The SEO Paradox: get a better ROI by paying more
We kept our hourly rates low, but raised the price of our monthly subscription packages to include more hours and additional marketing specialists on each account.
Despite the higher upfront costs, our clients’ ROI skyrocketed. Higher rankings came more quickly and organic traffic gains were much greater. Some clients used us as a complete outsourced marketing department (getting 5 experienced specialists for less than the cost of a single in-house marketer) and saw traffic increases of over 100,000%!
Equally important, however, were the gains clients saw in areas not usually associated with SEO. Conversion rates increased as visitors had an easier time finding the information they were looking for, and were more convinced by the copy they found there. Clients’ brand reputation and executive profiles were buoyed by numerous PR mentions and thought leadership pieces published in their name on sites like Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur. Our outreach efforts were so comprehensive, new customers would tell clients “I saw that you provided a helpful answer to a Quora question (us), Googled for some blogger reviews (us again), then went to your website to download your latest whitepaper” (also us).
Old school types might argue that what we’re doing isn’t really SEO, but “growth marketing” or simply full service digital marketing. Whatever you want to call it (organic, growth hacking, inbound marketing, content marketing, outsourced CMO, etc…), it’s clear that the best ROI comes from a coordinated and comprehensive campaign unifying strategy across all content-centric channels. When comparing the cost of different SEO solutions, make sure you’re incorporating all of the components you’ll need to get results. If a consultant or agency can’t execute well in all of those areas, you’ll need to bring in additional resources (at additional cost and management overhead) to cover them in order to achieve an ROI.
How to maximize ROI from SEO
New client prospects are frequently focused on the top-line cost of SEO consulting, with an eye towards comparing the price of various SEO agencies so they can pay as little as possible. But the value, and even the definition, of SEO varies widely. A spammer who clicks one button to auto-generate thousands of junk links, and a team of experts who completely overhaul your website, triple your conversion rates, and land you press coverage in the New York Times may both describe their product as “SEO”, but they’re obviously not the same thing. With different services using widely varying definitions of SEO, the real question isn’t how much SEO costs, but how much should you spend on SEO?
Fortunately, it’s an easy answer:
You should spend the amount that maximizes your ROI while remaining within your budget constraints.
Let’s break this down further. If you invest too little in marketing, no one will discover your products and you’ll generate $0 in sales. As you spend more, sales gradually increase until you reach a point the market starts to saturate, and you’ll generate less and less revenue for every additional dollar of marketing spend. Mathematically, your revenue generated follows a sigmoid (S-Curve) that flattens as marketing spend increases, like this:
As a result, marketing expenditure has a sweet spot someplace in the middle where the ratio of the revenue generated to your marketing spend is highest. This is the point of maximum Return on Investment (ROI):
The ROI of SEO work is determined more by what gets done than how much you paid for it
In other words, it’s better to get a bad deal on the right thing than a good deal on something that won’t help your website no matter how little you paid for it.
Don’t get so focused on cost that you fall for the biggest scam in the SEO industry
Of all the many reasons the SEO industry has a well-earned bad reputation, I believe the biggest is that most agencies and consultants sell what they can do, rather than what the client website needs. For example, many agencies emphasize updating a site’s meta tags (while ignoring the rest of the content). They put a lot of time into technical audits (without being able to fix those issues), keyword research (without a viable site structure to target those keywords), and writing of blah-blah blog posts that neither earn links nor engage customers.
These activities sound reasonable to a client, and they can be completed by almost anyone with a little SEO training. They avoid the “hard stuff” which requires much more skill and deeper understanding of a client’s business: earning high quality links, restructuring a website, creating a unified content strategy, earning press, improving conversion rates with an engaging brand story, etc.