You closely monitor the results of your paid-search efforts. Shouldn't you do the same for your natural-search program? In a recent MarketingProfs article, Netconcepts' John Thielmann says measuring your natural search performance is not only a good idea, it's imperative if you're reporting progress to higher-ups. So, where to begin? By establishing realistic goals within an achievable timeframe, Thielmann advises. He breaks the process down into three steps:

1. Collect the necessary data. You can do so using available tools like Enquisite or Google Analytics. Focus on the metrics that can be of real use for growing your natural-search performance. For instance, analyze the non-paid keywords currently driving traffic to your site, and those leading to conversions.

2. Identify your growth areas. Once you understand the keywords driving search traffic, you'll want to figure out where your opportunities for growth lie. Use Google's free keyword tool to help you determine the average demand for any given keyword, and then apply this formula: (Google Average Demand for Keyword - Site Traffic for Keyword) / Site Traffic for Keyword.

3. Set a timeframe for reaching your goals. To do so, design a test—such as optimizing a set of URLs that target important keywords—and measure results at intervals. "You'll then be able to understand a rough estimate of how quickly, or how slowly, the search engines react to your site," Thielmann says.

The Po!nt: Think it through. Establishing realistic natural-search goals can position your program for success, and help you communicate your progress along the way.

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