Having been in the SEO industry since before it was called the SEO industry, I continue to get a kick out of how often questions like, “Is SEO worth it?” crop up. If you Google that phrase, or similar phrases like, “Is SEO dead?” you’ll find countless articles, usually written by SEO agencies to drive traffic to our websites. As I often tell my clients, the digital marketing industry is really good at making a mountain out of a molehill to get attention.
The reality is, there is no simple answer to the question of whether or not SEO is worth it. It honestly depends on your business and your goals. In my opinion, if SEO was worthwhile for your business 10 years ago, it’s likely just as worthwhile now. It may be a bit more challenging than it was a decade ago, but the returns are still significant for those that continue to practice SEO, either in house or via a search engine optimization agency.
Are SEO services worth it and what is the value of SEO?
I will say that in my years in this business, I have come across a handful of clients and situations where I’ve found that SEO wasn’t worth it. I’m not blind to the reality that there are some businesses that just won’t benefit from this kind of work. For example, small very regional machine shops struggle to truly benefit from SEO. Can it work? Can they get leads? Sure. However, they are often tied to a small handful of very local clients, and the investment it would require can just be too high to justify the expense. Sometimes it comes down to asking the right questions about marketing.
How much should I pay for SEO?
In most cases, though, there is a very real business case that can be made for a right-sized investment in SEO. The best way to decide if SEO is worth it for your business is to identify the value of a new customer and work backwards into a cost per lead that you’re willing to pay. This is a bit easier to test with PPC but can still guide you from an SEO perspective. Take this scenario, for instance. Let’s pretend you are an industrial manufacturer that makes capital equipment. Your math might look something like this:
Average sale: $75,000
Average margin: 30%
Average close rate: 30%
To put this into some real-world perspective, let’s assume your annual SEO investment is $50,000.
This means you would need to land two new clients to recover your investment, three new clients would generate a $25,000 gross profit.
To generate those sales, based on your close rate, you would need a total of 10 leads per year.
If you want to go a little deeper, you can identify the conversion rate of your website, as it stands now, which will tell you how much more qualified traffic you need to generate to attain the lead volumes you need to hit your sales goals.
Is SEO still relevant?
I can tell you that we have many clients where the numbers above are realistic as it relates to average sale, margin and close rate. In those cases, SEO is absolutely worth it and still a relevant marketing option. Most industrial manufacturing clients generate significantly more than 10 leads per month, let alone per year. In addition, the very simple math above does not take into account the lifetime value of those clients. More often than not, for a manufacturing company, one lead that turns into revenue can pay for multiple years of search engine optimization services.
Of course, there are variations in average sale, close rate, quality of leads and many other factors that change the math. For instance, an e-commerce site is very likely to have much lower numbers across the board in terms of average sale, margin, etc. However, in those cases, the traffic volumes and number of conversions/transactions are much higher. It is very easy to track sales and margins vs. SEO investment because the revenue numbers are right in your ROI report.
Is SEO worth it for small business?
If you are trying to decide whether or not SEO is worth it, take the time to go through an exercise like this. SEO, in my opinion, is only worth it if it can help you generate real sales opportunities.
The SEO game isn’t getting any easier. Not only are search engines constantly raising standards for website speed and website security, but it now takes a careful link building strategy, incredible content marketing, and a holistic SEO strategy to compete for competitive search terms. So, to answer the question, “Is SEO worth it?” The easiest way to answer that question is to ask yourself another. Do you sell a product or service that people ask Google about? If the answer is yes, then yes. SEO is worth it.
If you’re interested in learning more about how an SEO strategy can help support your business and sales goals, reach out to start a conversation.