If you can’t measure it, you can’t make sense of it. This points to one of the biggest barriers facing business leaders when it comes to search engine optimization.
There’s no question that SEO delivers a return on investment. That’s been proven over and over again. But the math is not as simple as, say, pay-per-click advertising with its straightforward transactional nature.
Marketing leaders across industries are wondering: How much of my marketing budget should be allocated to SEO, and what can we expect to get out of it?
SEO is a long-term play, no doubt. But don’t mistake that to mean it doesn’t make a real, concrete, and measurable revenue impact. Taking steps to track and grow the value of your SEO efforts is not easy, but it is very much worthwhile.
Measuring SEO value: 6 key metrics and focuses
There’s a difference between metrics and techniques used to measure the performance of your SEO versus the value of your SEO. You’ll find an assortment of performance and optimization metrics listed in our forthcoming comprehensive guide to B2B search engine optimization.
Here, we’ll shine a spotlight on value-based measurement methods that can help demonstrate the bottom-line impact of a high-performing SEO strategy.
1. Organic traffic (and attributed leads)
The guiding key performance indicator (KPI) for virtually any SEO program is organic traffic, which refers to visitors who arrive at your website from unpaid search. When you’re driving organic traffic around terms that matter to your business, that means you are putting your brand in front of relevant and interested people.
Search engines are evolving around search intent. Understanding your buyer’s journey and delivering helpful content to support it helps you win rankings and attract qualified website visitors. Unsurprisingly, this type of traffic tends to convert at a higher rate than most other sources.
Measuring the leads and opportunities your company is sourcing to organic search and then comparing the quality or conversion rate of those leads to other sources can be a good window into the essential role SEO plays.
Of course, tracing an eventual customer back to organic search is not always (or often) an A-to-B equation. Marketers use different techniques, including multi-touch attribution, to gain this insight.
“Measuring the leads and opportunities your company is sourcing to organic search and then comparing the quality or conversion rate of those leads to other sources can be a good window into the essential role SEO plays.” — @NickNelsonMN Click To Tweet
2. Keyword rankings
Ranking at the top of a search engine results page (SERP) for a keyword or query of great importance to your business is more than a point of pride. It can lead to substantial revenue impact!
The reality of online search is that top-ranking results in a SERP get a vast majority of the clicks from users. According to Ahrefs, 75% of all clicks go to the top three organic results and 32% of clicks go to the top-ranking page.
As we just discussed, organic traffic is money. Although, how much money it is depends on how well your strategy capitalizes on this traffic. High-quality content that keeps users on the page, demonstrates thought leadership, and compels next steps will help turn those clicks into commercially valuable outcomes.
3. Click-throughs to high-value pages and assets
Many marketing teams have high-scale initiatives and investments they are pursuing in the name of pushing robust growth. These campaigns might include events, assets, sponsorships, influencer programs, and more.
Use your high-performing SEO pages as conduits to this content, funneling qualified traffic to the premium work in a context that makes sense based on the original search intent. You can also use relevant SEO content to direct traffic to social media campaigns, which are often difficult to discover organically outside their platforms.
When you ultimately measure and evaluate the success of those investments, be sure the contribution from SEO gets its due.
4. Savings on paid search campaigns
Paid search is an important ingredient in a digital marketing strategy. But when companies become overly dependent on this tactic, it ceases to be cost-effective, and can also prove limiting for the brand’s reach.
When your organic search strategy is bringing in clicks for intent-driven terms, there is less need to pay for those clicks, and thus marketers can scale back their advertising spend while still creating pipeline impact.
Yes: creating effective SEO content does require an up-front investment and strategic groundwork. But the free clicks and engagement your SEO content drives over time will lead to sustained, snowballing value.
“When your organic search strategy is bringing in clicks for intent-driven terms, there is less need to pay for those clicks, and thus marketers can scale back their advertising spend while still creating pipeline impact.” — @NickNelsonMN Click To Tweet
5. First-party data
Access to quality, reliable data is a major challenge for marketers looking forward. Many third-party data sources that were traditional staples will no longer be available or will be less trustworthy. This is increasing the collective emphasis on first-party data.
First-party data, in short, is data that you own. It can be collected from your company’s app or through your product, but the most common source for first-party data is your website.
When your SEO strategy is driving qualified organic traffic to your website, that means you’re acquiring relevant and engaged users. They are often more inclined to interact with the content, subscribe to newsletters, fill out contact forms, create accounts, and engage in surveys or feedback requests, all of which involve the collection of first-party data.
Additionally — and crucially — keyword research insights gained from organic search inform content creation and personalization, which can shape your broader marketing strategy in profound ways.
6. Return on investment
Of course, this is the big metric that everyone cares about, and rightfully so. Any company investing in a marketing strategy should expect to see a greater return than they put in. Calculating the ROI of SEO is absolutely possible, but you won’t get an accurate view unless you think about the return holistically.
Several different calculations exist to measure the ROI of SEO. Ahrefs shares this example:
SEO ROI = (value of organic conversions – cost of SEO investments)/cost of SEO investments
The beauty of this formula is that it’s practical and uncomplicated. You could set up goal tracking in Google Analytics to define and measure “organic conversions,” and then compare the quantified value of those conversions against the overall cost of your SEO program.
The problem, as readily noted by Michal Pecánek in the piece, is that there are major challenges and limitations involved with measuring SEO ROI through such a basic lens.
Not only do marketing attribution flaws make it difficult to confidently categorize all organic-sourced conversions, but, as we’ve explored, those conversions themselves hardly account for the totality of SEO’s value to the business. We haven’t even touched on the crucial relationship between SEO and brand building, which itself is instrumental to growing market share.
Bring out the value of your SEO strategy
Measuring the business value of SEO is not easy, but no marketer should let that stop them from focusing on it. When businesses possess an incomplete or inaccurate understanding of their search strategy’s impact and role in revenue growth, it can lead to very costly decisions (or indecision).
At TopRank Marketing, we know how to show and grow the value of SEO. Learn about our services and how we can help you find answers with your search strategy.
Nick Nelson is our friendly neighborhood writer-man. As the Associate Content Director at TopRank Marketing, he is on a mission to energize brand narratives with smart, fun, sharp wordplay. In his free time, Nick enjoys basking in the misery of Minnesota sports fandom, making cringeworthy puns, and smothering all types of food in buffalo sauce.