How to Practice SEO and Accomplish a Strong ROI

Article by | December 22, 2021 Performance and Measurement, SEO

How well are you measuring and reporting on the Return on Investment (ROI) from all of your digital marketing efforts?

If you’re struggling, you’re not alone. While many marketers and analysts know that data gathering and attribution can be difficult, the latest research from leading marketing data analytics platform Adverity, shows that at the C-level, 54% of CMOs have trouble with wrangling the data to illustrate ROI or calculate it.

Whether you are a part of the marketing community supporting or implementing SEO, looking for more education, or part of the 54% looking to calculate ROI, this blog post will help you find a clear path to making SEO work for you.

Educating Key Stakeholders

If you’re a CMO or key stakeholder for your company and you’re confused by the SEO or organic elements of digital marketing, keep reading. If you are working on SEO inside your company, it’s incumbent upon you to train and educate the rest of your team.

Yes, SEO work and analysis include difficult math, algorithms, technology, and more. While it’s not magic or brain surgery, it may not be your senior management’s cup of tea. They are smart people. You can bring them on board. Always remember: at the end of the day, SEO is not just about the numbers, it is really about building relationships and supporting those relationships with the data. You can all agree that building relationships is the lifeblood of what you do. Often CMOs work closely with CIOs and other analysts to support demand generation programs with data and insights, both of which inform ROI. Based on a report by the CMO Council, 75% Of CMOs & CIOs have “very effective” relationships.

A basic understanding of SEO leads to clarity and insight. Once you know what you’re tracking, you can see trends. Reports will not offer just numbers, but also insight into your funnel. They will answer questions like:

  • Who are these customers?
  • Where did they come from?
  • Why did they visit our site?
  • What questions can we answer for them?

Having these answers will help guide your decision-making process. Data without context may lead you astray so combining data with insights (context) helps ensure your plans are not just data-driven, but audience — user/buyer — informed.

Defining the Scope of Your SEO

When discovering which keywords to use throughout your search engine marketing (SEM) strategy, you need to uncover the keywords’ value for the potential customer and your company. When we put a dollar figure next to a keyword for one of our clients, we want everyone to understand why this number is important. Remember, some keywords get lots of search volume but may not convert for your purposes. Others are searched less but may be more likely to generate one or two new customers that are looking exactly for your solution. Depending on the revenue you generate with new business and the revenue generated over the lifespan of a client, one or two digital conversions may justify your digital spend for the month, quarter, or year.

Yes, we all want volume, but volume is relative. It is directly proportionate to your niche. You’re not selling cheeseburgers. You’re selling a customized, highly sophisticated technological solution for a niche market. Find the keywords that make up the volume within your niche bucket, not general keywords that fill the digital ocean.

The proper keyword selection that holds relevancy combined with search terms garnering industry-related volume connects the dots between you and your potential customers.

Tracking Your Efforts

Golden Spiral believes in the power of the key performance indicator (KPI). In short, a goal is your destination paired with a deadline—driving from St. Louis to Memphis by 2 p.m., Tuesday. It’s a binary matter; did you get there or not? A KPI answers, “how do you know you’re making the right amount of progress?” One KPI for this journey may be tracking average miles per hour. If you leave at 9 a.m., your KPI would be 56.8 MPH (or 64 to give yourself room for a bathroom break).

What are your marketing goals for this quarter? Have you determined your KPIs for each one? If not, take some time to create the measuring stick for your KPIs. A starting place for KPI writing will be your month-over-month or year-over-year statistics.

Once you have team buy-in on the KPI language, create a custom dashboard to report on each one at a frequency your team needs. We recommend weekly or monthly.

Remember, different KPIs require different SEO strategies and will be measured by different metrics. For example, if you are building brand awareness, your KPIs and efforts will focus on impressions, social listening, and social awareness as well as inbound links from multiple resources. If you are concerned primarily with gaining a certain number of new customers in the next six months, the KPI, the SEO work, and the measurements will be radically different. You’ll be tracking click-throughs from email and display ads, form conversions, and travel through the buyer’s journey.

Attributing the Results

Attribution can be a sticking place for many companies. Who does the lead belong to? Who gets credit for the ultimate sale?

There are many methods and philosophies about attribution. We believe in the power of team. Everyone is responsible for nurturing and converting each lead. The more touches you have with a potential client, the better chance you have of converting that client. Don’t work against yourself between marketing and sales. The ultimate goal is new business. As the old adage made famous by John F. Kennedy says, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” In our opinion, the simplest and least contentious plan is an even distribution of credit called linear attribution. For every touch, you give some amount of attribution.

Making ROI Easier to Measure

SEO measurement is easiest with a solid foundation, goals and corresponding KPIs are your bedrock. There are many free and paid mechanisms to help you track and report SEO. Google Search Console and Google Analytics are free. Other sources like Raven and SEMrush have paid components.

We start by measuring dollars spent with paid search. You can concretely track what you’re doing from a paid standpoint. With paid media, you are investing in your impressions and paying for click on ad or digital assets. Ideally, potential buyers travel through the funnel. In terms of search, impressions becomes, clicks, clicks become website users, users become leads, leads become customers. It’s straightforward. Using Google’s tools, you can determine how much it costs for every click for a certain keyword.

For every X dollars you spend, you receive Y visits/calls/completed forms. It costs Z per Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL).

Our example company, Cyclometricology invests $2,000 per month in paid efforts

  • They employ 20 keywords
  • Those keywords receive a total of 10,000 combined impressions.
  • Those keywords’ ads receive a total of 400 clicks per month.
  • The investment in each keyword equals $100 dollars per month.

Based on this example:

  • The cost per thousand (CPM) impressions is $200.
  • The cost per click (CPC) is $5.00.
  • The click-through rate (CTR) is 4%.

Baselines vary in the B2B space, but we’ve seen CPCs average between $6 and $15. A 4% CTR is the average across several industries.

This example focuses specifically on actual click-throughs. Most of the time, businesses combine a click campaign with an exposure or brand awareness campaign. They want to increase the number of users who know who they are and what they do.

As you determine the value of marketing, never forget that KPIs are leading to the goal of new clients, and should be where you focus, only where you evaluate. Once a key factor to track is the marketing channel not only as first or last touch, but along the lifetime of a new client. According to CMO Survey, 1 in 5 CMOs almost never measure customer lifetime value, which may mean ignoring a vital channel feeding or driving activity in your funnel that is valuable, before or after the lead comes in.

SEO Reporting Best Practices

With our clients, we take an iceberg approach to reporting. We prepare a slide deck or PDF report with many pages. On the top page, we use clear and concise examples. Here we list the top five performing keywords and their conversions from each avenue: organic and paid. I outline how much we spent per keyword and the number of attributable conversions per keyword. We close this page with:

The Paid ROI is $X per $Y spent.

If our internal leadership or our client’s key stakeholders want to ask deeper questions, we’re ready. We can go below the waterline to the rest of the iceberg. We have all the supporting reports they could want.

Key Takeaway

Determining ROI for SEO is essential to your future growth. It’s not simple, but you can make it easier. SEO is built on human nature, technology, and iron-clad marketing principles. Navigating those matters takes time.

The mission of an SEO expert—whether in your company or at the agency you’ve hired—is to take the mystery out of what’s behind the digital curtain and translate data quickly into meaningful insights to inform the overall strategy.

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