This post is gonna contain spoilers beyond the recent Dune movie, be warned.
So forecasting in SEO is such an interesting subject. I really hate the cop-out answer of “it depends” and judge the SEO space for falling back on this lazy crutch as a way to answer real business questions. Just to be fully transparent, I have worked in-house and would pass over/fire a vendor who was unwilling to help me hit my hard numbers post-haste.
“But Dan, Forecasting is an inaccurate science”
Thanks, random internet stranger, I think this is the crux of most objections to forecasting. And it’s the most obvious, self-evident truth. Seriously, treat yourself with a little kindness and empathy and realize that when you are doing things like predicting the future it’s directional at best. And this is where we get into Dune.
Forecasting in SEO is like Paul’s visions before he drinks the waters of life (SPOILERS AHHHHHH). They are confusing and he is unsure about what they mean. He doesn’t understand the order they are occurring in, whether they are true or possible futures, it just really forces him into an existential crisis. This is how SEOs act around forecasting. YOU ARE THE FREAKING KWISATZ HADERACH. You have all the power. The people asking you for forecasts are like Gaius Helen Mohiam, they think they have all the power with their budget and institutional power, etc but you are the one that can be many places at once, you are the one that can predict the future. They need you and you have the power to get what you want from them. Spice.
Forecasting is only a way to advocate your clients (or yourself if you work in-house) politically. It helps you navigate the corridors of power in a way that allows you to be taken seriously and unlock budget and resources etc to better accomplish your job. It’s totally reasonable for someone you are asking for money to ask you what they are going to get out of it.
The true power of forecasting is only unlocked after you get your initial buy-in and start your journey, once you have successfully unlocked your budget with your forecasting. Then you are like Paul after he drinks the waters of life. With every investment in SEO the future becomes more clear, you understand what is and is not successful and can prune away at all your excessive plans and forecasts for the ones that hit or exceeded their mark. The waters of life allowed Paul to see all the potential futures, to see where investment would work and not work based on actual evidence. He was able to prune away at the various futures until only one remained. Forecasting can help lock you on The Golden Path. It may be hard, it may be uncertain but in it lies salvation.