You’ve been plugging away at your SEO strategy.
Your website is on-point — and your content creation is solid.
You strut into your monthly marketing meeting and inform the bosses your SEO train is picking up steam.
They respond with the familiar question: “What are we getting from this?”
How do you answer?
Your analytics show improved user experience and better traffic, but…
They’re more interested in the return on their investment.
How many leads and sales are coming from SEO?
Your colleagues running PPC and social media ad campaigns can answer quickly, but you’re left fumbling.
“It’s not that simple,” you might say. But that’s not an answer.
Next time you’re in the hot seat concerning return on SEO, don’t fumble.
This guide includes all you need to explain plus calculate SEO ROI.
What is SEO ROI?
SEO ROI is the return on investment (ROI) from your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
ROI is typically measured as a dollar amount — specifically, the difference between dollars spent on a tactic and dollars earned as a result.
In most cases, SEO reporting ends with measuring specific KPIs and tracking changes in SERP ranking position and keyword performance.
This type of reporting gauges whether or not your SEO efforts are working.
But if it doesn’t measure how SEO has impacted your bottom line, it certainly won’t support your case to continue investing in SEO efforts.
The Importance of Measuring SEO ROI
Some of the biggest complaints that executives have about SEO are:
- “We’re just not seeing a return from this”
- “It’s impossible to measure SEO success.”
- “Clicks and likes from SEO are fine, but they don’t mean dollars.
Complaints like these often land SEO on the marketing budget’s chopping block or plunge it to the bottom of the priority list come budgeting time.
Without a user-friendly website, regularly published content, and excellent on-page optimization, you don’t stand a chance at attracting new customers through your digital marketing efforts.
It’s essential to present a compelling case that clearly shows the ROI from your SEO strategy.
Challenges of Measuring SEO ROI
The complaint that “it’s impossible to measure SEO ROI” isn’t valid.
Measuring return from SEO is absolutely possible.
It’s challenging to measure SEO ROI because SEO isn’t a single tactic with a clear-cut spend.
It encompasses a variety of organic efforts.
While Social Media Advertising (SEM), and other digital ad tactics’ ROI is easily calculated (X spent = Y new leads), SEO efforts like on-page optimizations and content marketing aren’t directly measurable.
SEO ROI is also tricky to measure because it’s slow-moving.
You’re not going to see significant results within your first 30-day implementation of SEO.
Sticking with SEO consistently over a long period is how you’ll see the real payoff — think quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year numbers.
Understand Your Full SEO Investment
Your SEO investment isn’t a single number that can be pulled from a budget spreadsheet and plugged into a formula.
To accurately calculate your ROI, you must understand the span of your investment.
- In-house resources. This is the number of hours (and therefore dollars) that your team spends doing SEO work. This is more easily measured if you have a full-time team member dedicated entirely to SEO work, but this is rare. If your team isn’t tracking hours, have them estimate their weekly percentage of time spent on SEO tasks and calculate the portion of their salary that covers that percentage.
- Third-party resources. If you work with an agency or a team of freelancers who aren’t on your company payroll, they’re still part of your SEO investment. Include their monthly fees in your calculation.
- Tools. If you’ve invested in software or platforms that help you monitor and improve SEO performance, their costs are part of your investment. While many businesses categorize this type of investment as technology costs rather than marketing or SEO costs, adding it to your list will paint the most accurate picture of your SEO investment.
Once you’ve accounted for and added up all these expenses, you can plug your total into the “investment” side of the ROI equation.
Accurately Attribute Your Conversions
With your expense information in hand, you need one more piece of the equation to calculate ROI — your earnings.
This is where things can get a little fuzzy.
It is estimated that Google is handling around 2 trillion searches per year worldwide. With your SEO efforts you might be getting a piece of them. But getting is not enough. You need to know conversion.
Accurate attribution is critical to ensuring you get full credit for leads and conversions attained through your SEO efforts.
If you’re an eCommerce business with Google Analytics tracking set up correctly, you should have everything you need to calculate SEO ROI right at your fingertips.
You know where users come from and what actions they’re taking when they arrive at your site.
You even know how much money they’re spending and what products they’re buying to help you further improve your SEO and SEM strategies.
If you’re not an eCommerce business, you have a bit more work cut out for you.
Take a hard look at your website traffic KPIs, focusing on total sessions, new sessions, and traffic source.
Any traffic coming from an organic search can (and should) be attributed to your SEO efforts.
You also need to have conversions set up and a dollar value assigned to each conversion action.
How much is a new lead or a button click worth?
Whether you’re tracking them through Google Analytics or manually (by counting form fills, clicks, or other on-page actions), the number of users taking these conversion actions accounts for the “return” side of the ROI equation.
Don’t assign dollar values randomly — work with the sales team to determine how many leads become customers and their average purchase.
To calculate conversion value, divide your average purchase by the number of conversions it takes to earn a purchase:
Average sale / conversions needed to make sale = conversion value
For example, on average, for every 10 leads sent to your sales team from a form fill on an SEO landing page, 1 becomes a customer who makes a $100 purchase.
Your lead value formula looks like this:
$100 average sale / 10 form fill leads = $10 conversion value for form fills
In this case, every lead earned from SEO counts as $10 toward your ROI.
You may need more than 1 conversion value.
Your sales team might inform you that leads who fill out a form to download an eBook convert less frequently than those who fill out a form to schedule a consultation.
In this case, you’d have 2 different conversions with unique values, and you’ll need to include both in your ROI calculation.
Calculate Your ROI
Finally, you’re ready to do the math and calculate your SEO ROI.
This part of the calculation is simple — subtract your investment from your return.
SEO return – SEO investment = SEO ROI
If you want to calculate ROI as a dollar-for-dollar number, divide that ROI number by your total investment:
(SEO return – SEO investment) / SEO investment = $ ROI from SEO
Let’s say you earned $200,000 from SEO conversions in a 90-day window, and spent $40,000 in that same period of time. Your formula would look like this:
($200,000 – $40,000) / $40,000 = $4
This means for every dollar spent on SEO, you saw a return of $4.
If you multiply that result by 100, you’ll get a percentage — in this case, 400% ROI.
When calculating SEO ROI, make sure to pull both your return and investment numbers from the same period.
You don’t want to pull 30 days of results and 90 days of expenses.
If your return from conversions is lower than your investment, you’ll get a negative number (which means you lost money on your SEO efforts).
It’s essential to keep in mind — negative ROI is typical when you’re starting out.
Like we’ve mentioned before, SEO moves slowly, and it takes time to see results.
For this reason, it’s probably best to calculate ROI at the end of a full year of consistently working on an SEO strategy.
Maximize Your SEO Investment With Powerful Tools
There are plenty of ways to speed up your SEO results, and in turn, improve your SEO ROI.
One of the best ways to improve ROI?
Spend less money.
That doesn’t mean fire your SEO expert to make numbers look good to your bosses — just make sure you’re not overpaying for SEO resources and tools.
First, take a look at your tools.
ProRankTracker is one of the most powerful SEO tools available, with the most accurate algorithm on the market.
Compared to competitors like Ahrefs, RankRanger, and Accuranker, it’s significantly more affordable, helping you right-size your SEO investment without compromising features or power. If you’re ready to improve your SEO ROI immediately, get started with a free trial of ProRankTracker’s premium features.