SEO helps websites improve their ranking, appear among the top search engine results pages (SERP), and drive traffic.
But how do you know if it is worth it?
Businesses measure SEO ROI to answer this query.
It all comes down to identifying how profitable these SEO efforts are and how they can improve.
Dig in to understand what constitutes an SEO ROI measurement, the process, and how you could calculate it.
What is SEO ROI?
SEO return on investment quantifies the costs of creating and promoting the content against the gains (return) made.
Learn what is content marketing return on investment here.
Activities like on-page and off-page SEO optimization, quality content creation, and backlink-building require time, resources, and effort.
Businesses need to know if their returns justify the expenditure of these resources and how best they can maximize their gains with limited resources.
Measuring SEO ROI helps businesses:
- Allocate/reallocate budget to maximize profitability.
- Realize the impact of their SEO efforts on the business's bottom line.
- Make data-driven decisions.
The SEO ROI Formula
The formula used for SEO ROI is;
SEO ROI = (Revenue - Investment) / Investment
Revenue - refers to monetary gains made due to the SEO efforts.
Investment - cost involved in SEO activities such as investments in content creation, link building, advertisement, software, and SEO tools.
The SEO ROI is expressed as a percentage and compared with industry benchmarks.
These benchmarks could include generic ROIs for a specific industry and those of the competitors.
This analysis helps businesses identify if their ROI is good, average, or seriously needs improvement compared to the norm in their industry.
How to Measure SEO ROI?
Key Performance Indicators for SEO ROI
One of the earliest things to do to measure SEO ROI is to identify the right key performance indicators (KPIs).
Measuring content marketing ROI, SEO, social media, or digital marketing relies on choosing the right KPIs.
Choose KPIs based on their relevance to the specific goals and objectives of your SEO strategy.
This way, they can offer meaningful insights into your site’s impact and performance.
Some common KPIs for SEO ROI are discussed below.
The visitors landing directly on your website after typing something in a search engine and clicking on your link in the search engine results pages (SERPs) comprise organic traffic.
The whole point of SEO is to grab the top spots in SERPs and increase the chances of users finding your website.
Organic traffic, therefore, is an excellent measure of SEO effectiveness.
The percentage of visitors performing a desired action on your website, like signing up for the newsletter, downloading an e-book, or making a purchase, is your conversion rate.
Leads and purchases together form part of the conversions.
Here, the former signifies a user interested in your product or service and who purchased it.
The ability to measure conversion rate helps a business keep track of its revenues and the impact of its SEO activities.
Revenue is the money generated by a business.
For SEO ROI, we are particularly interested in finding out the share of this money generated as a direct result of SEO activities.
Doing so effectively puts a monetary value on SEO efforts.
Proper UTM tag and Google Tag implementation allow analytical tools to collect the necessary e-commerce information to attribute credit.
Tracking revenue is primary to measuring SEO ROI.
Customer Lifetime Value
The value generated by a customer in terms of e-commerce over a period is called customer lifetime value (CLV).
SEO can influence CLV by attracting high-quality visitors and convincing them to keep coming for more conversions.
Monitoring it helps track the efficacy of SEO in the long run.
Customer Acquisition Cost
The customer acquisition cost (CAC) is the total price of marketing and sales expenses to get a new customer.
Another marketing metric, a lower customer acquisition cost, signifies cost-effective SEO activities.
Tools and Platforms for Tracking SEO ROI
Once the KPIs are selected, they are monitored and tracked with the help of analytics tools and platforms to measure SEO ROI.
We discuss some of the popular analytics and SEO tools and how they are used to track your KPIs.
Google Search Console
This tool is incorporated for assessing your website’s SEO performance, offering insights into the website’s performance in search results.
Use Google Search Console to
- Identify pages with high impressions
- Analyze search queries driving traffic to your site
- Monitor your click-through rates (CTR) for target keywords
- Identify pages needing optimization for better CTRs
You can use the data to optimize your SEO efforts for a better ROI.
It is a popular SEO tool offering services like keyword research, competitor analysis, and backlink tracking.
You can use SEMrush to;
- Identify and integrate the most searched keywords in your SEO efforts.
- Identify your top-performing keywords.
- Analyze the organic search positions of your top-ranking keywords and their contribution to lead generation and conversions.
Ahrefs offers vital SEO services like keyword research, link building, rank tracking, site audits, and competitor analysis.
You can use Ahref to;
- Identify and integrate top keywords in your SEO activities.
- Identify the keywords users search for to find your website.
- Identify and track valuable backlinks contributing to the website’s SEO.
- Run competitor analysis to identify their SEO and backlink performance.
The tool can help businesses optimize their website SEO and identify the keywords associated with their KPIs to focus on during SEO ROI measurement.
Moz helps with SEO by offering services like keyword research and detailed competitor analysis, including site auditing and domain authority analysis.
You can use Moz for;
- Keyword research.
- Identifying your website’s technical SEO issues.
- Monitoring your domain authority, comparing it with changes in the site ranking and organic traffic.
Google Analytics 4
GA4 is a popular analytics tool that, among other things, can be used to monitor KPIs.
- Use GA4 to track;
- User behavior
- Organic traffic
- User journey
- Set up events and goals to track desired actions (related to leads and conversions)
Use the resulting data to quantify the leads and conversions from your SEO activities.
Conversion Tracking Tools
Besides Google Analytics 4, several other analytics tools help businesses track their KPIs and asses user behavior and conversions.
For granular access to user behavior, interaction with content, and conversions, you can use tools like;
- Adobe Analytics
They help you not only track the conversions but also attribute them to the relevant channels, such as organic search.
So, you can use these tools to link your SEO KPIs with the return on investment.
Custom Reporting Dashboards
Several analytics tools offer the option to create visually compelling reports to tell the story of your brand and prove the return on investment.
Use that to your advantage to show how your KPIs’ stats contribute to your SEO ROI.
Measuring Your SEO ROI
Calculate Your SEO Investment
The first stage in measuring your SEO ROI is calculating your cost.
Let us look at some of the significant SEO-related costs.
- Employees - involves the costs incurred on the in-house resources dedicated to creating your SEO strategies, performing on-page and off-page SEO, and content creators.
- External resources - include the expenses involved in hiring the services of SEO freelancers or agencies.
- SEO tools - costs of subscriptions to SEO tools like Ahref, SEMRush, and Moz.
- Content marketing and link building - include the costs involved in the promotion and distribution of SEO content and backlink acquisition.
It is important to note that the costs will vary from one quarter to another and one campaign to another.
Also, it is necessary to account for the project cycle to complete before you start collecting the data to assess the ROI.
Set Up Conversion Track
Conversions comprise leads generated and purchases made on your website.
Track Lead Generation Event
Tracking lead generation is of value for businesses regardless of whether or not they make direct sales on the website.
In Google Analytics 4, you can do so by creating events, defining them as conversions, and assigning them monetary values.
This way, every time a customer acts, it will be automatically logged under the conversion tab of the Engagement Reports.
Finally, assign the event a monetary value to the conversion for ROI calculation later.
To create lead generation events in Google Analytics 4, follow the steps below.
- Go to Admin > Events in the events tab and click the Create event button.
- Give the event a name, and select Parameters, Operator, and Value.
- The event will appear in the Existing Events toggle the Mark as conversion switch. It will now appear in the conversion tab of the Engagement Reports.
- To assign a monetary value, go to the event;
- Click Add modification in Parameter configuration.
- Add a currency type (dollar, euro, etc.), enter a value (say $5), and click Save.
How to Assign Monetary Value to Events?
Look at your analytics data to find a close estimate of the monetary value of the leads your content marketing generated.
To do so, find the number of leads that typically convert to purchase. From there, you can find the percentage of lead conversion.
For example, if you receive 200 leads a month, and 10 convert to purchase, you have a 5% conversion rate.
Identify the average value of your sales by dividing your total sales by the total number of leads.
Value of Each Lead = Total Value of Conversions / Total Leads
So, if your total sale for the month is $5000 and the total number of leads converting to purchase is 10, then your average value for each is $500.
If the total leads generated for the same example were 200 and 10 converted, you have a 5% conversion rate for the goal.
Track E-commerce Events
Add e-commerce events to Google Tag Manager (GTM) to be able to populate your e-commerce conversion data and use it for SEO ROI measurement.
Set it up by following Google Analytics 4’s instructions.
To see the e-commerce report,
Go to Reports > Monetization > E-commerce purchases.
Click the Add filter on the top left of the report and add Session medium.
Then scroll down on the page to view the revenue generated from the organic channel.
Calculate Your SEO ROI
By now, you have a sum of all the costs incurred by your SEO activities, stats on your KPIs, and returns brought on by them.
You have all the ingredients to measure SEO ROI.
Plug in your SEO-related costs and revenues in the formula below.
SEO ROI = (Revenue - Investment) / Investment
Remember to take all direct and indirect costs into account.
Also, pay attention to the actual revenue and monetary value assigned to the leads generated when calculating the revenue.
Once you have your results, compare and analyze them against industry benchmarks and your previous SEO ROI performance.
It will help you contextualize your findings and assess how well your SEO efforts paid off.
Use your findings to assess if your business has a good, average, or negative ROI.
Based on that analysis, allocate your resources to what drives profit and optimize your future SEO efforts.
Want to learn what else you can do with Google Analytics 4? Register for our live training session on Google Analytics 4 below.
Common Challenges of Measuring SEO ROI
Even though it is critical to measure SEO ROI to identify if it is worth it and how it could be optimized, it has some challenges.
SEO Takes Time to Work
It requires anywhere between four months to a year for SEO to drive results.
Trying to measure SEO ROI for a specific duration can be challenging.
You can address the problem by calculating ROI for specific pages, categories, or keywords.
Using this approach will enable you to attribute specific investments to specific returns.
Customer Retention Due to SEO is Hard to Measure
SEO-optimized content marketing influences customer relationships with a business.
It can convince them to become long-term customers, encouraging brand loyalty and higher CLV.
However, it is difficult to track this impact.
Opt for qualitative assessments and customer feedback to quantify these aspects of SEO ROI.
Attribution models are inherently flawed. Assigning credit to specific channels, including organic search, may have some errors.
Customer journeys are non-linear and often complicated to track.
You can address the issue by opting for a data-driven attribution model in GA4. You can choose the model in the settings section of Conversions.
However, for a business to use DAA, it needs to meet GA4’s conditions regarding minimal traffic and conversions.
SEO strategists are expected to predict the returns on SEO activities. It can be challenging for a few reasons.
First, there is no sure shot in SEO; it is unpredictable.
A realistic approach to do so would include the following steps.
- Establish the goals and objectives of SEO.
- Next, compare a page or website’s past performance with its competitors.
- Estimate the impact of the content in terms of expected traffic
- Set an estimated conversion rate
- Use SEO tools to identify the traffic value, organic pages (ranking for the keyword), and traffic potential.
- Identify the average conversion rate for the targeted keywords
- Finally, make the calculations and give an estimated number instead of guarantees.
Businesses measure SEO ROI to estimate the worth of SEO efforts by quantifying the financial gains made from them.
The first stage is to identify the key performance indicators.
Some examples of such KPIs include Organic Traffic, Conversion Rate, Revenue, Customer Lifetime Value, and Customer Acquisition Cost.
Of these, you can monitor the SEO-related KPIs with tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, Moz, and Google Search Console.
Next, monitor and track these with analytics tools like GA4, HubSpot, Kiss metric, and Adobe Analytics.
To track leads in Google Analytics 4 set up and define Events, mark them as Conversions, and assign them a monetary value.
For tracking purchases, go to the Monetary Reports in GA4 and look for conversions coming from the Session channel grouping.
Engage in measuring SEO ROI by calculating all the costs of creating and promoting the SEO content.
Calculate all the revenue associated with your KPIs for leads and conversions.
Then, use both values to measure SEO ROI. Use this information to optimize your SEO efforts and resource allocation.
Common challenges in measuring SEO ROI include the time limitations placed on the calculations, considering SEO takes time to show results.
Other issues include limitations of the attribution models, difficulty in associating customer retention with SEO, and complications in predicting ROI for proposed SEO efforts.
Interested in learning more about ROI, read our blogs here.