Traffic forecasting: Predicting potential return from the 87% of buyers who start with search

Originally published on on January 14, 2019 By Emily Alford

According to Forrester, digital spend is set to top $150 billion by 2023 and account for 35 percent of total ad spend.

And this means CMOs will spend more than ever before on paid search, banner and outstream video ads, instream video ads, and email marketing to attract those buyers who start their journey online.

However, adopting a “more is more” attitude toward digital ad spend isn’t always necessarily a good thing. Spending wisely means spending less to generate more, and keyword traffic forecasting is one of a CMO’s best resources to allocate marketing spend across the most useful tactics. Here’s how traffic forecasting could mean smarter ad spend.

Content produced in collaboration with Investis Digital.

What is traffic forecasting?

Traffic forecasting is the implementation of automated tools to help a brand predict which content will resonate with target audiences at a given time by aligning content with user intent. Traffic forecasting can help brands predict how keywords will perform, which can help marketers gauge competitor performance, intelligently allocate budgets, and identify the best opportunities to generate results across marketing channels.

Accurate traffic forecasting can also make search a more powerful channel to support multiple functions in an organization.

Here are three examples of traffic forecasting in action:

  • CMOs can understand how much time and effort they will need to increase awareness for new products, services, and campaigns.
  • CROs can plan future revenue models around search, comparing it with other digital channels to determine which tactics they need to drive short-term and long-term growth.
  • Product marketers can use traffic forecasting to see market share and demand insights when planning new brand or product launches.

Using traffic forecasting in order to understand the ways in which keywords and search volume directly affect awareness and demand can help entire organizations better plan content around the words and phrases audiences are actually using to search for their products and services.

Traffic forecasting in the context of the customer journey

As noted, traffic forecasting can help businesses plan everything from marketing campaigns to product launches. Forecasting is also essential for aligning your brand with your customer’s online journey. It’s important to note that 87% of shoppers now begin their searches online, whether they plan to purchase online or in store, according to an August 2018 study by Salesforce and Publicis.Sapient.

The days when a sale began with a call to a salesperson may be numbered as all buyers — and especially B2B buyers — begin researching products long before they ever make real-world contact with a brand. As customers increasingly rely on research they find online, search ads have become the first salesperson a potential customer generally reaches out to.

As more customers move online to conduct research in those critical first stages of the buyer journey,

t stands to reason that marketers would allocate more of their ad spend to digital channels, such as search marketing.

However, many brands are investing in the wrong keywords — meaning that buyers are reaching out, but marketers aren’t answering their queries in a way that will effectively move them down the path to purchase.

How traffic forecasting uses data to make a brand relevant along the customer journey

Traffic forecasting utilizes all your data.

By incorporating both first and third-party data sources, a good traffic forecasting tool calculates the traffic and revenue possible from SEO and content marketing with these components:

First-party data (your data)

First-party data is what makes forecasting results custom in every case. Traffic forecasting tools require basic company and competitor information to tailor results with domain or page-level data, region, and other data points that can make a forecast as detailed or broad as you need. The more detailed the data, the more accurate the forecast.

Third-party authority data

Analyzing third-party data sources with a traffic forecasting tool can help validate search volume and rank on a real-time basis, which ensures forecasts are as accurate as possible. The best forecasting tools incorporate APIs from industry-leading brands such as Authority Labs, Google Ads, Advanced Web Ranking, and SEMRush.

Authority Labs and SEMRush both provide keyword ranking data in real-time to generate projections for companies and competitors. The Google Ads API shows the popularity of keywords to define search volume, competition, and cost-per-click rates over time. Advanced Web Ranking provides insights into keyword clicks by examining clickthrough rates by industry segmentation and Google positions.

A traffic forecasting tool combines all these insights in or to examines trends in historical data, algorithm changes, and industry data. By using both first- and third-party data sources, traffic forecasting tools can provide insight that helps move customers down the path to purchase. This information also allows results to be tailored for individual brands and offers more personalized,

accurate projections.

Domain or page-level forecast

By utilizing both first- and third-party data, traffic forecasting tools can instantly produce reports providing monthly traffic and revenue forecasts for up to 24 months of a typical SEO engagement – at the domain or page level.

Forecasts are designed to show a conservative outlook incremental to data currently available and are on average 20 to 30 percent more conservative than actual results.

What are key features of an automated traffic forecasting tool?

Traffic forecasting is a complex process that requires ongoing management, multiple and shifting data sources, and complex calculations. Therefore, it generally requires an automated tool specifically designed to calculate the benefits of individual keywords. Many automated tools on the

market offer limited solutions and are costly to maintain.

A truly worthwhile automated tool for traffic forecasting provides the following insights:

  • Monthly traffic and revenue projections
  • Insights into the impact of specific keywords on customized initiatives and goals
  • Project engagement and ROI for defined keywords in both search and social
  • Identification of gaps in competitors’ strategies
  • Identification of weaknesses in your own strategy

For more information on how to get the most from your search spend using automated tools for traffic forecasting, check out Investis Digital’s whitepaper, “Forecasting for Traffic and Revenue Potential .”