Chapter 1

Can SEO Generate ROI?

Types Of SEO

While many believe SEO is limited to keywords and tagging, there’s a lot more to optimizing for search. On-page, off-page, and technical SEO efforts are all important for ensuring you rank at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) when new, existing and potential customers are searching for your pages online.

On-page SEO

On-page SEO efforts include everything you do on the pages of your site that a user can interact with. From changing titles to updating content, this work can serve a dual purpose of improving your SEO efforts as well as your overall product and user experience.

Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO is any SEO that isn’t controlled by your page, like backlinks. If you have read up on search algorithms and ranking signals, you already know the value of external links. Links to your site are one of the top 3ranking signals and there isn’t much you will be able to achieve if your site never gets cited on the web. While a site with absolutely no links to it can still be great, ranking for highly competitive terms is highly unlikely without good off-page SEO work.

Technical SEO

All the small details of your backend systems can have an effect on how your site performs. Your technology stack can make accessibility to your site by search engine bots nearly impossible. Technical SEO can hence make or break all of your ROI if configured poorly.

Why Does SEO Matter For ROI?

When done correctly and consistently, SEO can have a huge impact on your business’s bottom line. SEO directly contributes to the size and quality of traffic to your website, the ease and amount of engagement with your content, as well as your ranking and brand visibility.

On top of all this, SEO can drive trust in your brand’s credibility and authority, affect the efficiency of your ad performance and customer care departments, and ultimately lead the sustainability of your online strategy.

Below we breakdown the revenue streams SEO can impact, and exactly how they contribute to your business.

Traffic

As the first step before conversion, traffic is an important metric. The number one goal of SEO is to drive qualified traffic to your website in order to drive conversions.

Improved optimization leads to better ranking on SERPs, which ultimately generates traffic to your website. But traffic alone is not enough. How you retain, engage and convert that traffic is what will ultimately affect your bottom line.

Engagement

Once you have visitors to your website, you’ll need to engage them in order to convert. The user experience is a huge factor in search engine optimization, which focuses on making the engagement with your website as enjoyable and efficient as possible.

It’s important to know that while a conversion is an engagement, not all engagements are conversions. Engagements, or micro-conversions, can include browsing your website, reading or watching content, filling in forms, and clicking on call-to-actions. Some if not all of these engagements can lead to conversions, so it’s of utmost importance to ensure this engagement is smooth, easy and enjoyable in order to lead to revenue in the future.

Visibility

Search Engine Optimization focuses on optimizing for Organic Search. This means it directly impacts your visibility on SERPs, which gives you an idea of how well your site is performing in Organic Search results. Visibility directly impacts traffic. If a customer can’t find your website or your content, they can’t engage with it, which means they can’t convert — or worse, they’ll convert with competitors who can be found.

“The best place to hide a dead body is the second page of Google search.” – Anonymous

Trust

Website authority is one of the most important factors for ranking. Backlinking, or links from other websites to yours, tell search engines that your content is trusted by other sources, building authority.

While there are various strategies and techniques for generating authoritative backlinks, it’s essential to remember that it starts with your content being good enough to link to. Good, linkable content, builds trust with search engines as well as the users who ultimately engage with it.

Efficiency

SEO, or rather the impact SEO can make, can generate huge efficiencies for various other marketing efforts and departments. For example, while content like FAQ pages are great for ranking and visibility, they’re also helpful for customer care departments. By solving the solution online, there’s less need to speak to representatives, easing the call load and driving better staff efficiencies.

Sustainability

As previously mentioned, SEO is a long-term strategy rather than a one-off campaign. Algorithms are forever updating, making it important to always stay ahead of search engine optimization.

The SEO cycle starts with identifying issues and solutions to achieve business goals, moves to implementing those solutions and measuring their effectiveness, and ends with reviewing the strategy and starting the cycle again. An effective SEO process that continues to test, learn and evolve leads to sustainable, measurable ROI.

Types of ROI

“ROI” means many things to many people, organizations, and companies.

So let’s start with some basic definitions that will lay the groundwork for how ROI is generally defined:

Return On Investment is a method of determining the efficiency of an overall investment. Typically, it is a way for investors, marketers, and SEOs to determine whether they are receiving enough gain to continue investing in a particular project or strategy.

ROI is essentially ambivalent when it comes to total profit. Rather than focusing on how much was made, ROI focuses on the profit a marketing effort produced compared to the amount invested in the effort.

There are two types of ROI: anticipated and actual. Let’s breakdown the differences:

Anticipated ROI, or projected ROI, is an estimate of the return that will be generated from the investment. This is why projecting SEO ROI is so important. It not only provides the anticipated ROI, but helps companies understand what they can expect to achieve from SEO efforts, as well as how much they need to spend in order to expect results.

Actual ROI is the actual return generated, minus the initial investment spent. This is calculated once the campaign or agreed-upon time period has ended and results are measured and reported. The actual ROI is compared to the anticipated ROI to determine whether goals were met or exceeded, and will have an influence on whether further investments are made in SEO.

How Does SEO Contribute To ROI?

When it comes to calculating the return on investment, “investment” is the easy part of the calculation. Working out the “return”, however, depends on what goals and objectives are important enough to denote value.

These goals and objectives will be unique to every company, brand, line of business, platform, digital asset, user, and so on. Every revenue-driving action needs to be identified, assigned value and tracked in order to calculate ROI, which is one of the reasons why calculating SEO ROI can be so complicated.

Identifying these key value indicators are important for accurate calculations, but there are a few main revenue drivers every SEO strategy should focus on:

• Increasing traffic

• Driving qualified traffic

• Improving UX

• Generating more consumer touch points

• Improving ad performance

• Increasing conversions

Increasing traffic

SEO’s main focus is to ensure your site is visible on SERPs, this visibility is what contributes directly to increasing traffic. And while traffic alone isn’t enough to generate revenue, it is the first step towards creating conversions that contribute to the bottom line. With 67.6% of all clicks going to the first five organic results on Google, more than half of all traffic is going to those who invest in SEO.

Driving qualified traffic

Many assume that traffic is a quantity approach, but when SEO is done with revenue in mind, it’s focus should be on quality. Optimizing for search doesn’t mean optimizing for traffic. The focus is on targeting qualified traffic. That means tailoring content, design and UX on both your website and the SERPs to attract and engage audiences most likely to convert and contribute to revenue.

Improving UX

Another misconception some may have about SEO is that the optimization only extends to what users are seeing on SERPs. This assumption isn’t only incorrect, it’s damaging to potential revenue. Search engine optimization extends to the entire online experience, and that includes your website user experience (UX). Good SEO is good UX, and a positive user experience improves conversion rates by up to 400%.

Generating more consumer touch points

With so much information and so many options available today, it’s rare for a consumer to find and convert on a first visit. The modern consumer will most likely go through multiple touch points before making a purchase which is why so many companies invest in omnichannel marketing in order to take advantage of multiple touch points.

SEO is one of the most advantageous tools for increasing consumer touch points and thereby driving revenue. Many aspects of good SEO improve consumer touch points that extend beyond just Organic traffic. In fact, content creation, link building, and site UX all affect how users interact with the brand and are not just SEO best practices.

Improving ad performance

In terms of performance, SEO is often overlooked by paid advertising, but did you know SEO can improve the performance of that advertising?

Pay-per-click advertising can be hugely cost effective as it only charges you for actual clicks on that advertisement, which means clicks to your website. But once that ad’s been clicked, you’ve been charged, regardless of whether a consumer stays on your website or converts. SEO is what will ultimately keep users on site and drive them to conversion, ensuring money spent on clicks doesn’t go to waste.

Can SEO Save Money?

SEO ROI is usually exclusively focused on the revenue it can produce, but when done well, SEO also has the ability to reduce costs and save investments made elsewhere. Reducing costs on customer care, sales, customer churn, and even advertising are just some of the areas SEO can assist in reducing expenses.

Reduced costs on customer care and sales

For improved visibility and user experience, including clear, keyword-rich customer care and sales content on-site is an SEO must. With the introduction of informative content like FAQs, how-to’s, detailed product descriptions, and after-sales guidance comes increased visibility as well as a bonus result: reduced costs. By creating this content to achieve SEO goals, customers are also able to find answers and guidance to questions that would usually be handled by customer care or sales teams. This availability of information and improved service reduces the need for extensive customer care and sales departments, thereby reducing costs.

Reduces ad costs

Paid advertising relies on targeting audiences, keywords and intentions. Investing in an effective SEO strategy and plan should mean the foundation of this work has already been done, saving money before a cent has been spent on a paid ad. Additionally, research indicates that paid ads targeting keywords that already have an organic presence outperform those without any established organic visibility, almost halving the cost per click.

Reduces customer churn

SEO is a great way to make your website visible to new audiences and potential customers, but the strategies behind search engine optimization also work to retain customers and reduce churn. Being visible on search, 15 featuring in snippets, and keeping visitors engaged and returning through the use of strong content and a good user experience are all tools for improving customer retention. And while many may be looking to attract new customers rather than focus on those that already exist, research shows that not only is it cheaper to retain a customer than it is to attain a new one, increasing customer retention by only 5% can correlate to an increase in profits by up to 95%.

What every good SEO strategy needs

Whether it’s new information or it’s always been clear to you, SEO is undoubtedly worth the investment. The next step is understanding how to implement good SEO. While the steps needed to optimize your particular asset will depend on a multitude of unique factors, strategic planning, content strategy, technical development, planned promotion, measurement, optimization and repetition should form the foundation of every good SEO strategy.

Strategic planning

Effective SEO needs a strategic plan in order to deliver a return on investment. Research, audits, analysis, and reporting are all part of this phase and should result in a few key deliverables:

• Audience report defining the audience personas, user journeys, and market opportunities.

• Competitive analysis of your closest competitors, how they’re performing, and actionable insights on how to outperform them in Organic channels.

• Keyword research identifies and outlines opportunities for improved content, ranking and visibility.

Content strategy

Content that improves visibility, drives engagement and leads to conversion requires strategy. In order to contribute to revenue, an adequate content strategy should include auditing, planning and recommendations that lead to optimal content development and performance.

• Content audit of existing assets to determine qualitative and quantitative performance and recommend improvements in order to reach business goals and drive ROI.

• Content plan detailing cross-channel strategy for content development, maintenance and governance.

• Content recommendations based on the direction given by the content plan on any content in need of SEO improvements.

“Better content is outweighing more content.” – Rand Fishkin, Moz Co-Founder

Technical development

Technical SEO is what ensures websites are crawlable, indexable and optimized to appear on SERPs. Audits, recommendations and implementations form part of the technical phase of an effective SEO strategy.

• SEO site audit and implementation of technical, content, linking and page-speed issues impeding visibility.

• Technical recommendations detailing technical specifications to ensure the visibility of web properties in organic search and social media.

• Implementation audit cataloguing the progress of technical and content recommendation implementations.

Planned promotion

SEO doesn’t have to work on its own in order to reach the full potential of business goals. SEO can do a lot to identify, optimize and enhance tools and channels for promoting your brand and content. These can take the form of:

• Content promotion through organic marketing strategies such as influencer outreach.

• Link building plans to reach out to third party websites and drive authoritative, high quality backlinks.

Measurement

Measurement is ultimately what identifies how well SEO performed and whether a return was made on investment. In order to measure accurately and ensure everything is being done to meet KPIs, measurement needs to be planned, performed regularly, and presented to stakeholders with enough power to authorize any changes needed to meet goals. Some important measurement outputs include:

• Measurement plan outlining the strategy for measuring key performance indicators and how these map back to business goals.

• Reporting regularly to review performance metrics defined in the measurement plan.

• Performance reviews with key stakeholders to ensure strategies and plans can continue at the pace required to generate ROI.

Optimization

While all steps up to this point have been done with optimization in mind, SEO is not a one-off solution. Continued optimization is driven by measurement and analysis, and is what ensures SEO continues to drive results and meet updated algorithms. This can include:

• Conversion rate optimization tests design and messaging changes to improve a site’s ability to meet business objectives.

• Media optimization to capitalize on the synergistic effects of using both paid and organic marketing together.

Repeating the process

All content, technology and media should continue to be planned, developed, implemented, tested, measured, and optimized. SEO is continuously shifting and evolving, and so are consumer needs and business goals. In order to meet those goals, drive results and generate an optimal return on investment, SEO needs to be assessed and actioned regularly.

Chapter 1

Can SEO Generate ROI?

Types Of SEO

While many believe SEO is limited to keywords and tagging, there’s a lot more to optimizing for search. On-page, off-page, and technical SEO efforts are all important for ensuring you rank at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) when new, existing and potential customers are searching for your pages online.

On-page SEO

On-page SEO efforts include everything you do on the pages of your site that a user can interact with. From changing titles to updating content, this work can serve a dual purpose of improving your SEO efforts as well as your overall product and user experience.

Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO is any SEO that isn’t controlled by your page, like backlinks. If you have read up on search algorithms and ranking signals, you already know the value of external links. Links to your site are one of the top 3ranking signals and there isn’t much you will be able to achieve if your site never gets cited on the web. While a site with absolutely no links to it can still be great, ranking for highly competitive terms is highly unlikely without good off-page SEO work.

Technical SEO

All the small details of your backend systems can have an effect on how your site performs. Your technology stack can make accessibility to your site by search engine bots nearly impossible. Technical SEO can hence make or break all of your ROI if configured poorly.

Why Does SEO Matter For ROI?

When done correctly and consistently, SEO can have a huge impact on your business’s bottom line. SEO directly contributes to the size and quality of traffic to your website, the ease and amount of engagement with your content, as well as your ranking and brand visibility.

On top of all this, SEO can drive trust in your brand’s credibility and authority, affect the efficiency of your ad performance and customer care departments, and ultimately lead the sustainability of your online strategy.

Below we breakdown the revenue streams SEO can impact, and exactly how they contribute to your business.

Traffic

As the first step before conversion, traffic is an important metric. The number one goal of SEO is to drive qualified traffic to your website in order to drive conversions.

Improved optimization leads to better ranking on SERPs, which ultimately generates traffic to your website. But traffic alone is not enough. How you retain, engage and convert that traffic is what will ultimately affect your bottom line.

Engagement

Once you have visitors to your website, you’ll need to engage them in order to convert. The user experience is a huge factor in search engine optimization, which focuses on making the engagement with your website as enjoyable and efficient as possible.

It’s important to know that while a conversion is an engagement, not all engagements are conversions. Engagements, or micro-conversions, can include browsing your website, reading or watching content, filling in forms, and clicking on call-to-actions. Some if not all of these engagements can lead to conversions, so it’s of utmost importance to ensure this engagement is smooth, easy and enjoyable in order to lead to revenue in the future.

Visibility

Search Engine Optimization focuses on optimizing for Organic Search. This means it directly impacts your visibility on SERPs, which gives you an idea of how well your site is performing in Organic Search results. Visibility directly impacts traffic. If a customer can’t find your website or your content, they can’t engage with it, which means they can’t convert — or worse, they’ll convert with competitors who can be found.

“The best place to hide a dead body is the second page of Google search.” – Anonymous

Trust

Website authority is one of the most important factors for ranking. Backlinking, or links from other websites to yours, tell search engines that your content is trusted by other sources, building authority.

While there are various strategies and techniques for generating authoritative backlinks, it’s essential to remember that it starts with your content being good enough to link to. Good, linkable content, builds trust with search engines as well as the users who ultimately engage with it.

Efficiency

SEO, or rather the impact SEO can make, can generate huge efficiencies for various other marketing efforts and departments. For example, while content like FAQ pages are great for ranking and visibility, they’re also helpful for customer care departments. By solving the solution online, there’s less need to speak to representatives, easing the call load and driving better staff efficiencies.

Sustainability

As previously mentioned, SEO is a long-term strategy rather than a one-off campaign. Algorithms are forever updating, making it important to always stay ahead of search engine optimization.

The SEO cycle starts with identifying issues and solutions to achieve business goals, moves to implementing those solutions and measuring their effectiveness, and ends with reviewing the strategy and starting the cycle again. An effective SEO process that continues to test, learn and evolve leads to sustainable, measurable ROI.

Types of ROI

“ROI” means many things to many people, organizations, and companies.

So let’s start with some basic definitions that will lay the groundwork for how ROI is generally defined:

Return On Investment is a method of determining the efficiency of an overall investment. Typically, it is a way for investors, marketers, and SEOs to determine whether they are receiving enough gain to continue investing in a particular project or strategy.

ROI is essentially ambivalent when it comes to total profit. Rather than focusing on how much was made, ROI focuses on the profit a marketing effort produced compared to the amount invested in the effort.

There are two types of ROI: anticipated and actual. Let’s breakdown the differences:

Anticipated ROI, or projected ROI, is an estimate of the return that will be generated from the investment. This is why projecting SEO ROI is so important. It not only provides the anticipated ROI, but helps companies understand what they can expect to achieve from SEO efforts, as well as how much they need to spend in order to expect results.

Actual ROI is the actual return generated, minus the initial investment spent. This is calculated once the campaign or agreed-upon time period has ended and results are measured and reported. The actual ROI is compared to the anticipated ROI to determine whether goals were met or exceeded, and will have an influence on whether further investments are made in SEO.

How Does SEO Contribute To ROI?

When it comes to calculating the return on investment, “investment” is the easy part of the calculation. Working out the “return”, however, depends on what goals and objectives are important enough to denote value.

These goals and objectives will be unique to every company, brand, line of business, platform, digital asset, user, and so on. Every revenue-driving action needs to be identified, assigned value and tracked in order to calculate ROI, which is one of the reasons why calculating SEO ROI can be so complicated.

Identifying these key value indicators are important for accurate calculations, but there are a few main revenue drivers every SEO strategy should focus on:

• Increasing traffic

• Driving qualified traffic

• Improving UX

• Generating more consumer touch points

• Improving ad performance

• Increasing conversions

Increasing traffic

SEO’s main focus is to ensure your site is visible on SERPs, this visibility is what contributes directly to increasing traffic. And while traffic alone isn’t enough to generate revenue, it is the first step towards creating conversions that contribute to the bottom line. With 67.6% of all clicks going to the first five organic results on Google, more than half of all traffic is going to those who invest in SEO.

Driving qualified traffic

Many assume that traffic is a quantity approach, but when SEO is done with revenue in mind, it’s focus should be on quality. Optimizing for search doesn’t mean optimizing for traffic. The focus is on targeting qualified traffic. That means tailoring content, design and UX on both your website and the SERPs to attract and engage audiences most likely to convert and contribute to revenue.

Improving UX

Another misconception some may have about SEO is that the optimization only extends to what users are seeing on SERPs. This assumption isn’t only incorrect, it’s damaging to potential revenue. Search engine optimization extends to the entire online experience, and that includes your website user experience (UX). Good SEO is good UX, and a positive user experience improves conversion rates by up to 400%.

Generating more consumer touch points

With so much information and so many options available today, it’s rare for a consumer to find and convert on a first visit. The modern consumer will most likely go through multiple touch points before making a purchase which is why so many companies invest in omnichannel marketing in order to take advantage of multiple touch points.

SEO is one of the most advantageous tools for increasing consumer touch points and thereby driving revenue. Many aspects of good SEO improve consumer touch points that extend beyond just Organic traffic. In fact, content creation, link building, and site UX all affect how users interact with the brand and are not just SEO best practices.

Improving ad performance

In terms of performance, SEO is often overlooked by paid advertising, but did you know SEO can improve the performance of that advertising?

Pay-per-click advertising can be hugely cost effective as it only charges you for actual clicks on that advertisement, which means clicks to your website. But once that ad’s been clicked, you’ve been charged, regardless of whether a consumer stays on your website or converts. SEO is what will ultimately keep users on site and drive them to conversion, ensuring money spent on clicks doesn’t go to waste.

Can SEO Save Money?

SEO ROI is usually exclusively focused on the revenue it can produce, but when done well, SEO also has the ability to reduce costs and save investments made elsewhere. Reducing costs on customer care, sales, customer churn, and even advertising are just some of the areas SEO can assist in reducing expenses.

Reduced costs on customer care and sales

For improved visibility and user experience, including clear, keyword-rich customer care and sales content on-site is an SEO must. With the introduction of informative content like FAQs, how-to’s, detailed product descriptions, and after-sales guidance comes increased visibility as well as a bonus result: reduced costs. By creating this content to achieve SEO goals, customers are also able to find answers and guidance to questions that would usually be handled by customer care or sales teams. This availability of information and improved service reduces the need for extensive customer care and sales departments, thereby reducing costs.

Reduces ad costs

Paid advertising relies on targeting audiences, keywords and intentions. Investing in an effective SEO strategy and plan should mean the foundation of this work has already been done, saving money before a cent has been spent on a paid ad. Additionally, research indicates that paid ads targeting keywords that already have an organic presence outperform those without any established organic visibility, almost halving the cost per click.

Reduces customer churn

SEO is a great way to make your website visible to new audiences and potential customers, but the strategies behind search engine optimization also work to retain customers and reduce churn. Being visible on search, 15 featuring in snippets, and keeping visitors engaged and returning through the use of strong content and a good user experience are all tools for improving customer retention. And while many may be looking to attract new customers rather than focus on those that already exist, research shows that not only is it cheaper to retain a customer than it is to attain a new one, increasing customer retention by only 5% can correlate to an increase in profits by up to 95%.

What every good SEO strategy needs

Whether it’s new information or it’s always been clear to you, SEO is undoubtedly worth the investment. The next step is understanding how to implement good SEO. While the steps needed to optimize your particular asset will depend on a multitude of unique factors, strategic planning, content strategy, technical development, planned promotion, measurement, optimization and repetition should form the foundation of every good SEO strategy.

Strategic planning

Effective SEO needs a strategic plan in order to deliver a return on investment. Research, audits, analysis, and reporting are all part of this phase and should result in a few key deliverables:

• Audience report defining the audience personas, user journeys, and market opportunities.

• Competitive analysis of your closest competitors, how they’re performing, and actionable insights on how to outperform them in Organic channels.

• Keyword research identifies and outlines opportunities for improved content, ranking and visibility.

Content strategy

Content that improves visibility, drives engagement and leads to conversion requires strategy. In order to contribute to revenue, an adequate content strategy should include auditing, planning and recommendations that lead to optimal content development and performance.

• Content audit of existing assets to determine qualitative and quantitative performance and recommend improvements in order to reach business goals and drive ROI.

• Content plan detailing cross-channel strategy for content development, maintenance and governance.

• Content recommendations based on the direction given by the content plan on any content in need of SEO improvements.

“Better content is outweighing more content.” – Rand Fishkin, Moz Co-Founder

Technical development

Technical SEO is what ensures websites are crawlable, indexable and optimized to appear on SERPs. Audits, recommendations and implementations form part of the technical phase of an effective SEO strategy.

• SEO site audit and implementation of technical, content, linking and page-speed issues impeding visibility.

• Technical recommendations detailing technical specifications to ensure the visibility of web properties in organic search and social media.

• Implementation audit cataloguing the progress of technical and content recommendation implementations.

Planned promotion

SEO doesn’t have to work on its own in order to reach the full potential of business goals. SEO can do a lot to identify, optimize and enhance tools and channels for promoting your brand and content. These can take the form of:

• Content promotion through organic marketing strategies such as influencer outreach.

• Link building plans to reach out to third party websites and drive authoritative, high quality backlinks.

Measurement

Measurement is ultimately what identifies how well SEO performed and whether a return was made on investment. In order to measure accurately and ensure everything is being done to meet KPIs, measurement needs to be planned, performed regularly, and presented to stakeholders with enough power to authorize any changes needed to meet goals. Some important measurement outputs include:

• Measurement plan outlining the strategy for measuring key performance indicators and how these map back to business goals.

• Reporting regularly to review performance metrics defined in the measurement plan.

• Performance reviews with key stakeholders to ensure strategies and plans can continue at the pace required to generate ROI.

Optimization

While all steps up to this point have been done with optimization in mind, SEO is not a one-off solution. Continued optimization is driven by measurement and analysis, and is what ensures SEO continues to drive results and meet updated algorithms. This can include:

• Conversion rate optimization tests design and messaging changes to improve a site’s ability to meet business objectives.

• Media optimization to capitalize on the synergistic effects of using both paid and organic marketing together.

Repeating the process

All content, technology and media should continue to be planned, developed, implemented, tested, measured, and optimized. SEO is continuously shifting and evolving, and so are consumer needs and business goals. In order to meet those goals, drive results and generate an optimal return on investment, SEO needs to be assessed and actioned regularly.

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