There are experts who claim that search engine optimization (SEO) is a little like gambling.
Why? Essentially, you’re rolling the dice by changing up certain aspects of your page and hoping for a windfall of traffic to follow.
While this is partially true, it isn’t totally the whole picture.
In fact, most enterprise-level digital marketers understand that there are certain patterns in analytics data that make it easy to anticipate certain trends in traffic.
This means you don’t need a crystal ball to predict what’s to come in the future. Instead, you can use what’s called SEO forecasting.
In this guide, we’ll go over what this process is and how it is useful for your company. Plus, we’ll provide a list of tools to help you make it part of your bigger marketing strategy.
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What is SEO Forecasting?
SEO forecasting is the process of looking at analytics data from previous search traffic and determining if there are certain patterns or trends that repeat over time.
Simply put, this is how you anticipate future gains while identifying areas that might need further attention to see better results.
It is used for both enterprise-level websites and small businesses alike as a means of determining how to make future decisions that fall in line with big picture goals for the brand.
The reason that digital marketers need to implement some form of the process into their strategies is that it makes it easier to decide which goals are truly attainable and how to best use resources to achieve them.
SEO forecasting is really a vital task for any company, as it takes your existing web traffic data and turns it into actionable information with additional context, clarity, and reasoning.
How SEO Forecasting Helps Your Brand
It’s one thing to understand what SEO forecasting is, but it is another to look at how it helps your brand for the long haul.
To see this clearly, you need to realize that there are two big factors in the process:
First-party data gives your company insight into what is working well for your website specifically in terms of optimization and growth.
It generally comes from data collected by Google Analytics or any additional SEO reporting tools you utilize, such as SEMrush or MozPro.
Third-party data takes into account what your competitors are doing and how they’re achieving similar goals.
Think of it as your company’s way of scoping out what others in your niche are doing to achieve similar results to what you want to accomplish.
When you combine the results from first-party and third-party data to create a complete picture, you really see the benefits of SEO forecasting.
Imagine being able to understand where you’re at, what you’re expected to see if organic traffic stays on the same path, and where your competitors are at in contrast.
As a brand, this gives you a clear focus on how to move forward or what strategies to use to achieve results more quickly.
How to Use Data to Forecast SEO
Using data for forecasting SEO isn’t as difficult as you might believe.
In fact, it is something that just about anyone can do with the right knowledge and tools.
While the actual workflow for the process highly depends on your niche and needs, there are certain steps you’ll want to follow no matter what.
Here are the ones you need to pay the most attention to.
1. Gather Data
The first step in SEO forecasting is to gather historical data for your website traffic.
This can be either a Google Analytics report, data from specific tools, or anything else you have that gives insight into your past traffic levels and who is coming to your page.
You’ll want to go as far back as you can with this information, as it will help you see any specific patterns or seasonal phases that might affect results over time.
Remember, at this stage in the forecasting process, you’re attempting to get a high-level view of past traffic.
2. Consider Outside Factors
Once you have all of your past traffic data, it is time to take into consideration any outside factors that might have impacted results during a specific time period.
A few elements to remember include:
- Various Google algorithm changes that impacted traffic for everyone.
- Seasons that make it more likely a website visitor would seek content on your page or look for the goods and services your company provides.
- Prior marketing campaigns or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising that made traffic higher than normal.
- For eCommerce brands, pay close attention to key shopping dates like Black Friday or the holidays.
During this step of the process, you can also utilize SEO tools to gain the third-party data we discussed above.
While you won’t likely have as much information on your competitors as you do on your own website, it can help identify industry downtrends that aren’t specifically based on your own efforts.
3. Use a Forecasting Tool
Next, you want to take all of the information you’ve gathered and use a forecasting tool.
There are literally dozens of different apps and software programs that do this and we’ve outlined a few of our favorites below.
You might want to use a couple of different options and compare the results to see what insight each offers.
Sometimes this gives you data that’s pretty close together to offer a clear picture, but other times the two resources are pretty far apart.
In that case, you’ll want to make your own inferences based on what you know about your business and niche.
4. Analyze the Data
Finally, it is time to analyze the data.
Be sure to look at any emerging trends that you notice and determine if they look like they’ll continue into the future.
This is also the point where noticing areas where you have a particular weakness or need to make a change is critical.
For example, maybe you had a ton of traffic previous to a Google algorithm update and need to edit your content to rank better.
In this last step of the process, you need to be willing to see where you can make those changes or adjustments in order to meet your bigger goals.
Top 4 SEO Forecasting Tools
Of course, understanding the process of SEO forecasting also includes choosing the best tools to make the process easier.
We’ve included four of our favorites here for your brand to try out.
Google Data Studio
When it comes to optimization, the first place you should always look is with the search engine itself.
In this case, Google Data Studio is a free forecasting tool that you can use to spot trends in your web traffic.
The program connects with data sources like Google Analytics, SEMrush, and others to pull the most comprehensive information possible.
From there, you can create dashboards, reports, and other visuals to help with your forecasting process. Best of all, it is free to use.
Prophet by Facebook
If you’re familiar with computer programming, then you might want to use Prophet by Facebook.
This giant open-source code library includes tons of ways to track and review data to help predict seasonal traffic trends.
The only problem? It isn’t beginner-friendly.
However, it is free and might be a good option if you have a background in Python or someone on your team is knowledgeable about it.
Ahrefs’ Traffic Site Forecast
We can’t stress enough that Ahrefs’ entire suite of tools is a fantastic investment for any brand looking to improve their on-page optimization.
One super robust aspect is their Traffic Site Forecast tool.
The program takes data from other sources and makes it easy to create charts and graphs showing your predicted organic traffic forecast.
While this does take a bit of custom coding, the development team has put together plenty of tutorials on how to make it work for your needs.
The light version costs $99 per month, which is a total deal if you’re really committed to using SEO forecasting as part of a bigger digital marketing strategy.
SEO Keyword Forecasting by SEOmonitor
What if you just need prediction information for specific keywords and want a simple solution?
Then you’ll love SEO Keyword Forecasting by SEOmonitor.
While it tends to be on the pricier end, it is a super informative program that takes into account a wide range of data to give you the clearest picture of your results.
Plus, it offers automated reporting, meaning you can get these forecasts sent directly to your inbox at specified intervals.
If you’re looking for a done-for-you solution for SEO forecasting, then this is definitely the best option on the list.
Keeping track of your website’s past data and comparing it to future trends through SEO forecasting is important.
Not only does it make planning digital marketing strategies and campaigns easier, but it also allows you to get a clear picture of the various factors that affect organic traffic.
Are you ready to learn how to improve your website’s inbound traffic as a whole?
Our SEO guide is a great place to start and offers insight into how to use that forecasting data even more efficiently!