How SEO Investment Builds Financial Equity In Your Business
Investment, be it time, money, or talent, is an essential aspect for any company looking to grow. Whether you are in real estate, import and export, the entertainment industry, marketing, or the business of knowledge, long-term prosperity often directly correlates to the investments you make in your business.
Some investments produce immediate results, while others are slow to start but add value over an extended period and continue to bear fruit once set in motion.
While most businesses understand the importance of investing, many fail to diversify their investments, for example, spending only on research and product development.
Among the most efficient modes of revenue generation is digital marketing.
And while many “old school” companies are open to the concept of digital marketing, many smaller companies still struggle to grasp the benefits of a website that has prominent visibility in its niche when people search for solutions.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a key component of modern digital marketing. Thanks to search engines like Google, proper SEO will put your product or service smack dab in the searcher’s face at the precise moment they are looking for what you have to sell.
But let’s clear up a few misconceptions about SEO, and simplify a few nuances. We’ll highlight different types of SEO, their benefits and limitations, and why SEO is a sound investment that yields business equity and long-term results.
Why are some hesitant to invest in SEO?
In layperson’s terms, SEO is an “organic” practice of creating written and video content and building links to the content from other websites (backlinks). These two primary promotional modalities signal search engines like Google, Bing, and even DuckDuckGo as “votes of confidence” to put your business on top of their SERPs — the Search Engine Results Pages.
The principal benefit of ranking on Page 1 of a search engine is truly global online visibility, resulting in more website visits, inquiries, and sales.
Many companies do not invest in SEO because they lack the basic knowledge of how to execute SEO properly, as well as the time required to demonstrate efficacy. It doesn’t help that shady practitioners of services they call “SEO” only serve to disappoint and muddle the issue.
SEO is all about playing the long game.
On a planet where everyone demands instant gratification, SEO embodies the age-old saying, “slow and steady wins the race.” From attracting organic traffic to your website to ranking high on search engines using white-hat techniques (the ones Google approves of), SEO growth is the “tortoise” to the more traditional paid advertising “hare”.
Like most things in life, outcomes are not guaranteed, but doing the right things puts you in a position to win.
Bear in mind that time and patience are two essential factors integral to a successful SEO strategy. The implication of well-executed SEO has a proven record in helping businesses prosper.
SEO vs. SEM – What’s the difference?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) are two different approaches to any digital marketing campaign.
SEO has an “organic” character in that you publish content for “free” to the search engines and, if they feel your content might be valuable to their searchers, they give it visibility.
SEM, traditionally defined as “paid search advertising”, is more direct, shows faster results, and requires a repeated monetary push to deliver results.
Many people differentiate SEM from SEO by labeling the former as paid marketing. While true, it is essential to clarify that SEO also requires investment. This raises the question of why one should choose SEO when it costs money, just like SEM?
SEM primarily consists of Google PPC (Pay-Per-Click) and advertisements on YouTube, Gmail, or display ads on popular websites. While clicks are not always guaranteed, you do gain near-instant visibility. However, people are quite aware that these are ads, not organic search results, and therefore might not be the best “answers” to their search queries.
Critically, the visibility and hence ROI (Return on Investment) of paid ads ends the moment you stop paying for them.
SEO is about achieving regular, long-term visibility on Google for the topics with which you’d like your business to be associated. Consequently, your audience is more likely to click on your website link.
It can take months for a website to start ranking on search engines, but once there, it tends to stay in place for longer. Often, a good search result is nearly impossible for a competitor to dislodge!
How would you like an unassailable “moat” around your brand, such that your competition would never surpass you in Google?
That’s business equity.
You may not need to invest more into content that’s already on Page 1 of Google. However, if you see it start to slip, you can always update the content to keep it fresh and relevant. For example, an industry survey you did in 2016 is ripe for dislodging by a competitor today.
Regular investment in SEO helps increase sales and keeps the brand visible. It’s not a process that lends itself well to turning off, then turning back on, then turning off. What kind of race works that way?
There are many white-hat SEO practices, but some of the most used include:
- Content marketing (writing articles and making helpful videos)
- Keyword research around your best topics
- Link building from other authoritative sources
- Creating a mobile-friendly website
- Good user experience (UX)
Understanding the need for investing in SEO
The Edgar Winter Group wrote a great song, “Free Ride” in the 1970s. It was all about getting on your motorcycle and riding free with the wind in your hair.
But who paid for the motorcycle?
Just like rockin’ down the highway, SEO involves effort on the front end. Effort is not free, but SEO is one of the best efforts you can make to help your business grow.
However, SEO is a black-box, which makes guarantees impossible. Only Google, the world’s #1 search engine, knows what Google is really looking for. An SEO agency can make highly-educated moves, based on research, competition and other evidence.
Fortunately, the results of good SEO are clear: your website starts ranking.
Think about it: if Google published their exact “playbook” for high rankings, everyone would be doing the exact same thing. At that point, how would Google know which website should be #1?
Doing things the right way (as far as Google is concerned) is a great way to rank higher in Google.
To achieve high rankings for your most important topics, you need a strong SEO team in the backend that includes expert strategists, content writers, a link-building team, and web developers who maintain your website and keep it secure and bug-free. This requires monthly investment to reap the benefits.
The Best Reasons to Invest in SEO
Your sales team works for 8 hours each weekday. But there’s one entity who should be working to increase your brand value and revenue all day, 365 days a year: your website. You must invest in order to shine a “search light” (pun intended) on your website so it can work to its full potential.
Go to Google, and search for products and services related to your business.
Do you see your competitors listed at the top of the results and not you?
Your competitors may be investing in SEO, but if you’re not at the top of the search results, you absolutely should be investing in SEO.
With a bit of strategy, SEO can become the most effective avenue to achieve online brand recognition and increased revenue for your business.
At the heart of both SEO and social media is content that results in visibility, clicks and revenue generation.
However, social media is fickle and your message must get pushed into the user’s timeline. In addition, “searching” on social media is a terrible experience. The whole basis of social media is “passive discovery”: the user sits there and is fed content that the platform thinks the user might like.
This is where SEO is wildly different.
SEO attracts an audience specifically interested in your solutions right at the moment they need it.
Types of SEO Investments
SEO includes many different types of activities, each of which works to make your website stand out amongst competitors on search engines.
The following elements form the building blocks of a profitable SEO strategy.
The complexity of SEO is such that you need a variety of talents to make your company’s website easily found on Google. You will need talent at the following positions:
- SEO Strategist – a person who can suss out the competition and find appropriate keyword and topic clusters to help create your executable SEO strategy.
- Content Writer(s) – You need unique, helpful and search optimized content that makes you a source of authoritative information.
- Link Builders – It can be quite difficult to rise above the noise with “natural backlinks” — or links from websites that find your content and link to it because it’s so darned good. Backlinks help goose that process. Backlinks to your website are especially critical for niche and/or B2B websites.
- Reporting Analyst – With so much information on hand (sales conversions, traffic, demographics, clicks, popular articles), you will need a professional to decipher it all and advise changes in your digital strategy when required.
- Web Developer – You need someone to manage your website, make it load quickly, handle tech issues, and remove dead content and links.
- Manager – when you have multiple people working towards a common goal, a manager acts as a bridge between the different functions.
Correctly investing in content is the single biggest needle-mover in SEO. Many people trip and fall at this stage, either because they do not have information, want to cut costs, hate creating content (writing and creating videos), or are in a hurry to see results.
Search engines favor content that is unique, in-depth, well-researched, and most importantly, useful for searchers. Populating your website regularly with articles is important, but the quality of your content is key.
A noteworthy advantage of investing in a professional content writer is their awareness of consumer behavior. There are three types of searches on Google. A good content creator knows how to write copy that targets each of these customer types.
- Informational – Individuals searching for information that can range from how to boil an egg to understanding the three laws of motion.
- Navigational – People looking for a specific product or website. Very often the term being searched is the brand name. These individuals are most likely to click one of the top results on Google Page 1.
- Transactional – Searchers who are looking to buy a product or service, and very often visit multiple websites before purchasing.
To create good content, your business requires writers who are passionate about your topic.
For any SEO team to function properly and show results, they need to employ a variety of (typically, paid) tools. These include hardware like laptops and subscription-based software for keyword searches, traffic trends and website analytics.
Some examples we use at Boomcycle include the venerable Ahrefs for researching topics, competitors and traffic value, and Elementor, which is our favorite WordPress website builder.
A quick guide to investing in SEO
At this point, you may be convinced that you need to invest in SEO. We won’t hide the fact that SEO adds to your operational cost. It also takes time to show results.
By now, you realize that SEO can significantly impact your brand and visibility, irrespective of your company’s size. Plan for it from the start, and you can see it grow alongside your business.
So what kinds of businesses can benefit from SEO?
Small businesses – For a small business short on capital, SEO may be limited at first. However, it is vital to know your target audience before starting. Once you do, focus on content and web development and increase your SEO budget as the company grows. The sooner you start, the better.
Alternatively, you can look into hiring a digital agency like Boomcycle, which specializes in helping start-ups, small and mid-sized businesses prosper on the web.
Mid-sized businesses – Slightly deeper pockets of a mid-sized company allow for a more aggressive SEO strategy, and a budget assigned specifically for SEO. The SEO team must work on increasing brand visibility and going head-to-head with competitors. Hiring a professional team to work on written and video content, backlinks, web management, and website updates will have lasting effects.
Large businesses – One gets to see SEO at its highest level in large organizations with large digital marketing budgets. Whether in-house or outside, the team typically enlists multiple SEO practices for a high ROI. You’ll also find that the company’s traditional marketing team works very closely with digital promotions in such cases.
Calculating SEO Return on Investment (ROI)
How can we measure the impact of SEO on your actual sales revenue?
There are a few ways to understand the ROI of your SEO campaign, as well as the ROI of every one of your marketing channels. In fact, Boomcycle’s SAS can give you marketing ROI information, even in real time.
There are also a few other ways to gather some heuristics that help prove the efficacy of SEO as a marketing channel.
Each of these tests require time, usually a matter of several months depending on your sales cycle and the type of business that you’re in, before you can make a statistically significant comparison of revenue before-and-after SEO.
The Not-So-Easy Way
Start with a baseline. How many sales can you currently attribute to your website’s monthly organic search engine visitors?
To get this value, you’d need to decide on either first-touch or last-touch attribution for sales, and thereafter know whether your buyer came from Google organic. It’s possible they first arrived (first-touch) from Google organic, then later, lazily clicked on a Google ad you were running when they returned to complete the sale (last-touch).
First-touch attribution means when the buyer became aware of your product or solution. Last-touch attribution means when the buyer finally clicked “Buy” or submitted a sales inquiry form.
No matter how you slice attribution, average your revenue for the past three months, and note that number. Run SEO for 4-6 months, and note the revenue for the past 60 days.
This will give you a very rough indication of SEO ROI, and whether or not you should continue.
An Easier Heuristic
An easiest way to determine the ROI (or at least, the value) of SEO is to check a search tool such as Ahrefs (we’re happy to do it for you, if you don’t have Ahrefs) and see what your website’s traffic value is today.
Your organic monthly traffic value is what you would have paid Google Ads to drive as many visitors to your website as you’re currently getting each month, based on the keywords they searched and found you for.
A given keyword is more or less valuable based on its commercial or transactional intent. Naturally, a valuable keyword is one that drives revenue, and Google Ads users bid on keywords that historically lead to sales.
So while traffic value isn’t a measure of your actual sales (only you know those numbers), it does show you the $-value of the keywords your website is visible for.
For example, let’s say your website received visitors who searched for “used Tesla for sale”:
The used Tesla search is far more valuable than a search for “Joe Blow Company”:
(Wow, turns out that’s a real company!)
The point is, what is the transactional intent of these two keywords? One is obviously going to lead to more transactions and sales than the other.
Now look at the monthly traffic value of the tesla.com website overall:
I’m fairly sure Elon knows his website is insanely valuable.
If your traffic value is low, well, the good news is: there’s room for improvement.
Start your SEO campaign. Most companies, especially very niche companies, need to run their SEO campaigns for at least 3-6 months to see statistically significant results. See where your revenue is at, or recheck your traffic value. An increase in traffic value means you’re on the right track, as you are most likely ranking for:
- more keywords,
- more valuable keywords,
- or both.
Increase or decrease your SEO investment, check back in 5-6 months, and assess the results.
A mistake companies make is to stop investing once they achieve their initial SEO goals. Even if you start ranking on search engines, you must continue investing in SEO to stay ahead, because your competition won’t stand still. Your “pause” may be their best opportunity to climb ahead of you in the search rankings.
Why Outsource Your SEO?
It’s nearly impossible for most SMB-sized companies to handle SEO on their own. This is even more true for businesses with little time and fewer employees.
Collaborating with SEO experts allows you to focus on your business while making the most of the following benefits:
- Cost-effectiveness – A digital agency can customize SEO based on your individual requirements. If your budget is low, they may recommend tackling issues that need immediate fixes, saving overarching strategies for later.
- Employee management – Hiring and managing individuals to handle all the angles of SEO can be a troublesome process. When working with an agency, one member of your marketing team acting as liaison is typically sufficient. These employees need not be SEO proficient but they need to understand their business deeply. This is why it’s usually not ideal to assign a lower-level employee, as their knowledge of the business will typically not be as extensive as a CMO, CRO or Director of Marketing.
- Extensive knowledge – SEO agencies can formulate extensive knowledge about competitive businesses, some of which you may not even be aware. They can guide you better in ranking above your competitors on search engines.
- Adaptability – Since digital agencies regularly work with a variety of clients, they can quickly and easily adapt to your business needs. Moreover, they have a larger professional pool of SEO experts working for them.
- Up-to-date information – SEO is forever evolving. An SEO company has all the latest information on algorithm changes and new features that can save unnecessary time otherwise spent on implementing legacy practices.
- Software costs – As we discussed above, SEO requires a variety of tools. A company handling its own SEO will have to invest in software and hardware. Since digital agencies already have these tools, you save money by not having to subscribe to them.
- Holistic approach – An SEO agency can provide a more structured and holistic campaign that helps speed up the process of ranking on search engines.
When is SEO not right for your business?
Recently I was approached by a charitable organization that wanted to promote an upcoming golf tournament. They already had a website, but it lacked content, keyword density, and was not getting much traffic.
What they required immediately, since the tournament was only a month away, more traffic and donations, and to encourage golfers to take part in the event.
Sadly, I had to inform them that in my experience, SEO was not the best way forward in this case. Instead, it would be better to leverage social media, and contact local influencers and organizations to spread the word.
Here are some instances when you should look for options to SEO:
- Immediate results – SEO cannot give you quick results when done using white-hat techniques. Whether to get participants for a golf tournament or to show website traffic to investors in a few weeks, you’re better off using SEM and social in such cases.
- Happy with sketchy techniques – Keyword stuffing and paid links are some ways to cheat into ranking higher on search engines. While they may work occasionally, black-hat techniques are a sure way to eventually get penalized by search engines.
- Duplicated content – Google has a somewhat lenient view of duplicate content, but it still knows what you are up to. If you are of the mindset that copying popular content will get you ranked, then SEO is not for you. SEO involves writing original copy and sharing detailed articles that are both helpful and relevant.
- Budget limitations – If your budget does not allow for good content, best to pass on SEO. It’s much better to have a few well-written articles than several run-of-the-mill blog posts that provide nothing new. You’ll still spend money, and these “thin content” articles will rarely rank on Google.
SEO Investment Payoffs
Search engine optimization results in brand visibility and increased sales and revenue.
Moreover, SEO’s influence on branding and sales is well documented, as seen from the following facts:
- The first result on a Google page has a CTR (Clickthrough Rate) of 31.7%.
- 49% of marketers in a survey stated the best ROI comes from organic searches.
- CTR can increase by 30% when you move up one spot among the top 5 search results on Google Page 1.
- 70% of marketers said that SEO is better than PPC in generating sales.
The truth is that healthy and growing companies know that SEO works, and requires investment. The investment reaps engagement and sales rewards.
The earlier you think of SEO as an investment in your business, the more successful you’re likely to be.