SEO ROI: How to nail down the hard-to-nail down (and why) – Guru Marketing
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SEO ROI: How to nail down the hard-to-nail down (and why)

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Google’s first search result is the most popular, with 32 percent of clicks. And 75 percent of users admit that they don’t scroll past this first page.

Search engine optimization is essential. These two numbers alone show its importance. Many companies spend more than $79 Billion in SEO services each year.

Companies that don’t have a strong organic search presence miss out on a lot of revenue, leads and exposure to broader audiences.

Even organic SEO is not free. It can be difficult to convince decision makers and stakeholders of the value it brings. They’ll also want to know if SEO is going to yield a positive ROI (return on investment) for their business.

The ability to calculate SEO ROI is essential for all consultants, agencies, and marketers who want to incorporate it into their businesses.

Clients will expect a tangible bottom line, i.e. proof that SEO costs are worth it. This can be difficult.

What is the reason for this?

Due to the organic nature, there is no direct dollar value associated with SEO. SEO takes a long time to start working. It is common to hear that it can take between 6 and 12 months before you see any positive results.

You’ve come the right place if you are having trouble calculating SEO ROI.

Discover the true value of SEO.

How to Calculate the ROI of SEO

Theoretically, the calculation of ROI for SEO can be done in a similar way to any other business. You can easily subtract the cost of SEO from your revenue.

Here’s a formula to help you:

The cost of SEO investment versus the value of SEO conversions

Doesn’t this seem simple? Why is SEO ROI so confusing?

It can be difficult to determine the value of conversions that you directly attribute SEO. It’s generally pretty simple to determine the value of SEO.

It is more difficult to determine whether the SEO effort or some other factor was responsible for a conversion. It may be the case that a client spent several weeks reading about your product in organic search results.

When it comes time to buy, however, and the customer clicks on an advertisement from a social networking site, the buyer will claim full credit (despite your SEO content’s apparent attribution to the sale).

It has always been controversial to attribute conversions to the marketing channels. Later, we’ll talk more about that.

Here are the key KPIs that you can use to determine the true ROI of a SEO campaign.

Calculating the cost of your SEO strategy

Although it’s often thought that organic search engine traffic is a ‘free’ alternative to pay-per click (PPC) campaigns, the old adage about economics holds true: there’s never a free meal.

Organic SEO is not free, even though it doesn’t have a monetary value. You’ll need to spend a lot of time on your own, even if you are doing the work yourself. This includes creating regular content, making SEO adjustments, and conducting keyword research.

You must keep track of all the SEO costs.

Here is a breakdown of the cost for organic SEO:

Employers on-site

You must include the cost of their salary in your budget if your employees are involved in blogging, content creation, or other marketing activities.

Remember to include any web developers or designers you hire for image creation/web publication or to tweak technical SEO.

SEO agencies

It is important that you include in your contract the monthly or annual fees you pay the agency.


Add the amount that you paid to freelance writers, graphic designers or developers who assisted with your content marketing campaign.

SEO Tools

Tools such as Ahrefs and SEMrush require a monthly subscription.

Include fees for software that’s not specifically designed for SEO, but is used for SEO. Examples include PR software and HARO.

Link building and distribution

Distributing and promoting your content comes with additional costs. It is not enough to pay for links. You must also include these costs.

You’ll also need to choose a period of time to calculate. Do your best to accommodate your client’s request for an exact date. It’s not a good idea, however, to compare monthly. Monthly comparisons are not good for SEO. Avoid them as much as possible.

Conversions are worth their value in traffic

We now get to the difficult part: determining which conversions can be directly attributed to SEO.

You must install Google Analytics or an equivalent program to track conversions. You should set your tracking program to only use organic search results, and not paid ones.

Google will tell you how many conversions they believe a SEO campaign has caused. Note each reason so you can connect it to SEO.

Conversions can vary in type and value from one business to another.

It’s easy for e-commerce sites to use GA as they send their sales conversion data automatically.

However, the goal of any business is not always to make a sale immediately. Lead generation companies, like Lead Generation, often struggle to determine their conversion rates because they are not black and white. As a solution, assigning a dollar amount to leads that are sales-qualified can be used.

SEO KPIs that communicate its value

You can also track certain KPIs, aside from the conversion rate. This will help you to determine the value of your SEO campaign.

Search engine rankings

The most important KPI is your ranking. The higher your ranking, the better. Your optimization efforts will be rewarded by improving your ranking.

Use organic products

The number of organic visitors is another way to gauge the effectiveness of your efforts. More organic visitors may not always translate into more revenue but they do improve brand awareness.

Note: Organic traffic can fluctuate or be trending upwards or downwards, so it may be more useful to use other metrics. A summer clothing boutique may have few sales during winter or a particular fashion trend could be out of style.

CTR (Click-through rate)

The click-through rate of your website is the number of people who landed on your organic page, and then clicked through to the landing pages. A high CTR indicates that you are attracting the right audience.

Soft conversions

Soft conversions are usually the result of a new lead.

Soft conversions include the signing up for newsletters, sharing content on social media and downloading it. To get a complete picture of the marketing environment, it is important to track both soft and harder conversions.

Pages per session

The number of pages per page is another SEO KPI. The number of pages a user views before leaving your site is a key SEO KPI.

A few pages per session shows that you are engaging your audience.

Organic Impressions

The number of times your content appears in search engine results is called an impression. Impressions are a great way to increase brand awareness.

These metrics may not be directly related to SEO ROI but they still provide proof of its effectiveness and should be discussed with stakeholders.

Benefits of assisted conversion

Here is where it gets a little complicated. Sometimes it can be difficult to decide which marketing technique is most effective at converting traffic.

In the past, conversions have been accounted for using “the last non-direct click.”

Your blog’s content is the main driver of conversions, but a social media advertisement will take the glory in the end, since it was the click that led to the event.

Assisted conversions are the best solution to this problem.

The “last non-direct” click method is not the best way to use.

Your site will likely be visited at any stage of the buying process, and each article can have a significant impact on the sales funnel. If a customer wants to know more details, the content of your blog will be highlighted.

You can encourage users to visit product pages and blogs by using clever CTAs.

Then, when they finally buy it, the retargeting ad will receive all credit. We know this is not true, as the buyer went through a lengthy buyer journey, which was helped by your SEO content.

It doesn’t mean that your blog didn’t help you sell if it isn’t recognized for direct conversions.

This is why Google Analytics 4 has shifted to a model of data-driven attribution (DDA).

Google Analytics 4 and data-driven attribution models

Google’s DDA uses existing data to attribute conversions to different marketing channels.

Machine learning algorithms are used to differentiate between conversion paths and nonconversion pathways.

What are they exactly?

A conversion path is an array of touchpoints that lead to a conversion (clicks, ads, exposures, etc.). The DDA model then gives partial credit to every channel along the conversion path.

The non-conversion path is similar but does not result in the conversion of the customer. Therefore, the information collected on the touchpoints is discarded.

The algorithm analyzes the routes that led to the conversion and can identify what may have happened.

You can also view an Assisted Conversions Report within Google Analytics by going to Advertising > Attribution > Conversion Paths. Google Analytics also offers an Assisted Conversions Report. Go to Advertising > Attribution and then Conversion Paths.

You can see the full list of Google’s critical touchpoints for each conversion path. These touchpoints include:

Search Engines



Search engine paid

Social media

You can view the graph for each point you click. It shows how each point affected conversions at each stage of the funnel.

You can measure the impact of SEO by focusing on organic search at each stage.

The difficulty of measuring SEO ROI

The DDA model has made great strides, but calculating the SEO ROI is still a difficult task. There are many grey areas.

Here are the top challenges that you will face when trying to determine your ROI from SEO investments.

SEO ROI may take some time to appear

Due to the nature and complexity of SEO, time periods can be a difficult issue. Search engine algorithms are extremely complex and sophisticated today.

It takes time for new content and tweaks to sites to appear in search engine results. It takes time for new content to be crawled, indexed and to appear in search engine results.

SEO is indeed a long-term strategy. The traditional method for measuring ROI, which compares investment returns with monthly earnings, does not work.

For the first few months, calculating ROI on a monthly basis is not feasible.

SEO is often a difficult sell because of the long timeline. No one wants to be told that it will take 6 months for something to pay off. SEO benefits are substantial once they start, and tend to increase over time.

The testing capability is limited.

It is harder to test the effectiveness of SEO because it cannot be tested like other channels.

You can compare your earnings if, for example, you want to test the effectiveness of your PPC ads.

If your bottom line does not improve after a few months, then you need to fix the PPC campaign and stop investing in it.

You can’t do this with organic SEO, as removing your website from the search engine results is not possible in today’s world. Noindexing your site would take at least six month to see any changes.

The effectiveness of SEO can be tested. SEO has a smaller reach than other channels.

The nature of attribution is flawed.

Marketing channel attribution is not just for SEO. It can be done using Google’s DDA Model.

Many people even claim that attribution is useless because touchpoints can be more complex than what the software shows. We’ve already said that a single piece of content can be relevant at each stage in the sales funnel, through different customers.

It’s almost impossible to identify the source of conversion.

The DDA method has been a welcome advancement in the field. It could still be improved. You may not see certain data because the tracking code hasn’t been fired. It could be due to an ad-blocker or because the user bounced without letting tracking load.

It is impossible to measure the impact or retention of branding.

Finally, SEO metrics cannot measure instances where users are searching for brands they already know about.

On the other side, SEO content increases the lifetime value of customers who are regular readers.

Imagine you have a regular readership and write about digital marketing strategies. A large part of the traffic to your blog comes from existing customers or readers. This is a great benefit, but it’s hard to quantify.

Brand awareness is also an unmeasurable factor. SEO should not be credited if the user has already heard of a brand, or learned about it somewhere else, but will get credit if they search for it on Google.

SEO ROI: The Most Important Metric

Search engine visibility is a better way to measure the success of an SEO campaign than using the ROI formula.

You can use a ranking tracker to track your website’s visibility on a graph. You’ll know that your SEO efforts are working if the line begins to move up after a few months.

Search visibility is similar in concept to share of voice, a metric that marketers use to measure their market share.

Showing the results of your search to decision makers and other stakeholders will demonstrate your efficiency.

Closed Thoughts on SEO ROI

You should now be able to calculate the SEO ROI and its associated issues.

Due to the nature of SEO it is difficult to measure its impact on bottom line revenue. Optimizations for technical SEO, enhancements to user experience and helpful user content all have difficult-to-quantify results yet are definitely real.

You can find out your ROI by calculating your traffic conversions, subtracting the costs of investment and comparing it to your SEO. This number should also be correlated with specific KPIs like rankings. This will provide your customers with a clearer picture of the situation.


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