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Three Key Tips to Justify a Bigger SEO Budget

  |  October 20, 2010   |  Comments

If you just "do" SEO as maintenance, now's the time to assess the full extent of the business value you drive.

Do you just "do" SEO? Does it feel like the same, day in and day out? If your company is an established brand that existed in the last millennium, chances are that you probably "do" some SEO. But is it really enough? Is it integrated with the rest of your marketing mix, or is it just an aside – a line item in your overall marketing budget? If you're only "doing" SEO, you may find that it gets harder and harder to justify that line item in the budget.

Most companies now recognize that SEO is important – it lays the foundation for your online activities. But it can be so much more than that if you truly integrate your marketing efforts – and to do that you'll need more than a few percent growth in your budget.

Here are three key tips to justify an increased SEO budget:

  1. Track your full SEO impact. Conversions: Not just sales and lead capture, known as "macro" conversions, but any major interaction with the website. You may choose to track some "micro" conversions too, such as a certain number of page views within a session, a click on a particular area of the site (maybe your most profitable service, for example), or a downloaded asset or document, even if it's not one that normally results in a macro conversion. The bottom line is that your website is there to do more than just drive sales; your site must drive business value. Value those micro and macro conversions and do the math – measure the overall "value" of your SEO program.
  2. Project the value of SEO-driven content. Internal search queries: What are your visitors looking for that you don't have? What about things that you do have, but call by a different name? Internal search data can provide a wealth of information about what your visitors need and what they're learning (or not learning) from your traditional media placements. When you fill these gaps, you drive incremental "value" from those conversions – project it, measure it, and add this to your budget justification.
  3. Search as the "harvester" of traditional media buzz. Use your Web analytics to evaluate the impact of traditional media vehicles as they hit the market. Do you see a spike in SEO traffic after television placements? (I assume you're already synchronizing PPC.) What about print ads? Dig into the data to see what people are finding on your site; what products or services are they most interested in at these times? Which search engines seem to drive the majority of TV or print placement lift in search traffic? Keep in mind, just because you put a specific landing page or vanity URL in your traditional media placements, it doesn't mean your audience is going to use them. In fact, if you have strong brand recognition, they're more likely to go directly to your site or type your brand name into a search engine. Take this delta and attribute that business value to your SEO results. The right SEO – getting the best pages to rank across your brand terms – is a highly efficient way to leverage search to harvest the impact of those brand and awareness campaigns beyond your expected conversion paths.

So if you just "do" SEO as maintenance, now's the time to assess the full extent of the business value you drive – only this will justify the correct investment for budgeting. Only when you dig into the data you already have and integrate SEO with your other media efforts and analytics will you get the most bang for your budget. Only then can you justify the right SEO investment – and it's probably a lot more than you're investing right now.

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Crispin Sheridan

Crispin Sheridan is the Senior Director, Global Search at SAP. As part of the digital team, he established and leads the search and testing practices at SAP. Crispin is responsible for paid, natural, and mobile search and all online testing. Search and testing at SAP are fully centralized and globally funded and run under a hybrid in-house and agency model.

Crispin has proven that search learnings and keyword insights work hand in hand with social media marketing and together can effectively drive B2B lead generation. Furthermore, the development of the SAP.com Test Lab has contributed significant success to SAP's digital marketing efforts.

A frequent guest speaker at conferences, including SES New York, San Francisco, Toronto, London, Delhi, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, Crispin was appointed to the SES Advisory Board in December 2009. He has also been a guest speaker at the e-Metrics Summit and ad:Tech, and is a member of Google's B2B Technology Council. You can follow him on Twitter at @crispinsheridan and read his monthly SEO column on ClickZ.

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