The ROI of SEO

By October 4, 2011 SEO No Comments

I recently attended PRWeb’s Rand Fishkin webinar about SEO. As usual, Fishkin, CEO & co-founder of SEOmoz, brought his “A” game and got me thinking. Here is my reaction to his presentation:

SEO vs. traditional marketing
I approach this comparison not as a shill for my company, but as an observer in the field. All of Fishkin’s points supported this central idea: that organic search marketing tends to have the highest return of all forms of marketing. Most other forms of (interruption-based) traditional marketing are expensive and hard to track. And not only are they expensive, but they also lack cost-efficiency.

Consider that among Fathom’s clients, the average return-on-investment for SEO is 1:15. In other words, for every dollar a client invests in SEO, that client gets $15 back. This figure is based on years of hard data spanning hundreds of samples.

Think about that. I’m not in the C-suite—heck, I’m not even a salesperson—but I get those numbers. If I owned my own business, I would definitely be paying attention to SEO based on those numbers alone. What’s more, though, is that with SEO you can typically know those numbers, as Fishkin also stated. The key is that it’s measurable. And the fact that it is so much more quantifiable than a host of traditional marketing methods makes it that much more desirable an investment.

“Good, unique content is not enough … it’s a starting point”
This line from Fishkin conveys how the concept of good content is easily misunderstood. Many think that if they put out some good, unique content, then they are set for life: “Content is king, the rest follows.” Not exactly. You need to be making the kind of good content that’s right for your customers. Furthermore, you need to be putting that content in places where they can find it—organic-search results, Google Places, Twitter, Facebook et al. So, always ask yourself when creating new content, “Is this something my audience will value?” If the answer is “no,” then you should probably be doing something else.

Sustainability and the long haul
Fishkin’s “day-to-day” prescription for time-strapped businesses amounted to the following  process:

  1. Discover
  2. Test
  3. Measure
  4. Repeat

An added injunction to throw out low-ROI projects and repeat high-ROI ones rounds out the approach. Essentially, it’s good to repeat what works well (and is highly profitable) and to discard or amend what doesn’t (and isn’t highly profitable). This common-sense Fishkin approach could be applied to any online marketing initiative, whether blasting email newsletters, shelling out for Google PPC, or canvassing the social Web. In fact, we here at Fathom follow our own version of this method when creating the most profitable sources of revenue for our clients, whether they’re engaged in just one service, e.g. Web video production or multi-channel campaigns.

Go organic
In case you missed the main point, I’ll sum it up again: Traditional marketing is expensive! It also can be difficult, if not impossible, to track its returns. Go online, get the most bang for your buck, and measure everything. As social-media scientist Dan Zarella likes to say:

“If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense.”


Read more about the ROI of digital marketing in “How Much Does Online Marketing Cost?”

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