As a digital marketer, you are sure to understand the value of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in your online campaigns as well as how it can boost the overall reach of your marketing efforts. However, in this case, you and your client may not speak the same language. What every client is likely to ask you is what kind of return they will get on their investment, and this is most succinctly measured by SEO ROI. However, 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. However, when it comes to the particular nuances of the big search engines, this is often the case. Seach marketing agencies that are in the know 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 client 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 a client 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 the client is more likely to wonder what the fuss is about.
They often need results that they can take back to their boss and are fretting over how to turn these numbers into a chart that will really kill in a powerpoint presentation. It is 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.
Measuring SEO ROI
In order to really measure the impact that SEO is having on your marketing campaign you still need to take some analytics data into consideration. The metrics 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:
1. Determining revenue by SEO keyword
2. Monitoring general conversions from incoming traffic
3. Measuring total through traffic to pages from Google and other search engines
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 client 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 or importance 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.
Analyze your SEO metrics
Using the correct SEO metrics to calculate the ROI in a way that your client will understand it is of paramount importance. Sometimes you just need to speak the language in cold, hard numbers. What your client is primarily concerned with is costs and what they are getting back to justify the cost of SEO. It may help to break down the example of what can be learned from the SEO performance of a single keyword. For example, the client will understand that your ultimate goal is to have their 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 (Google Search Console) 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 high click conversion rate holds steady. To further extrapolate, 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 project, say, 188 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 extrapolation 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 a client.
SEO: A strategic growth channel for ROI
If it can be so difficult to correctly calculate the exact ROI a client 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 keyword research 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 the client has 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 clear and unmistakable price point that will determine an exact return on investment, but one thing is for sure: failure to invest in SEO is the equivalent of leaving money on the table.
Are you ready to take the next step and apply expert SEO to your own digital marketing campaigns? See how our SEO management services can help you get started.