31 May The Return on Investment in Search Engine Optimization
Knowing the return of any business investment is critical to a company’s overall success. Business owners aren’t going to throw their hard earned money around without knowing if they are going to get something back. Those who recognize this are going to be particularly successful in their working lives.
Unfortunately for many SEO campaigns, calculating the exact dollar amount that SEO efforts have brought in is nearly impossible. Sure, there are some metrics that are easily measurable, like increases in keyword rankings or increases in organic traffic. However, there are just as many factors that are difficult to pin down. Today we’ll take a look at the measurable (and immeasurable) ROIs for SEO—and consider the possibility that we might not be able to compare SEO to other marketing avenues when it comes to returns.
There are a few metrics that can clearly illustrate if your SEO efforts are having an impact. The first (and arguably most prominent) of those is website placement in the SERPs. Your rankings for the keywords you’re targeting should see a steady increase over time.
That’s not to say there won’t be some bumps in the road. For example, a study by Moz.com showed that just over 80% of the SERPs change every single day. That’s a lot of variation. It’s better to treat ranking like the stock market: the increase should be consistent, but it must be looked at as a long term investment. You simply can’t approach SEO with the short term in mind. As long as you’re steady and consistent with your SEO efforts, you should be able to reach high placement for many of your terms.
Organic Traffic Increases
As your placement on the SERPs increase, so should your traffic from organic sources. The easiest way to track this increase would be via Google Analytics (though other analytics software does exist). Analytics can also pinpoint where traffic is coming from and make sure you’re doing SEO work for the keywords that are bringing in potential clients.
Site Authority Increases
Your SEO work for one keyword will also help to increase your website’s overall authority. You can monitor metrics like Moz’s Domain Authority or Google’s Page Rank (which is not likely to update for the public) and see it continue to rise over time. This should help other keywords—even those that may not be receiving direct work—see a rise in rankings as well, much like a rising tide raising all boats. All this, in turn, will help us see an increase in our site traffic, as mentioned above.
In the past, SEO’s primary job was to bring the user to the site. From there, it was the site’s job to convert that traffic into a sale for your business. As Google becomes increasingly content-centric, though, SEO is taking on a little more of the responsibility for fostering sound and useful content.
Sure, Google Analytics can give you a bigger picture of the impact that SEO is having on a website and let you know in general if optimization efforts are having an effect. But it doesn’t end there.
More and more, SEO is aiming to make sure that people are not only finding a given website in the SERPs, but also that they’re finding helpful answers to the questions they were asking in the first place. That value is a little harder to track—it takes some more piecing together.
For this exact reason, it can be harder to measure any tangible return on the the SEO time and money spent on the website itself—especially in the short term. It may take continual changes and tweaks over time to make sure you are getting the optimal user traffic from a certain keyword or phrase. Updating and refreshing your website to meet the needs of your users is also ongoing; it isn’t something that should only be done intermittently. It’s a task that requires consistent effort for the best results. And if you’re willing to put forth that effort, it will help you to refine your website and make sure users are reaching the pages that are most likely to turn traffic into a conversion.
There are quite a few metrics you can use to measure the effectiveness of your SEO campaign. If your rankings are increasing and you’re seeing more and more organic traffic to your website, then you know what you’re doing is working.
When you look into Analytics, you can also see where people are visiting your website and use this information to invest your time and money correctly. Updating and tweaking the site to meet your users’ needs will help make sure Google keeps sending traffic your way.
The reality that many business owners may not accept is that SEO likely won’t have a direct ROI calculation across the board. Good SEO requires consistent effort over the long term in order to see significant gains. It’s more of a requirement or necessity—a cost that should almost come out of the operating cost budget rather than the marketing budget. You need it to maintain your brand’s organic presence online, and to continue to refresh and change to meet new user demands and needs.
Think about it this way: if you bought a Ferrari, would you forgo giving it an oil change?
Of course not. So why spend tons of money building a website and not take the time to give it the maintenance it needs to run at peak capacity?