Google’s algorithm has evolved. Through AI and advancements in machine learning, it is continually learning to become smarter. Today, it’s even more difficult to get to the top of Google’s page 1.
With SEO becoming more challenging and the SERPs constantly changing, how can you really prove the value of SEO to prospective clients, current clients, your boss or anyone else who wants to invest in SEO?
Proving the Value of SEO
Proving the value of SEO depends on your client or prospective client’s goals and what will move the needle for them to get to page 1. This may either be local search, app store optimization, content marketing, technical optimization, etc.
That said, you must show performance improvements to secure more funding and make your client successful.
In my experience, some of the best ways to prove the value of SEO is to:
- Use an ROI model to show incremental improvements.
- Use paid search data to show the cost of acquiring the traffic through paid search.
- Back up your performance and results through reporting.
- Get a test budget.
- Show competitor wins through different SEO strategies and tactics.
1. ROI Model
The ROI model is one of the best models to show incremental gains in visibility, traffic, and revenue.
The way to approach this is to use an Excel spreadsheet and aggregate all data for all keywords or your top trophy keywords.
In this model, you can use likely click through and conversions by search engine for each keyword. You can see the “projected” state to see a change in expected conversions from improving rank, conversion, or other metrics.
The goal of the keyword model is to collect keywords used for a domain through organic search and then identify high value (i.e., keywords with strong conversions within the first 3 pages with high conversion potential or long tail keywords that rank in striking distance).
Once these keywords are identified, they should be bucketed into similar categories to facilitate content creation on the site to improve the domains’ ranking for those keywords and drive more conversions.
Ideally, this data should be done with the use of paid search reporting data or other conversion-related information to augment organic reporting/conversion data if its organic search data is not available.
The use of paid search reporting data allows to estimate or gauge the true conversion potential of a keyword(s).
Potential data sources include:
- Keywords: Internal site search, analytics, SEMrush, DataCube, Ahrefs, Google Keyword Tool, Keyword I/O.
- Average monthly searches: SEMrush, DataCube, Ahrefs, Google Keyword Tool, Keyword I/O.
- Conversion: Analytics, conversion reporting tools, Google Ads data, client estimates.
- Domain search rank: Ahrefs, SEMrush.
- Share of clicks by SERP#: Based on best industry data available.
If your client or potential client is asking you to project a lift in revenue using this model, multiply traffic – i.e, projected clicks x conversation rate x close rates x average sale.
For example, a B2B computer repair company in Manhattan has an average sale of $10,000. They close leads at a rate of 30 percent and have a conversation rate of 5 percent.
In your ROI model, you project 500 clicks for them a month. To calculate potential revenue, you would multiply 500 (clicks) x 5% (conversion rate) x 30% (close rate) x $10,000 (average sale) =$75,000 per month.
2. Cost to Acquire the Keywords Through Paid
Another way to show the value of SEO would be to compare it to the cost of getting your traffic from paid search (if you are not ranking for those keywords).
It might be worth going after those keywords organically because it would be expensive to buy them.
To estimate the value:
- Analyze the number of keywords for paid search in the segment.
- Include how often these keywords are searched for ever year.
- Use average CPCs to break down the model into different market share to see how much it would cost (e.g., 5 percent, 15 percent, 30 percent).
3. Get a Test Budget
Another way to prove the value of SEO is to ask your client for a small test budget.
Performing a pilot can show that you will get them results even with just a small budget. SEO is not immediate, and it takes time to show results.
In this test, you will be able to demonstrate that you can get some small wins and incremental impact on organic performance.
If links are the only thing you built to the page, then you could show that the links had a positive impact on visibility and hopefully traffic.
You could also do other tests with content and off-page techniques to show increases in keywords and other performance metrics overtime.
Search Query Data
You can show month over month improvements in impressions, clicks, and queries.
Let’s say you did an analysis for the client or prospect, you need to:
- Expand content for a page to be more relevant for targeted queries.
- Build more holistic content that meets user intent by answering questions.
- Make the page more useful or relevant at the moment.
Google Search Console data could be your best friend to show that queries and impressions around that keyword/phrase are increasing over time.
4. Backing Up Your Data Through Reporting
Numbers don’t lie.
Showing improvements in clicks and impressions through Google Search Console is one way to get data, but there are other ways to show improvements in reporting as well.
Ahrefs offers some good features to show you what the rankings were in the past and what they are now to see if it changed.
Another good metric to show is how many keywords are you showing for now vs. 3 or 6 months ago.
Once your site starts to improve in rank, you can expect to get more traffic and hopefully conversions once you get to the first page in Google.
Showing improvements in conversion rates is also a good metric to show to clients or prospective clients.
Showcasing different sections of the site that increased in conversions by x percent because of your organic search efforts can make you look like a hero and help you land more accounts.
Traffic & Conversions
If you have access to analytics, be sure to show any improvements in organic traffic and a lift in conversions, whether it is hard or soft conversions (i.e., brochure download, newsletter signups, sales, etc.).
It will not only show your client that you know what you’re doing, but that you could get them better results and improve their business performance over time through organic search.
5. Show Competitor Winnings
The final way to show value is to show competitors beating you out in the SERPs.
Showing your competitors growth – which you could easily tell from third-party tools such as SEMrush – could set off a trigger for your client.
Client’s hate it when their main competitor is outperforming them and implementing SEO strategies like new content development that are helping them rank for answer box queries, local search queries, in the App Store, etc.
When you show them the data and estimate how much traffic and conversions they are getting, you can get them in reaction mode.
We all know that SEO is not immediate and it takes times to see results.
Showing your clients or prospective clients a forecast that shows incremental gains in visibility, revenue, and other conversion metrics and meaningful reporting that drive results can make them happy and see the real value of your organic search efforts.
Sometimes putting in a bit of extra effort and finding quick wins can be your best bet in creating a path to SEO success with your client.
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All screenshots taken by author, February 2019