There’s no questioning the benefits and importance of a sustainable SEO strategy for increasing your brand awareness, driving traffic, and growing revenue streams, but when it comes time to make a case to invest more into your SEO budget, the conversations can start to get a bit tricky.
For an SEO specialist, the theory is basic, the more attention and budget that you allocate to SEO, the better your business will perform in the search engines, which relates to an increase in business opportunities and sales. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case and even an SEO strategy that is performing well and delivering results can be difficult to prove.
SEO strategies are constantly evolving and these changes can be difficult to keep up with for those not directly involved in the industry. In addition, SEO is often misunderstood by decision makers, the tactics either sound overly technical or the ROI models are unclear. These factors can create uncertainty and hesitation when it’s time to consider investing more money into your SEO campaigns.
In order to build a better case for growing your SEO budget, you should present evidence that SEO will help your company drive more traffic, improve its search position against competition, increase lead opportunities, grow revenue, and ultimately produce a positive ROI.
What Decision Makers Need to Know About SEO
SEO is an investment in your business, and as with many other investment opportunities, it can take a considerable amount of time before you start generating a noticeable return, sometimes up to 12 months. You should set this expectation from the start because often decision makers are interested in immediate results and they’re likely to be considering other strategies that may produce a quicker ROI or appear more valuable at the time.
For example, a decision maker could be interested in budgeting for more employees, adding new tools for existing strategies, increasing advertising spending, or a variety of other investments. Increasing their SEO spending could be the last thing on their mind if they haven’t yet seen evidence of a positive return or don’t realize the long-term commitment that an SEO strategy requires to be successful.
If your company is currently investing in an SEO strategy, you should produce concrete data that helps prove to the decision maker that investing in SEO has been an effective use of your company budget. The challenge for many marketers and SEO specialists is that this data can be difficult to find or take months to accumulate, all the more reason to be transparent with the decision maker to help them better understand to be patient with results.
To combat this mindset, you should be collecting and documenting key metrics that help prove the effectiveness of your SEO investment. Present data that compares your keyword rankings and organic search traffic prior to your SEO investment with what you now receive. If there is a noticeable increase, this can be an indication that your SEO campaigns are gaining traction and this may pique the interest of your decision makers.
Be wary, though; organic search traffic can often be attributed to other marketing initiatives and a decision maker may want to know the direct correlation between their SEO investment and an increase in traffic. To avoid simply using your intuition, you should cross-reference your organic traffic with the data from other marketing campaigns. This can help you build a better understanding of where your traffic came from and how effective your SEO campaigns are.
Search traffic and keyword growth can provide some initial data to get the ball rolling, but what really excites decision makers, is how this is actually affecting the bottom line. If you’re ranking higher with keywords that a qualified lead is likely to search, you should be able to make the case that you’re not only driving more traffic and creating more conversion opportunities, but you are directly affecting sales.
To back these claims, analyze your lead generation and conversion rates from before and after implementing your SEO strategy. The more in-depth data that you can provide, the stronger your argument for growing your budget is likely to be.
If you don’t have any actionable data that proves your SEO initiatives yet, you should create and document a clear plan to collect this information. Collaborate with the following departments to develop a stronger strategy and gather support for your SEO campaigns moving forward:
Leadership — Communicate with your leadership and decision makers to gain a better understanding of what their expectations and goals are when investing in SEO. With this information, you can find the metrics that are most important to report on and better focus on presenting that data.
Marketing and Sales — Collaborate with the marketing and sales teams to better understand what keywords are most important to them and how growing SEO can relate to an increase in sales. These teams are often directly affected by the performance of your SEO campaigns and are likely to have ideas on how growing your SEO budget would help benefit the business. Their suggestions can help fuel your case.
IT — Creating buy-in from the IT department may be one of the most important aspects to consider when growing your SEO budget since they are most responsible for the technical implementation, and the success of your campaigns can largely depend on how well they can perform. You should ensure that they have the skills and available resources to grow your SEO efforts effectively.
Outsourced SEO Service Providers — An SEO agency generally staffs a variety of experts, each likely to have a different opinion on why you should grow your budget. By asking them how you should best make a case for SEO, you can collect further information and resources that you need to present a better case to your decision makers.
By collaborating with your co-workers and connecting with outside professionals, you can better ensure that the interests and goals of your business are well presented in your argument. Decision makers like to see that you have done your due diligence and analyzed every aspect of your strategy prior to asking for more money.
Offer a Variety of Solutions and Budget Options
There is rarely a solution that is correct for every business in all situations and SEO is no different. When deciding what budget might best suit your increased SEO needs, you should approach your decision makers with a good, better, and best-case scenario. This allows for the team to ultimately decide which approach is best for the business and can help them juggle the wants and needs of other departments when finalizing a budget.
The following could be an example of a marketing director putting all of the research together and making a case for his or her mid-sized SaaS company to grow their SEO budget. Remember, the more research and data that you can provide, the more powerful your argument is likely to be.
Good — “If we continue to spend at our current pace for SEO, we can expect similar growth over the next year. Data suggests that we are moving up the ranks for the following keywords and we can attribute this primarily to our SEO budget. The sales manager mentioned that she needs to see more leads to reach our current sales goals and with our current spending option, we may come up short.”
Better — “By moderately increasing our SEO budget, we should have the opportunity to expand into other keywords and continue to build upon the success we’ve seen with our current keywords. We can expect our organic traffic to grow 5 to 10 percent after about six months. At our current lead generation rate, this could give our sales team a 1 to 3 percent boost in leads, which can greatly improve their chances for hitting our company goals. We spoke with the IT department and they wouldn’t need additional resources to implement this change, but the sales team may need an additional employee.”
Best — “We think that we can really hit a home run and increase our bottom line if we invest heavily in content marketing to boost our SEO efforts. Our current data suggests that by doubling our budget, we may see a 40 to 50 percent boost in traffic and our sales could skyrocket. With this plan we would need to hire three to five more employees, otherwise we would need to consider contracting with an outside firm to improve our SEO efforts. We’ve worked through a few different scenarios for accomplishing this and we can safely expect to not only hit this year’s revenue goals but to continue reaching and exceeding them for the next 18 to 24 months.”
The situations and the numbers implied above are of course arbitrary, but you should take these concepts and apply them to your own business strategies and goals to find the best solutions for you and your team.
Making a case for growing your SEO budget can be a tricky challenge, but by educating your decision makers and providing a variety of budgeting options and value propositions that benefit your business, you can properly frame your argument as a win-win scenario for the entire company.
What tactics have you used to argue for a budget increase in your department? How much has your business grown since incorporating an SEO strategy into your marketing budget? Do you agree with the strategies mentioned in this article? Put your responses and any commentary below.