The Business Case for SEO

It's interesting how potential clients have preconceived notions about which aspects of search engine marketing have the most value. In fact, they tend to fall into two camps that are 180° apart. The first camp believes completely in the value of pay-per-click marketing (PPC). It's easy to understand why. PPC provides immediate and measurable benefits. The ROI of PPC marketing is obvious. This group doesn't understand why it's necessary "to bother" doing SEO. The second camp believes the only way to go is SEO. Clicks are free and the branding benefits of high rankings have been well documented.

The right answer is that they are both valuable. Each has its benefits and when you can afford to, you should implement both.

Pay-per-Click

PPC makes sense if you want immediate benefits and like the idea of paying for performance. SEO provides branding benefits and longer-term will provide an ROI that is compelling. But unlike PPC, SEO revenue results aren't as directly measurable and manageable.

Pay per click (PPC) gives you the ability to have complete control over your search traffic. With PPC programs you select the keywords and write the listings. You control where you're listed and what the listing says. You decide what your budget is and can adjust your spend rate based on results or events (e.g. announcements, promotions).

By tracking results from a PPC campaign, you can build up a knowledge base with respect to your business, including which messages perform the best, which search terms have the best conversion rates, and what destination URL is best for specific users to land on. Over time, this knowledge can help you to improve and define your business.

One of the greatest attractions of PPC is the ability to easily track clicks and costs allowing you to understand your ROI from a specific marketing initiative. This gives you confidence to spend money and drive volume. You may have thought that spending $5,000 a month on a PPC campaign is way outside your budget, but once you measure the ROI, you may realize that it's well worth the investment.

Search Engine Optimization

So, if PPC is so great why bother with SEO? Basically, because you will be missing out on a large number of potential clicks. How large? A number of recent studies have demonstrated that there are still a lot of users that do not click on the "paid" listings but rather will search through the regular editorial search results. The accompanying chart shows that 60% of the search users prefer (some exclusively) organic over paid listings. The only way to get optimized (high) rankings in these regular editorial results is through an effective SEO program. In most cases, once you have good positioning in the regular search results, you will continue to receive "free" traffic. Again, based on data from a number of marketers the increase in traffic due to SEO averaged 73%. Consider search engine optimization the same as you would word of mouth advertising or public relations. It's exposure that comes with a very high degree of credibility and trust. Traffic coming from traditional search listings tends to have high conversion rates.

There's another advantage to traditional search listings. They are considered unbiased and non-commercial. Traditional search performs very well at certain points in the buying process. When consumers are gathering information about a purchase, they show a marked preference for traditional search listings. When they are ready to buy online, they seem to have less bias against paid placement listings and their likelihood to click on one of these listings increases.

The Dollars and Cents of SEO

Perhaps the most compelling reason not to exclude SEO from your online marketing strategy comes down to dollars and cents. In an attempt to quantify the business case for SEO I have gone back and done some analysis on three recent SEO engagements and the results they achieved. I chose ecommerce clients that we had optimized and reviewed their average sales before and after SEO was implemented. In two of the situations the only change made was the optimization of the site. In another the optimization occurred at the same time we implemented a PPC campaign. In the first two cases the store sales rose 64% and 75% after the SEO was implemented. In the third case the store revenue actually went up a staggering 169%, but if you back out the sales that were a result of the PPC campaign, the store revenue that could be attributed to SEO improved by 49%. In other words, the average improvement in store revenue that was apparently due to SEO was 62%.

Can we be sure that all of this was a result of SEO? No. There could have been product, seasonal and other effects that contributed. But I think it's safe to say that there was a significant increase that resulted directly from the SEO. The bottom line: search optimization has a real and measurable impact on traffic, conversions and revenue (or lead generation) improvement. Given that these clicks begin to approach "free" after amortizing the cost of SEO over time, the ROI for SEO is compelling. Added to the branding benefits no marketer or business owner should doubt the value of search engine optimization.

About the Author

Scott Smigler has been an evangelist for a serious, ROI-based focus on the online channel since he founded Exclusive Concepts (http://www.exclusiveconcepts.com) in 1997. Exclusive Concepts provides integrated online marketing strategies, Internet brand consulting, search engine marketing campaigns and results-oriented web sites for hundreds of clients that range in size from small ecommerce firms to public companies.

In The News:

How Can I Set Up an SEO Agency?  Search Engine Journal
How to Choose an E-commerce SEO Agency?  https://www.indianretailer.com/
SEO in 2020: Going Beyond Google  Search Engine Journal
What Is Enterprise SEO?  Search Engine Journal

Reality Check: A Straightforward Guide to Keywords and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Web site owners need to have realistic expectations when it... Read More

Google Contest - Nigritude Ultramarine

Search engine optimization experts are having fun with Google. Experts,... Read More

Writing SEO Copy ? 8 Steps to Success

We all know that the lion's share of web traffic... Read More

Have You Been Dropped By Yahoo?

Yahoo has fairly recently updated its guidelines. You can read... Read More

Search Engine Spam

Running an online business relies to a greater or lesser... Read More

The Great Search Engine War, Where Content is King

When search engines first appeared, they were simple affairs consisting... Read More

Utilizing Popular Directories as Free Link Sources

If you're a webmaster, you've probably spent almost as much... Read More

Are You Hung-Up on Page Rank and Back Links?

It's unfortunate that many website owners are so hung-up on... Read More

What All Top Google Websites Have in Common

While it is okay to admire and envy all those... Read More

Cracking the Google Code: Under the GoogleScope

Google's sweeping changes confirm the search giant has launched a... Read More

How Do I Submit My Site To Search Engines?

You've built up a good site, put in a lot... Read More

Google, Yahoo!, Pandoras Box And The Lottery

In the fall of 1990, the musical group Snap had... Read More

How To See What Pages Of Your Site Google Has In Its Index

There is a lag time between the indexing or updating... Read More

7 Steps to Highly Relevant, Search Engine Friendly, and People Useful Web Site Content

The task is to build a Content Rich Search Friendly... Read More

How MSN and Yahoo Sells Your Traffic

Yes, it really happens. Now you might find it hard... Read More

How to Get Non-stop Free Traffic to Your Website

Yet the simple truth is that without traffic a website... Read More

How To Get Number 1 Spot In Google, Every Time, Guaranteed

Woaah! Wait a minute. Before I exclusively reveal these insider... Read More

Which Search Engine Optimization Services to choose, Google OR Yahoo?

Search Engine Optimization is emerging as the most powerful form... Read More

Search Engine Optimization For Blogs

Blogging software is really a simple Content Management System (CMS)... Read More

PageRank and How It Gets Assigned

We know that each and every website page is assigned... Read More

Rock Your Rank With a Dynamite Text Link - Yahoo Directory Explodes Rankings

Last week a client called me excitedly exclaiming that their... Read More

How To Get Listed in Yahoo!

Getting listed in Yahoo! (The Very Top Search Engine/Index) is... Read More

Without Conversion Rates You Don’t Know If You’re Mickey Mouse Or Mickey Mantle

I couldn’t agree more with the headline of this article... Read More

Increase Your Link Popularity for Free

Among the many things you need to worry about for... Read More

The Search Doesnt End at Your Homepage

In a recent report for a new client, I wrote:... Read More