Sometimes, setting goals without thinking too much about how to get there can be comforting - like really badly wanting to fit into the jeans you wore in college.
For your business, and your website, that kind of nebulous thinking can become harmful - which is why it’s important to set SMART goals that actually back up your dreams instead.
SMART is an acronym, and a darn useful one!
We’re believers in using SMART criteria when setting goals for website changes, content strategy, and other marketing activities. This means your goals ought to be
- Specific - so you know what you’re working on
- Measurable - because measurement indicates progress
- Attainable - or achievable, because you do want to be able to meet these goals
- Relevant - to your business, a current aim for growth, or a current project
- Time-bound - because deadlines let us evaluate our work in visible, noticeable chunks.
All of this lets you hold your goals to account, plan around them, and actually see the benefits of this planning and work as it unfolds. Having visibility on outcomes beyond (or leading to) revenue is important.
We could go on for years about each of those points - but there are dozens of books on the subject, so we’ll encourage you to read one or two of them, and instead try to shed some light on where this system generally falls down for website owners.
Of those five points, the most common failures happen on the last two points!
For example, many website owners want to “be rank 1 in Google search!” Great! If you’ve been focusing on this, and nothing else, and you’re disappointed in your website’s performance, here’s why.
Low relevance: Rank 1 is near-sighted! It’s really tempting to lump this weak goal in with the Attainability or Specificity requirements, but that’s not often the issue with it.
Which key phrase are you aiming to rank for? Are people using it, or is it just a guess? Is there a personal pride issue at stake, that might cause a conflict of your goals and the business’ needs for rankings? All of those things cause problems with relevance for this goal to your business goals.
Difficult to measure time scales: With the right bumps, you can reach a high rank in google for some terms fairly quickly. However, how long will you stay there? Until your competitors beat you - or until Google makes a change? No ranking is ever guaranteed, for any length of time, so it’s hard to measure how time-bound this goal should be.
Setting a goal based solely on your business’ interaction with an outside entity such as Google also removes any hope you can have over managing timeliness - and that’s never going to get you where you need to be.
Backing your goals against calculations related to your business is key.
Yeah, we know - math is annoying, but it’s super important, and it’s what makes web marketing so powerful. It doesn’t even have to be hard!
Let’s say you want to increase revenue from your website. Great! There are a few ways you can do that:
- Grow your visitor numbers, which should in turn grow overall revenue
- Optimize for conversions, so each visitor is more likely to begin a transaction
- Optimize your purchase or sign-up process, so each person beginning the process is less likely to abandon
Each of those items can easily become a SMART goal all on its own. Why lump everything into “increase revenue” without detail, when you could be focusing on the real pain points directly?
Once you’ve gotten relevant and specific on the goal, it’s easier to set up measurement and timelines.
You can do this one of two ways, depending on your situation. Either designate the work to be done first, then decide how long it should reasonably take, or figure out how much time you’re willing to track a particular goal, and base your activities and specificity on that timeline.
Some goals also benefit from becoming part of a routine - where others function better as one-off achievements.
Traffic growth is an endless process, so a goal such as “X% growth over last quarter” makes sense. You’re tying the goal back to existing performance, and making an aim at a specific number within a specific period. This is never a bad goal to have.
Sales, seasonal promotions, and new offers have limited lifetimes, so be sure to set your expectations for them as priorities - and back those expectations up with activities that make sense. Be aware that, until you’ve gotten a few promotions under your belt, it can be difficult to meet that pesky Attainable point in the SMART framework, because you don’t yet have much sense of what you can actually achieve. Don’t be discouraged! Set a goal anyway, and be ready to analyse why you miss it if you do.
Knowing these outcomes helps assign value to individual marketing efforts - before, and after they’ve launched.
If you’re watching your traffic growth as a major goal, you’ll also be caring for the timing, placement, and tone of the marketing efforts you’re making - because they affect the goal directly.
You’ll be able to judge much more closely which efforts in social media, advertising, and content marketing contributed best to your achievement of your goals.
One of the wonderful things about owning a website is setting your own finish lines - and then moving them whenever you cross them.