user forecasting SEO with Google Analytics

SEO Forecasting—A How-to Guide and Free Template

user forecasting SEO with Google Analytics

If you do a quick Google search for SEO forecasting, you’ll find some confusing, and often unhelpful tools and articles. As it turns out, predicting the future is hard to do. 

That’s why we developed our own method and SEO forecasting template to help. As a growth marketing agency, we’ve used this Google Sheet to forecast organic traffic growth for several SEO partners at Tuff, and it’s been eerily spot on with its predictions—as little as 10 or 20 visits off some months. 

What is SEO forecasting? 

SEO forecasting is the process of using data—like keyword volume, click-through rates, and monthly organic traffic—to predict the impact of your SEO efforts. 

In general, all kinds of industries analyze trends and patterns in past data to predict what will happen in the future. We’re applying similar methods but focusing on search engine optimization. 

Since no one can truly predict the future (that I know of), there is some margin or error to be expected. However, forecasting for SEO can help you set realistic expectations and measurable goals that are grounded in data. 

If you invest in SEO content, you want to know how much it will increase your organic traffic growth. SEO forecasting can help you with that and more. 

SEO forecasting models

There are two basic ways to forecast SEO or predict organic traffic growth. 

1. Keyword forecasting

Keyword forecasting models use keyword search volume and average click-through rate (CTR) to determine website traffic. 

To use this method, you need to know the estimated search volume a target keyword gets each month and the average CTR for each ranking position. 

For example, people are most likely to click the top search result, so that CTR is higher. The CTR drops significantly as you go from position one to two to three and so on. You can pull the average CTR by position from a tool like Advanced Web Ranking’s Organic CTR history

Generally, in keyword forecasting, you take the search volume and multiply it by the CTR. 

For instance, let’s say you have a travel blog, and you are ranking number one for the keyword “what to bring on a road trip”. According to Semrush, the average monthly search volume is 880. 

SEMrush data on keyword volume

Then, if you want to pull the CTR in the US for only the travel industry, you can do that by going to Advanced Web Ranking. According to their data, the average CTR for the top position is 33.1%. 

  • 880 (search volume) × 33.1% (CTR) = 291 monthly organic traffic

Click through rate by position

2. Statistical forecasting 

The statistical forecasting method uses historical data and mathematical formulas to predict what your traffic will be in the future, based on your growth trend in the past. Specifically, it uses linear regression and exponential smoothing. 

You don’t really need to worry about the exact mathematical terms. The purpose is the same for each function—to predict the future by using data from the past. 

It is typically more accurate than keywords alone because it is custom to your website. It looks at how your site has performed in the last two to three years and uses that information to estimate your organic traffic. 

How to Forecast SEO in a Google Sheet

The method that we use combines both keyword and statistical models. You can make a copy of this SEO forecasting template and use it for your website. The step-by-step how-to guide is below, but first, you’ll want a few tools and data handy. 

What tools you’ll need:

  • Google Analytics – to pull your monthly organic traffic numbers
  • Google Search Console – if you are using it for your keyword positions and CTR
  • Semrush or Ahrefs – to conduct keyword research and get search volume

Data that you’ll need: 

  • Your organic website traffic for the last two to three years
  • CTR for each ranking position (or you can use the one in the template)
  • Keyword research – a list of your target keywords, current position, and monthly search volume

1. Pull your historical data 

Once you have all this, open up the forecasting template. Go to the “historical data” tab and update the dates as well as the organic traffic for each month. 

Historical data of site traffic

You’ll pull this from your Google Analytics account under Organic Search. Make sure to adjust it for each month, and remove bot traffic. 

Ideally, you’ll have two to three years of data. This will help you create an accurate forecast. 

If it’s a newer site, you may not have this much data to pull. In that case, pull for however many months you have. It won’t be as accurate, but it’s a starting point.

2. Identify outliers and seasonality

To make your forecast as accurate as possible, you need to look at your historical data numbers for seasonality and outliers. 

Seasonality 

Does the website have defined busy and slow months? For example, a tax business sees a spike in traffic around the beginning of the year through tax time in April. This is seasonality because it happens during the same period of time every year, and it’s predictable.

Outliers 

Are there any months when the website traffic is unusually high? Outliers are data points that are much higher or lower than the rest of the data set. For example, many online businesses saw spikes in traffic during the COVID pandemic.

You might have outliers in your data if: 

  • You ran a one-off campaign that inflated your traffic
  • Your website was hit with bot traffic
  • Your site went through a redesign or overhaul

You’ll want to remove outlier data because it is a one-off event and not representative of your overall performance. It will also skew your forecasting and make it inaccurate.

You can use forecasting to replace it with a number that it would be if there wasn’t a random spike.

3. Get a no-change forecast 

Once you’re happy with your historical data set, go to the “Forecast” tab. Here, you’re going to get a no-change forecast. This tells you what your future organic traffic might look like without any SEO marketing or other changes.  

First, copy over your dates and traffic from the “historical data” tab into the “Forecast” tab for reference. 

Then, go to the “No change forecast” column, and adjust the forecast function so that A29 matches up with the first month you are forecasting. 

For example, it is currently (=FORECAST(A29,’historical data’!B:B,’historical data’!A:A), but the A29 will change based on your date and row. Everything else will stay the same. Drag down to get a forecast for the following months. 

4. Add the average CTR and keyword volume

The no-change forecast uses statistical forecasting. Now we are going to add keyword forecasting. 

You can either use the click-through rates that are listed in the “CTR” tab of the forecasting template or update them with your own. You can estimate your click-through rate with your website’s data or you can use Advanced Web Ranking’s organic CTR data year-over-year or by category.

Either way, you want an average CTR for positions one to twenty. 

5. Add your keyword research

Next, you’ll update the “CTR” tab with your list of target keywords. You’ll also include the monthly search volume and your current position in those columns. 

6. Forecast your traffic for different ranking positions 

Now, you’ll forecast what your organic traffic will be if you start ranking for target keywords. You’ll do this by multiplying the volume for each keyword by the CTR for each position.

I used top twenty, ten, and three but you can use any that you want. More positions can smooth out the growth trend when you add in your keyword movement. If you are currently ranking in the top twenty for one of your keywords, you may want to also add that into the forecast so it’s a little bit more accurate.

This will give you the estimated traffic numbers for each keyword, depending on the SERP. You’ll add those together and get the total estimated traffic for each position.

7. Add the total potential traffic from keywords to the no-change forecast.

Jump back to the “Forecast” tab and go to the column labeled “Keyword movement”. Add the total keyword movement to the no-change forecast number. You decide what this is—if you think most of your keywords will be in the top twenty in the first one to two months, then add that. 

If you think you’ll move to the top ten after three to six months, then use that. You’ll noticed that the chart in the template will update automatically as you add your forecast and keyword movement. 

You’ll adjust this based on how quickly keywords appear in the search results and in what position.

Note, as you add more keywords, you’ll need to update your forecast for keyword movement. You may also want to make adjustments as you get a better sense of your organic click-through-rate. 

A Growth Marketing Spreadsheet to Help Predict the Future

This SEO forecasting Google Sheet focuses on predicting your future organic traffic growth. However, you can go a step further and predict how increasing your organic traffic will affect conversions and revenue. If you want to do this, you’ll need to know your organic conversion rate and average order value. 

Predicting organic traffic can be tricky. After all, you are trying to predict the future. However, by using historical data and keyword movement, you can set benchmarks and expectations for your SEO marketing. Hopefully, this forecasting sheet will help you get started. 

An Ecommerce Guide to Optimize Product Page SEO

With so many ecommerce companies using paid search ads, you might be thinking—does product page SEO really matter? The answer is yes.

Businesses need a holistic growth marketing strategy that combines SEO and paid search. It is not an either/or situation – and as an ecommerce growth agency, we incorporate both strategies for our partners. 

Paid search can help you grow fast and stay competitive. If your site is new, it can get you to the top of search results faster. However, you pay for every click that comes to your website. On the other hand, organic search provides sustainability and long-term growth. You don’t pay for clicks, and you could get traffic from SEO-optimized product pages and content years after it was first published. 

Here are just a few reasons why organic search is so important to ecommerce businesses.

 

What is product page SEO? 

A product page is a landing page on your website that provides all the product information that a customer needs to make an informed purchase. Great product pages don’t only provide product information–they are intentionally designed to entice visitors to buy. 

Product pages are transactional, meaning that most visitors are in the market to buy. However, that doesn’t mean that they will. If your product pages are not optimized for conversions or SEO, then they aren’t generating nearly as much revenue as they could. 

Product page SEO is the practice of optimizing product page descriptions, structure, content, and other elements to increase your visibility and overall organic search traffic. With SEO-optimized product pages, you can rank higher in search results and get more visitors to your site. 

How to optimize your product pages 

There are a lot of elements to consider when creating product pages–increasing conversions, providing shoppers with product details, creating the best user experience, and more. How does SEO fit in? 

SEO’s impact may not be obvious on the page, but it is a key part of why many ecommerce brands have been successful. To optimize your product page SEO, follow these tips. 

1. Include keywords in your product names and titles. 

What makes a good product page title? It should be descriptive, but also include keywords.

Keywords are the search terms that your potential customers are using when they search for products like yours. To determine if a query is a good keyword for you, conduct keyword research. 

Look for terms that have high monthly search volume and low keyword difficulty. For example, if someone is searching for “fanny pack”, the search volume looks like this: 

Now, the keyword difficulty, or competition to rank is fairly high, but it’s not impossible to rank. To really develop your keyword strategy, you’ll want to add variations and long-tail keywords.

  • A keyword variation might be a description like the available colors “pink fanny pack” or a synonym like “belt bag”.
  • Long-tail keywords are queries that have around 4 words or more. They are usually in the form of questions, but not always. Although they aren’t usually product page keywords, they are great for longer-form how-to or informational SEO content.

Now, once you have a list of keywords that are associated with your products, you can create SEO titles. 

If you search for “fanny pack” (and many other products), you’ll eventually see Amazon in the results. It’s because Amazon is using product page SEO best practices. Its product listings have specific requirements for titles. If you look at Amazon’s product naming guidelines, you may notice that they are designed for SEO. 

For instance, they must include a descriptive keyword, and they have title length limits. Amazon’s title length is 80 characters max, but we recommend under 60. 

Here’s an easy-to-use format for creating SEO-friendly product titles: 

  • Primary Keyword – Description (material, color, or size) – Brand Name

It’s also important to note that you may rank for product category pages with SEO, in addition to individual product pages. Category pages tend to have more general keywords (belt bags and fanny packs), whereas, product pages may be more specific (faux leather belt bag). 

2. Make sure your product URL structure is descriptive.

The URL structure of your product pages is more important than you may think. The URL appears at the top of the browser, and although, it may not be read by shoppers as much as your title, search engines are reading it. 

Good URL structure helps Google crawl and index your site. Bad URL structure can impact your organic search performance. Common URL issues for ecommerce sites are duplicate and non-descriptive text. 

Avoid URLs that look like this: 

https://company.com/skincare/collections/product/index.jsp?productId=1234567

It’s long. It includes a lot of numbers that are not descriptive. Plus, it’s missing keywords. Instead, opt for a URL like this: 

  • https://company.com/product/keyword

Cooking company Caraway does this beautifully. For instance, look at the product page for its fry pan

The keyword “fry pan” is right in the title and URL. Overall, the URL structure is short, descriptive, and SEO friendly. 

3. Use canonical tags to eliminate duplicate content.

Even if you have a consistent, keyword-rich product URL structure, there are common SEO issues that happen with every ecommerce site. This is because ecommerce sites may have many variations of the same product. 

For instance, you could have one product, but different sizes, materials, and colors. Each product variation creates a unique URL, even though the content on the page doesn’t change much. 

In addition, many ecommerce sites use breadcrumb navigation. The URL structure changes based on how you clicked through the site to eventually land on the product page. 

This creates duplicate content issues for ecommerce sites. To solve this, you’ll want to implement canonical tags. 

Canonical tags tell Google and other search engines that a specific URL is the master URL. 

By implementing rel=canonical tags, you let Google know that it’s not duplicate content.

4. Add unique product descriptions.

If you don’t have unique product descriptions, you’ll run into two major problems–duplicate content and likely, lower conversions. Product descriptions are written first for buyers, not bots. 

That said, a good product description for buyers should also be good for SEO. Here are some tips for writing product descriptions for SEO and conversions: 

  • Include the most important information above the fold. 
  • Highlight benefits, but provide a bulleted list of product features.
  • Include keywords in your product description.
  • Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes.
  • Make it skimmable–include icons and bulleted lists.
  • Eliminate empty words–every word should add meaning to the description.
  • Answer common questions–what is the product, what does it do, and why is it worth buying?

For an example of product page descriptions that work, look at Glossier. 

The product description for Glossier’s milky jelly cleanser includes all the important information (pricing, sizes, etc.) above the fold. It includes keywords like “conditioning face wash” and “gel face wash” throughout. It is also easy to read with short descriptions, product images, and bulleted lists. 

5. Add high-quality product images, but watch out for loading speed.

A fast loading speed is critical to ecommerce websites. Unbounce reports that 70% of shoppers say page speed influences their likelihood of buying from an online store. 

Page speed impacts the user experience, and it’s a ranking factor for search engine optimization. Ideally, your pages will load within one to two seconds. 

Many factors impact page loading speed, but the size of images is one of the easiest that you can control. The rule of thumb for images is to keep the size below 70 KB. 

If you are having a difficult time reducing the size without impacting quality, you can try a smaller image size. You can also change image formats. For example, a JPEG image usually has a much smaller file size than a PNG. 

6. Name image files with keywords and add alt text.

Speaking of product images, make sure that when you upload them, they are named descriptively using keywords. For example, instead of adding a product image that is titled “image1.png”, rename it with a descriptive keyword like “blue-fanny-pack.png”

Then, add alt text. This is descriptive text that appears for screen readers, and in case an image doesn’t load on your site. It’s not only important for SEO but for accessibility standards.

7. Embed product videos.

Video content can vastly improve your product page conversions. Combine it with SEO, and you can have more traffic and potential customers. 

Sometimes, the best way to describe how your product works is by showing how it works. Site visitors that watch a product video are 73% more likely to buy. Of course, the quality of the product video is important too. Some quick tips for product videos are: 

  • Keep it short–under 30 seconds.
  • Show how your product solves a problem. 
  • Bring the product to life–go beyond an image and show the product in action.

Another advantage of product videos for SEO is that, if they are set up with schema, they can appear in Google’s rich video snippets. (More on that below.)

8. Add schema markup to appear in rich results.

Google is continuously adding more search results features to help users discover products. Rich results, also called rich snippets, are Google search results that go beyond the basic text and blue link format. They can be image carousels, videos, or interactive elements. Common rich results for ecommerce companies are:

  • Product – (Popular Products)
  • Reviews – (Star ratings and customer reviews)

To appear in rich results, there are specific product page SEO requirements–mainly structured data or schema markup. You can test whether or not your product pages support rich snippets by adding the link to Google’s Rich Results Test.

9. Include social proof, most importantly reviews.

Out of all the elements on a product page, you can bet that people will read reviews no matter what. In fact, 93% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase. 

It is probably obvious by now that reviews influence a customer to buy a product. However, did you know that reviews also impact SEO? 

Reviews act as trust signals for customers and search engines. If you feature reviews from real customers on your site, you could be rewarded with a higher search engine ranking. 

Allbirds has some of the best product page reviews. For example, on the product page for its men’s wool running shoes, visitors can search inside reviews. It signals that Allbirds cares about customers’ experiences, and makes it easier for new customers to research. 

Visitors can sort and filter results to look for past buyers that have similar shoe sizes, widths, and more. 

10. Pair product pages with high-quality SEO content.

Product pages are instrumental to any ecommerce site. However, they are designed for people that already have some idea of what they want. In other words, visitors may be in the consideration or conversion stage of the customer funnel already. But, what if a purchase requires a little more education? What if a customer is familiar with a product, but isn’t sure what size or other features they need? 

High-quality SEO content like how-to blogs can help educate consumers about your products in ways that product pages can’t. 

Take REI for example. The outdoor gear and clothing store is taking a holistic approach to its marketing. You can tell because they appear on the first page of results in paid search, organic results, and rich snippets for highly relevant keywords. It doesn’t cannibalize keywords because each result is different. For example, there are local searches for retail locations and keyword-based results. 

In addition, when you search for “sleeping bags”, REI appears in Google’s Popular Products as well as general search results. 

Now, in addition to optimizing its product pages for SEO, REI is optimizing content. Using sleeping bags as an example, a question that people searching for sleeping bags often have is what temperature rating do you need? 

Temperature ratings are a sleeping bag product feature that new buyers may not be familiar with, so it’s worth educating them through long-form SEO content. In fact, REI does just that. Looking at this blog on How to Choose a Sleeping Bag, you’ll see one of the first sections is “Understanding Sleeping Bag Temperature Ratings”.

 

REI is currently ranking for the keyword “sleeping bag temperature ratings”, as well as other sleeping bag-related queries.

Of course, much more goes into optimizing product pages for ecommerce. It’s a good idea to A/B test changes to a product page to see how it impacts conversions. Fixing technical product page SEO issues can be much more complex too. Features like adding structured schema can take a lot of time and attention to detail. These tips can set you on the right path, but if you want to dive deeper, you may want to seek an ecommerce growth agency with experience in product page SEO to get additional expertise.