How to Predict Future Traffic & Revenue with SEO Forecasting

By | October 14, 2021


When it comes to making smarter content decisions for your eCommerce business, nothing’s more important than a brilliant SEO strategy. But how do you make a strategy work when you’re dealing with seasonal changes to customer traffic and buying behavior? 

Enter SEO forecasting.  

In this article, we’ll provide a complete breakdown of what SEO forecasting is, why it’s important for your online business, and which six tools you can use to forecast your organic traffic, including:

  1. Prophet by Facebook
  2. Google Data Studio
  3. SEO Forecasting with seoClarity
  4. Ahrefs’ Traffic Site Forecasting
  5. BridgeEdge’s SEO Opportunity Forecasting
  6. SEO Keyword Forecasting by SEOmonitor

Finally, you’ll learn what to do with all the SEO data you’ve collected — and how you can use it to create smarter content that meets your customers’ needs 

Don’t worry: If it all feels too complex, you can always get in touch and let our experts find the right SEO forecasting tool for you. 

What is SEO Forecasting?

SEO forecasting involves using website and landing page traffic data to predict traffic potential, the value of SEO traffic, click-through rate (CTR), and other metrics over a specific time period in the future. 

Businesses have always predicted ROI based on historic seasonal product sales trends. SEO forecasting is an extension of that in the digital realm. 

In this case, the historical data is the search volume of specific terms — and your site’s website traffic — at various points during a given time period.

Why is SEO Forecasting Important?

Because seasonality can affect both eCommerce sales and SEO performance, it’s important to strategize SEO efforts with data-backed traffic forecasts.

For example, if your site traffic historically rises during the holiday shopping season (as most eCommerce stores’ does), you’ll know to allocate more resources toward the SEO content strategy during that time to capture and convert those website visitors.

On the other hand, if you can predict that site traffic will drop during a certain time period, you can set more realistic expectations — and perhaps focus more on other aspects of your digital marketing strategy (like social media, PR, paid search efforts, and more).

In essence, knowing when to expect slumps or spikes in traffic can inform a holistic digital marketing strategy and enable your team of marketers to build smarter SEO campaigns. 

How to Forecast Your SEO Potential

Remember, forecasting is all about looking at your past performance to predict your performance and available growth opportunities in the future. Here’s how:

Step 1: Gather historical data.

You need to start by understanding your site and business’s historical trends. Evaluate your site’s performance during high periods (like the holiday shopping season) for the last few years — and then identify your slowest periods, as well.

While there will be changes from year to year (more on that below), you should be able to gather a comprehensive “average” year from this data.

Step 2: Review historical data and seasonal performance, considering external factors.

Historical traffic numbers aren’t enough for an accurate forecast. When projecting future performance, make sure to factor in potential changes to platforms, search engines, user behaviors, and the general business landscape during the past and the future. 

COVID-19 is a great example. When the pandemic first hit in March 2020, many eCommerce businesses saw huge booms in online sales, due to the necessitated online shopping during initial lockdowns. But it would be foolish to look at that history and assume the same performance every March in the years to come.

When reviewing your historical data, always consider external factors like Google algorithm updates, shopping trends, and the news cycle.

Step 3: Use an in-house or automated SEO forecasting tool.

You don’t have to comb through pages of spreadsheets and years of data to accurately forecast your SEO performance. There are plenty of automated tools to help you out (we’ll walk you through a few of them below.) And, once you’ve got the hang of it, you could also utilize an in-house template for greater customizing and precise reporting.

Here at Inflow, we run a few different tools against each other to see how they compare before giving forecasts to clients. Our favorites are Ahrefs’ Traffic Site Forecast and Moz’s SEO forecasting template that uses Google Sheets. See a screenshot of the latter below.

Moz forecast graph, showing three traffic potentials after January 2021. One is a great increase, one is a steady increase, and one is a decrease followed by an increase.

Whether you’re using automated or manual tools, you should be experienced in digital eCommerce marketing and have a deep understanding of business analytics to accurately interpret the data and spot any outlying trends. If you’re not confident in your ability to do so, it may be best to hire an eCommerce SEO agency to manage it for you.

The 6 Best SEO Forecasting Tools

There are plenty of basic and customizable SEO forecasting tools available to search engine optimization marketers. We recommend testing several to discover which work best for your business and your marketing needs.

Here are just a few that we’ve used and found to be user-friendly and well-designed for our clients’ needs:

1. Prophet by Facebook

Prophet is an open-source library that allows you to make forecasts for univariate time series datasets, developed by Facebook’s Core Data Science Team.

How It Works:

Prophet looks at yearly, weekly, and daily seasonality (as well as holiday effects) to predict future site traffic, using Python or R API.

Things You Need:

Python requires data to be loaded into Pandas DataFrames, so you’ll need both to use the Prophet tool. The tool can also be used in R API, instead of Python.

It’s Right for You If:

  • You are familiar with programming and development languages.
  • You’re especially interested in modeling spikes in your holiday/special event traffic.

It’s Not Right for You If:

  • You prefer visually rich data representations.
  • You prefer a simpler, plug-and-play, automatic platform.
  • You want to forecast several data points at one time.

Pricing:

Currently, Prophet is free to use as part of Facebook’s Open Source community.

2. Google Data Studio 

Google Data Studio is an online data visualization software that can help you generate informative and engaging reports (including forecasts) out of raw data. 

How It Works:

Data Studio connects to various data sources such as Semrush, Google Analytics, Google Ads, and Google Search Console (among others) to pull data from. Using that data, you can create interactive dashboards with charts that you can customize and share.

Check out this comprehensive step-by-step guide from Search Engine Journal to see how it works.

Things You Need:

You’ll need a suite of Google marketing and SEO data collection tools, as well as experience working in MS Excel. 

It’s Right for You If:

  • You’re experienced in data handling within business analysis.
  • You have little to no programming knowledge.
  • You’re not familiar with technical search engine optimization.
  • You prefer visually rich data representations.

It’s Not Right for You If:

  • You’re looking for advanced data modeling.
  • You need high-level filtering capabilities.
  • You want to freely join and manipulate data.

Pricing:

Currently, Google Data Studio is free to use as part of Google’s Cloud Platform offering. 

Get Google Data Studio here

3. SEO Forecasting with seoClarity

seoClarity is an enterprise SEO platform with a variety of optimization and content marketing services. It also offers a proprietary forecasting tool with a custom interface and a customizable traffic potential template that prioritizes ROI-centric reporting. 

How It Works:

seoClarity uses predictive traffic modeling that gathers vital traffic, click-through rate, conversion rate, and other data forms to create an accurate potential traffic picture and to highlight improvement opportunities. 

Screenshot of seoClarity's forecasting tool and dashboard.
Courtesy of SEOclarity.com.

Things You Need:

This is an AI-powered forecasting system that doesn’t require data management expertise. However, you will need your keyword map and tagged keywords to get started. 

It’s Right for You If:

  • You need an all-in-one forecasting solution.
  • Your site has a large number of URLs.
  • You’re looking for additional features from a rapidly scalable platform.

It’s Not Right for You If:

  • You prefer a simpler platform with easier user onboarding.
  • You’re working with limited business scope. 
  • You’re not looking to scale very quickly.

Pricing:

Essentials: $0.15 per keyword query

Core: Starts at $3,000 per month

Professional: Starts at $4,500 per month

Get a custom quote here.

4. Ahrefs’ Traffic Site Forecast

Ahrefs is one of the best SEO software suites for marketers, data scientists, and business intelligence experts alike. Its tracking abilities let you predict future performance based on historic site traffic and keyword rankings, among other metrics.

How It Works:

Using Ahrefs data and Google Colab scripts, you can create traffic forecast graphs like the one below. The process involves merging a few plug-and-play scripts with organic traffic data in a downloadable CSV file, which presents a graph that extends past your current ****.

Forecast graph from Ahrefs, showing a wide range of potential traffic numbers for 2021.

Things You Need:

You’ll generally need some coding experience to create custom snippets for the job. However, there are pre-made scripts available in the public domain. 

It’s Right for You If:

  • You’re already well-versed with Ahrefs and prefer the ecosystem.
  • You want surface-level data, for the time being.

It’s Not Right for You If:

  • You need added functionality, such as opportunities to improve CTR.
  • You need pin-point accuracy.

Pricing:

Lite: $99 per month 

Standard: $179 per month

Advanced: $399 per month 

Agency: $999 per month

Learn more about pricing and details.

5. BrightEdge’s SEO Opportunity Forecasting

BrightEdge provides advanced SEO solutions, as well as data and market insights to businesses looking to grow and scale. The agency’s SEO Opportunity Forecasting solution offers predictions for keyword performance, overall traffic, revenue, and more. 

How It Works:

The system uses its own custom data ****** to generate insights on the projected performance trajectory of a site and its business.  

Screenshot of BrightEdge's SEO Opportunity Forecasting dashboard.
Courtesy of BrightEdge.com.

Tech You Need:

The BrightEdge system only requires you to have basic SEO and/or business intelligence (BI) knowledge to make sense of the insights produced — although a larger BrightEdge subscription is required. 

It’s Right for You If:

  • You want a fire-and-forget forecasting software.
  • You would opt in to additional services.

It’s Not Right for You If:

  • You want more control over the forecasting process.
  • You want a customized process with plugins for apps and services you already use.

Pricing:

BrightEdge has a pricing model that’s customized to the user. 

Find more information and request pricing here

6. SEO Keyword Forecasting by SEOmonitor 

SEOmonitor offers a keyword-based SEO performance forecasting solution. The forecasting service lets users enter their desired rank and time period to produce insights on the effort needed to achieve that rank. 

How It Works:

The forecasting software uses data ****** that factor in a variety of variables to predict how specific keywords and the products related to them will perform over a set period. 

Tech You Need:

Because this is an all-in-one forecasting software, you only need an understanding of SEO trends and performance metrics. 

It’s Right for You If:

  • You want a simple and scalable SEO outcome generator.
  • You require a system that displays all the top online performance KPIs. 

It’s Not Right for You If:

  • You’re looking for a basic tool with fundamental SEO forecasting capability.
  • You’re on a budget.

Pricing:

Starts at $387 per month

More information can be found here

You’ve Got the Results: Now What?

Collecting accurate data and forecasting SEO traffic is one thing. Making sense of that data and creating a long-term strategy from it is another. 

Because forecasting is only predictions of your traffic, you won’t want to make your results the foundation of your entire digital marketing strategy. However, they can inform you of areas to focus more on moving forward.

Here’s an example: If forecasts show that a particular keyword is going to lose interest in the next year, you might put the same amount (or even more) effort into that keyword topic, especially if it’s a product that drives a lot of revenue for your business. After all, your competitors won’t stop focusing on those keywords just because you do. 

In addition, interest in certain products tends to fluctuate. Even if a keyword grouping is predicted to drop one year, it could return the next — and, if you don’t continue to put in the SEO efforts, you could be up a creek trying to build back that traffic. Take a look at historical data in Google Trends for a fuller picture of your forecasting estimates.

We also find SEO forecasting to be particularly helpful when it comes to our clients’ marketing budgets and predicted revenue. Using combined data from several forecasts, we calculate a projected return on investment (ROI) based on the previous year’s traffic and revenue — including what those numbers would look like with a 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, and/or 30% increase.

Projected Return on Investment chart, calculating estimated revenue increases per increase in website sessions.

While we stop short of calling it a “forecast,” these estimates play a key role in helping to set goals and reasonable expectations for our eCommerce clients. When our clients understand their SEO ROI and potential revenue overall, they can create a more informed, holistic marketing strategy overall.

A Word of Caution

Remember that SEO forecasting is not an exact science. Any data predictions should be taken with a grain of salt. 

Why? Forecasting assumes similar business climate, organic search behavior, and SEO performance in the future, as well as no major algorithm updates and an equivalent level of marketing activity as the year(s) before. You only need to look at the traffic patterns of 2020 to see why those assumptions could lead eCommerce businesses astray.

Sometimes, the range of probability that forecasting tools give us is small enough to show what could happen in the upcoming year. However, for some industries, the trends are too unpredictable. We get such a wide range of possibilities that the forecasts aren’t very helpful at all. 

Forecast data might also be influenced too much by traffic spikes in the previous year. As you can see below, one of our eCommerce clients experienced a huge boom in website traffic (and sales) when the pandemic hit. But traffic didn’t continue to rise; instead, it saw a regression through the rest of 2020. 

While traffic did start increasing again in March 2021, it wasn’t on the same page as 2020 levels. Instead, it was a seasonal spike before summer — because this client sells **** supplies.

Google Analytics timeline, showing steep drop in website traffic in June 2020 but recovery in July 2020.

That’s not to say SEO forecasting is completely ineffective. However, to get the most out of SEO forecasting, we recommend a high-level SEO testing and overall strategy that’s custom-designed for your business.

Design Your SEO Forecast Strategy Today

Forecasting is incredibly valuable in measuring overall SEO impact and estimating ROI, especially for the highly seasonal eCommerce business realm. If you have an idea of what your site traffic is going to look like in the months to come, you can make more informed and intelligent marketing decisions. 

That said, SEO forecasting is unique to each business and can quickly get complicated. The tools above can give you a better picture of your future traffic — but, for the most complete forecast, we recommend hiring a data expert to calculate the most accurate predictions for your business. 

Lucky for you, our team is always happy to help. Reach out to one of our eCommerce SEO data experts today to find the right tools for your needs, develop your customized organic search forecasting model, and devise a long-term strategy to optimize traffic conversion rates and generate scalable revenue for your online business.



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