The single biggest problem for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has always been its inability to measure the return on investment (ROI).

This is a problem that causes headaches at the highest level when it comes to budgeting.

There’s a universal understanding that having an SEO strategy is hugely beneficial, but there’s no way of putting a figure and budgeting for the investment.

With a lack of clear measurements for SEO, there have been a number of metrics that have attempted to fill the void.

Examples include visibility score, which shows how visible a domain is in the search engine results pages (SERPs); rank trackers that show the number of keywords a website ranks for on page one, and the many domain authority metrics that tried to fill the void left when Google stopped publicly sharing PageRank.

Unfortunately, there’s often a clear disconnect between these metrics and the actual impact of the SEO investment.

The only right metrics that should be reported on to reflect SEO performance are traffic volume, revenue, or conversions against SEO budget invested.

The danger becomes businesses treating misleading statistics as truth, but missing the real impact of its investment. 

Historical problems

There are two main reasons why measuring SEO is so elusive.

First, after a webmaster makes changes to a site, it may take Google’s spiders as long as two weeks to crawl and index the website fully. That means that changes to a web page’s structure, content, or backlinks may not impact its search engine rankings for weeks or even months. 

Also Read: 5 effective tricks to boost your SEO

Google doesn’t mind this delay at all. It has no interest in showing immediate ranking changes, as it would allow SEO specialists to test out individual components of the Google algorithm. That’s one of the reasons it stopped sharing PageRank data. In this way, an inbuilt delay is enforced as a means of maintaining control.

The second reason is the complexity of measurements. While there are technical measurements such as readability, keywords and links, there are also measurements for how an audience interacts with the page.

These include click-rate, time spent on the page and averages for industry keywords.

This effectively means that when a change is made, user behaviour changes as well.

In real terms, this equates to changes taking anything from 3-6 months to have full effect. Within this time, competitors are also making adjustments to vie for the top spots, which could nullify the changes before they even become active.  

Ultimately, the problem for every business is there are too many moving parts to measure the outcome fully. What’s needed is a solid platform for analysis. 

SEO solutions

SEO should be managed the same as paid search – allowing marketers to calculate ROI at the keyword level. 

The only way to do this is to create a landing page for each specific subset of highly targeted keywords.

Once that landing page exists, Google Analytics can be used to report on traffic, conversions, and revenue generated by that specific page. Compare those metrics to the cost of creating the page, and you have a formula for ROI. 

The digital impact 

Having these statistics is a game-changer that gives legitimacy to the industry and shifts the way businesses look at SEO. SEO stops being a problem of how little companies can get away with spending, and becomes an opportunity where the investment gets a clear ROI. 

Life is made easier for digital teams, as SEO specialists automate the long tail of SEO, delivering an uplift to the overall business. The knock-on effect is the release of more budget that can be dedicated to link building, content creation, audits and technical SEO in general. 

Also Read: How to best optimise SEO practices

More work is created for the industry as the return on SEO becomes abundantly evident, yet the processes become far less arduous and the results more productive for digital teams. 

Greater transparency on the ROI for SEO relieves the budgeting headache at c-suite level and finally paves the way for unlocking budgets and revenues. In planning the marketing strategy, business leaders now have more clarity, where previously SEO investment was estimated and assumed to be worthwhile. 

Although not at the same level as paid search, due to the ads being placed at the top by the search engine, businesses move closer to developing strategies that strike the right balance of SEO in the marketing mix. 

Better budgeting

It remains challenging to measure ROI on any technical SEO changes to a website. This is still an industry issue in need of a solution. However, there now exists a fourth area of SEO which wasn’t present before – automating the long tail results of SEO with a landing page automation platform.

The landing page construct provides a platform where ROI can finally be measured, and this, in turn, improves SEO as a whole. 

Also Read: How to avoid SEO disasters

Not only does this go a long way to tackling SEO’s inherent legitimacy issue. But, it also addresses the increasing issue of businesses putting disproportionate faith in misleading SEO measurement tools. 

The only remaining question is, who will win the race to utilise the breakthrough and benefit from an unprecedented level of informed SEO?

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Image Credit: Merakist