Setting actionable, measurable, and attainable business goals is crucial to doing good business. It gives you something to work toward as well as something to look back on and hold yourself accountable to.

When it comes to digital marketing, goals are just as important. In fact, having effective goals at the onset can make the difference between a successful campaign and one that quickly fizzles.

But how do you choose the right goals for digital marketing? The answer is never an easy one—digital marketing and its various components (content marketing, SEO, social media, PPC, etc.) are all relatively new to the business world. Strategies and tactics are constantly evolving in the industry as marketers react to Google updates, new technologies, and changing customer behaviors.

To help you craft actionable, measurable, and attainable goals for your next digital marketing campaign, consider these tips:

Make Sure Digital Marketing Goals are aligned with Overall Business Goals

As with any department, it can be easy to operate digital marketing as if it’s in a bubble, separate from other business processes. Digital marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum—your online marketing goals should be tied to your overall business goals, or you risk losing sight of the big picture.

If your business goals are to deliver a superior product and increase sales, make sure your digital marketing goals are built around that. If a goal doesn’t contribute to these overall goals, then it needs to be reconsidered or abandoned.

For example, let’s say you come up with the digital marketing goal of ranking number one for a specific search keyword on Google. This may seem like a good (although quite lofty) goal, but if your overall goal is to increase sales then your digital marketing goal should be to not only increase traffic through better rankings, but to also generate higher quality leads from people who actually do visit your site. In this instance, instead of a traffic-focused goal, you need a sales-focused goal.

Frame Your Goals in Terms of ROI

Even if your digital marketing goals aren’t sales-oriented, you still need to think in terms of providing a good return on your investment. Proving ROI is one of the most challenging aspects of digital marketing, but it can be done.

The biggest challenge stems from the fact that most of the time you can’t show a direct “cause and effect” relationship for investments in digital marketing. You can’t necessarily say “we invested x dollars and received y in sales as a direct result.” It just doesn’t work that way the majority of the time.

What you can, and should, show in terms of ROI is a strong correlation between investment and ROI. For example, link building is a common SEO strategy that aims to improve a website’s authority (ultimately helping it rank better for targeted keywords). You may not be able to show a direct relationship between link building and sales, but you should aim to paint a broader picture that shows a correlation between the two.

Likewise, especially with social media, you shouldn’t always think of ROI in terms of overall sales. For example, social media can be an effective customer service tool, and it could be helpful to think of its ROI in terms of customer retention.

Give Yourself a Reasonable Timeframe for Achieving Goals

In order for your digital marketing goals to be attainable, you need to set a reasonable time frame for achieving them. As a rule of thumb, allow six months to a year for achieving initial SEO results. Social media can take even longer before you’ve built up enough of a following to generate meaningful leads, with some experts advising that you need at least a full year before you can realistically start to see a good return on your efforts.

Target Low-Hanging Fruit First

Of course, not every digital marketing goal needs to be long-term. There are plenty of ways you could possibly identify some “low hanging fruit” to achieve goals in the short term. For example, if your website has multiple problems with SEO, then zeroing in on making the small but necessary fixes can potentially create almost-instantaneous results.

Likewise, a paid search or paid social media campaign could help achieve a more short-term goal, especially if paired with a timely sales campaign or promotional offer. However, these short-term goals should only be supplemental to your broader, long-term digital marketing goals. A pay-per-click campaign can be a good way to boost your SEO goals, for example.

Track Meaningful Metrics

There are literally hundreds of metrics that you can track when it comes to digital marketing. With everything from social “shares” to website traffic, it can be challenging to settle on the KPIs that are most relevant to your specific goals.

There’s no easy answer, but fortunately Big Leap has provided multiple resources for finding the best metrics to measure:

Each of these articles will provide you with plenty of examples of which metrics to focus on, as well as which ones to avoid.

Be Realistic

As with any business goal, it’s important that you choose objectives that are attainable and not pie-in-the-sky. Make sure that you can realistically achieve your goals, that you can prove them by tracking meaningful metrics, and that you’re focusing on generating a positive ROI. Realistic goals are the most actionable—they don’t demand miracles from employees and they don’t set themselves up for failure.

For example, one of the most unrealistic (and most common) digital marketing goals is to rank #1 on Google for a bunch of keywords with high competition. This is almost always unrealistic, especially if you’re competing with websites like Amazon and Wikipedia for that top spot. A much more realistic goal would be to rank on the first page of Google for a few targeted keywords which you can prove through keyword research that you have a decent chance of ranking for. Once you’ve set realistic, ROI-centric goals, you’ll be much more capable of holding yourself and your team accountable for achieving them.

When choosing the right goals, it’s also important to know what kind of digital marketing budget you’re working with. To get a good idea of what your company or client should budget for digital marketing, try our Digital Marketing Calculator for a spin.

Jamie Bates