It’s quite common to come across obituaries of SEO Marketing which proclaim that the practice is dead.
The age of social media and the prevalence of other digital marketing methods, forces people to ask if paying for Search Engine Optimisation is really worth the investment.
To do this, it’s imperative for us to translate traffic, visitors and conversions into hard numbers or revenue, to quantify the process of SEO in monetary terms.
How To Measure SEO Value
Accurately measuring the value of SEO has been somewhat problematic since the very first days of search engine optimisation due to several factors.
Most SEO agencies measure the value of SEO using core metrics of traffic and conversions.
Before quoting a price, agencies collect data from potential clients about their current website traffic along with the number of sales and conversions from this traffic.
This provides an average conversion rate for the site.
The quoted price for an SEO campaign factors in data about traffic and conversions plus sales, to provide a quantifiable ROI.
Most businesses running SEO campaigns have likely experienced a couple of commonplace problems.
The first problem was the time required to achieve results from an SEO campaign. With ever-increasing competition within organic listings, in certain instances it can take time to see tangible results.
SEO is therefore an investment in the long-term health of your website. This does make quantifying ROI hard, when performance is often reviewed at 4 week intervals, comparing each month to the prior year.
The second problem concerns conversion as very often an SEO campaign would not lead to an increase in the conversion rate. Overall, whilst traffic numbers may increase, SEO in isolation does not improve a site’s conversion metrics.
Overall, SEO isn’t an exact science, as say, PPC could be considered. There are far more variables to consider.
SEO vs PPC
SEO vs PPC is an age-old debate both methods of marketing closely associated with Google search.
SEO and PPC are entirely different forms of marketing and comparing these two would be comparing apples with oranges. The main differences is how traffic is obtained and where listings appear on the search results pages.
Many marketers turn to PPC or pay-per-click advertising to achieve fast results, but all research points out that PPC is not as effective for building your brand as SEO.
Strong organic rankings does more to show the size and authority of your brand than can be achieved through PPC.
Perhaps this has to do with the perception that organic search results are trusted by searchers and search engines which is not the case with PPC ads which can be bought using Google’s AdWords platform.
SEO Expert Rand Fishkin pointed out in the Brighton SEO conference in 2018 that the click-through rate of organic search results is an eye-popping 52.96% which is much higher than the click through rate of 3.49% for PPC ads.
So, it should be evident that no serious brand or marketeer can ignore SEO. At least, not over the long-term.
Direct Advertising vs Brand Marketing
It’s important to understand the difference between direct marketing and brand marketing as this will offer us further insights into SEO and PPC.
Direct advertising as the name suggests is any type of marketing which involves a call to action and is often a paid form of marketing.
In the case of direct advertising, a marketer pays someone to run his ad on their website, ad network, newspaper, or magazine.
PPC is a form of direct advertising as a marketer pays to run an advert on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Brand marketing is the opposite of direct advertising, and it mainly consists of all the activities which a business engages in to promote their brands such as blog posts, content marketing, podcast, organic social media, and PR.
SEO is primarily a form of brand marketing.
A brand is intangible, and so is the case with brand marketing as there is no established way to measure the ROI of your brand marketing efforts.
Even many veteran marketers are unaware of this distinction between PPC and SEO because they don’t realise that direct advertising is entirely different than brand marketing.
Brand marketing is more about telling the story of your business and establishing yourself as a reputed business in the eyes of your customers.
Once a customer is aware of your brand, he or she will surely consider your products/services whenever the need arises.
Brand marketing, unlike direct advertising, may not lead to a sale immediately, but it will surely be more beneficial for your business in the long run.
The same is true for SEO as it may not lead to an immediate sale, but higher rankings on SERPs will inevitably lead to more revenue and profits over the long term.
Does Direct Advertising Increase Sales?
There is no guarantee that direct advertising will generate more sales or profits.
There are several factors which we must consider such as the click-through-rate (CTR) of paid ads and the conversion rate of visitors who visit your website or landing page after clicking on your PPC adverts.
As we mentioned earlier, CTR for PPC ads is often as little 3.49% which essentially means that only 34.9 people out of 1000 who see this ad will click on it.
Marketers have long been aware of ad blindness. Due to the explosion in the number of ads consumers have developed an indifference to paid ads and most people avoid them at all costs unless they are interested in the product being sold via a PPC ad.
Another factor which we need to consider for the viability of PPC ads is their high cost as even a low priced PPC campaign can run into thousands of dollars every month.
Large companies with massive marketing and advertising budgets may benefit from PPC ads, but small and mid-sized businesses stand no chance as the extremely low CTR and conversion rates make it impossible to break-even with AdWords on a more limited budget.
SEO Return On Investment
Hopefully, by now, you will have an idea that measuring SEO ROI or return on investment is a bit different than measuring the ROI of an AdWords PPC campaign.
Essentially because they are two completely different mediums.
PPC is a form of direct advertising which can be easily measured using the standard marketing and financial metrics, while SEO is a form of brand marketing which makes measuring its ROI difficult, if not impossible.
Although you can measure the ROI of SEO by using SEO tools, you will need a powerful marketing automation or CRM software which can track each lead your SEO efforts generate.
Web analytics are far more advanced today than was the case a decade ago and now you can easily track almost everything about your traffic, visitors, sales, and conversions.
So, measuring the ROI of SEO is possible if you use the right tools and are willing to put in the effort required.
Can SEO Help Increase Your Sales?
SEO, unlike PPC, leads to permanent results as if you follow Google best practices.
If you approach SEO the right way, you can gain a high rank on SERP and you may even be able to stay on the first page of Google for months or years to come for your target keywords.
PPC, on the other hand, will benefit you only if you are running your ad campaign or in other words only as long as your budget lasts.
A well-executed SEO campaign will lead to a higher rank on SERPs which will increase the number of organic visitors you get regularly.
The best part of all this is the fact that this will be targeted traffic as SEO remains by far the best medium to get visitors who are already searching for your products/services.
Organic search visitors tend to have a higher conversion rate and are more likely to buy from you as compared to visitors who may arrive at your site via other channels. A significant increase in the number of organic search visitors will automatically increase the sales and will positively impact your bottom-line.
Is paying for SEO is worth it?
Considering all the points we’ve discussed above, it becomes clear that PPC is not a substitute for SEO.
Most marketers overlook the fact that despite the longer lead-times, SEO remains one of the most effective marketing strategies available to any business.
It can be concluded that SEO is worth paying for, although how much you should pay for SEO is a tricky question to answer.
This largely depends upon your own current position, budget, and ambitions for the business.