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Many business owners mistakenly believe that it’s impossible to track the ROI of a search engine optimization campaign. Thankfully, due to the fantastic range of online analytics suites that are now available, calculating the total ROI of an SEO campaign is now remarkably simple.

Historically, online marketers calculated the rough value of an SEO campaign by looking at two key metrics:

  • The amount of exact match searches that a keyword received monthly.
  • The average CPC (using the Adwords search network) of each keyword.

While somewhat primitive, these metrics allowed marketers to roughly calculate the value of any given search term. For example, if a search keyword has 100,000 searches per month and a $2 CPC using the Adwords search network, its value as a piece of online real estate was roughly $200,000 in monthly organic traffic.

Despite the rough valuation that this formula gave to SEOs, it certainly had some key flaws:

  • Not all searchers visit the first result. Most estimates show that around 40 percent of visitors click the first result, with others clicking lower-ranked websites that use more effective titles and meta descriptions.
  • Not all searchers visit an organic result. Many searchers click on paid advertisements placed using Adwords.
  • Not all advertising campaigns are profitable. As such, using Adwords data to calculate the value of a search listing is inaccurate and misleading.

Valuing Search Engine Optimization's ROIThankfully, today’s wide range of search analytics suites means that calculating the value of an SEO campaign using Google’s Adwords keyword data is no longer necessary. Today, it’s possible to calculate the value of your SEO efforts using an analytics application (in this case, Google Analytics) and your search data.

Google has a fantastic guide to using Analytics to track sales that can be viewed here. Once Google Analytics is functioning properly and your on-site goals have been established, it’s possible for you to track the exact keywords that produce your sales, leads, and enquiries from SEO.

We know that Search Engine Optimization takes some time to show results – in fact, it’s often compared to a marathon. Because of this, it’s futile to track the ROI of your SEO efforts on a day-by-day basis. Instead, you should apply these three simple principles to your efforts in tracking the total return on investment provided by SEO:

Never track your SEO income in real time.

A single visitor might visit your website, bookmark it for future reference, and leave. Then, a month later, they might finally place an order.

Because of this, it’s important to track your SEO income using historical data. Look at Google Analytics data from two or three month ago and use it to assess your return on investment instead of relying on new data.

If you take orders by phone, account for it.

Google Analytics can only track sales made using web forms. As such, it’s important that you make note of any SEO-fueled sales that come in over the phone. This is important if you operate in a local area and source leads using Google’s Local Search.

Think about SEO’s value beyond direct search engine income.

There’s a lot of value to a high Google ranking beyond direct sales. Many websites have been featured in news stories and magazines because their website ranks highly in Google’s search results.

From name recognition (think of the effect that seeing your website in the search results has on consumers) to authority positioning, there’s a lot of value to search engine optimization beyond the direct sales it produces.

Image: Flickr

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