Focusing SEO with Basic ROI Analysis

The-Makegood_Chris_Tuleya_260The clicks from organic search are free; Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not.

Simply speaking, SEO is the process of identifying and capturing organic clicks based on the content found on your website. Interactive agencies tout organic search as a free way to capture additional traffic. While this may be the situation in an ideal scenario, it is not the norm. The effort required to develop and execute the content and site changes necessary to appear in the organic listings can quickly eliminate any efficiency a ‘free click’ brings. This begs the question: how should you determine the value of SEO and when does it make sense to pursue?

Define a strategy to ensure you focus on the right terms.

What keywords are you looking to begin showing up on? This is an important exercise that must be completed at the onset. It will allow you to focus your strategy and ensure that you prioritize your efforts, concentrating first on what is most realistically obtainable. By outlining the areas where you wish to appear, you will further identify pockets of opportunity and begin developing a framework that will guide the remainder of your SEO strategy.

Measure search volume to ensure you optimize for terms that people actually search.

Just like any game of odds, it is important to understand the size of the opportunity before you take the risk. Search is based on keywords that are entered by people, search makes people lazy. They tend to start their searches with broad terms and narrow their search down with more precise terms only after they don’t get what they’re looking for with their first search. Therefore the broadest of terms are likely the most searched upon. These will also be the hardest to rank high for due to the high number of competitive websites that appear.

Analyzing the size of the total opportunity can identify the keywords and categories where you have a greater likelihood of ranking high within the organic listings. Search engines are fickle robots that don’t consistently play by the same rules; what we thought was true yesterday about how they index and rank pages may not be true today. Focusing efforts and not wasting time chasing unobtainable rankings starts with understanding what the demand really is.

Perform an ROI analysis to prioritize your SEO efforts.

Once you have identified the target opportunity, it is important to determine if chasing SEO will bring a positive return to your business. SEO is not free. Therefore it makes sense to analyze it the same way you would any other channel.

Start with simple math:

  1. Project out the number of monthly clicks you could expect if you achieved a 1st page ranking. Take monthly searches and multiply by 2.5%.
  2. Estimate the cost-per-click if you were to buy the term via paid search. If you are not running a campaign, use the search engine tools to guide you.
  3. Assume a 6-month run before the engines want you to optimize again. If it is a highly competitive category you may need to update your content monthly or even weekly to maintain your position.

Everything listed above assumes that you can even rank for your target keywords in the first place.  The product of this basic analysis represents the maximum size of the investment you can make in SEO before it doesn’t pay out for your business and you are better off focusing elsewhere.

If you are not currently looking at your SEO efforts this way, you should be. It is easy to get caught up in driving free clicks, but it’s important to take a step back and first understand if it makes sense for your business.


This column was written by Chris Tuleya, Vice President, eDR, at Underscore Marketing, an independent media agency that contributes to The Makegood and creates and manages digital marketing programs.