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

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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?