The OKRs of SEO

If you spend any amount of time reading the output of the main SEO influencers the chances are you’ll feel overwhelmed. They all have their tricks and tips to tell you about, and it’s easy for even seasoned SEO vets to struggle with prioritisation when confronted with so many new tools and techniques.

Well, allow me to offer you a way to sort the wheat from the chaff, to give you an anchor for your decision making, and to help you really focus on what is important when it comes to SEO.

Introducing OKRs

There are really 3 things that I’m best known for in the online marketing space. Firstly there is the broader ecommerce marketing consultancy which typically takes the form of coaching/mentoring teams to make the most of their ecommerce & marketing investment. Secondly we have my ecommerce SEO consultancy which is a more hands on channel specific activity. And finally we have my GA4 consultancy which is all about data, analysis and measurement of digital marketing performance.

One technique I use often when coaching ecommerce teams is Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). An in-depth explanation of these and why they are so powerful is a whole different post for another day but for this article to make sense there are a few things you need to know about them.

  1. OKRs describe 3-5 specific things your business or team needs to achieve in order to “succeed” in a given timeframe, typically a year
  2. They are closely related to SMART goals, and as such should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, & Time bound
  3. Decision making/prioritisation can then be assessed against whether it is truly going to contribute towards one of these objectives

For the purpose of this post that’s really all you need to know. There is an art to deciding the correct OKRs for any business or team in order to avoid unintended consequences but I’ll cover that another day.


The inspiration for this post came from a couple of successes as we entered 2024. Firstly I introduced OKRs to a couple teams I’m mentoring in a successful UK retailer & they took to them like ducks to water. Secondly I had a couple of conversations with some recent Magento SEO clients who were very happy with the results I’d delivered for them in a fairly short space of time (one I’d only been working with for 28 days at that point!).

This got me thinking, can I mash up both of these concepts and use OKRs to describe my approach to SEO consultancy and why it can result in the type of positive feedback I was getting? It turns out that I can, so having done the thinking I figured I’d blog about it too.

So where do we begin?

At it’s heart an OKR process is about simplifying a noisy and complex reality & bringing new focus & clarity to your efforts. So with that in mind we need to simplify SEO as much as possible. Fortunately this is something else I do. In fact I’m a big believer in trying to describe things in really simple terms.

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough

Often attributed to Einstein, unlikely that he said it, still rings true

So, quite often when explaining to new clients my approach to SEO I tell them there are 3 thing we need to consider. From the perspective of Google (other search engines are available) we just need to consider

  1. Can I Crawl It?
  2. Can I Understand It?
  3. Is It Any Good?

It really is as simple as that, can Google access your content, does it know what it’s about, and does it think it’s worth putting it in front of web searchers. Now, most of what SEOs do will make it seem far more complex than that, they’ll talk about EEAT and Crawl Budgets and Backlink Profiles, what “Optimised” content looks like, sitemaps and canonicals and hreflangs, internal linking, keyword rankings…you name it but all of these concepts are really different ways to influence one of the 3 items listed above.

So we’ve got our 3 things that will make our SEO efforts succeed. That’s our 3 OKRs right?


Remember OKRs need to be SMART in nature. So we need to find ways to ensure that these concepts are converted to measurable, time bound metrics. Essentially we need to convert them to numbers.

There are a few ways to do this but here are my suggestions.

Can We Crawl It?

Search console has a load of data here. My recommendation is to look at the Indexing > Pages section and aim to reduce your Discovered – Currently Not Indexed count. There are various ways you can do this, sometimes you need to encourage legitimate pages to be indexed, in other situations you need to block them because they are irrelevant. Your tactics will depend on your strategy for the site, but having a number that you can quickly monitor here is the essence of this becoming an OKR.

It might be unreasonable to set yourself the target of reducing this to zero, especially if you have a large website, but maybe you’d set yourself the objective of reducing it by 100,000 or a percentage of the current total. Working towards this will increase your coverage or make your crawls more efficient so you will be doing “good SEO”

Can I Understand It?

What we’re really looking for here is whether our site is visible when people are searching for the topics that our site addresses. You might think this is obvious however it can go pretty wrong. For example I’ve seen ecommerce sites capturing traffic for generic postal service tracking queries in the past, now if you are in the top half of page 1 on Google for carrier specific delivery terms yet only on page 3 for the products you actually sell something has gone wrong. So we need a simple metric to ensure that we are visible for the right things.

This is where your good old keyword/rank tracking can come in. Look at your top 100 unbranded terms and (ruthlessly) assess whether they truly relate to your core business or not. I use SEMRush for this but other tools, even good old Search Console can do the job. It wouldn’t be unreasonable on most ecommerce sites to expect 100% coverage here. If you’ve not got this an initial target would be to achieve it. If you have then you can begin to use your rank tracking in a smarter way and ensure you are focusing on improving positions within your product sector.

It might cause you to question whether the blogs you are being encourage to write really offer any value for a start.

Is It Any Good?

Are the search engines bothering to send us traffic? Is that traffic actually converting? Pick your favourite metric, classic ecommerce stuff that we are all tracking already, baseline it, and for your organic channel aim to improve that. I don’t care which you use, sessions, revenue, they all have a time and a place, but in most cases for me Users & Revenue Per User are the ones I want to be tracking. Setting targets for these will encourage us to focus on getting more qualified traffic to the site, and when used in conjunction with the “Can I Understand It” objective should ensure that we grow the channel effectively.

But What Do We Do With These OKRs?

Now that you’ve defined them it’s simply a case of keeping them in mind (see why you should only have 3-5 of them now) and as you go through your SEO activities ask yourself “Do I really think this is going to contribute to one of these objectives? And is it the BEST use of my time TODAY?”.

I find that most SEO agencies are so wedded to their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that they can spend weeks doing things that really could wait. SOPs do have a time and a place but they are, by definition, one size fits all. OKRs are designed to let experts use their initiative to get the best results. If someone truly understands the SOPs they should then be empowered to ignore them provided they can justify it against the business OKRs.

Clients want results so do the things that will give them results, not a checklist.

If any of this has inspired you and you want to explore the topic further why not get in touch? Happy to have a chat about how OKRs can help with your processes (either as an ecommerce business or as an agency). Or if you’d be interested in discussing a new approach to your ecommerce SEO drop me a line.

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