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How to justify the cost of SEO: Measuring ROI

For the average business, the idea of investing in SEO is more powerful than you might think. Providing a practical, effective, and organic way to enhance the visibility of your business, SEO should be anything but an afterthought for companies looking to grow online. So when it comes to tight marketing budgets and allocating funds, why should SEO be at the top of your digital marketing list?

Read on to find out more about why SEO is essential for your business. We’ve covered all you need to know to understand how powerful SEO can be – when it’s carried out by the right people. For increased sales, enhanced click-through rates and better visibility than ever before, SEO is the place to start.

This guide will uncover the fundamentals of SEO, how to justify its costs and why it’s essential for your business.

What is SEO?

SEO, short for search engine optimization, encompasses a range of different online marketing techniques designed to work with search engines. 

These methods help your business increase its visibility whenever buyers are searching for content on Google or Bing. By investing in the optimization of your business and website, your brand is far more likely to be seen by all the right people.

SEO provides a practical, organic and sustainable way to invest in your business. Pay-per-click through social or paid advertising are valuable for companies; there’s no denying that. But for the customers you’re trying to reach, SEO provides a way to get in touch with them that isn’t overtly selling to them. Plus, the cost of SEO, compared to PPC, can be much more minimal and is considered a long-term, sustainable digital marketing model. 

For your audience, appearing genuine—and ranking competitively on search engines —should be one of your top priorities. SEO provides more truthful, sincere, and trustworthy visibility to your business—helping to build customer trust and establish a relationship with potential buyers.

Why is SEO so important?

SEO is so crucial to businesses because it sets you apart from your competition. If other companies in your field or niche aren’t investing in SEO, then it instantly places you ahead of them when it comes to those essential search rankings. 

With millions of searches taking place every minute, shoppers’ attention spans are shorter than ever. Reaching the top three results on a page with SEO can mean a substantial difference in the visibility and accessibility of your business to the customers you’d like to target. 

A well-designed and properly executed SEO-friendly website also holds plenty of value to your customers. Meeting modern and best practice on-page SEO steps and off-page search optimization standards mean creating content that’s relevant to your audience, valuable to them, and enhances their experience of your business. Investing in SEO doesn’t just get your business seen—it also enhances your appearance and authority in the eyes of your customer base. 

As a long-term investment for your business, SEO doesn’t have the up-front ‘buzz’ or instant results as PPC advertising, or even social media marketing. But it sets your company up for success in the long term, ensuring that customers come to you time and time again even when those paid promotions have run out.  

PPC is all about direct, instant conversions—but SEO is vastly more successful and cost-effective over time than paid advertising could be. For instant results, paid advertising is the way to go— but for long-term visibility, industry leadership, and quality results, SEO is the place to start. SEO provides stable growth, unlike PPC, where you must consistently pay to ensure you reach your target audience. Below is an example of how SEO outperforms PPC over time. 

Justifying the cost of SEO

While SEO can seem like a high monthly cost, when you consider the long-term benefits of investing in SEO, the price tag attached to SEO services seems far less prohibitive.

While, as mentioned above, PPC and other paid advertising provide an instant boost in customers, SEO is much more sustainable and cost-effective. That means the benefits continue for months or even years following the first implementation, helping you grow your customer base organically and naturally.

As a more sustainable form of digital marketing, the cost of SEO is outweighed entirely by the benefits. While you won’t receive the same influx of customers overnight, you’re more likely to develop lasting relationships with customers, as well as generate new and repeat visits. 

SEO takes time to work. On average, it takes around 6 months to a year (or more) for websites to start appearing on competitive pages, i.e. page one of Google. Of course, this timing differs from website-to-website and multiple factors influence your site’s performance. Some of these factors include the age of your domain, on-site optimization, link building, content and beyond.

Effective on-page and off-page SEO techniques help to place your business as an expert and leader in your field. By repeatedly achieving those top rankings, you’re providing to your audience that you’re a long-standing, professional company that they can trust.

Budgets for digital marketing can change and wane depending on the current status of your business, especially for smaller companies. But investing in SEO can mean your current budget doesn’t affect the long-term success of your business.

Professional, well-executed SEO can ensure your business is visible, accessible, and valuable to your customers for years to come. SEO isn’t just beneficial in terms of getting the right people to see your business. In essence, it’s also financially beneficial. With the right strategy in place, you can generate new and repeat visits with the chance of converting them into leads and customers.

Why measure SEO ROI?

As a digital marketer, you know the value of search engine optimization (SEO) and how it can boost the overall reach of your marketing efforts. However, sometimes, you and your team may not speak the same language.

What every team manager, business owner, CEO is likely to ask is “what kind of return will we get from our investment?” Defining this in concrete terms may not be as easy as it is with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising or other efforts that have built-in analytics. The ROI value may not be as simple as calculating revenue vs spending.

In this analytics-heavy age, it can be difficult to hear that numbers don’t tell the whole story. But, when it comes to the particular nuances of the big search engines, this is often the case.

Web marketers often rely on search engine ranking as the strongest indicator of success for an SEO campaign. This is often called search engine ranking pages (SERPs). It is the digital equivalent of having a strong position on a real estate property that is highly valued based on its good location.

But like real estate, this can be difficult to define concretely for your team members if they don’t understand the fundamentals of search engines any more than laymen have an understanding of real estate.

The world of the digital marketer can be an insular one, and there is a lot of “inside baseball” or esoteric phrases that are meaningful to you but may completely go over the head of your team that is worried about their marketing budget for the next fiscal quarter.

The 1st-page placement for your short-tail keyword may be cause for your office to pop open the champagne but your superiors are more likely to wonder what the fuss is about.

They often need results that they can take back to their bosses and are fretting over how to turn these numbers into a chart that will really do well in a PowerPoint presentation. It’s very important that you can clearly communicate the ROI of SEO efforts, but in order to do this, you may need to change the way you think about SEO ROI yourself.

How to really measure SEO ROI

In order to really measure the impact that SEO is having on your marketing campaign you still need to take some analytic data into consideration. The SEO metrics and KPIs that can be gathered from digital sources such as Google Analytics are one solid measure of how your optimization efforts are moving the needle. The most useful of these include:

  • Determining referral sources that are improving page placement
  • Monitoring conversions from incoming SEO/organic traffic
  • Measuring total through traffic to pages from Google

Use the information along with other data gathered from analytic suites to create your own report that highlights the way that your SEO strategy is affecting performance.

While you may be able to calculate revenue based on conversions by comparing data from Google to your revenue from conversations, don’t be disappointed if it isn’t as clear a 1-1 comparison to PPC ads.

For example, traffic to an eCommerce website may come from so many sources that your keywords may only account individually for a fraction of the total revenue that is tracked. However, that is not the only value of SEO as total through traffic can be as sticky as completed sales. In other words, focus on the traffic and defining how this is improved.

The metrics that indicate success in an SEO campaign

To answer “how effective is SEO?”, you must use the right metrics to calculate the ROI in a way that your team will understand. Sometimes you just need to speak the language in cold, hard numbers.

What your superiors are primarily concerned with is costs and what they are getting back to justify the expenditure. It may help to break down the example of what can be learned from the SEO performance of a single keyword.

For example, your team will understand that the ultimate goal is to have your website rank number 1 on Google’s first page. If they are a computer repair service in the Miami area, they might be impressed if you are able to achieve this placement with the keyword “Miami Computer Repair.” But what will really catch the eye is Google’s report on how many individuals search this particular phrase every day.

This may be numbered in the thousands or even hundreds of thousands depending upon the query. You can take this in tandem with the normal conversion rate of their website and project how much this organic search result placement will increase their sales in pace with the increased traffic even if their click conversion rate holds steady.

To further evaluate, this keyword may also have a strong placement with close variants (i.e. Miami Computer) that may provide a first-page placement. Paired with the conversion rate and click-through metrics you should be able to calculate how many additional sales this close match will put on top of the keyword match.

Even if you can only forecast a certain number of additional monthly sales you will have a steady and dependable revenue number to use for your ROI calculation. Even so, this may take a great deal of analysis of vast amounts of the available data and even a little guesswork to come up with a number that you can feel confident delivering to your team.

The importance of SEO as a strategic channel for growth

If it can be so difficult to correctly calculate the exact ROI you can expect, who is to say whether or not SEO is the right investment to make in a digital marketing campaign? The truth is that you would be surprised how essential SEO really is.

When done right, SEO defines the visibility of a company online and drives organic traffic to boost business at virtually no cost. Through a combination of SEO keyword research strategy and applied content, an SEO team has the ability to create a massive shift in the awareness of a brand and its relationship with the public in the online space.

The very best SEO elements may require extensive knowledge of system engineering, web design, and the talent to create content that engages as well as informs. The cross-functional approach of this strategic channel is constant sustainable growth. Even steady marginal growth is an indication that a current SEO strategy is creating leverage that will eventually reach a tipping point that will far exceed the investment that you have made.

The importance of applying search engine optimization strategically in the course of your marketing efforts cannot be emphasized enough. There may not always be a 100% clear ROI forecast, but one thing is for sure: failure to invest in SEO is the equivalent of leaving money on the table, missing out on online traffic and sales revenue.

Hiring an SEO consultancy

So, how can you invest in SEO as effectively as possible?

Working with professionals is the ideal choice for the majority of businesses, providing all the expertise needed to maximize your optimization results.

An SEO consultancy supports businesses to achieve far better results for your money than you could accomplish in-house. As a long-term, practical model, investing in quality SEO services isn’t just about the immediate benefits to your business—it’s also about the long-term effectiveness, relevance and compliance of your business.

It may be tempting to attempt SEO for yourself, especially if you’re a small business. But it’s just as easy to fall foul of the Google algorithm with poorly handled SEO as it is to succeed with the best methodology. Keyword stuffing, content with no value and less-than-effective link building can all lead to your website losing its footing in the search rankings, instead of reaching that higher ground.

With a professional SEO consultant and service, you’re in good hands—for SEO that lasts, is sustainable and does all it needs to, choosing to work with an expert consultancy is a strategic option.

If you’re considering implementing effective SEO for your business, then getting in touch with Segment should be your number one choice. We support small, medium-size and enterprise firms to achieve incredible SEO results across a broad spectrum of markets and industries.

Are you ready to take the next step and apply expert SEO to your own digital marketing campaigns? Learn more about our top SEO services and request a free consultation today.

For more SEO resources, visit the Segment SEO Blog.