How Effective is Content and SEO?

By / Data + Analytics, Marketing, Technology

Leveraging Organic Marketing

“The daily blog… it’s one of the top 5 career decisions I’ve ever made.” – Seth Godin, Entrepreneur/Influencer/Author of 17 bestselling books

Content is king. The old turn of marketing phrase still holds true. If you look at any company that has a strong online presence, you can be sure they’re investing in content and SEO—and by extension, their long-term growth.

To be clear, content and SEO are technically different. The relationship between content and SEO is similar to that between art and business, they’re wildly unalike yet go hand in hand. If one is without the other, good art won’t sell and good business won’t do much without something to sell. But, to keep things simple we’re going to refer to them together as “organic marketing.”

Benefits of Content and SEO

Before we get into specifics, we’ll review the practices of two successful marketing software companies – Ahrefs and Hubspot. Take a look at the graphs below, Traffic Cost (in the light red box) is “the estimated average monthly cost to rank for organic keywords in Google AdWords (Google’s Ads)”. SEMrush calculates this by looking at all the organic keywords they’re ranking for and finds how much it would cost to bid for these terms.



Ahrefs would have to pay $884,600 per month in paid advertising to amount for their organic traffic! And Hubspot would have to pay $19,100,000 per month! That’s millions of dollars in what would be paid advertising each month that they’re achieving through organic marketing.

That is inspiring, to say the least.

There’s hard work behind those numbers. To give you an idea, Ahrefs was founded in 2011 but didn’t start ranking until 2015, but they’ve been climbing ever since. This year, they’re pulling roughly 140,000 visitors per month. Hubspot, though older (est. 2005), has a similar story. Real results didn’t start coming until 2015, and now four years later, they’re passively yielding what would otherwise cost them millions. Imagine what four years of consistent content building and SEO could do for your company.

Calculating the ROI of SEO

While the above results are impressive, sometimes communicating the effectiveness of an SEO/content campaign is difficult. Words like organic traffic, backlinks, and lead magnet goal completions often carry little weight in the world of business. What matters is the return on investment (ROI).

When calculating SEO ROI, there are two formulas you can use: Anticipated ROI and Actual ROI. Anticipated ROI calculates a campaign’s effectiveness before it begins, often provided before finalizing an agency contract. You calculate Actual SEO ROI to determine the return on investment now, often once a site has received a substantial amount of traffic. However, to determine either, there are a few metrics you need to know:

Average monthly visitors | E-commerce conversion rate of the website | Average order value

The key metric, however, is the conversion rate of your website and how much traffic you need to get to break even and how much traffic you need to double your return on your SEO investment.

Anticipated ROI Formula

(Anticipated Revenue from SEO Efforts – Proposed Cost of the SEO Project) / Proposed Cost of the SEO Project = Anticipated ROI

Actual ROI Formula

((Total E-Commerce Revenue Through SEO + Total Goal Value Through SEO) – Cost of SEO Campaign) / Cost of Running the SEO campaign = Actual ROI

Every industry is different as are the numbers used. For an online book store like Amazon, calculations are fairly easy whereas a car company’s will be far more difficult.

The higher the price points for your product/services, the more difficult it will be to calculate your Actual ROI—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. The more expensive the product/service, the greater the need to calculate as it shows you whether your investment in organic marketing is producing results and keeping you ahead of your competition.

Let’s take a water bottle company for example, we’ll call it Water Bottles Are Us. If Water Bottles Are Us is getting 10,000 site visitors per month and 2% of them are converting, that means they’re getting 200 conversions each month.

If each water bottle is $20, and they’re selling 200 water bottles each month (20 x 200), then they earn $4,000 per month or $48,000 per year. Water Bottles Are Us has already invested about two years in organic marketing, and spends $3,000 on a monthly SEO retainer, or $36,000 per year.

To break this down, again the formula for Actual ROI is:

((Total E-Commerce Revenue Through SEO + Total Goal Value Through SEO) – Cost of SEO Campaign) / Cost of Running the SEO campaign = Actual ROI

So, in the case of Water Bottles Are Us:

(4,000 – 3,000) / 3,000 = 0.33 → the Actual SEO ROI is 33% (at that time)

While helpful, these formulas don’t account for one of the most important variables in SEO—time. You will see minimal results for the first several months, but as time passes, they will compound, and you will begin to see the powerful impact of organic marketing.

SEO KPIs to Keep an Eye On

The first step to calculating your organic ROI is knowing the numbers that are impacting your business—your KPIs.

If your business isn’t selling physical products that can be tracked per purchase, the data you’ll want to watch is that closest to the conversion level—often form fills and phone calls. There are others, however, such as lead magnet submissions, conversion funnel button clicks, and overall traffic. Once you’ve collected this data, you will need to determine how many of the clicks or calls become customers.

To give an example, if your website earns 25 calls per month, and 5 of them become customers, then 20% of your calls are converting. Doing this, albeit on a larger scale, is how you calculate the e-commerce value of your website. Without this number you won’t be able to determine your actual ROI.

The average order value—the number of sales you receive in a given period—and monthly website visitors (set up with Google Analytics) are even easier to calculate.

SEO Reports in Google Analytics

To remove some of the calculation friction, you can create custom reports in Google Analytics.

For e-commerce conversion rate, you can set up goals to fire when a call or form fill comes in. Depending on your business, average order value can be kept on hand or calculating through your CRM—and the average monthly visits is already generated by Google Analytics. All you need to do is put each of these numbers into a custom Google Analytics custom report and you’ll be able to access them whenever you’d like.

Wrapping Up

There’s a literal wealth of potential in organic marketing campaigns. You are not only investing in organic marketing when you develop a SEO/content campaign, but also paid, social, email, and overall branding. Your organic efforts will seep into all other channels of marketing, online and off.

If you want to grow your business this month and beyond, then invest in organic. Need help? That’s what we’re here for.

For more on harnessing your data, visit:

Written by / Data + Analytics, Marketing, Technology


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