For most people, SEO is still a fairly complex topic, and yet it’s something that continues to interest all sorts of business owners, from diametrically different niches and industries. HubSpot’s latest research claims that more than 60 percent of marketers questioned plan to invest more in SEO in the upcoming year and work on their organic presence. They believe that SEO is getting more and more effective, so they continue to advise their clients to keep promoting their brand, products, and services online through this particular form of digital marketing.
According to numerous statistics, the search is still the best channel for stimulating the right type of audience to visit your website and browse around. Outbrain says that search still beats social media as the no.1 source of traffic, not just by a couple of digits, but by an impressive 300 percent. Thanks to Facebook’s recent decision to move all company pages to the Explore Feed, I believe the numbers will shift even more to SEO’s favor in the near future.
Even though most people understand that this stat alone is probably one of the main reasons why even the biggest of skeptics have at one point considered allocating chunks of their budget to search marketing, the practice has shown that most businessmen still need additional convincing to continue investing in SEO.
Why do People Stop Investing in SEO?
The main reason behind it is often the same – the overall ROI of SEO is still quite abstract to most business professionals. ROI is an extremely important business metric. It’s how we calculate the cost of our investments. Even though they start generating more traffic from their desired visitors, a lot of people still can’t really figure out if they’re making or losing money from their SEO-related activities.
For this particular reason, a lot of smaller businesses abandon SEO and start investing in PPC or something similar, where they can easily track the return on their investments. They tend to turn to more lucrative marketing channels, in terms of making money more transparently.
This is a mistake. Paid search and SEO are not two sides of the same coin. Paid search can help you get some quick wins, but investing in SEO will provide long-term results. Unlike paid search, SEO continues to drive value for brands far after the initial campaigns are over.
Contrary to popular opinion, the ROI of SEO-related investments can be easily calculated. Just like with PPC, if you know what to track – you can see where your money is going. In the following segments of this article, I’m going to explain everything you need to know about this particular aspect of search marketing.
Understanding and Calculating the ROI of Your SEO-Related Activities
For every SEO agency and freelancer, one of the most important tasks in business is to provide its clients with enough reasons and hard facts to continue working with them.
This is why it’s imperative that we are transparent and objective about what can be achieved in an agreed-upon period of time, with a specific brand, in a specific industry, with specific resources.
Your overall success with search marketing is dependent on a variety of factors. SEO is constantly changing and that often makes it quite hard to master. It’s basically an endless game of chess with Google, where the world’s most popular search engine can basically change the rules mid-game and move its figures anyway it pleases.
The overall ROI of your SEO campaign depends on what you want to achieve. For example, if you want to acquire more customers, your ROI will depend on factors like lifetime value and the average cost of acquisition of your customers.
If you want to make it cost-effective, your equation needs look something like this:
Lifetime value of a customer – cost of acquiring a new customer = ROI
This is just one scenario and it only works for businesses which are solely looking for new customers.
In the more traditional sense, there are basically two types of ROI:
- Actual ROI
- Anticipated ROI
This is how the guys at Optimize Smart conceptualized it, and we at Elevate Digital agree with it to a certain extent.
The difference between the two is quite simple: anticipated ROI is something that is pitched to a client and it’s something SEO professionals aim for, while actual ROI is what is actually achieved in the end and what is later to be presented to the client in the report.
In their article, the guys behind this brand have laid down simple equations that can help businesses calculate their SEO ROI in dollars. According to them, if the agency, for example, charges 20.000 dollars a month for their services, then that company needs to generate at least twice as much money for the client in order to have a reasonably positive ROI.
This is the part which we don’t agree with. At our agency, we personally feel that it’s far better to think beyond cash.
Some people measure the ROI of their SEO-related efforts in actual dollars, which is wrong because SEO affects each stage of your buyer’s cycle. A good SEO campaign won’t only increase the overall number of your sales and conversions. No. Search marketing goes beyond that. SEO works on your brand’s awareness, research, preferences, and loyalty as well as purchase. That’s why it’s imperative that you track its worth through a combination of various metrics. Eight, to be more precise:
1. Business Goals, Conversions and Conversion Rates
Of course, these are the two most important metrics. Regardless of what we do or sell online, we are all interested in the same thing, and that is generating more customers and growing our business.
Conversion rates are the ultimate way to measure everything that we do online. This particular metric focuses on the percentage of people who have landed on your site and conducted any of your desired actions. Newsletter subscriptions, trial subscriptions, product or service purchases – basically any type of actions that’s of value to you.
You can track your conversions in a couple of different ways. All you need to do is define what is a conversion for you and set that particular actions as a goal in your Google Analytics account.
2. Monitor your Organic Traffic
It’s all about traffic. This is the ultimate challenge for everyone who works in this industry. Everyone wants more traffic. But not just any type of traffic – people are interested in acquiring more visits from users who have a high potential of becoming their actual customers/clients. Even the biggest of businesses today, like Amazon, for example, are interested in gaining new organic visits from relevant users.
The overall ROI of your SEO-related efforts is quite easy to calculate here. All you need is a Google Analytics account.
If the number of your organic visits isn’t increasing, then your SEO campaign isn’t working. It’s as simple as that. This is the most important metric you should be tracking to determine the overall return on your investments.
3. Non-Branded Organic Search
If you, for example, run a man’s fashion store, this is the type of traffic you’d be interested in acquiring. Non-branded keywords are phrases that don’t contain the target website’s brand name or some other variation that closely defines a search for that specific brand. For example, when someone types “affordable t-shirts for men” or “designer t-shirts for men” into search, it indicates that they don’t really have a particular brand in mind. They’re open to basically anything that fits their search criteria.
One of the top goals of your business-related activities should be to increase your exposure to people who are conducting these types of searches. This is where SEO can help you rise above the competition and dominate Google’s SERP for your most relevant short and long tail queries.
Agencies like Elevate Digital deploy numerous tactics and activities to help you climb up the ladder in search for such keywords and become the no.1 choice for everyone who has the potential of becoming your new user/customer/client.
Your efforts in this department are quite easy to track. All you have to do is remove the banded keywords from your organic search traffic in Google Analytics. You can do this by simply clicking on the Acquisition option in your GA dashboard, and then open your campaigns options, where you’ll exclude all your branded keywords in the advanced part of GA’s “organic keywords” and “organic traffic” report.
Once you do that, you can easily track what the agency has accomplished for you in this department.
4. Branded Search
Yes, these two things need to be separated. If someone has discovered your brand through a non-branded search and ended up liking what they have seen, chances are that particular person is going to come back. But, this time, they probably won’t type the same phrase into search they have used last time. No. Now they know who you are and what you offer. They’ll type in your brand name because now they are interested in visiting a specific site.
People who type your brand name into search are far more likely to convert than those who find your site via non-branded queries. It’s only logical to assume that your branded traffic will be simultaneously growing with your non-branded visits, which will only mean that your SEO is helping you build your brand online. However, it that isn’t the case, something probably isn’t working, so it’s best to keep a close eye on that segment as well.
5. The Number of Keywords that Bring Quality Traffic to Your Site
Regardless of what you do or sell online, keywords are always an important aspect of the overall success of your search marketing. If the keywords your website is ranking for are on the rise, that means your SEO efforts are working and that your website is better ranked in the search engine’s eyes.
The more keywords you rank for, the harder it will be for your competitors to top you in the search. You will dominate your relevant organic traffic, which will surely help you increase your conversion rates and sales.
If you want to track how many keywords you’re currently ranking for, I suggest you give a tool like Ahrefs a chance. Its Site Explorer will provide everything you need to know about your keywords.
6. Ranking Positions
Ranking positions are one of the most important metrics you should be tracking if you want to learn how well your SEO is working. The higher you rank in search, the better chances you’ll have of grabbing searchers’ attention. This, of course, will help you increase your overall revenue.
You could use a tool like Google’s Search Console to track which of your pages are ranking near the top, and for which specific keywords.
7. The Number and Quality of Backlinks
The fact is – backlinks are the foundation of every intelligent SEO strategy (here you can find a detailed article on the subject). They influence the popularity, relevance, and general authority of a particular site in search. The more high-quality links you have pointing to your site – the better chances you’ll have of ranking at the top positions for your targeted long tail and short keywords in Google (or any other search engine).
Links are still probably the most important SEO factor of them all. If you want to achieve success with this form of marketing, you need to do your best to create as many quality backlinks for your domain as possible.
8. Internal Factors – Page Visits, Visitor Retention, Bounce Rates, Etc.
When it comes to determining the overall worth of their SEO campaigns, most people only focus on the external factors. They focus on traffic, links, rankings, keywords, conversions, and revenue, while completely ignoring all those internal elements that can tell you a lot about how your efforts in this particular department are actually performing.
If your most important pages aren’t really getting a lot of visits, that means you need to rethink your strategy. If you notice your visitors are leaving your pages only a couple of seconds after they land on them, that’s not a good signal. You don’t want the engines to acknowledge the fact that you’re not meeting your visitor’s expectations.
If you want to achieve success via search marketing and climb all the way to the top of Google’s SERP for your desired keywords, it’s imperative that you focus on your visitor engagement. You need to make sure that people are not only visiting your pages but also clicking on other content on your site as well. Pay attention to this particular data via Google Analytics and make sure you’re constantly meeting your users’ expectations.
The most important thing to have in mind here is that SEO affects every stage of your buyer’s cycle, thus your ROI won’t only be directly tied to making actual money. That’s why it’s important to distribute your ROI responsibly. Awareness, research, preferences, purchase, loyalty – these are the stages where SEO can turn your business around.