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Expected Traffic Increase After SEO

October 6, 2010
Hello Jill,

Our CEO is looking for a specific goal in site traffic generated by organic search, based on our implementing SEO recommendations.

We started the year at 2,653 organic visits in January and then, last month, 3,085 organic visits. So we've been creeping upward at a rate of 54 extra organic visits per month on average over those 8 months, using our "B" grade tactics. That's 16% growth over 8 months.

In your experience, when a company goes from "B" SEO tactics to "A" SEO tactics, what range do you see their organic visitor rate increase by? And how quickly or slowly can one expect to see those efforts taking effect?

I want to set a reasonable expectation for what the goal should be as the next three months transpire. Is it reasonable for me to say that we'll double our average growth rate by end of year – e.g., from 2% month over month to 4% month over month?

Just wanted to hear what you have witnessed first-hand. A range is fine as I know you work across many industries.

Many thanks,


++Jill's Response++

Hi Tina,

Great questions, but unfortunately, it's impossible to say. It depends on which keywords you target and Photo Credit: cauchisavonawhether you do the SEO correctly. Not only that, but the goal shouldn't be site traffic because you could be increasing untargeted site traffic. The goal should be to increase targeted traffic, which converts into leads.

It also depends on how much targeted traffic is available for your particular products or services. I can't tell you that you'll increase x percent month over month – what if you get to a point where you're receiving all the targeted traffic that exists in your particular niche?

In fact, it often happens that, after implementing a good, targeted SEO campaign across a website, their overall organic traffic goes down because they're no longer showing up for the untargeted phrases. Typically, though, bounce rate goes down too, and conversions go up. (Sort of like if you add negative keywords to an AdWords paid search campaign.)

In addition, you probably shouldn't be looking at a month-to-month increase in anything, but how each month compares to the same month in the year before. This is because there are often seasonal shifts in traffic, even for B2B sites, due to vacations, holidays, etc.

That said, I've seen organic traffic increase 500% to 2,000% in a year if they had no SEO in place to start with. And I've seen websites where their organic traffic increased just 5% to 10% in a year if they were already doing some SEO and then started to do more.

It also depends on how much content you put out there to be found. People who write a daily blog that is of interest to many in their industry tend to have more traffic because a lot of content must be indexed and they often receive "long-tail" traffic from it. The same can be said for forum threads. You can have tons of traffic when you have a forum, but it doesn't necessarily convert to anything more than that in the short-term.

So, as with anything in SEO – it depends, and unfortunately, I can't provide you with a straight answer!

I would advise this: Rather than looking for a specific rate of increase, see whether the phrases in aggregate that you're optimizing for start to bring more visitors, and whether they convert for you. Say you've optimized for a keyword phrase like "custom lederhosen." When you review your web analytics, look at all the phrases people used that contain the word "lederhosen." You'll find that users are finding you via many variations on the phrase, such as custom-made lederhosen, custom designed lederhosen, customized lederhosen, etc.

You'll also want to look at the words and phrases for which you optimized that are not bringing you many search engine visitors, and try to figure out why. Is it because your pages aren't showing up in the search results? Is it their position in the search results? Or perhaps the description or clickable title link isn't enticing enough for the searcher to click on?

This is the sort of analysis that will be much more useful to you than how many more overall visitors you can bring to your site (unless you make your money strictly through visitors and page views).

I know it's not what you were asking for, but hope it helps nonetheless!


Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, an SEO Services company in the Boston, MA area since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalenJill Whalen

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Post Comment

 StevieWeb said:
" In addition, you probably shouldn't be looking at a month-to-month increase in anything, but how each month compares to the same month in the year before. This is because there are often seasonal shifts in traffic, even for B2B sites, due to vacations, holidays, etc."

Absolutely correct. The seasonal shifts for a relatively low volume website with significant long tail business can be huge... on the order of 10x increase (and correspondig decrease the following month). These shifts can even occur on a shorter time interval (think flowers and Valentine's Day).
 Gianluca said:
Jill... you are my hero!
Just wanted to say it loud, because you had the incredible ability to answer perfectly to a very involuted question (b tactics, a tactics...?? what tactic is a and what b??).
Maybe you did not answered to his question (who could have?), but you gave him something more valuable: an educate high value lesson about what SEO can be and can give objectively to a website...

Yes, you are my hero.
 Jill Whalen said:
Thanks Stevie and Gianluca!

I appreciate the comments.
 Alan Bleiweiss said:
Great article to post Jill. Every point you make hits issues that need to be communicated and you presented them perfectly. My latest effort has been around helping an agency account manager grasp this reality. He comes from a world where he's both used to providing numbers and where he says clients expect them. the notion had been so powerfully drilled into his head that it took a few lengthy discussions and "what if" "if/then" scenarios for me to help him understand and accept.
 Jill Whalen said:

I can certainly understand the need to provide numbers, especially when it's the CEO or CMO asking for them. The problem is that they ask for the wrong numbers.

I find if you present them with the right one numbers, i.e., those that matter, they are usually happy with that. Until they wake up in the middle of the night and realize you never told them where they were ranking for their one silly keyword phrase (which never converts no less)!

Google has been a big help in this respect by clearly showing personalized and geotargeted results. These were not as obvious in years past, but now most have run across it happening now and again.
 Seth Rosen said:
Great observations Jill. You've done wonderful things for us!

Seth Rosen
 Jill Whalen said:
Thanks Seth. Clients like you guys who actually "get it" are worth their weight in gold!

Looking at the big picture and actually following through on recommendations. What a concept, huh?
 One Giant Media said:
It's an impossible question to answer, but it's not an impossible question to guestimate. Any projections are speculative, but there is such thing as the degree of speculation. You CAN answer the question with a range given to actually define some of these key variables... what is "A" and "B" tactics? What is the size of the market? What approximate % of the target audience is already being reached? etc.. THis way you can at least make some educated guesses and call it the ballpark goal range.

I've been in this situation before and I think the smart thing to do is tell the CEO that look- this is an impossible question and projection and I can send you links to articles that will explain the technicals of why that is- but I ran two sets of numbers anyway, low estimates and high estimates, based on the limited data we have, and here's the results: low gains assuming we have a low percentage of the market: educated guess #1; mid to high gains assuming we have xyz of the market... educated guess #2. Use your industry knowledge and experience to hedge your bets towards what you think is low to realistic response, and you won't set expectations too high.