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SEO Value: What It Is, How to Determine It & More

Think search engine optimization isn't worth the trouble? It's time to think again. The value of SEO extends well past ranking high on Google.

Sep 30, 2020

11 m read

Let’s talk about the value of SEO.

It might sound too good to be true to be able to invest in a marketing channel that can both build brand awareness AND drive high-intent visitors to convert on your website. And if you are trying to make the case to an executive, perhaps, who is questioning how that’s even possible, then you’ve come to the right place.

The value of SEO is, of course, tied to organic search traffic. But why do you want it? Why is it so important to the business? The value of growing your organic search traffic is intrinsically tied to the value of conversions that drive the revenue that feeds the business. And honestly, although I won’t cover it as an item here, I’ve found through the years that investing in SEO, in addition to creating company growth opportunities, feeding the bottom line, and protecting jobs, also helps our customers sleep at night, knowing their organic search channel is being managed by a team of experts that are taking care of their funnel.

In this list, I’ll cover the most direct outcomes of SEO, driving high ROI and making it a must-have marketing channel to include in your budget, year after year.

1. SEO Is the Largest Digital Marketing Channel

In the world of digital marketing, traffic to your site is currency, and SEO drives the majority of that traffic. A recent study found that across the internet, 53% of traffic to all websites comes via organic search.
Traffic by Source
Successful companies will often shoot to have over 60% and even sometimes as high as 80% of their website traffic coming from SEO. At this rate, they can rest easy, knowing they’re truly capturing their share of the SEO traffic and getting great ROI to boot (see more below).

These companies also report that organic traffic driven by SEO is bringing in an average of over 40 percent of their total revenue (BrightEdge). This data is averaged across multiple industries, so if you’re operating in B2B leads, or ecommerce traffic, you may see even more. Have you looked at your attribution of leads recently? Which sources convert the highest?

Is organic search traffic responsible for generating 40%+ of your revenue?

2. SEO Reinforces Your Position as a Leader

Before I get into the strategic and financial importance of SEO efforts, let’s make sure we’re all clear about how SEO works in the first place. The higher you rank in Google’s organic search results, the more clicks you get. And the more search volume those keywords have, the even-more clicks you get.

If you didn’t already know, we have years of data showing that the top result can get anywhere from 20-30% of the total volume of traffic from that search result. This is shown clearly in the chart below:

And it makes sense, right? In addition to the top results being the most convenient to click (especially within the limited screen of a mobile device), when you think about it, Google is essentially putting their reputation on the line every time they serve the results of a search query.

And in turn, searchers often view the top organic search results as Google’s own vetted recommendation of the best answer to their search.

So it stands to reason that if you want to be viewed as a leader in your industry, you have to get in those top spots in the relevant keywords to your business.

If I as a consumer haven’t heard of your brand and you’re not coming up when I search for the unbranded keywords around your services, how can I trust that you are a reputable business? Companies lose credibility and are judged as “not a player” in their space when they are beaten out by higher-ranking competitors.

For example, at Victorious, we know that in order to prove our own credibility, we must rank #1 for the services we offer. So we target keywords that are not only aligned with our services and target audience but also validate our expertise. Ranking #1 for “enterprise SEO agency” was not something that just automatically happened without investing in our own SEO channel:
enterprise SEO agency
When a prospect sees that out of 13 million search results, ours is #1 on the search engine results page (SERP), they know that has to mean something.

Are your current search rankings helping or hurting your brand? If you aren’t showing up for your industry keywords, we can help.

3. SEO Is Foundational for Other Marketing Channels

SEO makes all of your other marketing channels more effective! This is a great piece of the value of SEO, that’s easy to overlook.

Of course with modern marketing being what it is, we have many ways of targeting our future customers, at all stages of the funnel. But the vast majority of your target audience isn’t ready to buy at the moment they interact with your brand (i.e. the common conversion rate of 2.5%), meaning that for at least 97% of the people who see your marketing, even if they like it, they are still thinking, “Later!”

But when they get to “later” … they often don’t remember your brand, your phone number, or your website.

….and everything comes back to Google.

Here’s a B2B example… Let’s say your SDR team reaches out with a sequence of emails and calls over the course of a couple of weeks, trying to get a meeting with the Decision Maker. The DM may be archiving the emails, deleting them, or otherwise ignoring them because, let’s be real. But when they actually have the budget and intent and are ready to have that conversation, they’re going to Google your product/solution.

And if you are on the first page of search results, and they recognize your brand name from those annoying emails that came in, they’re going to say, “Oh wow! I guess that company is actually legit!”

But if you weren’t on the first page of SERPs when they Googled your product or service, now they really aren’t going to trust you when you reach out again, telling them you have the best solution. And even more importantly, they are going to trust your competitors appearing in the top 3 spots.

Here’s a personal example of this that speaks more to those of you in B2C:

I was recently targeted on Instagram by an ad for some snazzy pop-up greeting cards. Nice! I wasn’t ready to buy it, but when my wife’s birthday came around, I couldn’t remember the name of the advertiser, but I remembered that I had thought it would be nice to give her a super snazzy pop-up card. So, like any consumer, I Googled “pop up cards” and went with the top option. Were they the ones paid for the ad? Who knows. I literally have no idea. But they got my business.

Which begs the question… Is your current ad spend actually driving business to your competitors?

4. SEO Rankings Are More Permanent Than Other Marketing Channels

I like this analogy: if most marketing channels are like renting an apartment, then the value of SEO is like buying a house.

What if instead of renting a billboard for a month, you could just pay for the cost of putting up the banner and then you own that prime space for the next 3 years?

I know it sounds facetious and over-the-top, but that’s a lot like how SEO works.

Other marketing channels operate within turn on / turn off parameters. You get leads (hopefully) when you’re paying for the ads. You don’t get leads when you’re not paying. It’s an on-demand model that works alright for folks (check those conversion rates, though).
SEO, on the other hand, takes that same investment and delivers site traffic for years. In 3 months of running an ad, you might get 100 leads.

If in those same 3 months, you are investing in SEO, you might not get all 100 leads in those 3 months. You are going to spend time auditing and cleaning your site, creating strong content, and building reputable links to your site. These may not deliver 100 leads while you are taking on the effort, but they deliver much more than 100 leads over time.

With SEO, you add long-term equity to your company by driving up your rankings. And once you’ve achieved first-page search results, you only need to maintain the work enough to stay ahead of algorithm changes and your competitors’ moves. Watch out if they start investing in the SEO channel — you’ll need to make sure that you’re staying on top of those links and anchor text. (If you stop doing SEO, your competitors are likely to gain on you and slide into your first-page rankings.)

We see this all the time with our customers. A great example is Calvin from Boombox Storage. He came to us as a small startup, and “bought the house” when he decided to invest in the SEO channel. And once he started making it to the first page for queries like “san francisco storage,” his company exploded. He got so much new business from organic traffic that he had to go back to doing some of the moving himself!

5. SEO Has Incredible Long-Term ROI

Because of the long-term impact of your rankings that comes from the investment in SEO, the SEO channel has been shown to be one of the highest ROI marketing channels you can put budget to.

This means that over the course of several years, you are likely to get much more business from your SEO dollar spend than you would if you spent it on PPC, social media, or any other “instant gratification” channel.

See email marketing and SEO crushing it in the rankings below:

(Create a new blog targeting a specific keyword theme and then send it out in a snazzy email to your database, anyone??)

The great thing about SEO is that, unlike email marketing, it enables you to capture an entirely new audience of people who are searching for your solution, and has potentially never heard of your brand. Ultimately this means your overall Cost of Acquisition comes down over time, helping you get new business for less marketing spend per customer interaction.

Do you know what your current Cost of Acquisition is? What’s your plan to get the most from your marketing budget this year? If SEO isn’t part of that plan, let’s get it there.

6. SEO Traffic Converts Better

Is it surprising that organic search traffic converts at a higher rate than other sources of traffic? I should think not. People who come via search are by definition searching for your specific product or service.

Google has essentially replaced traditional word-of-mouth so that instead of asking, “Hey, do you know anybody that…” to your colleague, you can just ask Google.

Once your SEO campaign is up and running, you’ll get more leads from that traffic that you can from any other source.

How well is your current site traffic converting? Check out your Google Analytics and compare conversion rates across traffic sources.

7. SEO Leads Close Faster & Bigger

It’s often the case that if someone is actively searching for your solution, then they are more ready to purchase.

We conducted our own internal research to look at these numbers, and there many other studies that have been done in the past by other sources that mirror this data. We found that leads acquired from organic search traffic as a result of our SEO campaigns took an average of 55% less time to close than other leads:

Most sales executives know that today’s buyers have already done their research online before they finally start converting on your CTAs. They’re usually 50-60% of the way into their decision process when they finally start giving out their email address.

If you’re there when they are searching for you, you get a chance to capture somebody that has their budget and decision team all lined up and is ready to make a move, rather than having to convince somebody that they even have a need for what you’re offering. It’s inbound marketing 101, and we’re all about it.

It’s nice to be wanted and it makes for a faster sales process to boot! How fast are your leads closing today, and how is the quality of your leads? When you start tracking this data, you can start investing more in the channels that deliver the best results.

8. Investing in SEO Gives You a Sustainable Competitive Advantage

It’s hard to beat good SEO and it definitely takes time. It can take months for your competitors to rank ahead of you, and if you’ve spent those months long before them, you have the competitive advantage. Those that have SEO success usually get cemented on the front page for a while. They’ve made that investment and now they’re reaping the long-term traffic benefits.

Good SEO efforts create a business moat.

A business moat is a key competitive advantage that sets a company apart from its competitors. There are many strategic moats that you can create as a business that put distance between yourself and competitors, such as a more efficient cost structure, economies of scale, proprietary IP, and many others. The value of SEO is that it creates a marketing moat, and it happens to be one of the hardest ones for competitors to catch up with.

Not only do they have to decide to invest in the SEO channel, write the content, and build the links, but they now also need to wait on Google to react to these movements. They also can’t do it so quickly as to receive a Google penalty, so there’s a built-in “speed limit” as to how quickly they can perform some of these optimizations.

That means you can have that first-mover advantage and take over prime ranking positions, so you can collect prime traffic for years to come.

Want to learn more about how you can create your own SEO competitive advantage? Start with a free SEO strategy session, and learn all about it.

9. Great SEO Creates a Cycle of Viral Growth

Have you ever wondered why search results that are in the number 1 position for a specific keyword often “stick” there for a long time?

Ahrefs shows in this study that the higher you rank, the better the chances are that you’ll stay there a while:
ranking factors study
It’s almost counterintuitive, right?

The #1 spot is so competitive, it seems like the shelf life would be shorter. But what actually happens as you creep up the rankings is a natural viral effect – Google ranks you better as you improve your content, your content then gets discovered by more people, who in turn may share it through social media (creating social media links), on their blogs (authoritative backlinks), or even share the content directly (online referrals).

Great content also invites more click-throughs, lower bounce rates, and higher on-page time. And since most of these are Google ranking factors, what happens is a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts, where the higher your rank, the better of a chance for you to continue to rank well. The rich get richer.

Are you finding yourself slipping from good ranking positions or is your content enabling you to get cemented into a top spot?

10. He Who Conquers SEO Conquers the Future

The case for investing in SEO isn’t convoluted or hard to make. It’s simply the most effective marketing channel, and continues to be even more so:
New brand marketing sources
What once might have been a “do we really need it” situation, is quickly becoming an “if you don’t have it, your business may not survive.” That might sound like an exaggeration, but it’s validated by the data.

Our world is deeply rooted in search. The magical answers to queries from “Hey Alexa” or “Ok Google” are being pulled from search engines. More than 60% of total Google searches come from mobile and according to many experts, 30% of all searches will be performed by voice in 2020.

Looking for a “restaurant near me” on your phone? That’s an important search.

Need gas, preferably in, say, 10 miles? Unless you’re still using an old GPS device, you’re probably searching an app for that on your phone.

How about cooking some chicken? Definitely a search.

Google will continue to shape who we find and who never gets found. The beautiful thing is that you can determine which one of those guys you want to be.

So if you’re spending time configuring your advertising budget, and you haven’t invested yet in SEO, look back at your attribution data for your own company and see if it matches the industry data. If it does, then now is the time to future-proof your marketing with sustainable growth in your search engine rankings. If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry. You’re not alone. As an SEO agency, we start working with lots of customers in your shoes. You can start with a free strategy session with one of our SEO consultants to see where you can use search to make the most impact on your business goals.

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