How to Quantify Your SEO Efforts to Your Boss

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While it's pretty safe to say that if you’re reading this website, you agree that search engine optimization is a valuable, worthwhile pursuit, explaining the importance of engaging in SEO campaigns to your boss or potential client can be a bit trickier.  If these people aren’t familiar with basic internet marketing practices, the concept of investing time in keyword research and backlink generation can seem so foreign as to be dismissed as a waste of time by these decision-makers.

The key to getting them on board lies in demonstrating a quantifiable improvement in the metrics that matter to the business’s bottom line.  Here’s how to do it…

1 – Demonstrate an Improvement in SERP Rankings

The easiest way to demonstrate that your SEO efforts are resulting in measurable improvements is by demonstrating an improvement in your search engine results page rankings.  Simply put, if you’re focusing your SEO campaigns around a certain set of target keywords, the end result of your efforts should be your site ranking higher and higher in the search engine results for these queries.

Tracking this metric is simple and there are a number of different tools available to help you do it.  Both SEOMoz and SEOBook offer free tracking programs that meet this need, while programs like SEOElite and Market Samurai offer this functionality as part of a larger suite of tools.

One thing you will want to be aware of, though, is that it’s best to use tools like these instead of manually going through the Google SERPs to find your keyword.  This is because of the impact of personalized search.  If you’ve clicked on your site from within the Google SERPs before, chances are your click history will result in an artificially high placement that won’t be replicated on your boss’s or your clients’ computers.

2 – Show a Quantifiable Growth in Traffic

Another easily quantifiable way to demonstrate SEO improvements is by tracking an overall increase in traffic.  If you use an analytics program like Google Analytics, you can show these trends on both a global and more granular scale.

For example, as a result of your SEO campaigns, your overall website traffic should have improved, which can be easily demonstrated by setting the time period on the Visitor Overview to reflect the length of time you’ve been working on your site’s SEO.  Depending on how involved your boss or clients are, you can also demonstrate an improvement in average time on site, bounce rate or traffic from the search engines versus specific referring sites, based on the goals of your campaigns.

3 – Prove that SEO Efforts Have Resulted in More Conversions and Greater Revenue

Of course, while both rankings and overall traffic can be useful metrics in terms of demonstrating the impact of your SEO campaigns, they have some inherent weaknesses as well – and any boss or client with a working knowledge of SEO is going to know this.

Take SERP rankings, for example.  What specific keywords have you improved your rankings for?  Anyone with a keyword research tool and a little extra time could go out and get ranked for a handful of unimportant, long tail keywords – but that doesn’t mean that your company will benefit from these unnecessary rankings.  Similarly, even if you’ve ranked for some competitive keywords, your effort doesn’t matter much if these rankings aren’t sending actual buyers to your site.

The same thing goes for traffic – just because your traffic is going up doesn’t mean that sales are guaranteed to go up as well.  Again, it’s about the quality of your traffic and whether or not these new visitors are turning into customers or hitting back button seconds after arriving on your site.

So to really please a picky boss or client, you’ve got to show that your SEO efforts have resulted in an improvement in the website’s bottom line.

The first step to determining whether or not your SEO efforts have had a measurable impact on your company’s revenue is to set up Goal Tracking within your Google Analytics dashboard (ideally, this should be set up at the start of your SEO campaign in order to provide the most complete set of data).

To do this, log in to your Google Analytics account and click on “Conversions” from the left hand navigation bar.  This will display a set of three different options:

  • Goals – Goals are the simplest type of conversion tracking to implement and are tracked whenever a visitor completes a required action (for example, downloading an item or reaching a “Thank You” page).
  • Ecommerce – The Google Analytics Ecommerce tracking program integrates with your site’s shopping cart to provide specific data about a visitor’s search history and purchases.
  • Multi-Channel Funnels – If you utilize a series of one-time offers or other multi-step sales process, Google Analytics’ multi-channel funnel tracking is your best bet, though this can be more complicated to add to your site.

Choose the conversion tracking type that’s right for your site’s monetization model and follow the instructions within the Google Analytics dashboard to install the appropriate code on your website.  Once the code is in place, you’ll begin receiving conversion tracking data immediately, which should provide you with both a baseline measure of performance and a trend indicating whether or not your SEO campaigns are having an effect on overall conversions.

But we’re not through yet!  Keep in mind that there are many different factors that can affect conversion rates, so to truly form a bullet proof case as to the effects of your SEO campaigns on your overall site’s performance, we also need a way to track whether or not this increase in conversions is resulting from the higher rankings you’ve achieved.

To do this, we’ll need to set up an Advanced Segment that allows us to view only the conversions that occur from a particular traffic source (in this case, organic search traffic).  Return to your Google Analytics dashboard and click the “Advanced Segments” drop down menu from the upper left hand corner of the display area.

From the drop down menu that appears, you can choose one of Google’s default segments (“Non-paid search traffic” would be a good fit for our purposes) or create your own by clicking on the “New Custom Segment” button.  Use the checkbox to select your new segment and apply it to your data, then return to your Conversion Goal data to see exactly how many sales or other goal completions have occurred as the result of your increase in organic search traffic.

One final element you’ll want to consider when making your case for your SEO campaigns is the costs associated with your efforts and the total revenue generated after these expenses are accounted for.  If you’ve invested any money in SEO tools, paid backlinks or other expenses, subtract your costs from your gross conversion revenue to get a complete picture of the financial impact of your SEO efforts.

Ideally, the results of all this data processing will include a net revenue gain for your company (if not, you’ll want to rework your strategies or tackle different keywords!).  But by demonstrating this conclusively, even the staunchest opponents of internet marketing and SEO investment will be forced to see the value of your efforts.

Image: danielmoyle

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