Last I checked, SEO is rarely associated with the word sexy. For those of us working within SEO, we get excited when we discover new techniques to incorporate technical components of a client’s site. But for the rest of the population, the second you start to talk about the importance of backlinks in relation to improving the ranking of your site in search results is the same second you start to see their eyes gloss over.
One of the biggest frustrations that I come across is knowing that I invest time into strategizing and optimizing sites for clients, and yet far too few of them understand what I’m doing and how the SEO team at Snap is positively impacting their digital presence. I was at a conference earlier this year where I had the chance to hear people like Rand Fishkin and Wil Reynolds divulge their SEO insights, which are who inspire some of these thoughts. So, how do we make SEO sexy again?
“Go where your work can be tracked to revenue.” – Wil Reynolds
I’ll be honest, when this concept was first introduced to me I thought, “Welp, it looks like I’ll join the pay-per-click (PPC) team,” because everything within PPC is based on tracking cost and direct revenue. You spend $5 and you get $9.60 in return.
PPC calls out when impressions are high, but click-through rate is low, thus driving up the cost per conversion which is all directly related to $dollars$. Whereas the SEO department often focuses on things like improved keyword rankings, traffic, backlinks and the amount of time people spend on a website.
The reality is that increased traffic doesn’t make you money. Improving keyword ranking 23 positions doesn’t directly make you money. Acquiring a backlink doesn’t put more dollars into a business’ pocket. UNLESS there are specific values placed on those metrics that correspond to actual dollars.
And that is how you can make SEO sexy: Take the improvements that are made and translate them into a story that jives with client’s goals.
Assigning Dollar Values to SEO Metrics
Let’s preface this with the fact that this process is going to be different for every business. If you are doing your own SEO or have a team in-house, the most significant steps are 1) determining what a digital conversion is and 2) how much that conversion is worth.
If you work for an agency or are working with an organization as an outside resource, you will have to work closely with the client to identify these KPIs and collaborate on the value of conversions. No matter what, the goal is to always circle back to the goals and connect a value to the metrics.
For businesses that sell products through a website, the process is more simple because it can look directly at the total amount of an order and determine the value of a conversion. You’ll then want to figure out what metrics are consistent enough to use and connect a value to.
The key is to set up the appropriate tracking to ensure that the conversions that are coming through your website are being tracked as well as attribute them to the correct channels. For example, if you have an ongoing SEO strategy that you are implementing, you want to make sure that any conversions coming as a result of these efforts are being tracked.
The process to set up e-commerce tracking is relatively simple and can be up and running in a very short amount of time.
If your business is service-based, or if you are asking for a visitor to contact you by filling out a form or calling your business, the process of determining a conversion is going to vary more significantly according to what you want the visitor to do.
Start by identifying the goal that you want your website to accomplish. You may benefit most from implementing call tracking (see tool #20) as a conversion. Other sites utilize contact forms or quote forms to gather information to then follow up with an inquiry. No matter what a conversion looks like for your business or the business of your client, determining the conversion and then setting up the necessary tracking is step No. 1.
Then, identify the value of a conversion. Work with the sales or marketing team to identify what qualifies as a lead and determine the conversion rate of those leads.
Bring It All Back Together
Once you’ve figured out your conversions and the value of those conversions, you can start to connect those numbers to attributing values to the traffic coming to your website.
- Establish a baseline
- Example: If you have an average of 1,000 visitors per month, and you get 15 conversions (conversion rate of 1.5%) from that traffic, and each conversion is worth $500, your business is bringing in about $7,500/month through your website.
- Calculate investment
- If you are spending $2,500/month on an ongoing SEO strategy, your investment is $30,000/year.
- Calculate traffic
- With a 10% increase of visitors month over month, here is how the next 12 months would look in regards to visitors:
- January + 100 = 1,100
- February + 110 = 1,210
- March + 121 = 1,331
- April + 133.1 = 1,464.1
- May + 146.4 = 1,610.5
- June + 161 = 1,771.5
- July + 177.2 = 1,948.7
- August + 194.9 = 2,143.6
- September + 214.4 = 2,358
- October + 235.8 = 2,593.8
- November + 259.4 = 2,853.2
- December + 285.3 = 3,138.5
- = 23,519.9 total visits
- = 11,519.9 additional visits
- Calculate the Value
- As a result of the additional 11,519.9 visits at a 1.5% conversion rate, you can estimate an increase of roughly 173 conversions
- Those 173 conversions equate to $86,500
- Minus the $30,000 spent on SEO during the year, the estimated pay out is $56,500
- Breaking it down to a smaller number, each 100 visits is worth $565, and this is how we connect dollar amounts to SEO metrics
This is the type of legwork that should be put in to make sure that the business is comfortable with the SEO efforts, and to make sure the person/people in charge of SEO are aligning the strategy with goals. This is not a perfect process, and numbers throughout the year may change slightly due to seasonality, but this is the type of thinking that will bring value to SEO and make it a much sexier topic to discuss.
Successful SEO Comes Down to Storytelling
What is the most important question a business is asking when they are looking at hiring an agency?
“Will this investment make me money?”
What this means for the agency is, regardless of how complex or challenging it might be, all of our efforts should circle back to how our work is going to grow our client’s business. If I can’t make a connection similar to the example above, I need to spend time digging into what impact my work is going to make, and if the impact is not significant enough, I need to rethink the work that I’m doing. If I were a business owner, I’d want to understand how my dollars are being spent to grow my business.
If You Don’t Understand Strategy, You Cannot Tell the Story
There have been numerous times that I’ve been trying to discuss an SEO strategy and have seen eyes gloss over, heads nod, and while the people I’m talking to are trying to understand, I know I’ve already lost them. At this point it’s tough to recover.
If you are working with an agency, or an outside resource to improve your SEO, make sure that those you are working with are focused on your goals and understand the strategy well enough to tell a story that makes sense to you.
If you are the one executing the SEO strategy, work with the client to understand their goals, track the metrics, connect those metrics to how they are achieving the goals, and articulate the strategy in a way that tells a cohesive story.
Do you feel comfortable with the story being told?
How is the work that is being done eventually/directly impacting revenue?
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