It’s a sad reality that many well-known organizations, including many Fortune 500 companies, still don’t understand the value of organic search.  Even some businesses with multi-million dollar paid search budgets have focused little effort in optimizing their sites for organic search.  The fact is these organizations are failing to capitalize on a major acquisition channel, and while they have yet to adopt search engine optimization (SEO) as a legitimate and standard marketing practice, their competitors are reaping the benefits.

According to comScore, in August 2007, over 61 billion search engine queries were conducted worldwide from over 750 million searchers.  These staggering search user trends have shown continued growth year after year.  Many studies have also concluded that the majority of searchers will choose an organic search listing over a paid listing.  This data demonstrates the huge potential that organic search offers and reinforces the fact that any organization not focused on SEO is missing out on a tremendous opportunity.

What impact can SEO have on your business?

Let’s be honest, it’s very difficult to get the budget and resources to move forward with SEO if senior management can’t see the big picture.  You must be able to clearly demonstrate the financial impact that investing in SEO will have on your business. You need to know how much money you’re currently leaving on the table by ignoring SEO.  The best way to understand this involves a two step process:

1) Turn to Your Web Analytics
2) Conduct an SEO Site Audit

Step 1: Turn to Your Web Analytics

Using web analytics will allow you to accurately measure the performance of your organic search channel and make informed decisions about what and how to optimize.

Omniture SiteCatalyst (sample data)

Use your web analytics to answer these key business questions

  • What percentage of your traffic comes from organic search?
  • What are your top performing organic search keywords?
  • Is the majority of your keyword traffic coming from brand specific keywords?
  • What is the current search traffic and revenue contribution from organic search?

By answering these simple questions you can begin to gather critical data to help prepare a reliable SEO value pitch.

Step 2: Conduct an SEO Site Audit

Conducting a simple site audit will give you insight into the SEO health of your website and help you identify any obvious performance gaps.  The audit should evaluate both on-page optimization (title tags, keyword usage, site structure, etc…) and off-page optimization efforts (link popularity, social media, etc…).  This SEO scorecard will not only assist with the development of an SEO value pitch, but it will provide a valuable blueprint for your future SEO program.

By combining the discovery data you’ve gather from your web analytics, along with SEO scorecard conclusions from the site audit, you can gain a holistic view of your existing SEO strategy and help you formulate a trusted estimate regarding the organic search growth opportunity for your site.  Listed below is a basic example of how to use the discovery data to formulate a high-level estimate to demonstrate the impact of SEO to senior management.

Example Organic Search Traffic/Revenue Estimate:

It’s essential to understand the impact organic search can have on your business.  Early adoption of SEO will have long-term benefits for your business and allow you to stay ahead of the curve and your competition.

If you can demonstrate a solid estimate of revenue impact for SEO to senior management or the HiPPO, you should be well on your way to getting the approval for budget and resources to begin investing in SEO.

18 comments
car insurance
car insurance

I wholeheartedly agree with this. There is certainly a need to support organic research and we need to be more assertive in doing this because not a lot of people are interested.

asigurari
asigurari

I have a few sites of myself, and the income comes in 90% from organic searches. I have tried payed advertising but i wasn't to satisfied. So all that money i invested it in a SEO campaign.

San Diego Carpet Cleaning
San Diego Carpet Cleaning

Howdy would you mind stating which blog platform you're working with? I'm going to start my own blog soon but I'm having a tough time choosing between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I'm looking for something completely unique. P.S Apologies for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

Burr Grinder Reviews
Burr Grinder Reviews

Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your webpage? My website is in the very same niche as yours and my users would definitely benefit from some of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this ok with you. Cheers!

Jacelyn Cecot
Jacelyn Cecot

Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it, you might be a great author.I will remember to bookmark your blog and will eventually come back sometime soon. I want to encourage that you continue your great writing, have a nice morning!

SEO Specialist
SEO Specialist

Jordan, this is always the toughest part of being an SEO because most of the time, senior management does not see the direct correlation between ranking, traffic and revenue. I have found that this is more of the case when weak conversion analysis is currently in place.

machard
machard

Hi, just wondering how you can measure the SEO trafic per page within Omniture ? I know how to check the natural trafic for the whole site but not for one particular page... Any idea on how to deal with that ? Cheers,

Jordan LeBaron
Jordan LeBaron

@Greg - I agree, a hybrid solution is a great way to engage with clients - especially those who are new to search.

Greg Parsons
Greg Parsons

Great article. I know it's a bit old but I just found it through a search and you couldn't be more right on target here. However, in the age of "instant gratification", it's getting much more difficult to convince people of the long term benefits of organic SEO, even by pitching them projections, etc. I've had my best luck over the past 6 months in pitching a hybrid PPC/SEO package which gradually steps down PPC as organic search picks up through our organic SEO efforts. So far, so good. This is a battle that SEO experts have been fighting for years, and I have no doubt we'll continue to fight it in the future.

ben
ben

Nice summary of the importance of Organic Search and SEO. We have just launched a Global Address Book / People Search website and organic results will eventually be its engine. We were probably a bit late on the Search Engine Optimisation but its mostly in place now. Its amazing that you have to still have to convince corporates of the necessity of this, given that the capital expenditure is going to be relatively modest compared to the long run returns.

Jordan LeBaron
Jordan LeBaron

@Kjartan - Thanks for your comment! Great point about the traffic increase estimate in the equation. My only advice would to be very thorough and careful as you choose this % estimate.

Kjartan Bjørkvold
Kjartan Bjørkvold

I really like your little calculation at the end. For us SEO geeks the need to work on organic search rankings is obvious, but a calculation like that really speaks to management in a language they can understand. A little risky however to estimate a 10 % (or whatever percentage) increase in traffic though. Ath the end of the SEO audit, management will expect you to deliver on that promise.

Jordan LeBaron
Jordan LeBaron

@Dan - there are a few quality tools and online resources to assist in the process (Xenu Link Sleuth, Google Webmaster Tools, and Yahoo Site Explorer to name just a few), but I'd definitely look at hiring a professional SEO consultant to help you fill in the gaps.

Dan
Dan

Do you have any recommendations on products that can do the site audit, either one-time or on a normal basis?

Jordan LeBaron
Jordan LeBaron

@chris - Here is a link to a recent release by comScore: http://www.comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=2294; the study is focused primarily on iPhone related queries during the month of April 2008 - the data demonstrated that the vast majority (~93%) of searchers clicked through on organic search results over the paid results. Also, regarding estimating budgets. Running through the exercise I've explained above will help you gain a better understanding of "the road ahead" and allow you to budget accordingly. However, a typical SEO program will include needed resources from your in-house team (IT, marketing, etc...) as well as help from an SEO consultant.

Chris
Chris

Interesting article. You mention that "Many studies have also concluded that the majority of searchers will choose an organic search listing over a paid listing." Do you know where I can go to find reliable numbers on what that split usually is? Although I understand this depends on my unique situation, what are the first steps I can take to estimate how much time, man-power, and $ I need from senior management to begin making a substantial impact on the company's bottom line?