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As a business owner and a website owner you will naturally wish for your website to rank #1 on Google when people searched for your services. You want to put your business front and centre to as many potential customers as possible. But there’s only one top spot and only 10 places on the first page of Google’s search results (and let’s face it, no one checks page two unless they really can’t find what they want on the first page).

Getting your website to the top of the search engines isn’t a dead cert though – all your competitors are also vying for that top spot.

If you’ve ever spoken to an SEO agency then you’ll be aware of the potential cost of engaging their services so the question you need to ask as a business owner is, what sort of return on that investment am I likely to get? In this article I’ll endeavour to provide some indication on the return you can expect from engaging the services of an SEO agency.

Know the traffic volume

The first thing to find out is how many searches are performed each month for a target key phrase. So, for example one of the key phrases we target is SEO Agency – as you can imagine, it’s a competitive phrase that all our competitors would love to get top spot on.

According to Google’s Keyword Planner tool, the phrase “seo agency” gets between 1,000 and 10,000 searches each month. That’s quite a disparity so let’s start by using 1,000 as our base figure as a worst-case scenario.

How many clicks would I get?

According to research done and the Google Organic Click Through Rate tracker, the #1 spot gets around 30% of the clicks so in our case, using 1,000 searches a month, we could expect around 333 visits per month from having that top spot.

This data has to be taken with a pinch of salt because it really depends on the search phrase you’re targeting and the device used but at least we have something to aim for.

The value of that #1 spot

So, what’s that #1 spot worth to your business? We’ve established how many visits we can hope to get from being top but what does that translate to in terms of new business?

That really depends on your website and your own sales performance but if you’re a B2B business like ours then the chances are your conversion rates are probably quite low and it also depends on what you consider as a conversion. In many cases these days, the first step along the sales pipeline is often a download for a piece of content such as a whitepaper or ebook so the rates for that type of conversion could be much higher than a sale conversion.

Let’s assume for this exercise that we consider a conversion as a form submission – not necessarily a sale. According to research, a typical B2B conversion rate for software (the nearest industry on the list for my target) is around 7%.

Based on 7%, from the 333 visitors I’m hoping to get I can expect 23 form submissions – more than enough for my small SEO agency to deal with. The question for me then is, how many of those 23 enquiries am I likely to convert into sales? Well, that’s going to have to be a best-guess but I would say around 2 or 3 each month as a gut feeling.

Our lowest cost SEO package is £550 per month so picking up 2 new SEO clients in a month is worth £6,600 to my business over a 6 month period – our minimum term for SEO.

Don’t forget, we’re working on worst-case scenario here – if traffic is nearer the 10,000 searches per month the potential business is worth much more!

How long will it take to get to #1?

Now we know the potential value of that top spot the question is how do you get there and how long would it take?

That all depends on so many factors but the main ones to consider are:

  • How old is your website and how long have you had your domain name
  • How well your website is optimised for the search engines (called On-Page optimisation)
  • The key phrases you’re targeting – e.g how competitive are they and how many are you hoping to rank for
  • What your competition is doing to reach #1
  • What backlinks (other websites that link to your website) you already have – if you’ve had any cheap SEO done in the past you may have a lot of low-quality backlinks that could be negatively effecting your ranking and that would need cleaning up before anything else can be done.
  • Where you currently are on the results
  • How much money you’re prepared to invest into getting there.

So, all in all, a very tricky question to answer but you have to hope for 12 months but expect longer to rank for even a reasonably noncompetitive key phrase.

Is it worth the investment?

That’s the million dollar question isn’t it but hopefully my guidelines above can give you a clearer idea if SEO is worth the investment for your business. Bear in mind though that at some point you’ll reach the bottom of the first page (if you’re not there already) so you’ll start to benefit from the increased traffic from that point onward and most SEO packages will target more than one phrase so you could potentially start ranking for multiple parts of your business – not just one.

Owner of Lobster Digital Marketing. I've been building and marketing websites for longer than I'd like to remember. Father of three girls, husband to Helen and supporter of Welsh Rugby.

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