What's SEO for? What's in it for me?

SEO is talked about everywhere nowadays, in any industry, but is often misunderstood. What’s exactly SEO used for? And, what’s in it for you as a business owner?

Wondering what’s in it for you with SEO?

Those questions seem silly for the experienced marketer but sure aren’t for the medium-small business owner. They are by far the two most asked to me when interviewing potential clients. And, also by far, the two hardest to explain to the uninitiated.

I get you. Why writing a bunch of words or tweaking the UI of your website should make you excited? Why would you need to invest in those “words” to get a return (the ROI, return of investment) that is above what you initially spent?

I understand that it may seem weird, or even absurd that just keeping a blog, optimizing the speed and design of your website, paying quite a lot of money to do both, and then paying a SEO expert, a freelancer or an agency, to do it all would make you richer. Isn’t business about products and advertising? Why investing in SEO when I can invest, and more fruitfully, in PPC advertising (the paid campaigns like in Google Ads)?

First, you can do both, of course. Nobody forces you to do one and not the other. But I get it, budget constraints and so on. Fine.

So, why hiring a SEO consultant at all? Why investing in SEO?

And, perhaps most importantly, what’s the ROI for SEO? What’s in it for you as a business owner?

How SEO can increase your revenues

The most commonly thought reason to spend for better SEO is to increase traffic. After all, that’s what most SEO experts focus, at first. Increasing traffic to your website obviously has advantages in itself: more people know about your business, more people may buy your products or services. It’s a numbers game. More visitors, more chances that they will be converted into customers. Simple as that.

That may be reason enough to pay a freelance SEO consultant for.

Yet most of you won’t be convinced by this alone. Understandably. Setting aside hard-earned money for SEO just to get more visitors in the hope that some of those will be a conversion, doesn’t sound like a superb strategy. I concur.

But SEO isn’t just increasing traffic. Any good SEO consultant you may hire will be doing much more than simply focusing on getting more visitors to click on your link on Google. SEO is yes a method to increase that but also a practice to lead the newly gained visitors through a journey on your website, in order to let them know your business, your offerings, and take an action on your website. The increasing the visitors part is only the very first, and not even the most important one. SEO is much more complex than “let’s get more traffic”.

A good SEO expert will check conversion rates, taking care of what visitors are converting into what they’re buying and why other visitors aren’t. An hired SEO expert will be able to optimize your online presence to increase the number of converted visitors rather than just increasing the overall number of them. Quality visitors, not just more of any type.

How many quality visitors you may get with SEO? That depends.

A good consult to starting a SEO strategy
A good consult to starting a SEO strategy

Revenues from SEO vary from sector to sector. Latest data from Wolfgang Digital for 2020 shows that organic searches, those which SEOs will target, play the largest share of the revenues channels, even more than paid advertising. In some cases, like travel tickets, the revenues gained from organic SEO double the ones from all other channels combined. That means that people simply looking on Google and clicking to normal, non-paid, links, can get you more revenues than any other channels you may invest in.

That’s a lot of revenues that simply focusing on SEO can drive to your business.

Regardless of what your industry is, hiring a SEO consultant will help you understand what are the searches your potential customers are doing, what are those who have a higher revenue potential, and what are those which are better to not invest time and money in.

You put aside some of your budget for SEO to better spend it, where it really matters.

User experience matters more than just getting lots of visitors

It is all nice and good to know what potential customers are looking for and what to focus on, but that’s just the first part of the SEO job. Getting the visitors, and the right ones, is vital, but also getting those visitors to convert (=spend money) is too. We have no use of visitors that click on one of your page’s links and leave in 2 seconds. Spending money to attract those isn’t of any use to your business.

But what is the cause of visitors that are looking for what you can provide but are leaving your website immediately? A SEO consultant can help you understand this too. The user experience (UX) and site health (a bunch of technical parameters that are used to optimize the speed and navigability of your website) are also part of SEO, and super-necessary to improve.

Let’s make an example.

Anybody has had an experience like this: you look up on Google about a product you are thinking of buying. A link seems precisely what you want to know, so you click on it and end up on some company’s website, in an article talking about how their products can help to solve an issue or give you value. Cool. That was a good link, with good content.

 You may read or just skim the article, but at the end you’re convinced that these products may be right for what you need. Next step then: how do you buy them? There’s no direct link from the article to the shop, nor any of the specific products are highlighted nor clickable. You move to the “shop” section on the top bar of the websites (which hopefully is present…), and end up on a long page, with tens of products. There’s no way to filter for features or price, so you have to scroll the page and open every product in another tab. You spend a couple of minutes doing that, until the differences between the products start to blur and you have no idea whatsoever what product is right for you. You give up, close all the tabs and go back to Google.

What went wrong? The visitor was actually interested in what you offer, and the good content you wrote on the blog was convincing. Your content strategy was sound, and the SEO ranking of your website was optimized enough to be shown on the visitor’s search on Google. Yet, all that effort didn’t convert into any money.

Good advice for UX designers (and anybody, actually)
Good advice for UX designers (and anybody, actually)

Bad user experience was the reason for the lack of revenue in this case. The difficulties in finding what he/she was looking for discouraged the user. Despite being interested and engaged by your content (which is why you need a good content strategy), the efforts necessary to convert (= purchase) what you offer were too many that the potential customer became an actual customer of one of your competitors.

Happens all the time. And for plenty of reasons.

Hiring a good SEO expert would have prevented that. The expert would have taken care of linking your offerings into the content better, to highlight better the navigability of the website and implementing some filters to quickly get shown only the products that a customer may be interested in. That would have been a good user experience, one that would have converted.

A SEO consultancy session would have highlighted these possible problems on your website and more. Imagine how many visitors get redirected to another website or back to the search engine by a poor user experience. We browse websites that are difficult to navigate every day. Then imagine how many lost revenues for your business.

That’s what’s in it for you with some more SEO expenditures.

What’s the ROI of SEO then?

Talking about some numbers then. Not actual ones, as they depend on the single website. Just generic formulas that are valid for any business, in any industry.

Calculating revenues
Calculating revenues

It is natural that for x spending for SEO, you expect y earnings more than when you weren’t investing in SEO. Where y is of course higher than x. Otherwise, we’re just wasting money.

That’s fine and logical. Nobody wants to invest a hard-earned budget for something that will give them the same results or less than not having invested that budget at all. As a SEO consultant, that’s something I know and respect. So far, so good.

How do you know if the ROI for your SEO expenses is worth it? You need some basic data about your website to know it. Don’t worry, if you hire a SEO expert he/she will know where to find those or how to tell you how to know them.

At the very minimum, you should know 3 metrics:

  • average monthly visits
  • e-commerce conversion rate of your website
  • average order value

The last one you should know or easily check. It’s the average of all the orders made through your website in the past, in a given period. That gives you an insight on how much you can expect a single conversion to give you in terms of sheer money.

The first two are trickier, and it’s fine if you don’t know them. The SEO expert you hire will check them for you.

From these three metrics we can calculate the y as above: what you can expect in ROI from your SEO efforts. The x will be told to you by the SEO expert when hired, so you need to know how many new visitors you need to generate enough revenues, the y, to make it worth spending the x, the SEO expenses.

Put it simply, the SEO consultant will try to get you enough new visitors that, according to the conversion rate of your website, will generate enough new orders, considering the average order value, to justify the expenses for the SEO services. You invest 10 to get back 15 or 20, for instance. Simple enough.

That is assuming that every new visitor will have the same conversion rate, and thus the same ROI, as the old ones. A good SEO expert will know that this may not be the case, especially for websites that haven’t been paying much attention to improving their ranking and user experience in the last months (or at all…). Getting a better and clearer content strategy, improving the weak points of your user experience, fixing the technical issues that are always somewhat present in any website, and making it more friendly to search engines (lots of technical fixes that you shouldn’t be worried about), will most definitely increase also the conversion rate of your visitors.

Therefore, not just more visitors = more money, but more money per visitor. The ROI can increase exponentially.

Yet we haven’t even considered the ROI in SEO when doing it to increase brand awareness, creating communities around your brand, leveraging social media for more traffic and many, many other SEO practices that can not only increase that shiny number of visitors but also the quality of them.

How does it sound hiring a SEO consultant now? Not too pricey, eh?

In light of all this, spending a few hundred dollars every month for the services of a good SEO seems like a bargain. Just be aware that your ROI from SEO should never be expected immediately, in 1 or 2 months. If you’re in SEO, you’re in for the long run. To see big changes, you need to be patient, as new content, the interface changes and new links need to be registered (technically what’s called indexing) by Google and other search engines. Then visitors need to react to these changes, and it needs a few weeks to know how much of an impact they had on your traffic and conversions.

This doesn’t happen overnight, nor in 1-2 weeks, but it takes many weeks. Never get discouraged when working on SEO as the effects may happen later than you hoped. A good SEO consultant’s best quality is patience.

In any case, if you’re not sure yet what’s in it for your specific business with SEO or how it would work in practice, do contact me anytime. A free consultation is available, or even if you just have questions and doubts to clear, I’d be happy to help.

Gianluca Fiore
Gianluca Fiore
Content Writer

Content writer, SEO consultant, avid traveler, coffee aficionado and all around nice guy

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