Return On Investment for SEO

What is the ROI for SEO?

What will be my “Return On Investment” (ROI) if I pay someone to provide or manage SEO Services?  Now that can be a tough question to quantify.  Why you ask?  Because the search engine industry is very subjective.  In other words, ten different people can look at things ten different ways and still, all of them can be correct.  However, in the spirit of simplifying terms, let’s take a stab at it shall we?  For people who are new to the World Wide Web, this should be one of their first questions.  For SEO’s, this is a question that has been asked over and over by clients since the beginning of the search engine era.  It’s an important one.  If there is no benefit to ranking well on the search engines then why bother going to the trouble of ranking well on them?  So in order to see if there is any true benefit in ranking well on Google, let’s perform a small case study and see if we can estimate some traffic and some ROI for a specific keyword.

“There are no secret sauces in Search Engine Optimization.  Only work.  If you know what to work on then you can optimize a web site to perform well in the search engine results pages.”

Keyword Research – Arguably the most important part of any successful SEO campaign.  If you optimize a web site for the wrong keywords, you will either get NO traffic (because you are flagged as a spammer by Google) or you will get a TON of traffic and your Bounce rate will be through the roof because the content of your site was not relevant to the key word someone searched for and then clicked through to see your site.  So let’s start there.  I am not going to go into a whole long process of Keyword research, let’s just pick a keyword with some good traffic potential and use the numbers from there to help us estimate some traffic.

“Please remember that all of these numbers (even the ones provided by Google) are simply ‘estimates’.  No one in the search engine world is going to give you firm search result numbers!”

So for the purpose of this exercise, I selected the Keyword Phrase [iPhone Accessories].  Note the graphic shown here:

iPhone Accessories Keyword Research

Note the total Global, Monthly Searches and the Competition

This graphic indicates a couple of things.  First, that there are over 201,000 monthly, global searches in Google for this search term.  Second, it is a highly competitive keyword.  Just imagine how many web sites are out there trying to sell iPhone Accessories.  So assuming we can get it to rank well, what kind of traffic can we expect?

“How would you like a large percentage of the Global Search traffic visiting your site monthly?  And visiting just for your preferred keyword?  Not a bad way to start the day I’m guessing!”

So, to be honest, there is not much out there in the form of statistics for this data.  I had to dig really deep and even then I only found a few useful tidbits of information on the subject.  The most well known study on the subject was an “eye movement” study by Cornell University. 

 Cornell University Click Through Data

Here is link to the original study and results:  Cornell University Click Through Study

Since this is an “eye movement” study and not actual click through data, it has come under fire from the SEO community and the search engines themselves.  So several other resources and “studies” (I use that term loosely) have also surfaced in recent years.  The following chart is more of a compilation of the all of the resources I have found and then averaged out across all of them.  Nonetheless, it should give you an idea of the general consensus by the search engine community as to what are acceptable numbers for this particular discussion.

 Search Engine Click Through Data

So, what does all of this mean to someone trying to sell iPhone accessories?  Let’s take a look.

Assuming a modest profit margin of 47%, the following is a rough estimate of the return on investment for SEO (assuming you actually get to #1):

Google’s Estimated Traffic – 201,000 Global Searches per month

If you are ranked #1 for the keyword “iphone accessories” you can expect about 85,405 visitors per month.

Assuming a conversion rate 3% (average being 3-6% with some sites much higher), you can expect 2, 562 sales.  If the average sale is $25.00 (or $64.050 in revenue) at 47% profit, you can expect to net $33,946.50 in profit, from this one keyword, per month.  Subtract the cost of your SEO program managment and/or consultant and you then have your true ROI.

Disclaimer – There are a LOT of broad terms and numbers shown above.  Please try to remember the following; That Google’s traffic estimates are not always accurate, that this study assumes several things (conversion rate, selling price and profit margin), that the site selling this item is an authoritative site and has not only a lot of content, but quality content and that the owner of the site either performed the search engine optimization or hired an SEO firm to help them rank #1 for that keyword.  The keyword used is a highly competitive keyword and it may take 9-12 months (or longer) to rank high on the SERP’s.

“Now do you see why some people have the ‘Gold Rush’ mentality when it comes to Google and trying to rank number one for a particular keyword?  It’s no wonder why ‘black hat’ techniques and ‘Counter SEO’ techniques are still viable practices going on every day.  There is a lot of money at stake here folks.”

Being at the top of the natural search results is every internet marketer and retailers dream.  It promises fame and fortune, recognition and validation that you have succeeded in the world of online marketing.  The work is hard, the road is sometimes long, but the payoff can also be life changing for a small company or web site.  The key is selecting the correct keyword and then optimizing your site and then marketing and growing your site.  It does take time, energy, resources and most importantly….patience.  But if you have the resolve, you too can reach the top and then you get to see what’s there waiting for you!

For the record, and as stated above, there are many ways to calculate return on investment for any venture.  This is just one and yes, it is a simplified measure.  But if you start thinking along these lines, you will definetly be headed in the right direction.

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JC Penny - SEO Scandel

JC Penny SEO Scandal Exposed

On February 12th, 2011, David Segal of the New York Times, broke the story The Dirty Little Secrets of Search.  David worked with SEO Expert Doug Pierce of Blue Fountain Media.  What they found is shaking the foundation of the search engine marketing world and very quickly even further dividing the line between “Black Hat” and “White Hat” SEO practitioners, not to mention flat out embarrassing Google to the core.  The way the story reads is that JC Penny hired an SEO firm who then allegedly performed a big SEO “no-no”. 

According to the New York Times, JC Penny, hired the SEO firm SearchDex who then proceeded to “buy” links on JC Penny’s behalf.  That is a cardinal sin in SEO according to many previous interviews with Matt Cutts, Google’s chief search and anti-spam cop.  Here is a quick video from over 3 years ago, illustrating Google’s policy on buying links way back when:


The New York Times got Matt’s take on the whole JC Penny Scandal.  Matt was visibly upset that it took a media icon like the New York Times working with an SEO expert to expose this scenario.  He towed the company line though and did his best to reassure the rest of the search engine world that Google is working hard to prevent situations like this from occurring.  He was quick to remind us all of the fact that the internet is enormous and policing it is not an easy job.  In fact in my opinion, Google and Matt get a pass on this one. 

“For those that think Matt’s response was ‘canned’ or very ‘corporate’…well of course it was!  Did you honestly expect anything else?  Google is trying very hard to preserve it’s ‘Fair and Impartial’ perception to the world.  Having Matt go off about this and permanently banning JC Penny would not quite send that message would it? ”

I prefer to take issue with JC Penny.  They have promptly fired SearchDex, claiming they had no direct knowledge of the link buying campaign.  Ok so what?  They are not guilty, just incompetent?  Which is it?  There is no way you can justify not being one or the other.  JC Penny either had direct knowledge of the link buying scheme or they are totally incompetent marketers and executives who cannot manage a contractor properly.

“Simply claiming you knew nothing about the link building scheme and promptly firing your SEO contractor does not relinquish your responsibility to know what your employees and your contractors are doing on your behalf.”

In the end, JC Penny had a responsibility to KNOW what their contractor was up to prior to the New York Times exposing this scandal.  A very quick and superficial check of SearchDex reveals the following items:

Title: SearchDex – Search Marketing Company – Software & Service
Meta keywords:  None
Meta description:  None
Internal links: 28 (0 nofollow)
External links: 2 (0 nofollow)
Server: Apache/2.2.4 (Unix) mod_ssl/2.2.4 OpenSSL/0.9.7a PHP/5.2.1
Links to Domain:  163
Google Indexed Pages:  51
PageRank:  2
Last Site Update:  July 14, 2008

I found all of this information within 4 minutes, so any SEO worth their salt can see that this site has been around since 2001 and was updated pretty regularly until 2008.  But since then has not been updated at all.  You can also see that with only 163 incoming links, they certainly are not practicing what they preach about internet marketing.  They also only rank for only one of the two search terms that their web site is optimized for as it relates to internet marketing.  You do not have to be an SEO expert to see that they probably are not the horse you want to ride.  You do have to know a little bit about SEO and the SEO process to see these things and that’s were JC Penny had an obligation to make sure they hired a quality contractor to perform this work.  So who was the executive that hired them and exactly what process did they go through to qualify this firm?  This is where they failed miserably in my opinion. 

“The only other scenario is that JC Penny ‘used’ SearchDex as a patsy.  By that I mean that they hired SearchDex and told them to buy links for them and then through plausible deniability at the highest levels, promptly fired the so called ‘dirty’ SEO firm.”

Either way, looks like we may never know the real deal.  SearchDex has remained quiet (as of the time that this post was written) and is not saying one way or another whether or not JC Penny had knowledge of the link building techniques being used.  So we are left in the dark and JC Penny gets a slap on the wrist.  The rest of us go back to work and see if we can’t make a difference in this wonderful world of Search Engine Marketing.

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Social Media

Social Media and Your SEO Program

You just can’t ignore it any more.  Social Media is here to stay and now it’s a part of SEO.  How prevalent is Social Media in today’s world?  Take a look at this video and then you tell me…and while you watch it, keep in mind it is almost 1 year old, which means it is already obsolete and the information needs to be updated again.  I think you will find it “eye opening” as to the shear numbers using and joining social networls.  No wonder the search engines could no longer ignore this new and over whelming endeavor.

But you decide for yourself.  Is Social media hear to stay?  Or is it a passing fad that will come and go like “parachute pants” in the 80’s?

If you have wondered whether or not Social Media has an impact on your Search Engine Results Page ranking, you are not alone. If you have ever suspected Google, Yahoo and Bing of using Social Media in their algorithms then again, you are not alone, nor are you wrong.

“Ignore Social Media to you own detriment. If you ignore it, it won’t go away, it won’t help you all by itself. You have to get involved and interact in this new on-line world. Otherwise, your business will suffer and possibly wilt away while your competition soars to new heights”

In December of 2010, Matt Cutts posted a video on Youtube that basically says Google is using “social media signals” in the SERP’s (search engine results pages). Bing followed suite shortly after.

So what is a “social media signal’? Good question. A social media signal is anything that a “user” or subscriber interacts with on any social media. It could be a “like button” or “tweet this” button. It could be as simple as a user posting a link to a site on the FaceBook page, Twitter Account, YouTube or any number of other “social media” outlets. Now, please do not confuse this with “link-building”. The search engines are not indexing links from these sites…at least not yet. They are however using these signals to determine whether or not a web site is legitimate or spam. For instance, if you own a web site and have a nice size following on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube (just to name a few), then you are more than likely going to be given more credibility with the search engines. Why? Because the search engines see that your peers and customers are interacting with you on these sites and that you are truly providing something valuable to them.

“Bottom line is this….You ABSOLUTELY need to be using this to benefit your business and your search engine rankings. It’s a chance to share with, interact with and build loyalty with customers and potential customers that you cannot afford to miss”

As and SEO Services company, we always encourage and even help our clients set up, use and build their social networking platforms. It’s an essential part of today’s business world. And it will only grow in popularity and necessity. That’s why will always recommend starting your social media marketing program yesterday!

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Who is king of search engines?

Google is arguably the #1 Search Engine in the World.

There are literally hundreds of Search Engine web sites out there.  Arguably, Google, Yahoo and Bing claim the top 3 spots.  So the question for internet marketers becomes, “who should I optimize my site for?”  Of the 3 top Search Engines, Google continues to own the lion’s share of internet searches.  There are thousands of web sites and statistics you can dig up to read more about the Google domination in the search engine world…just “Google it”.  Google is the #1 search engine in the world and with their other divisions (mobile search, Chrome and Android) exploding onto the scene in 2010 and 2011, Google is poised to be the next giant.  They are not without controversy though, from allegations of manipulating search results to unfairly penalizing or banning “innocent” web site owners, Google is constantly under attack from consumers and competitors alike.

“The rise of Google seems very familiar to me.  The love / hate relationship they have with consumers is very reminiscent of Microsoft prior to the monopoly law suit and trial.  Since that trial, we have not heard a whole heck of a lot from Microsoft or Bill Gates.”

Will the government step in with Google like they did with Microsoft?  Time will only tell.  One thing for sure, they drive the search market right now.  Business owners who hope to be found on the internet either follow their rules or suffer the loss of traffic that Google can bring them.  Love them or hate them, Google is still on top! 

As an SEO Services provider, it makes no difference to us who is on top as far as the search engines go.  Whether it’s Google, Yahoo or Bing, we will simply make adjustments to optimize sites for our customers that get the results on the top search engine…PERIOD.  That’s our job.  We are a small “boutique” firm that cannot afford to fight the fight against Google, nor would we want to.  Our job is to optimize for the top Search Engine and ALL of the search engines to benefit our clients.  We would do the same for Bing or Yahoo (or any number of other search engines) if they find themselves on top.

“There are many SEO’s out there that spend their day’s blogging about the unfairness of Google and how they change their algorithms to often and without warning. “

What they really mean by that is that they were not really optimizing the clients site under a truly “white hat” strategy.  They were probably using “gray” or even “black hat” strategies that Google caught up with.  That’s why selecting an Organic Search Engine Optimization company that truly understands internet marketing and the search engines, is your best bet to have success with your internet marketing strategy.  The search engines are just trying to give their customers (the people performing the searches) the best possible user experience.  Understanding that philosophy, is the key to developing a natural search engine and internet marketing strategy.

Image Source:  Geeky Gadgets

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SEO Secrets – Delivered to you by

Organic Search Engine Optimization is a process.  It involves many facets of marketing your web site, not only to the Search Engines, but to the world of potential visitors out there surfing the World Wide Web.  The key to effective organic search engine optimization is the “organic” part.  Organic, meaning “natural results” also means (or should mean) “natural processes”. 

Search Engines have always touted that they want only the best results for their users.  Since they seem to think that natural efforts build better results, they rank sites that appear natural, higher in the results pages.  In fact, their entire existence depends on their ability to provide quality search results each and every time a user searches for anything on the web.  That is why they are so diligent about making sure the sites that rank on the first page do so because they are relevant to the term that was searched for.

What does all of that mean?  It means simply that if Google, Yahoo and Bing had their way, a new web site owner would begin the process of SEO not by marketing their site, but rather, by just building unique content and user experiences on their web site.   This would lead to the user telling a friend about the site and the friend telling another friend and so on.  Each friend who visited the site and liked the site would then tell another friend and in some cases link back to the site from their own popular website.  Although preferable to the search engines, this process can sometimes takes 5 or even 10 years, depending on the topic of the site and the number of other sites that are in competition for the same topic or search terms.

“Make no mistake about it…[Link Building] is the single most effective way to increase your visibility in the search engines.  Each link to your site from another site is seen as a vote by the search engine algorithms.  The more votes you have the higher your rank.”

So how do you build an SEO strategy that appears natural to the search engines, yet accelerates the process to a much more reasonable amount of time (12 to 18 months)?  You simply diversify your marketing efforts and try to make them look as natural as possible.  There are lots of things you can do in order to achieve this affect.  They include (but are not limited to):  Article writing and distribution, Social Bookmarking, Press Release writing and distribution, Blog and Forum commenting, and of course, unique content creation and distribution of your own site.

“CAUTION:  This is where some people get in trouble with the search engines.  SEO is a process and it still takes time.  If you do too much SEO to fast or do only form of marketing, the search engines will flag your site and possibly penalize or ban your site from the search engine results pages.”

This is where using a quality SEO Services firm can come in real handy.  Planning a strategy that maximizes exposure, link building opportunities and marketing while appearing completely natural to the search engines is paramount to your sites success.   So be sure to develop unique and creative content, be sure to market that content so you build high value links back to your web site and be sure not to try and cheat the process.  If you follow this simple advice, your site will rank very well in the search engines one day and others will be sitting there scratching their heads, saying, I wonder how that web site does that?   

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