“What’s the return on investment?” is a question that constantly flows through the mind of any savvy professional. Even more so does this question plague the thinking of small business owners, often times ultimately influencing their every business decision. This mindset is especially true when it comes to evaluating marketing initiatives and this can be a difficult situation to combat for any digital marketing specialist operating an SEO program for that business.
Though a widespread and relatively well known concept, organic search engine optimization (SEO) is certainly one of the least understood marketing practices in today’s digital world. While the majority of business owners have likely heard of SEO, very few actually understand the process behind it and even fewer know how to properly gauge its success.
Most business owners understand that the need for a high quality online presence has never been greater and the way to achieve this is to be page 1 on Google. Though simplistically accurate, this borderline misconception spawns confusion, misunderstanding and even ignorance which often cause SEO campaigns to “die a premature death…because the appropriate return on investment parameters aren’t in place.” and “small business often lacks discipline when evaluating the success of an SEO program, missing key components that simply can’t be missed.” This observation by SEO Expert, Adam Stetzer helps pinpoint the origins of doomed SEO expectations, and that lack of discipline is a direct result of little to no breathing room when it comes to wasted expenses, which causes small business owners to focus entirely on money earned compared to the money spent on SEO, when their attention is better served focusing on the factors that can truly portray the value of an essential marketing strategy and how it benefits their business and long-term revenue.
Realignment of SEO Expectations
Every day we see small business owners terminate their SEO efforts because they are not seeing any financial return from an ostensibly unnecessary marketing expense; a reaction that makes economic sense when the traditional ROI parameters are set at ‘If I’m spending X, I should see 2X, 3X, etc in return’. But the fact of the matter is that the true value of SEO cannot be limited to traditional ROI criterion, and evaluating the success of a campaign requires the observation of key components that should not be ignored. It is only when these particular components are influenced by the optimizer and most importantly understood by the business owner that we can identify an accurate assessment of SEO success and effectively answer the question, “When can I expect to see a return on my investment?”
Let’s get it straight- SEO is a natural and sometimes unpredictable process in which there is no one size fits all solution. Many factors come into play and it should be understood that there will rarely, if ever, be an immediate ROI from SEO- whether building a website from scratch or optimizing a years-old site.
SEO is an ongoing procedure that is dependent upon quality, trust and authority, so it should be regarded as a long-term marketing investment. Though, in the eyes of a business owner it may appear as nothing more than a questionable expense, your SEO campaign is certainly not worthless, and it can most certainly have a positive impact on revenue. In fact, high quality SEO can actually evolve into one of the most lucrative and cost effective marketing initiatives for small business, not only because you will be capturing relevant traffic that converts into paying customers, but also because once high page 1 rankings are attained, maintenance costs of these rankings become comparatively low, and the focus can be geared more towards building authority, improving user experience, link building and content marketing.
Key Factors Display the Real Value in SEO
Outside of rankings, key factors that should be monitored and analyzed when evaluating the success of an SEO program include website traffic trends, the quality of that traffic (bounce rate, conversion rate, click thru rate, clicks to call/email), the quality of inbound links and of course, changes in revenue. All of which are essential factors that on paper won’t necessarily translate into money earned from SEO, but each have a direct impact on building authority within your industry/niche as well as attracting new customers, which will lead to long-term revenue generation, thus contributing to the ROI of SEO.
In an attempt to wrap up the argument that the success of small business SEO can rarely be determined by a return on investment in terms of dollars earned compared to dollars spent, we draw upon a fantastic outline developed by Search Engine Land Editor-in-Chief, Matt McGee, which was actually inspired by the great John Wooden and his Pyramid of Success. Despite being one of history’s winningest basketball coaches, Wooden rarely talked about winning when he was rallying his troops, but rather emphasized the necessity of preparation and the “process of becoming a great team.” Inspired by the ideals of Coach Wooden, McGee created his own Pyramid for SEO Success that emphasizes many key factors that cannot be ignored, none of which mention revenue or even rankings.
In his article, Matt notes that when discussing SEO with clients, digital marketers too often talk about rankings when in fact they should be discussing the “process of making great web sites that earn traffic and convert visitors into customers.” as well as “the process of creating great content that attracts links.” Instead of focusing on winning in terms of ROI, business owners should be disciplined in the art of SEO and educated on the most important keys to success highlighted in Matt’s Pyramid of Success, the most important of which is Patience.
There will always be the business owner who can’t stomach seeing money going out without an immediate return coming in and to them we often have to bid farewell, but for the ones who can recognize a good investment by seeing the value in building a high quality, long lasting online presence are the ones that will really see a return on investment in the long run.
Those of you still not buying it, take a sec to ask yourself a few questions:
- Is building authority and becoming one of the most relevant resources in your industry worth paying for?
- Is showing up right before your customer’s eyes at the very moment they need your products or services worth paying for?
- Is dominating a niche or industry in your local market worth paying for?
- Is obtaining long-term, high quality visibility within your industry worth paying for?
- Would you pay for increased brand awareness?
- Is gaining exposure and capturing new business on a daily basis worth paying for?