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Estimating the Results of an Optimization Plan
By Andrew Gerhart - November 09, 2001

When speaking with a potential client, or anyone who is interested in having their site optimized, the majority of them ask what type of results they will see. Sadly, it is commonplace within the industry to tell the potential client that they are going to get X number of top 10 placements, X number of top 5 placements, etc. How will this affect the flow of traffic to the site? This is what is really important. Although there is no way to pinpoint the exact number or percentage of increase, there is a way to get a rough idea of what results you will see.

The first step to getting an estimation of the results that you will see from your optimization plan is finding the number of times the keyword or key phrase was searched for over a time period. Most of the tools that show these results give the numbers represented on a monthly basis. One good tool that you can use to see how many times a keyword is searched for is Word Tracker. Word Tracker will allow you to see how many times a keyword was searched for over the last 60 days on numerous search engines, as well as giving the option to see variations of the keyword searched. Word Tracker also offers the option of querying the GoTo database, the Word Tracker database, and the 7Search database. Another tool that will assist you in your search is the Overture Keyword Suggestion Tool. This tool shows you how many times a keyword or key phrase was searched for in the last 30 days, as well as showing different variations of the keyword.

The next step is to evaluate the search engine optimization campaign that you are going to implement for the particular client or website. Is it going to be an intense campaign? Is it going to be a general campaign that will not gain a lot of ground in the search engine results pages? Does the campaign include keyword bidding on Overture, etc? Does the campaign include sponsored listings or any paid placements? All of these things will play a factor on the estimated results and the amount of traffic that you will see.

Now we can perform the equation that will give us the percentage of traffic increase that a site can expect to see. Add together the numbers of each individual keyword search for the defined time period. According to Overture, the likelihood that a user will click on a top listing is 40%. To be safe, and take into account user trends and usability issues, we will use half of this, 20%. Twenty percent of the total amount of searches for all of your keywords is the amount of traffic that you can expect after an optimization plan is implemented.

Some may think that this is a high number, and some may think that it is a low number. The problem with this estimation is that there are too many outside variables to factor in.

There were some very interesting points raised in a discussion in the SEO Research Topics forum at Web Master World. One of the issues that were raised that would play a role in a listings click through rate (CTR) is the positioning of the listing on a user's screen. Since a lot of users do not like to scroll, a 11th place ranking may in fact receive a better CTR than a 9th place ranking. Another variable that was discussed is the quality of the title and how click enticing it is, which will play a large role in a listing's CTR. Does the title use a lot of promotional marketing jargon? Is the title descriptive and eye grabbing? These, and other, factors will alter your final number, and are very difficult to include in the equation.

Although we can get a rough estimate of what to expect from an optimization campaign, the estimations are subject to too many variables for them to have a small margin of error. The best that we can do is give potential clients a rough estimate that excludes some of the variables from the equation.