As with any business initiative, it’s crucial that you understand how to quantify the success of your search engine optimization efforts. Not only do you need to show leadership that your budget is generating tangible results, but you also need to calculate SEO’s return on investment for your own purposes. Consistent measurement of ROI can also help you identify weaknesses and shortcomings, and help you determine where your time (and money) should be directed.
But how exactly do you measure the ROI of SEO?
From an ROI perspective, the issues with SEO are similar to those with marketing. Namely, while there are certain fixed costs and returns, as a whole, the core goals of SEO are difficult to express in concrete numbers. Concepts like brand awareness and organic visibility are inherently abstract.
With that said, it is possible to at least approximate them.
SEO Metrics That Measure ROI
The first step in determining ROI is to figure out how much you’re spending on SEO. If you’ve hired a third-party agency, this is relatively easy to calculate. Just look at whatever you’re paying them.
If you’re managing SEO internally, things get a bit more complicated, and you’ll need to look at a few different factors.
- How much time your staff is spending on SEO. This includes developers, designers, marketing specialists, etc.
- How much per hour each staff member is paid, on average.
- Subscription costs for any tools or platforms you’re using to inform your SEO efforts.
With those numbers in mind, measure the following key performance indicators (KPIs) from the beginning of your SEO campaign to its end:
- Organic traffic. Self-explanatory. Traffic generated from the search engine results page (SERP).
- Bounce rate. The number of people who visit your site and leave without performing any actions. Can be paired with time on site to identify potential bottlenecks.
- Organic impressions. How many people have seen your site on the SERPs.
- Organic click-through rate. The number of users who clicked your site on the SERP, measured against total impressions.
- Pages per session. How many pages a user views, on average.
- Conversions. Here’s where things get a bit complicated, as there are multiple ways you might define conversions.
- New subscribers.
- Sign-ups for mailing lists/asset downloads.
- Social shares.
- Phone calls.
- Demo/proof of concept requests.
One way to monitor the above is through conversion tracking. Google allows you to define certain actions as conversions, while also assigning a dollar value to each. Although this is typically intended for Google Ads, it can easily be applied to your site.
Expressing the ROI of SEO
So, in light of the above, you can express the value of your SEO efforts in a few different ways:
- Percent increase/decrease. Applies to bounce rate, organic traffic, impressions, clickthrough, etc.
- Spend vs. Revenue. Specifically applies to conversions that involve monetary transactions.
- Volume. How much more traffic/how many more phone calls you’re receiving now versus when you started.