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How to Measure SEO Results and ROI

How to Measure SEO Results and ROI

Measuring SEO ROI is more difficult than most people understand.

It sounds simple; just tag your pages properly with analytics code, make sure you’re tracking conversions and can associate a dollar value with those conversions, and you’re done, right? Not so fast! There is much more to the challenge of SEO ROI than that.

To illustrate the point, I’m first going to explain how it works with PPC. Here is a simple breakdown:

Calculating PPC ROI

On any given day, the amount of money I spend in paid search has a one-to-one correspondence to clicks to my website, and some of those clicks result in revenue-generating transactions (or “contact us” requests, or some other desirable action). To a large degree, paid search is a direct response medium.

To be fair, there is definitely the concept of deferred conversions that result from paid search too. Someone clicks on an ad and goes to your site, doesn’t convert in that session, but comes back at some later time — perhaps by some other means than clicking on an ad — and converts. In PPC terms, we refer to that as an “assisted conversion.”

That said, a large part of the realizable revenue comes from those initial clicks, and the cost of the campaign scales in a linear way in relationship to the clicks received. The key deliverable from your PPC spend is clicks from users.

Now, let’s look at SEO. To set the tone, let me share how I often explain what an SEO sales pitch is like: “I don’t know what I’m going to do for you yet, I don’t know how fast you’re going to get results, and I don’t know how big those results are going to be. $10,000 per month, sign here.” Of course, I’m joking when I put it that way, but there is a real element of truth to that being what an SEO pitch sounds like.

The reason the typical pitch sounds so obscure is that the key deliverable from SEO campaigns is increases in organic search rankings. These gains in rankings then deliver clicks from users on an ongoing basis, often for an extended period of time.

It’s like a gift that keeps on giving — but that’s not how most businesses look at ROI from SEO revenue. For example, if I invest $1M in SEO this year, and we get $4M in SEO-related sales, which reflects a lift from $2M the prior year, what do I calculate as the ROI? Here is the way many organizations look at it:

One Model for Calculating SEO ROI

Is it ($2M – $1M) / $1M = 100%, because that’s how much my SEO revenue grew (as opposed to my total SEO revenue) in the same year? I’d argue that this isn’t a good way to look at it at all. Why? Well, one reason is that if I invest nothing in SEO at all, the $2M I got in SEO revenue last year will likely be less in this year, yielding a chart more like this for SEO revenue:

SEO Results With No Investment

Continue with no SEO revenue for multiple years, and you’ll see that number plummet down to near zero. Why? Because your competition is investing in SEO while you’re not. Their SEO gains will become your SEO losses. Part of what you’re accomplishing with your SEO investment is defending your current levels of SEO revenue.

But there is also a forward-looking part to this story too! Let’s go back to my original scenario, where I invested $1M in SEO in the current year and saw SEO revenue go up from $2M to $4M. Now, let’s imagine that I shut off my SEO investment in the next year. What happens in that year?

You guessed it: SEO revenue does not instantly drop back to $2M. In fact, over time, the yield on that $1M SEO investment might look like this:

SEO investments impact revenue

That’s one heck of a different picture of SEO ROI, is it not? Oh, and don’t forget the fact that in the current year, the one where SEO revenue went from $2M to $4M, I would have lost $500K of SEO revenue if I hadn’t made any investment at all. Now your real SEO ROI looks something like this:

A More Refined Look at SEO ROI

Now that we’ve established some basic concepts, let’s look at a couple of models for SEO campaigns and the ROI you might get.

Model 1: The Self-Defense SEO ROI

Let’s say you have that $2M per year revenue from SEO run rate coming into a year. You know that you could see large-scale growth if you could invest $1M in SEO, but you just can’t — the budget you can afford is only $250K. Let’s say it turns out that $250K is enough SEO investment that your revenue for the year will turn out to be $2M, i.e. no growth.

You did enough to keep from losing ground to your competition. They were doing the best they could to take some of your market share, but failed. Now let’s say you would have lost $500K in revenue if you hadn’t invested the $250K. Your actual ROI in this scenario would be:

SEO Self Defense ROI

Note that this is the story if you look at this on a one-year basis only. Let’s say you invest $250K per year, over two years, and you manage to keep the SEO revenue at $2M for both years. Using the numbers I shared above on the “no SEO investment overall multiple years” model, I will have defended $500K of revenue in year one and $1M of revenue in year two. The picture of this ROI scenario looks like this:

SEO self defense ROI 2 year view

Now you’re getting a reasonable model to estimate the SEO investment results when you invest only enough to preserve your revenue, but show no growth.

Model 2: Growth Mode SEO ROI

Earlier in this article I laid out a model that suggested ROI over a five-year period was 375%. Should I walk into a pitch and tell a client we’re going to get 375% ROI? Frankly, that would make for a challenging conversation.

If you’re an executive, you likely have little interest in a five-year ROI model; what you’re able to achieve in this year is probably most important. You may even have bonus compensation programs based on the ROI you can get with your budget in the current year.

However, I also believe that educating yourself and your team on how it works with SEO is important. If you’re interested in the business for the long haul, then how it will perform next year should be of interest to you — and your team too, even if it’s a secondary interest. Everyone should want to be part of a growing business, not a shrinking one.

For that reason, I’d show a two-year view similar to this one:

Growth Mode SEO ROI

This at least gives you and your management team a view of the bigger picture of how SEO ROI works.

Approaching the Budget Conversation

If your business is like most businesses, the focus on the current year is natural. In larger companies, the executive staff has current year goals, and compensation is often tied to those goals. But, if the executive staff are forward-looking, the long-term health of the business is arguably of great interest too.

Learn the mindset of who you are going to be presenting the budget to, whether you’re part of the executive team, or just building a plan to present to them. This includes understanding the overall organizational budget and margin goals, and adjusting your budget proposal accordingly. Start the conversation by making sure that your team understands the difference in the deliverables between PPC and SEO. Here is a simple visualization of it:

PPC vs SEO ROI

Once this concept is clear in everyone’s mind, the rest of the story becomes quite a bit easier to tell. From here, you can lay out the various ROI models using two, three or even five-year time horizons to show the broader strategic picture, and the one-year ROI to outline the impact on company performance in the current year.

Summary

The first step in understanding how to measure ROI is to understand a proper definition for the impact of your investment. As you have seen, this is not easily done in the world of SEO.

In other articles on this blog, you’ll see a lot of invaluable information on how to achieve and measure results. But, along the way, remember the enduring aspects of the benefits of an SEO investment. It’s not contained to a single year in the same simple way as PPC and other types of advertising campaigns.

The more you and your team understand how SEO ROI differs from other mediums, the better, as it will help your organization have the right perspective on the role that SEO investments should play in your overall marketing mix.

Eric Enge on Twitter
Eric Enge
Eric Enge
Eric Enge is General Manager of Perficient Digital, a full-service, award-winning digital agency. Previously Eric was the founder and CEO of Stone Temple, also an award-winning digital marketing agency, which was acquired by Perficient in July 2018. He is the lead co-author of The Art of SEO, a 900+ page book that’s known in the industry as “the bible of SEO.” He is a prolific writer, researcher, teacher and a sought-after keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences.
PAGES Issue #5 | Now Available

PAGES Issue #5 | Now Available

Hello everyone! Welcome to the new year — along with it comes a new issue of PAGES!

This issue of PAGES is our first since we have shifted the format of our content. Issue #5 doesn’t come with a specific theme for the articles inside, but each of those articles will help you improve SEO strategy within your organization.

Each issue of PAGES now covers a range of topics, ranging from case studies, to guidance on best practices, to industry news and updates.

In this issue, we discuss the integration of SEO and social media, bust more myths about what it means to be optimized, discuss local SEO, and share tips for maximizing the reach of your content, just to name a few of the topics covered.

Let’s get to know the contributors who wrote articles for our first issue of the new year!

 

Charles TaylorCharles Taylor

Charles Taylor has been actively involved in online marketing since 2000. He’s currently the SEO Manager for Verizon’s Fios division. He is always looking for ways to help new and established companies solve their SEO challenges.

 

 

Charles is back to bust another SEO myth this time, it’s title tag lengths!

Twitter | LinkedIn

 

Joelle IrvineJoelle Irvine

Joelle is the Director of Marketing and Growth at Bookmark Content and Communications, a full-service global marketing company that brings together content and communications. In addition to digital marketing and SEO, she also loves travel, pop culture, gadgets, and tech.

 

 

Joelle’s article on content strategy in this issue of PAGES will set you on the right track for 2019.

Twitter | LinkedIn | Website

 

Kristen VaughnKristen Vaughn

Kristen Vaughn is an Associate Director of Online Marketing at KoMarketing, where she develops, manages and executes digital marketing strategies across a variety of B2B campaigns.

 

 

Kristen shares some insights to help you align your social media marketing and SEO efforts in this issue of PAGES.

Twitter | LinkedIn | Website

 

Greg JacobsGregory Jacobs

Greg is Senior SEO Strategist at Found, where he ensures the team is deploying the latest tactics for their clients, headed in the right direction with strategy, and fully integrated with other digital channels.

 

 

Greg shares ways to make the most of your time as it applies to SEO work in his article in our fifth issue.

LinkedIn | Website

 

Ryan JoosRyan Joos

Ryan is a designer, coder, internet marketing lover, and Senior Marketing Strategist at Nifty Marketing.

 

 

 

Ryan shares a page (or five) from the Nifty book of local SEO best practices in this issue.

Twitter | LinkedIn | Website

 

Vince NeroVince Nero

Vince Nero is Content Marketing Manager at Siege Media, an Inc. 5000 content marketing-focused agency. Vince has a fascination with the way people behave online and the types of content they consume.

 

 

Vince returns to PAGES with a new article on content strategy and expanding the reach of your content.

Twitter | LinkedIn | Website

 

Mary WilsonMary Wilson

Mary is lead Technical SEO Specialist at Page One Power, overseeing and conducting SEO auditing for their clients.

 

 

In this issue, Mary shares some of the oddities and strange issues she’s encountered during her auditing work.

LinkedIn | Website

If you’re not already subscribed to PAGES, you can visit here to get signed up. Subscribing is free and you’ll get PAGES delivered straight to your mailbox.

Subscribe to PAGES

Don’t forget to share your thoughts on Issue #5 on one of our social media channels using the tag #pagesSEOmagazine, or to share PAGES with your friends who could benefit from it. We love hearing what you think!

You can also give us a follow to stay up-to-date with the release of fresh articles here on our blog.

Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook | Instagram

If you’ve been waiting for the online release of last issue’s articles, blog versions of the articles from Issue #4 will be released starting next week, so stay tuned! The web version of Issue #4 is now available online as well.

We’re also excited to announce the launch of the new PAGES podcast, hosted by our Editor-in-Chief Joe Oliver, and featuring authors from past and coming issues of PAGES magazine. Joe is sitting down with our contributors to dive a little deeper into they’ve concepts explored inside PAGES.

Listen and and get updates on new episodes here.

As always, thank you for supporting and reading PAGES. We can’t wait to hear what you think of our fifth issue and to see what you’re able to achieve through SEO in 2019.

Cheers to another great year!

Sloan Roseberry on LinkedinSloan Roseberry on Twitter
Sloan Roseberry
Sloan Roseberry
Sloan Roseberry is managing editor of PAGES magazine, and part of the content marketing team at Page One Power. You can follow her for the occasional tweet or connect with her on LinkedIn.
Issue #4: The SEO ROI Issue

Issue #4: The SEO ROI Issue

Issue #4 is officially here! We can’t wait for you to get your copy.

In this issue of PAGES, we’re focused on the ROI of SEO: what you get out of what you invest into SEO.

Tracking the ROI of SEO can be tricky — to help, we enlisted some digital marketers with some serious chops. Let’s get to know them.

 

James BrockbankJames Brockbank

James is an experienced, UK-based SEO and content marketer. He’s also the Managing Director and Founder of the award-winning agency Digitaloft, who specialize in creating high-performance content marketing and SEO campaigns for some of the UK’s biggest brands.

Twitter | LinkedIn | Website

 

 

Eric EngeEric Enge

Eric Enge is General Manager of Perficient Digital, a full-service, award-winning digital agency. Previously, Eric was the founder and CEO of Stone Temple, also an award-winning digital marketing agency, which was acquired by Perficient in July 2018. He is a prolific writer, researcher, teacher and a sought-after keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences.

Twitter | LinkedIn | Website

 

 

Zaine ClarkZaine Clark

Zaine is a Senior SEO Associate at Seer Interactive, where he helps to craft SEO strategies using audience insights and big data to inform decisions. Through understanding the audience and using cross-divisional data, he helps his clients increase their organic visibility and drive revenue. Zaine and the Seer team understand that behind every search is a person.

Twitter | LinkedIn | Website

 

 

Charles TaylorCharles Taylor

Charles Taylor has been actively involved in online marketing since 2000. For the past 15 years he’s focused on SEO in a number of B2B and B2C verticals – legal services, eCommerce, information marketing, and affiliate marketing. He’s currently the SEO Manager for Verizon’s Fios division. He is always looking for ways to help new and established companies solve their SEO challenges.

Twitter | LinkedIn

 

 

Theresa NavarraTheresa Navarra

Theresa is an energetic marketing leader and content creator with 10 years of experience crafting content marketing that is focused on organic traffic, SEO, and demand generation. In addition to that, she’s also an experienced copywriter and avid blogger. She is the Director of Content at UiPath.

Twitter | LinkedIn | Website

 

 

Matt VazquezMatt Vazquez

Matt Vazquez is Conversational Marketing Manager at Drift, a platform focused on conversational marketing and sales. Matt is an alumni of agencies Stone Temple and KoMarketing and is passionate about SEO, content, and marketing that creates value.

Twitter | LinkedIn | Website

 

 

Cory CollinsCory Collins

Cory Collins works in strategy development at Page One Power. Cory is a writer, runner, SEO strategist, beer brewer, and lives with his dogs and wife in Boise, Idaho. Cory’s super power is eternal curiosity.

Twitter | LinkedIn | Website

 

 

These contributors have put together a range of articles — some focused on tactics that earn results, others which explore SEO strategy with regards to ROI, but all of them valuable to digital marketers who want their websites to perform well in search.

Here’s a short summary of what you’ll get out of this issue of PAGES:

  • Get an accurate way to measure the real ROI of SEO.
  • Impress your team with SEO quick wins that will keep them bought in for the long haul.
  • Start building connections with a link building method that’s a tried and true path to success.
  • Try out a workflow model for aligning your content marketing and SEO teams to work better together.
  • Learn how to dive deeper into SEO “facts” to get to the truth of what impacts site performance.
  • Find out what you can learn from talking to your audience — and how it can improve your SEO strategy.
  • Discover the key to practicing SEO that earns returns long after the campaign term has ended.

If you’re not already subscribed, visit here to get signed up. As always, subscriptions are free and you’ll get PAGES delivered straight to your mailbox.

Subscribe to PAGES

In the coming issues of PAGES, you’ll notice a few changes. We’ll no longer be focusing on specific topics for each issue. Instead, we plan to cover a range of SEO topics in each issue of PAGES. We’re excited for this update and look forward to delivering you valuable SEO content that addresses the field the way it always ought to be approached: holistically.

In other PAGES news, if you’ll be attending SMX East this month, drop by and say hello to our Editor-in-Chief Joe Oliver. He’ll be hanging out at booth #100 with some copies of our latest issue — it’ll be the perfect opportunity to get your hands on Issue #4 if you missed getting on our subscriber list on time to have a copy sent to you. He’ll be able to answer any questions you have about PAGES, help you get subscribed, and connect you to me if you’re interested in writing for us!

Don’t forget to share your thoughts on Issue #4 on one of our social media channels using the tag #pagesSEOmagazine, or to share PAGES with your friends who could benefit from it. We love hearing what you think!

Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook | Instagram

The web version of Issue #3 is now available online in our archive. Keep your eyes out in the coming weeks for the blog versions of the articles from Issue #3 as well!

The PAGES crew hopes this issue helps you improve your SEO and impacts your bottom line…and wishes you luck on our brainteaser! It’s our most challenging yet!

Until next time, enjoy reading and happy optimizing!

Sloan Roseberry on LinkedinSloan Roseberry on Twitter
Sloan Roseberry
Sloan Roseberry
Sloan Roseberry is managing editor of PAGES magazine, and part of the content marketing team at Page One Power. You can follow her for the occasional tweet or connect with her on LinkedIn.