SEO, Thought Leaders

How to Understand the ROI of an SEO Campaign

May 14, 2020

by Zara Smith

Senior Marketing Executive

To run a successful SEO campaign, you need to understand how ROI works. Your campaign will be aided by setting goals specific to your company, tracking conversions, and doing the necessary math.

Understanding the ROI of an SEO campaign is vital, as it helps you to determine what is going well and what needs to be changed for this long-term digital marketing strategy. Don’t settle for wishy-washy results, understand the value of your SEO by following these steps to determine your ROI.  

When setting out to start an SEO campaign or hire an SEO company to do so, there is often the question of ROI. How can you determine the value of your efforts? Unlike other marketing channels, there isn’t a direct formula for putting X amount of money in and achieving Y return. 

But, there could be. 

If you have a set SEO budget, there is no reason why you can’t determine the ROI from this after a set period. 

How to Understand the ROI of an SEO Campaign

  1. Set specific goals
  2. Begin conversion tracking
  3. Do the work
  4. Do the math

1. Set Specific Goals 

First things first, every SEO campaign needs to set achievable goals. Without a goal, you will never know whether the ROI of your campaigns have been achieved or not. 

For example, if you invest $500 into an SEO campaign every month then your goal will be (at first) to exceed this investment. Eventually, every month you will want to see your SEO investment doubled, tripled and so on as the ROI grows. If you have this goal in mind then you will be able to understand instantly whether or not your campaigns are meeting this first initial hurdle. 

With an initial goal set, you can move on to tracking conversions. 

2. Begin Conversion Tracking 

Do this BEFORE you start your SEO work. 

If you set up conversions once your SEO work is active unless conversions are already being tracked you will have difficulty determining the before and after. How many of the conversions are down to your SEO work and therefore an ROI thereof? It’s impossible to know and therefore it’s vital to have this established pre-campaign. 

Implementing your conversion tracking can take on two forms, depending on the type of business you have. 

E-Commerce vs. Lead Conversion 

When you are setting up goals in Google Analytics there are two ways to do it. One for e-commerce-based conversions (purchasing items) and one for lead-based conversions (often submitting a site contact form). 

For ROI purposes, determining the value of an item purchased or the customer paying outright for a service is often much easier. However, in the case of lead-based business, you may have to set up your own value per conversion. 

Here, we have set up a basic contact page goal. This is where someone fills out the site contact form and is sent to a specific ‘/thank-you/’ page. The URL then becomes the destination marker for Google Analytics to track the goal (as in the above screenshot).

goal setup for ecommerce roi

When setting up the goal we can also add a value to the page, as you can see in the screenshot this can be toggled both off and on. Here we have determined the value of our new goal at $10. 

Determining the actual value per conversion is wholly dependent on your business. However, it becomes harder to determine this if the value of leads on the same page is often night and day in difference.

For example, if one lead equals a $1,000 monthly retainer while another results in a $250 one-off consultation. So, for that reason, separating potential leads out onto different landing pages/goals can be the best strategy. 

But, either way, you will now have data regarding your site conversion rate, as well as the number of goals for lead-based business, and transactions/revenue for e-commerce purchases. 

And so, from this, you should be able to determine what your conversions were like pre-SEO campaigns and post-SEO campaigns. Giving you a set value or number in which to work out your ROI. 

3. Do the Work 

Now, you have your goals in place and tracking set up it is time to put your SEO plans into practice. This can encompass a variety of strategy and methods, but typically you could expect to employ a few of the following strategies: 

●    Keyword research - set your targets using Google Keyword Planner (pictured below), Ahrefs, or another alternative keyword device. 
●    On-page content optimization - implement your keywords on site. 
●    Technical SEO - optimizing site speed, robots.txt, crawlability, etc. of your site. 
●    Off-page SEO - build links relevant to your brand and goals. 

keyword research google ads

The details of your SEO campaigns will change depending on your strategy and goals. But, ideally, every SEO campaign that you complete or is completed on your behalf should include aspects of these four pillars. 

4. Do the Math 

Once you have goals in mind, conversion tracking in place and you have implemented the SEO, it’s time to wait. No, really. SEO can take some time to really benefit your site. 

Wait at least a month before changing your implementation completely. And then only do so if you see no change or benefit whatsoever. The fact is that over this period, you should be link building and continuing to produce off-page results to bolster your on-page optimization. 

The benefit of which your rankings may begin to reflect by the end of, say, for example, a 3-month period (most successful SEO campaigns begin to see results between three to six months, with long-term benefits over a year).

The math for determining your ROI is fairly simple from once you determine the profit. For example, if you pay $10 for SEO and make $100 in one month then your ROI is $90. This is a 9x return on the initial investment or a 900% gain. A simple example, but the basic principle which you can apply to your SEO campaigns at large (once you have determined your lead value). 

Ultimately, your ROI comes from the basic sum: 

(Profit - SEO Investment) / SEO Investment

However, if your SEO return pre-campaign was $50 and you invest $10 and return $100 then you may view the ROI differently. As although in principle it is the same, you do have to consider that you were making 50% of the revenue previous to the campaign and presumably would have continued to do so independent of the SEO investment. 

For this reason, it is always important to calculate your ROI from the profit made in addition to previous organic performance. In this way, you will be able to calculate an accurate ROI from your SEO campaign specifically. 

Tweak Your Campaigns for Better ROI 

And there you have it, a simple way to determine the ROI of your SEO campaigns from budget to results. 

If you have an ongoing campaign or are just about to start SEO, then this can be used to both determine the success and value of the campaign. More traffic isn’t always an indication of good SEO. You need to determine whether or not there has been an ROI. Otherwise, there is no actual value to the increase in traffic. If this is the case, then you need to change your SEO approach to attract traffic which is making you money. 

Once the initial SEO campaign has been completed, tweaks and adjustments for improved ROI is the continual forward path. SEO is never ‘complete’. You don’t simply get to position one in search engines and call it a day. 

For that reason, you should focus on continually improving both your rankings and ROI to ensure the best SEO possible for your business. 

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