By Amine Rahal, entrepreneur and writer. Amine is the CEO of IronMonk, a digital marketing agency specializing in SEO and CMO at Regal Assets, an IRA company.
Normally, you can measure the return on an investment (ROI) by taking the gain generated by the investment and subtracting its cost. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, in the search engine optimization (SEO) world, it’s a bit less straightforward.
That’s because it can be hard to pinpoint exactly how much of your sales or leads are generated by SEO alone. It’s also hard to track exactly which costs have gone into designing and implementing your SEO strategy.
Given this difficulty, I’ve gone ahead and outlined my formula for calculating and monitoring the ROI of an SEO campaign. As the owner of two full-service digital marketing agencies, I’ve tracked SEO performance across countless client campaigns for over a decade. After years of success in the field, I thought I’d share my basic strategy for SEO analytics and monitoring.
Where ROI Meets SEO For E-Commerce
For those who specialize in e-commerce, there are specific ways you can track and manage your SEO performance. Thanks to Google Analytics (yes, including the free version), you can do this fairly simply. Below, I’ve outlined the basic steps involved.
First, open your Google Analytics account and navigate to the “ADMIN” panel within the left-hand sidebar. From there, navigate to the “VIEW” tab and select “e-Commerce settings” and finally “Enable Enhanced e-Commerce Reporting.”
Whether you use Shopify or WooCommerce, your next step is to initialize tracking on these platforms so the data can be communicated to Google Analytics. Here’s a thorough guide on how to do that. Once complete, you’ll be able to view a variety of key metrics, such as:
• Customer checkout behavior
• Product performance
• Conversion rates
• Average order values
• Revenue metrics
• Page origination
For our purposes, the last metric, page origination, is especially important. This is because it lets you know where your customers are coming from and beginning their journey through your funnel. From there, you can learn which pages are performing well — and you’ll be able to assign values to each webpage to see where SEO results can be improved — and which pages are already top performers.
Calculating Your SEO ROI
A successful SEO strategy depends on publishing lots of high-quality, well-researched content. In my estimation, you’re going to need at least 250 published articles to gain traction with your SEO campaign, especially if you’re involved in highly competitive niches, like personal finance or health and fitness.
Let’s say each short article costs you $100 to have written and published on your site. That would amount to a $25,000 investment. Now, you have to take this figure and divide it by the total gain from your SEO investment. Let’s say you’ve gained $500,000 worth of traffic over the span of one year based on your SEO campaign. The calculation would proceed as follows:
1. ($500,000 – $25,000) / $25,000
2. 475,000 / 25,000
3. 19 × 100
Based on the above example, we’re looking at a total ROI of 1,900% on a $25,000 investment — not bad at all, I’d say. Compared to pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on social networks, these kinds of returns are off the charts, but certainly not unheard of.
Finding Your Investment Gain
One key ingredient to the ROI formula still needs to be explained: how to calculate your investment gain. As I explained earlier, Google Analytics is your friend here.
Within the Google Analytics interface, toggle on “Enable Enhanced e-Commerce Reporting” and then navigate to the “Conversions” tab under the “Analytics” window. At this point, you can view your organic traffic data and, finally, your revenue and conversion rates that stem from your organic traffic.
Since organic traffic refers to all non-paid web traffic (i.e., traffic not generated by PPC advertising), we can infer that practically all organic traffic revenue is generated by SEO. Therefore, I suggest using your “Revenue: Organic Traffic” figure to measure the total gain on your SEO investment, which can then be plugged into the formula above.
SEO: Your Ticket To Organic Growth
A recent SparkToro study found that 57.8% of all web traffic derives from Google search queries, which far exceeds traffic from Facebook or other social media sites. In other words, there’s no better marketing channel than SEO for bringing attention to your website.
In this article, we went over the basic steps involved in calculating the ROI of an SEO campaign. Whether you’re a marketing manager looking to showcase the fruits of your labor to your boss or a solo entrepreneur gauging whether your SEO strategy is working, this is an excellent method for collecting the data you need.
Just remember that SEO is a long-term investment. It often takes months, if not years, for the full benefit of an SEO campaign to materialize. However, by knowing how to track your ROI and your campaign’s progress, you can learn which parts of your strategy are working as expected and which elements might need to be revamped.