Can SEO Results Be Used to Predict Site Traffic?

Traffic_CongestionThe short answer is:  Not really, but kind of.  Confused?  Good.  Now that we’ve got those wheels turning, let’s break the question down and look at an often misunderstood reality of SEO.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, not Search Engine Oracle.  There are no crystal balls, there are no cut and dry equations for success.  It would be great if you could just take the average number of times that a keyword is searched per day, multiply it by the marketshare percentage commanded by the search engine and pop out a more-or-less accurate prediction of how many visitors a site can expect per day.  Unfortunately, it just isn’t that simple.

First off, you have to view the keyword search figures skeptically.  Just because a term was searched for 2000 times in one day, doesn’t mean that 2000 individual users were actually searching in earnest.  How many users, for any number of reasons, searched for the term multiple times, skewing the numbers?  How many searched, scanned the first page and realized the term wasn’t relevant to what they were looking for?  You just cannot get an accurate count.

The truth is, there are just too many factors that come into play.  Some of these factors are, to an extent, within the control of the site owner and the SEO consultant’s control.  Things like title and description tags, for instance, are substantially significant when it comes to increasing traffic.
More than just the keywords used, the actual crafting of the tags can make a difference.  Two tags conveying the exact same information in different wording can have drastically different effects on traffic.  A lot of it relies on an understanding of the subtleties of the English language and the subconscious impact of certain words and phrases.  A lot of it also depends on whether or not your competitors can craft their tags better.  Again, the tags may say essentially the same thing, but will appeal to users differently.

There are even more factors that are completely out of the site owner or SEO consultant’s control.  Sponsored links also make traffic predictions impossible, especially through engines like Yahoo where the numbers can get pretty high.  Even if your site is optimized perfectly, if there are two pages of sponsored links in front of you, then users may not ever make it to your link.

Throwing even more chaos into the formula is the fact that search engine users are human.  How they search, how they perceive tags, what links they follow, etc. – it all depends on the hundreds of little factors that shape our mood and perception from day to day.  Let’s face it, it kind of sucks to think that your web traffic might depend on what internet users had for breakfast or if they got in fights with their spouses earlier in the day, or a million other seemingly unrelated factors, but those things do have an impact.

All that to say – accurate traffic prediction is absolutely impossible.  So where does the “kind of” come in?

A good SEO consultant understands these factors and takes them into account, making the most of the factors that can be controlled.  If your SEO consultant is worth the money that you pay them, they can identify the keywords and phrases that will benefit your business most.  Then they will include them in title and description tags that are crafted to appeal to the most search engine users while also grabbing the search engine’s attention as a site that matters, so that it ranks prominently.  A SEO consultant that knows his business will monitor how those tags rank and not just focus on the rankings of your keywords and phrases.  From this you can predict, not exact numbers, but potential effectiveness.  In other words,  you can see that your site is providing the maximum benefit for your business.

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