google that people find your content relevant and engaging. 

Important Factors Search Engines are looking for


Keyword Research Is Still Important

Keyword research is an integral part of SEO. It alerts you to what people are searching for online and how difficult it will be to rank in search engines for those terms. Once you have this information, you can develop content that targets the right keywords and improve your chances of ranking higher on SERPs.

However, keyword research only shows how well our SEO efforts might pay off. We can’t guarantee exactly how much traffic or how many leads you’ll get from a given keyword because there are too many variables involved in SEO, including:

  • The quality of your website and content
  • How well optimized your website is
  • The competition for the keyword you’re targeting
  • The ever-changing algorithms search engines employ

These factors can impact your SEO results, making it challenging to give an exact prediction. However, keyword research can help us choose the right keywords to target and give you an idea of the potential traffic flow you could get from ranking for those terms.

Remain Patient and Flexible

SEO requires a lot of patience. You need to be prepared to wait for results, and you shouldn’t expect instant gratification. Flexibility is vital, and you need to be able to adapt your strategy as the landscape changes.

Setbacks are inevitable in SEO. We might make a change that doesn’t have the desired effect or loses ground in the rankings. The crucial element is to learn from mistakes and keep moving forward.

SEO is as much an art as it is a science. A lot of experimentation is required, so we need to test and see what works for a particular situation.

Wait for Results

Progress can be slow and incremental in SEO. You might not see any results for months, and then suddenly, you’ll get a surge of traffic. It can be challenging to tell what’s working and what’s not.

Projecting how much traffic will increase for a single page is more straightforward than making projections for your entire site. It is more appropriate to tie organic search results on a landing page to an SEO strategy than to tie your entire website’s search results to that strategy.

But even with a single page, many factors can influence traffic, and it’s never possible to know how much traffic you will get from organic search results because:

  • The number of people searching for a given keyword can fluctuate
  • The position of your page in the SERPs can fluctuate
  • The CTR for a given position can fluctuate
  • The number of people active on your website after landing can fluctuate

These issues make it difficult to determine how much traffic a page will get from organic search results, even if the page’s position in the search results is known.

It’s worth noting that some of these factors are within our control and others are not. For example, we can control the quality of content and how well we optimize for the target keywords. But we can’t control how many people are searching for those keywords.

We can track your page’s traffic from organic search results and look for trends over time, which will give us a good idea of how your SEO efforts affect traffic, even though we won’t be able to predict exact numbers.

Final Thoughts on Forecasting

SEO is a long-term investment that can have a big payoff if done correctly, but it’s not something anyone can forecast accurately. There are too many variables involved, from algorithm changes to competitor moves, for anyone to be able to confidently say how your site will perform over time.

The best we can do is make educated guesses and then work hard to stay ahead of the curve so you continue seeing positive results.

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Sarah Edwards photo

Sarah Edwards

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed