The money you’re able to make from a top position in search engine result pages (SERPs) often determines the effort you're willing to take. Search engine marketing (SEM) is maturing and now that there is little secret sauce left it comes down to ability and willingness to put in the required effort. Increasingly the ability to make money from a particular keyword is the key to successful search engine optimization (SEO).
The Effort You Should Take
The ideal situation for ranking on any type of search results is getting clearer and clearer. Where there used to be many shortcuts, Panda offers a great example where low quality SEO and guerrilla tactics are no longer as successful. Only unfair ranking factors like exact match domains keep SEO from being a level playing field, but it’s getting there.
In a market where everybody should spend the same effort for the same result it all comes down to “how much effort can you take?” SEO effort is determined by a lot of factors which eventually all come down to money. If you make enough money you can even buy a top ranking website to re-use their positions and traffic.
Flexibility & Resources
Although your competitors might have a head start, they did put in the effort once. If you're currently gaining on them, you can probably predict how much effort is still needed before you beat them.
Before you overtake all the top positions of your competition, think about the following: You should avoid an arms race! If they are currently in a comfortable situation they can probably increase their effort while you are still catching a breath from just getting there. Sneak up to them and only overtake highly monitored keywords once you are breathing down their neck.
There will always be a big difference in the ways certain companies are able to use their resources. While big corporations have a lot going for them, they’re seldom flexible. They might even make less money from a top position because of this.
A small, well converting website will be able to use its creativity and flexibility to outsmart their expensive and unwieldy corporate structure. This takes SEO very close to being a level playing field.
The Money You Make
Keyword ROI provides a great basis for effort calculations.
When you calculate the maximum effort you can take (by looking at the money you’re able to make) for you and your competitors, you can determine where they will start to fall behind. If your calculation shows they won’t, you should increase the money you’re able to make.
Not 100% Relevant?
Based on keyword ROI, if you aren’t relevant for 100 percent of all searches for that keyword, you might want to partner with services that enable you to be.
Ranking for "holiday" might not be the best idea if you only offer airline tickets, but by partnering with hotels, excursions, car rental and more, you might just be able to get away with it. Combining several additional business models like CPM, CPC and CPA can make your site into a real money machine.
Ruling Your Search Engine Results Page
The hard thing about keyword ROI is guessing how all traffic sources combined attribute to a conversion. Visibility in search results should be across the board for every related query and search result type.
Combining multiple result types in a single SERP increases the chance of getting visitors and helps in influencing their choice. Where there are already many researches available that show how search engine advertising and SEO combined increase the click-through and conversion rates. Map listings, rich snippets, images, video, products, and many more have the same effect and help each other enormously.
The best business model should rule the SERPs and tweaking your money machine is the key ingredient of SEO. Keep track of ROI and don’t get tempted into an arms race against large egos that want to rank just for the sake of winning.