If you follow The Search Agency on twitter, or check SearchEngineLand.com from time to time, you may have stumbled across a recent piece entitled SEO Should Not Be Held To An ROI Target – Here’s Why. In the article, David Waterman suggests that SEO not be evaluated against an expected return on investment. The author has built his case around two main points:
1) SEO is not a marketing channel
2) SEO is not an investment; it’s a requisite.
Both points are quite valid, in a sense. SEO is not a marketing channel in the traditional form. PPC ads and Facebook advertisements can all be evaluated from an ROI perspective because there is a direct relationship between the amount spent, and the reach of your ads. The connection between your SEO budget and revenue, on the other hand, can be a bit harder to track.
As far as the second point goes, I agree completely – especially for those just starting out. If you have a brand new apartment community website, SEO is an integral part of establishing a foothold in the virtual marketplace. As we all know, climbing the ranks through organic search results takes time, and it takes that much longer if your site was not built around a solid foundation of SEO.
Now, while I agree with the foundation of the author’s argument, I think his suggestion that SEO not be viewed from an ROI perspective may be somewhat idealistic. Sure, the connection between a dollar spent on SEO and a dollar earned from signing a lease is less than obvious. But in today’s economy nothing is immune to an evaluation of its value and relative success.
Just as employees are evaluated based on a variety of performance metrics, so too should the effects of an SEO campaign be measured against multiple criteria. The difference between measuring SEO and other marketing investments should be in how much of a role ROI plays. You’re going to want to make sure you are getting what you are paying for, that’s a given, but your assessment will have to focus on other variables as well. Monitoring the percentage of organic traffic and bounce rate, for example, do a much better job of determining the success of a campaign. You’re still going to consider the return on your SEO investment, but you should focus instead on these other, more directly related indicators of success before making any major changes in strategy.
Ultimately, I agree with Waterman’s assessment that ROI is not the best way to evaluate an SEO campaign. That said, I think it is a bit unrealistic to suggest that SEO not be evaluated at all in terms of its return on investment.