Should you Invest in Search Engine Optimization?
Q: Should you invest in Search Engine Optimization?
A: (Hint… Let the numbers tell you)
If you were to invest in a stock portfolio, would you want to know what it cost and the expected ROI? Of course you would! The same rules apply when deciding to invest in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You should know the cost and what return to expect before investing in it.
But how can you possibly know this if you’ve never invested in SEO before?
Despite a lack of prior SEO investment, you probably already have some organic traffic flowing to your website. The first step will be to determine whether this traffic is generating conversions. And to know that you must set up goals in your analytics. Goals are the same thing as conversions, and it just means that a someone took an action on your website that’s important for your business.
Such actions could include:
- Reach a particular page
- Fill out a form
- Spend time on a page
- Watch a video
- Download a PDF
Once you have goals set up, you can easily tell if organic traffic (or SEO) is something worth investing in.
In the example above, organic traffic has generated 363 conversions out of 1,014 total (or 37%). How much is that in revenue?
Let’s say that 5% of the 363 converted visitors (or 18) end up buying the product or service, and that each sale generates $1,000 in revenue for this business. This means $18,000 (18 x $1,000) from SEO.
Let’s also say they have never invested in SEO and all this traffic was built over time organically. According to these numbers, SEO is a good source of traffic for them and they should find ways to grow traffic within this channel.
Q: So, how much would it cost to invest in SEO?
A: Since Google’s entire system is based on keywords, and each keyword has a different number of searches per month, SEO agencies usually charge a fee depending on the number of keywords you want invest in to get higher rankings.
- 10 keywords for $5,000
- 15 keywords for $7,000
- 20 keywords for $8,500
But because search engines guard their search algorithms very carefully and regularly update and change those algorithms, it’s impossible for these agencies to guarantee the impact on search engine results.
Usually they will say that their goal is to get the client’s website on the first page for the chosen keywords, but still, they can’t guarantee visitors will visit or spend time on your site.
Q: So, what factors make your site rank higher even though the first page is not guaranteed?
A: Search Engine Optimization has two parts: On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO.
On-Page SEO is how well your website is organized based on Google’s published best practices, these best practices contain things like:
- Creating unique and accurate page titles
- Making use of the “description” meta tag
- Improving the structure of your URLs
- Making your site easier to navigate
- Offering quality content and services
And then there is Google’s most important piece of advice, “you should base your optimization first and foremost on what’s best for the visitors of your site.” It’s a great concept, but easier said than done. In order to know what is best for the visitors of your site you have to test, analyze and optimize continuously.
Off-Page SEO is how popular your site is from Google’s perspective, and they measure that by the amount of quality links (websites with a good reputation) that point (link) to your site.
In a nutshell, we can compare Off-Page SEO to a candidate running a campaign. Your website is the candidate, and the other sites are the voters. The more votes you get from these voters (links pointing to your site), the higher your chances are to land that first position in Google’s organic search results.
It is a hard battle and even when you win, paid search ads will show up above these organic results.
Q: How important is SEO vs. Paid Search ads?
A: To answer this question, we can go back to the stock example: would you put all your investment money in only one basket? Of course not!
It’s the same thing with SEO and paid search. Both can fluctuate a lot and work very well for a while, then suddenly turn south and start plummeting in performance. We’ve seen it many times before.
SEO can suddenly be affected whenever Google updates its algorithm, and a website that was getting 10,000 visitors a month from organic traffic may get just 500 visitors a month.
Paid search can see a drastic performance swing because an avalanche of advertisers began to use your search terms and the cost per click went from $1 to $10.
Thus, it’s never a good idea to rely solely on either channel. And besides that, SEO is more of a long-term strategy, while Paid Search offers more of an instant gratification.
Q: How long does it take to achieve first position if I invest in SEO?
A: As we mentioned before, nobody can guarantee you will ever achieve the first position in the organic search results. With that said, you should expect to start seeing meaningful results within three to six months.
A: Google takes its time to reward websites with “free traffic.” After all, no candidate just shows up an instantly gets your vote – they have to work for it. Organic traffic builds over time, only after you’ve provided a lot of useful information, created relationships, influenced people and naturally (or should we say organically?) improved your reputation.
Paid Search, on the other hand, is a short-term strategy that can start to generate traffic to your website the same day you decide to invest in it.
Q: What should you do next?
A: You should start by reviewing the traffic that is currently coming to your website and examining it to see what channels are driving those site visits. If you can’t tell these metrics yet, then you probably need to start by implementing analytics tracking on your site so you can start measuring.