Building Your Business Case for Greater SEO Investment

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Search engine optimization continues to be shrouded in mystery, particularly for small and midsize businesses that have not invested in it historically.

Enterprises that don’t have much in the way of organic (non-paid) search engine traffic have an uphill battle and should be focusing their efforts on content production and community building (see page 37 for one idea). But those blessed by the search engines with even modest levels of unpaid (i.e. natural or organic) traffic can get even more traffic and further separate themselves from the competition by increasing their investment in traditional search engine optimization efforts.

However, that’s not always an easy sell to those in charge.

One of the misconceptions about search engine optimization is that it’s free. That is a problem that frequently influences the people within an organization who control budgets, leading them simply to not invest and set aside an appropriate budget. In reality, however, nothing could be further from the truth. The reason is that SEO is not one single activity but a culmination of processes, skills and techniques — and people — that must work in perfect harmony in order for an SEO campaign to be effective. When more individuals and more resources are involved, as any business owner can tell you, the more something will cost. Such is the issue with SEO today.

The problem stems, at least in part, from the metrics that search engine optimization professionals have used in the past to indicate success or failure. Page-specific rank positions on search results pages were once the standard means by which you could show the value proposition of SEO, but over time the industry has learned that first-place rankings — particularly on obscure search terms — don’t always equate to conversions and revenue. The same issue applies for using traffic metrics alone (e.g. unique visits) as an indicator of SEO success, when a high volume of traffic does not necessarily always equate to a high volume of high-converting traffic.

But when those that hold the key to greater investment in SEO see that certain keyword ranks (and improvements to them) equate to some measurable indicator of business performance, revenue, for example, you are all but guaranteed that SEO will have more attention and investment paid to it — financial and otherwise. So, if you’re now in the process of making the business case for a greater investment in search engine optimization, consider taking a different data-driven approach and you’ll find your coffers filled to the brim to use at your own discretion.

In order to properly make the case for a more significant SEO investment, you will first need to understand the marketing environment of the enterprise. Without understanding what constitutes a conversion (and further, how they should be prioritized), what the ideal or effective cost per sale for each product is, and yes, even further towards being able to track and analyze performance as related to conversions and revenue, you’re essentially flying blind. Move forward without this information at your own peril.

If there is one takeaway from this article, let it be this: The key to securing greater investment for the purpose of SEO is in knowing the value of every visitor that arrives from an organic search. What you are effectively doing is calculating the revenue, the actual dollar value, of search engine optimization efforts. If the paid search community has done anything well, it is in their ability to understand what a visitor is worth. They do this by participating in a market where the value is defined for them in the bid prices they pay.

Start there. If your enterprise is currently engaged in paid search advertising, simply use the cost per visitor values you already know as a baseline. For example, if you can show that on average a paid search visitor costs $0.50 and results in 100 conversions, but for the same number of conversions a visitor from an organic listing costs just $0.35, you’re building a very strong case.

Those controlling budgets want one thing — return. When you can apply monetary value to organic traffic as you can with paid search advertising spend, people will not only sit up and pay attention, they’ll smile when doing it and start writing checks for SEO.

Also Read: In-House SEO and Website Migration

There’s much to know about website migration from an SEO perspective, including merging domains, changing URLs, the myriad CMS requirements and lots more. WM interviewed Jessica Bowman, CEO of SEO in House, on this topic in advance of her recent SES New York Conference presentation. 

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