Is SEO Still Worth It in 2015?

It’s that time of year again – time to finalize the operating budget for 2015. In my corporate life, I found that marketing budgets were often the most “fluid” of all expense items. That’s a nice way of saying it was frequently the first place to cut.

I think I know why marketing and advertising are favorites among bean counters looking for places to “cut expenses.” It can be summed up in an often quoted statement: “Half our advertising works – we just don’t know which half.” In other words, it’s hard to quantify. That may have been the case, when ad dollars were primarily spent on newspapers, TV and radio. Fortunately, with internet marketing and Web analytics, that’s no longer the case.

The beauty of digital marketing is that you can easily and accurately measure the return on your marketing investment. The key is to measure this metric correctly. I may be a marketer, but I’m also a numbers guy and a business owner. When I decide to make an investment, I’m reasonably sure of the outcome. I trust that most successful business owners and managers function the same way.

Measuring Organic Search (SEO) ROI

Following is a formula, often used incorrectly, to measure return on Investment (ROI) for organic search: 

Organic Search ROI Calculation Assuming “One Shots” 

Example: selling blue widgets  
Number of new customers acquired via organic search in a given month 10 
Average net incomve (profit) per order $100 
Total profits from new organic search customers in a given month $1,000 
Monthly marketing budget (expense) $2,500 
Monthly profits from new customers ($1,000) divided by monthly organic marketing spend ($2,500)  ROI = -60% 

 

If your average customer only buys from you one time, this is a problem. However, most online retailers rely on repeat business, in order to flourish. Failure to calculate the lifetime value of a newly acquired client distorts the true ROI. The proper way to calculate ROI, when repeat customers are the norm, follows: 

Organic Search ROI Calculation Assuming Lifetime Value

Same example: selling blue widgets  
Number of new customers acquired via organic search in a given month 10 
Average net income (profit) per order $100 
Total profits from new organic search customers in a given month $1,000 
Average number of orders per customer over a “lifetime”
Total average lifetime profit $5,000 
Monthly marketing budget (expense)  $2,500 
Average lifetime profits from new customers ($5,000) divided by monthly organic marketing spend ($2,500) ROI = 200%

 

As you can see, one variable can make a HUGE difference in properly calculating ROI.

Organic Search Requires an Ongoing Investment

Organic search isn’t like PPC; one should not expect an organic search campaign to yield immediate results. A well designed organic campaign will involve a combination of content marketing and link-building activities, supplemented by social promotion. These activities take time to research and execute – not to mention the time that passes before Google indexes the work.

The Google Paradox

According to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. SEO has proven to be the exception to this rule.

In fact, the EXACT same activities that once thrust a KW phrase to number one in the SERPs can now trigger manual or algorithmic pain. In other words, doing the same thing as in the past, can and will yield very different results.

Developing a Budget

I’m often asked by prospective clients how much money one should budget in order to achieve Goal X in Y period of time. It would be terrific if search marketing was like programming – a straight-up “if this, then that” proposition. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. There are too many outside variables in play.

The rate of achieving a goal is impacted by a number of factors, beyond your control or the marketers’. Things like the number of competitors in a niche, the quality of competing websites, the quality of competitor link profiles, and the strength of competing brands are all wildcards that will have an impact how quickly one gets traction in organic search.

That said, the right budget is one that you can comfortably afford and stick with for at least three to six months. It takes that long to plan, organize, develop, execute, and then accurately evaluate the success of a campaign. Generally speaking, more budget dollars equals more resources, which can expedite meeting established goals and objectives.

paradox googleChoosing an SEO

There is no shortage of information on how to choose an SEO, right here at Search Engine Watch. That said, I’ll turn my attention on what to avoid:

  • Email spammers. Do you really think it’s a good idea to trust some anonymous clown with a disposable Gmail account with your online success? They’ve already broken marketing protocol, if not the law, by sending you an unsolicited email. What makes you think they will conform to Google webmaster guidelines?
  • Firms that promote and sell “Cheap Backlinks.” Hiring a company to get cheap backlinks is akin to paying for a Penguin slap or manual penalty. I have yet to find any of these firms doing editorial link-building. Instead, they are engaging in link schemes that are not compliant with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
  • Firms that promote and sell “Cheap Content.” Buying and publishing poor quality content is the first step in getting Panda slapped out of the SERPs. If you think good content is expensive, it’s a bargain when compared to the cost of a penalty recovery.
  • Fiverr – (Possible exception – churn and burn affiliate sites). My inbox is filled daily with horror stories from business owners who are desperate to recover from a penalty caused by shoddy SEO work. Many didn’t know the rules. Others didn’t care, because whatever was being done was working.

In Summary

Of course SEO is still worth it in 2015. If you have been having difficulty in determining what to spend, the calculations above may prove useful in developing a budget. Don’t take the “Cheap SEO” bait. There is no point in paying a “Bargain SEO Firm” to do work that is, more often than not, against Google guidelines and almost certain to trigger a Panda or Penguin hit.

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