Investing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the most important strategies to gain visibility online.
It is the endpoint of a bigger marketing plan, when the business starts attracting organic leads directly to their content and to pages designed to convert.
But, even while being crucial, a lot of CMOs still face challenges when accurately assessing SEO ROI.
Are you getting the expected results from the money you invested?
To help you find that answer, we prepared a guide with the main points to be aware of when calculating the return from a well-planned SEO strategy. Here, you will find answers to the following questions:
What is SEO ROI?
Return on Investment, or ROI, is one of the most common performance indicators monitored by businesses.
It’s used to understand the relationship between the budget spent on a strategy, and what you get back as practical results in growth and awareness.
For example, if a company invests in revamping its homepage to improve the UX and that results in more conversions, it is a positive return.
If it spent more than the money that came in, then the investment wasn’t as successful.
SEO ROI follows the same rule.
It is the correlation between what you spend on SEO strategies and tools, and the results you get from that spend.
The difference from other uses to this KPI is that SEO is not as objective as counting the money in and out.
What does it mean to get good returns from SEO? That’s the question guiding our conversation.
When successful, an SEO plan can improve organic traffic, get more content ranking on the top of search pages and increase session times and engagement for each new user.
All of these metrics are measurable but the real challenge is to quantify them from a monetary point of view.
- How much is a new visitor worth?
- What does it mean to have a page on top of a search in terms of invested monetary return?
By asking the right questions, you can accurately calculate the ROI of SEO.
Why Should you Measure SEO ROI?
There is no way to deny the power of having content ranking on the top of SERPs.
More than 70% of all searches on Google result in an organic click on the first page — 67,60% just on the top five results.
SEO is the tool CMOs use to climb that mountain and position the company’s pages higher on keywords that are relevant to their buyer persona.
It is a way to build consistent and meaningful visibility without having to spend constantly on artificially boosting reach.
That is why knowing your SEO ROI is so important: because it is one of the biggest “returners” from a well-implemented Digital Marketing plan.
After your content finds its place on the first page, its relevance is reinforced by each new search, making it consolidate its attracting potential for months, even years, after it was published.
So why not focus your sight on the strategies that have a bigger return?
The growth enabled by SEO can even be your foundation to invest in more expensive and varied projects at a later date.
How to Calculate SEO ROI?
In the relationship between what you do first and what you get later, calculating ROI is a process that demands that you set the field before, monitor it during and analyze numbers after.
So we thought it was better to approach the effort needed exactly in that way.
There isn’t a universal formula to find your ROI. Each company has a starting point, a different strategy, and its own goals.
But let’s take a look at how to approach each of those stages to have a precise KPI to use in the end.
What to do before
The first thing to do is to determine how much SEO activities are costing you.
It looks like a simple task but a lot of businesses get it wrong.
That is because what you spend to do SEO isn’t just about reformulating a website or paying an agency to set up a schedule for releasing content.
Everything related to the plan must be accounted for here to get an accurate result in the end.
We are talking about everything. Even some elements that are vital to the success of SEO but aren’t always accounted for, like payment to the professionals producing content and money spent on technological tools — from text editors to publishing automation.
The easiest way to do that is to invest in an SEO service, like a Digital Marketing partner or an agency.
As these offer the whole package as a fixed fee, it’s way easier to find your ROI.
But if you are doing it by yourself or in a hybrid approach, try to include everything that costs money — directly and indirectly.
What to do during
After your SEO plan is put into action, it’s time to guarantee that all results are being monitored.
To have control over that data, you should establish some KPIs that are vital to understanding the return you’re getting. Some examples are:
With time, these metrics will show not only if your traffic is improving, but the quality of the leads you are getting — if the users finding your content are really interested in your brand and viable for a conversion.
What to do afterward
After the period of time that you set as ideal for calculating your ROI, you should have enough data to compare what you spent with what you got.
And here is the tricky part about SEO ROI: this analysis isn’t all about money.
You invested it, but in return, you will be getting visibility, brand awareness, and more lead-generating channels.
So, how do you approach this calculation?
First, you do the basics. With more conversions coming from SEO and organic traffic, you check how the revenue increased compared to the results from before the plan’s execution.
But then you need to go deeper. One great KPI to look into is CAC, the Customer Acquisition Cost.
It shows how much the business has to spend to convert a single customer.
When SEO is successful, you start to see the indicator going down — as organic visibility makes it cheaper to find new clients.
So the ROI is not only in revenue rising, but also decreasing expenditure.
SEO returns will always be a combination of more conversions, more reach, and more engagement.
How Long Does it Take to See ROI from SEO?
This answer depends on a lot of factors:
- SEO maturity when the strategy is green-lighted.
- Size of the investment.
- The approach you are using to optimize content for search engines.
- Goals you and your team set.
The standard answer would be starting from 3 months, with the returns consolidating first between 6-12 months.
But that is not a rule. What a CMO needs to do is to focus on constant monitoring, analyzing results, and using those to continuously improve the strategy.
Each new content created is a new opportunity to climb to the first page of a SERP.
Each new keyword explored is a chance to engage a new kind of lead. Thinking of SEO ROI as a never-ending KPI will help you never lose that focus.
What is a Good ROI for SEO?
As we mentioned throughout this post, the ROI of SEO is a bit different from the standard “what you get from what you pay”.
Subjective gains like awareness and engagement are also important because they will lead to financial, more objective returns in the future.
So we can say that a good ROI for SEO is a combination of:
- Increase in overall visibility (more traffic, more sessions, more shares).
- Increase in on-page conversions.
- Increase in reach on SERPs compared to direct competitors.
- Decrease of investments needed on paid channels (social ads, boosts, etc).
- Overall costs of SEO that should decrease with time as your content is validated as relevant by Google.
All of those results are measurable — some more directly than others.
If you have a well-structured plan of action and know what to monitor, finding your ROI is way simpler.
What Does SEO do For your Company to Increase ROI?
SEO is the most widely used strategy today to find visibility online and support Digital Marketing without having to spend a lot of money.
What it does is to create a foundation based on content, that organically attracts new leads without you having to reach out for them every time.
So that is what Search Engine Optimization does for the company: on the one hand, it makes more people see your brand and puts it above competitors in one of the most disputed fields online — the Google SERP.
On the other, it opens up the doors for more conversion opportunities, engaging and attracting leads ready to choose a brand to be loyal to.
More than anything, SEO ROI is lasting — you invest in it today to take advantage of its results for years to come.
So how about starting your SEO strategy right now? Check our SEO Maturity Assessment and take the first step!