16 | Return on Investment with Deepak Shukla

Deepak and I chat about return on investment for search engine optimisation tasks specifically. We cover helpful tracking tools and managing client expectations as well as share our own secret to success. Listen in and be a pro at calculating your own SEO ROI.

“Demonstrating the value of data that they’re already sitting on has reshaped the way I have conversations about SEO ROI with my clients.”

Deepak Shukla is founder of Pearl Lemon, an SEO Agency in London.

He stumbled into SEO when he was a private tutor creating adverts on Gumtree. He found that he started exploring the complexity of algorithms once he realised that adapting the right keywords on Gumtree provided better results.

The SEO challenge to show Return on Investment
The client or brand always wants to know that they’re spending money for SEO to get better results but it’s not as easy as PPC (pay per click/paid advertising) where you know exactly how much return you get for the amount that you spend. ROI is challenging to communicate but it’s gratifying once you know how to show your successes.

Educating clients or departments in how to see the signs can also play a part in showing ROI for SEO work. To do that however you need to have evidence and examples, here’s how you can get it…

How to Track Return on Investment
Firstly, Deepak says that he uses his eyes as the first form of identification for return. What he means by this is to find quick wins after doing deeper dives and I assume that it also includes manually check the results on the first few pages of Google. The latter allows you to see whether your ranking position has shifted.

Tip: use an incognito window to remove a lot of the personalisation in the search results, unfortunately your IP address will still be used for location.

Tracking is fundamental to understanding your ROI and not just in SEO. Adding Google analytics and tags can help you understand the full customer journey and have visibility of your ecosystem.

Google Analytics is a robust funnel to track actual returns that are generated. It can show things such as conversion rate, average order value and other ecommerce metrics that will help you understand the monetary value of the SEO tasks. It also allows to see dwell time or the time spent on page, pathway of a user or customer and the overall journey which can aid in future developments on the website.

Google Search Console is a great way to see what keywords your site already ranks for and average keyword positioning. I also enjoy looking at mobile and desktop comparisons as you’re able to see the traffic that you get dependant on the device used. Deepak says it’s a great way to identify mobile issues, especially when site speed may be affecting mobile usability. Considerably less traffic is seen to mobile than desktop if an issue exists.

SEMrush may not be accurate to show you where you rank but can show opportunities and a quick overview of your positioning which may be useful.

Pi Datametrics is a keyword tracking tool that allows you to monitor rankings of your own site as well as competitors. This is a sophisticated way to keep an eye on performance.

It’s not just about gaining traffic but how is that traffic working for the client/brand/you and how important it is. I point out that transactional and inspirational content serve different purposes and hence the traffic is different and behave differently as the intent is varied.

Deepak agrees with me and further suggests that it also depends on what the business is hoping to acquire as revenue can’t be a valuable metric if you have a non-transactional site. Deepak therefore talks about the challenge of the less-sophisticated client where there’s no clarification around this. He goes on to say that there can be dog fights when assisted conversions are brought into light and the overlay between PPC and organic channels.

At a previous episode, Daniel Rowles recommends using Bitly links for tracking as they show you clicks and shares even if they’re done via email (dark sharing.)

Drift (plugin via Zapier) is a chat site pop-up. Identified additional email captured as well as conversations that increased. It allows for week on week comparisons and shows connections between activity and return. Drfit is simple way to show more people want to use the client services but is obviously dependant on the company goals.

Internal Control & External Factors
Deepak states that clients often ask for newsletter sign ups, ‘click to call’ button, add to cart or revenue if they’re a transactional/ecommerce site but more often than not, they would be looking for organic growth (traffic) but have no clarification as to what kind of traffic they’re looking for. The expectation is often that it’s just going to go well… they want to get to page 1!

However, there are factors outside of your control, such as competitors or algorithm updates. For example, the last one was the Medic update on the 1st of August which was a core update that affected many sites and lasted for days. Trying to figure out how to accurately demonstrate what is in or out of your control can be tricky and what can be attributed to your activity.

Another example is when a server roll-back happens on the website you’ve been working on and meta data gets removed. Perceived ROI is hard to find as rankings get destroyed.

Educating Clients & Internal Departments
Deepak likes to talk about SEO with analogies, specifically one about running a race. When a client asks him how long will it take to rank number 1 for everything on Google, Deepak reply’s by saying that they need to win the 10k race before running the marathon. He also uses real time data from Search Console, listed above.

Working with clients to understand their data is essential. Deepak has found that clients often have high performing blogs without appropriate internal linking structures. Also, they may have a good blog but include no call to action which is a missed opportunity. By looking at top ten performing pages, it can improve performance quickly with simple tweaks because it’s possible that these simply haven’t been looked at before with the appropriate granularity. This demonstrates the power of marketing but offering up-front value of data that clients were not aware of or were not doing anything with before.

How to Justify SEO Activity
Observe and look for opportunities (quick wins)
Research a hunch based on historical data
Justification on activity done so far or direct impact
Trust-building with clients
Do split tests. This helps show clients that traffic can bring revenue, leads or conversions and forms a strong foundation for more tasks.
User experience has become more and more important. Doing it for the user and not just for the bots. The more the client understands that SEO touches so many points that it’s not about the keywords any more but click through rate and how customers are engaging with the content then that will help your case. Deepak gives an example when a client saw high bounce rates and how SEO helped solve a big legacy issue, which also improved the client PPC campaigns. Two birds with one stone. So, show the holistic view of SEO and how it works with other channels and how the other channels affect it, not just the channel in isolation.

Find your ROI
To summarise, we recommend you do the following to help you understand the return on investment on your digital marketing, SEO specifically:

Get your website tracking in order, use Google Analytics and Search Console as the bare minimum.
Get a tool that works for you and gives visibility to help show that your activity means a return for business
Understand numbers that matter to your business, a couple of metrics may be enough. Bridge that gap between SEO and the business by doing so.
Use analogies to educate clients and other departments.
Looks for quick wins, such as a chat pop-up or high performing blog post.
Finally, I share my golden calculation for SEO ROI, listen to find out how I use AOV (average order value), CVR (conversion rate) and more, to estimate revenue uplift from a particular project.

Learn my secret; listen to the podcast.

Music credit: I Dunno (Grapes of Wrath Mix) by spinningmerkaba (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/jlbrock44/56346 Ft: Jlang, 4nsic, grapes.