Updated: 4/4/2019

Value of SEO: Why You Should Change Your Keyword Research Focus From Volume To Revenue

The truth is that when you’re keyword volume data and ranking data, regardless of whether it comes from search console or a rank tracking provider, is ultimately an egocentric & meaningless metric unless you can actually tie it to revenue.


SEO ROI is the return on investment of increased leads and sales from your website for making your website more capable of receiving “organic” free traffic from ranking improvements on Search Engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing.What Is SEO ROI?

That’s why they are paying you as an agency/freelancer or paying your salary as an in-house marketer, to make money.

So why don’t we include revenue projections when we talk about SEO? Because it can seem pretty daunting! Don’t worry though, here is a step by step on how to connect that keyword research data to the revenue of the site in question.

Create an Estimate of What % of Organic Traffic You Could Capture

An Estimated 35% percent goes to #1 ranking, but you’re UNLIKELY to rank #1 for EVERY keyword. So how do you gauge a realistic picture? First you need to have more detail about CTR on SERPs based on position.

Position 120.5%
Position 213.32%
Position 313.14%
Position 48.98%
Position 59.21%
Position 66.73%
Position 77.61%
Position 86.92%
Position 95.52%
Position 107.95%

Lead To Sale Rate: Conversions Are ALL Not JUST Form Submissions

  • A process to create a reasonable SEO revenue projection
  • Multiply that organic traffic by your site’s average Organic Conversion rate to get Estimated leads.
    • # of “True Conversions”/# of Sessions
    • Remember “leads” are not sales
  • Multiply your est. leads by your estimated Close rate for leads *Only for lead/sale based businesses, eCommerce can skip this step
  • Multiply the number of leads by the average Revenue per new client/sale Estimate your revenue per month from 1 new client
    Multiply by average client lifespan

Can an SEO Tool Estimate Your SEO ROI Potential?

I was just wondering earlier if it’d be possible for a tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush to take my list of keywords and give me a ~guestimate of just how much traffic you could reasonably expect from them.

But even more than that, can I estimate how many leads and REVENUE that would mean?

After all if Gary Vaynerchuck says I need to “figure out how that business makes money in the next six minutes.” then I should get to it, right?

Estimates Organic Traffic Potential: Download My Excel / Google Spreadsheet

Get your organic traffic estimator sheet
Download the Excel Gooogle Sheet to Estimate your Organic Traffic

So here’s what I did:

I have created a spreadsheet populated with real data for an example client with some simple formulas that you can duplicate and then adjust & apply to your own keyword list.

** I created this for some client research but realized it might be cool to put it out there for others to utilize the idea.

Calculate Industry, Brand & Product Topic Keywords Separately

The intent behind searches is different, so you need to segment your keyword brainstorming process to capture the many potential intents behind those searches.

For example, if your run an eCommerce store then you may find it useful to dig into your keywords based on the brands of products your eCommerce store sells.

Think through the problems that people are looking to solve when they search about a particular product or service. Explore the concepts behind the general “industry” that your business falls into: Travel, Home, Professional Services etc. Understanding that your service is seen in the context of a homeowner or a business process can help you generate more relevant topics to cover in your content marketing and link building plan (Check out linkio for a helpful linkbuilding tool)

I made three individual sheets for these different verticals of keywords to dig into.

Download the Excel Gooogle Sheet to Estimate your Organic Traffic

Set REASONABLE Organic SEO Expectations

No. You don’t get to rank #1 across the board for the keywords you identified.

It’s NOT reasonable to expect out of ANY SEO campaigns.

However, you could reasonably expect that the outcome of your SEO campaign could help you duplicate some of the organic success of URL that are currently ranking. So what’s a resonable expectation?

Life is pain, highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling you something.

A Reasonable Example Case of Forecasting Organic Results

Let’s say that 25% of your keywords get to #1, 50 are #2-3 and 25% are #3-6

If you are more of a pessimist, or the client isn’t offering that much budget or it’s a rough neighborhood for competition then revise those down on the spreadsheet.

  • For 25 Nashville dentist keywords the estimate volume was: 2,540 per month
  • Using my assumptions above I estimate a reasonable ownage of the SERP would net: 458 Organic sessions per month, not including BRAND or LONGTAIL keywords.
  • Multiply that organic traffic by your site’s Organic Conversion rate (if you don’t have access to Google Analytics or have goals configured then you can assume between 2.5% and 5%) to get your est. # of leads. 22 Leads
  • Multiply your est. leads by your estimated Close rate on leads (differs wildly for every niche, I just used 50% arbitrarily) 11 clients
  • Multiply the number of leads by the average Revenue per new client/sale (I assumed $1000) and BOOM You have the estimated organic revenue increase from a “REASONABLE” result of an SEO campaign.  $11,000

Factor “Churn” Into SEO Revenue Predictions

  • You need to keep in mind that some of your revenue from those clients might be upfront and some of it might be recurring or monthly revenue.
  • If you have monthly recurring revenue from your clients, then you should take the needed time to figure out your “churn rate” to come up with an idea of how long you usually keep your customers.

Formula For Calculating “Churn”

Start with current customers at the start of the month, and subtract any clients lost during the month. Then divide that number by the original number customers from your monthly start.

January ClientsJanuary CancelsChurn Rate

“When you’re figuring out your churn rate, especially at an early stage in your business, the process of acquisition should be taken into account.

I.e. Your friends, family or close business referrals are going to have a different shelf life compared to clients you’ve won on your own merits, so to speak” – Chris Sipe of Gigamunch, an international meal delivery service startup based in Nashville.

Get your organic traffic estimator sheet

Predicting Revenue For Organic Search Efforts: Eric Enge & Mats Tolander Discuss The Topic

The fun part of the question “how can we predict the revenue outcome of an organic SEO campaign” is that the presumption is that we have useful data on organic search volumes for the keywords.

Generally speaking we do not. Even when we get data from Google Keyword Planner, it’s hard to tell where the overlaps are, and where the quoted numbers relate to broad match, phrase match, and exact match versions of the input key phrase.

There is a reason that Searchmetrics talks about “Search Visibility” and Brightedge speaks about “Share of Voice”. Real revenue projections? Forget about it!

Eric Enge

While I don’t particularly disagree with Eric there are situations where it may be fruitful to take a stab at creating a model based on available data (actual traffic, estimated search volume, rankings, and projected clickthru rates based on rankings, as well as an estimate of what the average click is worth.)

If we attach dollar-value A to a keyword based on actual revenue and known traffic, we can estimate a projected ROI on quadrupling traffic by moving up from say number 6 to number 2.

Examples range from simple site wide assessments based on sales or advertising revenue divided by organic search sessions, to very granular models at query and page (product) level, taking all the things into consideration, depending on client or campaign need.

 Mats Tolander

Mats is right, but so am I. There are business contexts where relying on search volume data you get from keyword tools to forecast Revenue / ROI is still worth doing, simply because the business needs some perspective on what the potential return might be.

 It just remains critical to let the business stakeholder know the limitations of the calculations being performed.

Eric Enge

Predicting Organic Conversions

Predicting traffic is hard. There are so many moving parts. You, your competitors, Google (and other engines!) and their algos. It can be hard, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

Predicting traffic can help you secure resource but it can also mess you up, if your predictions are wildly wrong.

Work with data you have.

Use GSC, use Analytics, use SEO tools where you can to help. Conversion predictions come from that data. If you know that x% of your traffic converts, you’re on your way.

Better, if you know x% of traffic to specific pages convert, you can be even more accurate. And INTENT is vital.

A search for “Bike shops in Cambridge” is me exploring. “Buy bike Cambridge” is me looking to part with money. Group your keywords accordingly.

If you’re predicting that keywords without purchase intent are going to convert into revenue, you’re going to come unstuck. For them, a ‘conversion’ may be a newsletter sign-up or even just picking up your cookie, so you can remarket to them later.

Andrew Cock-Starkey of Optimisey