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I was asked what the ROI on SEO is a few times at a recent business event, and decided that it was about time someone spoke up for us organic search marketing experts. The sad truth is that we SEO Experts are grossly underpaid! Let’s look at some stats (or damned lies, if you prefer).
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from bwelford 2295 Days ago #
Votes: 2

Well said, Gab.  Of course the kicker in all this is that there are many powerful groups who make a profit on the PPC side of the business.  It’s far easier to monetize and prove value on that slice. The metrics on the organic side require much more effort.  After all Google has no interest in proving that organic search delivers better ROI than Adwords.

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from Gab 2295 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Good points there Barry. That said, I disagree that the ROI is harder to measure on organic search. You can make it very simplistic and look at things like how many visitors your organic efforts sent (i.e. a metric of brand awareness), how many converted (revenue), and what the profit is when you deduct labour and software costs (for analytics though, I’d count only  a percentage of the cost, since it’s also used for ppc and other channels; take the % of traffic you get from seo as a total of all traffic and divide accordingly).

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from emanuelh 2294 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Nonsense. ROI for whom? It is very probably true that sites listed in top rankings have a much better ROI in comparison to having spent the same budget on PPC, but the author ignores the fact that most of the money spent on SEO goes down the drain because the sites fail to get top rankings. After all there are only ten places in Google’s Top Ten!And therefore some of us (at most ten per search query) are underpaid indeed, while most of us - those who fail - are very much overpaid. 

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from Gab 2294 Days ago #
Votes: 0

SEO is a gradual process, and with niche exceptions, most sites target a variety of words. The  SERPs being different on different keywords, some people are top 10 here, some are top 10 there. Most of the money spent on SEO does NOT go down the drain, unless you assume that most SEOs are incompetent. Besides which, the same argument applies - even more harshly - to PPC. A 8th spot in SEO gets some clicks. PPC? Forget it, unless it’s a mega volume term (in which case the SEO will still get more clicks).

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from emanuelh 2294 Days ago #
Votes: -1

@ Gab - SEO is a gradual process by which most websites fail to reach their objectives - Top 10 rankings for each of the targeted search queries. The few others get the precious prize of a share in a monopoly. Most of the SEOs are indeed incompetent. As in any profession that does not restrict the right to practice to those who can demonstrate competence. But even the most competent ones must fail if they are not allocated the sufficient SEO budget to overcome the existing Top 10 listings. Which happens much more often than not. 

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from rishilakhani 2294 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@ emanuelh - I am afraid I respectfully disagree - SEO admittedly is a gradual process - but the quesries aren’t limited - what you seem to responding to are core keywords - there are many wins to be had without being at the no 1 rank on page 1 - I deal with niche sites - particularly long tail conversions - for which the ROI is excellent. This doesn’t mean that we aren’t trying to target the top keywords, but working gradually to the top, while still garnering hundreds of long tail (and profitable) keywords. Regarding the comment "even the most competent ones must fail if they are not allocated sufficient budget"  - I question their competency – why would you get into battle half cocked? If they agree to work without the sufficient budget that is required of the objectives, then well….

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from emanuelh 2294 Days ago #
Votes: -1

@ <font color="#186318">rishilakhani</font> - You are describing a New York marathon race in which a single participant runs among all those people resting on the grass of Central Park. Obviously, with time, every arena (top SERP for given search query - short or long tail) that promises some traffic will become more and more competitive, as more and more SEO workers are working gradually to the top, where there’s place for only ten.The budget issue is ill-understood by all SEO workers, so I’m not surprised by your remarks. a. The sufficient budget for climbing from # 11 to # 10, for instance, is determined by the unknowable relevance score gap between the two web pages.b. The sufficient budget is further determined by the rate at which the web page at # 10 gains relevance score over time. If the rate at which the page at # 11 gains relevance score is lower, it will never catch up and become # 10.

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from toddmintz 2294 Days ago #
Votes: 2

SEO is about making sales / generating leads, not about getting rankings.  Higher rankings are only one component of successful SEO...there are quite a few others.

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from emanuelh 2294 Days ago #
Votes: -1

SEO is about getting top rankings (not merely higher but higher within the top), so that the traffic that goes to the top rankings will enter your client’s website at the expense of the sites of his competitors. Period. Anything else, useful and important as it may be, is not SEO.  

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from Gab 2294 Days ago #
Votes: 0

THANKYOU TODD! SEO ROI!

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from emanuelh 2293 Days ago #
Votes: -1

Neither shouting capitals like this nor a bunch of loud cheerleaders will make your weak arguments win the case. Try thinking harder.

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from mvandemar 2293 Days ago #
Votes: 0

@emanuelh - you are apparently missing the fact that keyword research, knowing not only how to rank but what to rank for, is an integral part of SEO and directly related to conversions. You also seem to be ignoring the art of designing alluring snippets, which directly impacts conversions, and landing page optimization. It’s all related.

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from neyne 2293 Days ago #
Votes: 0

This discussion is becoming increasingly semantic. Obviously, you cannot practice SEO today only by providing top locations fore relevan keywords. You have to take care of site usability so that traffic is not wasted, you have to take care of your listing presentation, as Michael said, you have to monitor the statistics and keyword research, all of that falls under SEO’s responsibilities. So claiming that it is only bringing sites to top locations because it is called Search Engine Optimization, is a purely semantic argument.

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from bbcarter 2293 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Using analytics to discover the ROI (whether in leads or revenue) of your SEO results is fundamental to best practice SEO.  If you’re still just trying to get people rankings without looking at what keywords drive business results, you can’t be sure you’re helping your clients.  And if you can’t prove your service’s value with analytics, you have no defense when they think about cutting the SEO budget.

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from emanuelh 2293 Days ago #
Votes: -1

@ mvandemar: I have invented sophisticated keyword research a few years ago, when SEO workers still consulted Wordtracker for the most popular keywords, stuffed them into the pages and charged customers by the number of keywords.  Our task became the selection of the most popular key phrases for which the competition is low enough so that the SEO budget is sufficient to get top rankings for. And soon enough we started to sell the service of comprehensive preliminary Internet Market Research, of 20-30 workhours, resulting in a responsible report whether the client’s SEO budget was sufficient for success on the search engines. It was very different from the common 2-3 hours of keyword research SEO workers still do. And we sold this service also to clients for which it turned out that they shouldn’t invest in the development of a website and the subsequent SEO, saving them a lot of money.Same for designing snippets. Ask <font color="#186318">neyne</font> how we used to spend hours on each one and how we used to ornament the Titles meant for Yahoo’s $299/year directory with baits designed for the editors to cut down, leaving precisely what we wanted to be shown. Keyword research and metatag and snippet writing belong to SEO, as I wrote above: SEO is about getting top rankings (not merely higher but higher within the top), so that the traffic that goes to the top rankings will enter your client’s website at the expense of the sites of his competitors. Creative keyword research and creative metatag and snippet writing belong to top-league SEO. @ neyne - Usability is critical for turning traffic into conversions, once it has entered the site. It does not belong to SEO but it should be incorporated into web design.@ bbcarter - Analyzing the statistical data is fundamental indeed, crucial for SEO and part of its practice since it often directs you what to do next. But clients want SEO ROI figures prior to starting SEO! And, as I wrote in my first comment, the truth is that most of the money spent on SEO goes down the drain because the sites fail to get top rankings. After all there are only ten places in Google’s Top Ten! 

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from neyne 2293 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@ neyne - Usability is critical for turning traffic into conversions, once it has entered the site. It does not belong to SEO but it should be incorporated into web design.Right. So learning from your statistics that your site’s visitors are mainly young mothers and guiding the designer to change the site accordingly, that is designer’s job ?again, your definition of SEO is purely semantical and has little to do with the way the profession has developed in the last few years.

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from emanuelh 2293 Days ago #
Votes: -1

Well, as the SEO worker needs much more brains nowadays (or help from external brains), so does the designer. Won’t you prefer a client who brings a nearly-perfect website in terms of usability?And if you surprisingly learn from the statistics that your site’s visitors are mainly young mothers, isn’t it a sure sign of careless market targetting? 

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from neyne 2292 Days ago #
Votes: 0

since you know what your target market searhces for prior to reaching top locations and there are absolutely no surprises for you there, then there is obviously no need for keyword research, right ?the SEO has evolved and is now covering many more services than it 5 years ago. An SEO that washes his hands of the fate of the visitors on the promoted site, will not be in business for a very long time. Actually i think that SEO within the framework of its old definition does not even exist as a standalone service anymore... it is just not enough.

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from emanuelh 2292 Days ago #
Votes: 0

neyne, is your Oedipus complex especially active after midnight?You can ask what is the ROI on the sum spent on usability work, performed on a site that has no traffic from search engines due to poor or insufficient SEO work, that has not achieved top rankings versus competitors even for longtail search queries, that does not spend on PPC and has no other means for attracting visitors. Things are of course interdependent.If you want to compare PPC ROI versus "pure SEO" ROI it is silly, as I’ve pointed out, to measure only the results of the sites ranking at the top, as if it is only a matter of time till your client’s site will be at the top as well. (And what about the SEO ROI of the site that has thereby just fallen from the top?)In this game, for every search query exhibiting a short or a long tail, a few win and get the positive ROI prize but the majority lose and get nothing. If your client’s site does not get top rankings for some search queries to balance, in terms of overall ROI, its failure to get top rankings in others, it has a negative ROI. And since, unlike in the early days of SEO, for almost every search query worthy of SEO there are many more websites trying than there is available room, most money spent on SEO will go down the drain.

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