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Forecasting with SEO Data & Predicting Future Performance


Most SEO professionals are familiar with organic traffic graphs and performance metrics in Google Analytics. These graphs show the search traffic received by a website or page over a period of time. While this historical data is incredibly useful when creating strategies by analyzing past performance, it doesn’t reveal anything about future performance.

Most of the time, trying to predict future performance is purely guesswork. That doesn’t have to be the case with data forecasting for SEO. The team at Ahrefs has created a guide on predicting future organic performance and forecasting with SEO data — here are some key takeaways.

What Is Data Forecasting?

SEO forecasting uses historic data to make predictions about future traffic levels and the value of that traffic. By assuming past performance patterns are likely to continue, it can make fairly accurate future traffic predictions.

Traffic Forecast for tandem-interactive.com
Traffic Forecast: tandem-interactive.com

With Ahrefs, you can produce organic search traffic forecast graphs that take the line of past traffic metrics and extends it into the future. The forecast graph also includes a blue shaded area that represents the upper and lower certainty level. According to Ahrefs, forecasted organic traffic has an 80% probability of being in that range.

Why SEO Forecasting Should Use Third-Party Data?

Most historical data on organic search traffic and performance is gathered from first-party data sources like Google Analytics and Google Search Console. For accurate and detailed past and current data for your website or page, these are essential sources. They can even help you make board predictions, like seasonality.

However, if you want more specific future data and performance estimates, especially relative to your competitors, third-party data sources can be very useful tools. Third-party sources like Ahrefs is the only way you can look at competitor data. By analyzing both historic first-party data and third-party data, Ahrefs can find patterns and forecast trends, allowing for accurate data forecasting for SEO.

Competitor Traffic Forecast Comparison for Top Online Luxury Fashion Retailers
Competitor Traffic Forecast Comparison: Online Luxury Fashion Retailers

What Types of Predictions Can Ahrefs Make with SEO Forecasting?

In the past, forecasting with SEO data required knowledge of coding and modeling libraries. Very few agencies and enterprises did SEO forecasting because of this. Those that did would typically have to hire a data analyst or data scientist.

Now, Ahrefs allows companies to create forecast charts very easily. Patrick Stox, Product Advisor, Technical SEO, and Brand Ambassador at Ahrefs, has created plug-and-play scripts that can run for free in Google Colab to produce several different kinds of forecasts. These forecasts include:

  • Future traffic predictions
  • Future traffic value predictions
  • Future competitor traffic predictions
  • Future competitor traffic value predictions
  • Future competitor page traffic predictions
  • Core update performance predictions

Why Is Data Forecasting for SEO Important?

Forecasting future organic traffic and performance can help enterprises and agencies properly prioritize SEO efforts, allocate resources, and make any necessary adjustments before any traffic drops happen. While SEO forecasting is useful for both enterprise SEO and agency SEO professionals, the ways it can be used may vary.

  • Enterprise SEO – Data forecasting can help you make yearly or even quarterly projections of how much your company’s website SEO will grow and increase revenue. You can also compare future performance estimates with company goals. Discrepancies can help convince leadership to provide more resources to SEO or at least reevaluate their expectations.
  • Agency SEO – Data forecasting can help with client acquisition or sales by predicting the future impact of a client’s SEO. Companies typically have broad goals such as becoming a market leader or beating a competitor. If an SEO forecast shows they are behind on their goals with current SEO efforts, they might be more willing to sign with an agency, increase their budget, or invest in additional hours to catch up. In that way, attaching an SEO forecasting chart to a sales pitch can be very powerful.

In the end, these forecasts take a more simplistic view of the SEO data of a website or page. By mainly depending on previous patterns, it might not consider all the numerous changes that can happen to your site or your competitor’s websites. As a result, SEO forecasting will always have some amount of uncertainty. Still, if updated regularly, SEO forecasts can serve as a valuable tool for both agencies and enterprises.