SEO is a complex topic, and Kurt & Kenny have talked about it a lot in previous podcast episodes. Obviously, NeONBRAND finds value in SEO – we invest a lot of time and energy into improving and maintaining our own rankings and helping clients do the same.
In episode 13 of the Kurt & Kenny Podcast, the guys try to answer a really hard question. What’s the measurable ROI of SEO?
The Kurt & Kenny Podcast Episode 13: Show Notes
At NeONBRAND, we answer this question a lot:
What kind of return can I generate on SEO?
It’s hard to calculate an exact ROI. It generates a return for sure, but it’s pretty much impossible to calculate exact numbers over time because the calculations are immensely complex. Trying to look at all the factors that go into SEO is just…impossible.
When you launch a SEO campaign, you might take the DIY approach, you might have an employee, or you might outsource to an expert. The question is still the same:
What should you expect as a return on successful SEO efforts?
There’s just not a simple answer.
Generating Returns on SEO
As a business owner investing time, energy, and money into SEO, your expectations will have to change over time.
At first, you expect to invest lots of money that isn’t necessarily going to produce a monetary return right away because you’re working on moving rankings gradually higher. There are definitely results, but you’re probably not going to see an increase in conversions or website traffic.
Those improved ranking numbers are important. They’re just not very exciting.
The end result is that you spend a lot of time and money on SEO to generate movement, which needs to happen before you get to the front page where things start to happen.
In the early stages, content is just about the only thing you can evaluate for your money. What deliverables are you getting for your investment? Blog posts, videos, and good quality website content is all worth the money. Other things (like link building) might be harder to see, but they’re still getting done and hopefully having some kind of impact.
The Reality of Negative ROI
Saying that your SEO investment is going to show a negative ROI for awhile isn’t really a revolutionary idea.
Let’s be realistic. At the beginning stage of anything in your business, you’re going to show a negative ROI while you invest in your foundations. The vast majority of businesses aren’t highly profitable for years. SEO is a longer bleed than a lot of other types of marketing, but it also has a lot of longer term benefit.
Keep an eye on the stuff that your SEO campaign produces and make sure it’s all good quality. You can tell quality both from the results it generates, and also from just reading and looking at it. A good SEO campaign usually results in a better website.
Plan to invest for awhile without generating a significant financial return. You’re definitely not going to make your money back for a few months at least, and nobody can tell you how quickly you’re going to start generating financial results. In fact, if a SEO person does guarantee you some kind of result, that’s a red flag that you probably shouldn’t work with that agency.
For a company like NeONBRAND, we’ve been at it for a long time and can see that the money we’ve invested in SEO is well worth it. We generate a lot of leads and make a lot of money from search traffic. That’s why SEO truly needs to be evaluated over a longer period of time.
Reaching for SEO Success
The natural follow-up question to all of this is:
How much must I spend to start making money?
Predictably, it’s another question with no easy answer. It really depends on your business model, your goals, what your competitors are doing, and a lot of other messy factors. It’s up to you to do the math and figure how much a customer is worth, then invest a realistic amount of money in your marketing efforts to attract those customers.
On top of that, your return depends heavily on your ability to make deals.
SEO can generate leads for you all day long – it’s your job to go close that deal. Take a look at your entire lead cycle and sales funnel. You only really make money with SEO when the rest of your business is in pretty good shape.
This is especially important when you’re working with an agency like NeONBRAND. As a 3rd party, we’re going to assume that you’ve got your internal sales process handled, and our job is just to generate leads for you. If you want help closing those sales, that’s doable, but it’s not part of SEO.
It’s a common problem. Often, you generate a volume of leads from SEO…and then you realize that you have a problem closing leads. There are worse problems to have.
Clients often ask us if we can speed up their SEO results, and the answer is:
Sure, yeah – it’s all a function of time and money. If you increase the amount and quality of content and leverage it well with other lead generation opportunities, you can make it pay off sooner.
Ultimately, Google determines where and when you rank. When you’re trying to speed up results, what you’re really getting is more work on your website. Usually it works the way you’re intending it to work, but Google decides.
Your spending on SEO correlates with your rankings, sort of. More and/or better deliverables cost more money, and that stuff gets indexed more quickly and performs better, so you rank faster. It’s not a direct relationship. You’re not buying rankings.
There’s some stuff that can hurt you in SEO, too. You could hire someone that does some sketchy black hat stuff, and the outdated or sketchy tactics they use can hurt your website. Things like buying backlinks and spinning articles used to work 5 years ago, but now you can get penalized. At the same time, bouncing around from agency to agency can hurt your rankings AND your brand. Rookie mistakes can hurt you, so pay attention.
Honestly, most of the principles in SEO are closely related to traditional business success principles. It’s a matter of good habits, keeping up with it consistently and at top quality, and staying true to your brand.
So, what’s the ROI of SEO?
You’re just going to have to figure it out for yourself. All we can really tell you is that it’s worth the work.