The ROI of Search Engine Optimization, Usability, and Analytics.

I'll tell you why I love what I do. I love helping other people be successful in their business. This industry provides the tools people need to make an impact on their bottom line. Right here. Right now.

money.jpgSEO, Usability, and Analytics are the best investment that you can make for your online business. In fact, dollar for dollar, these recession proof tactics should result in some of the best ROI you'll see from your web site. If you're still on the fence when it comes to investing in any of these three areas, you could be missing out on a wide-open opportunity to get the most out of your website.

These three factors nearly always result in increased traffic and conversions on websites; but when combined, they are results are even more powerful. Whether your web site focuses on sales, leads or sheer traffic volume, optimizing for just one of the three will experience a drastic change for the better, as each one provides significant direction to improve your website.

With that in mind, let's break things down by category and take a look at the expect return on investment you might see from each of these tactics.

Tactic #1: Analytics - 900% to 1200% ROI

mrfixit.jpgIn a report released last summer, Forrester research showed that a company that brings in a dedicated analyst can see an increase in the realm of 900% - 1200% ROI. Now that's something to get excited about! While that may sound like a staggering number, think of all the little things that might be wrong with your web site. Shoppers might be dropping out of the check-out process because you don't share shipping information until after they give up their credit card information. The page that draws the highest search traffic might have a huge abandon rate because your content isn't targeted properly, or fails to encourage users to dive deeper into your web site.

In my experience, that return can usually be experienced within the first few months of implementing the changes that the analyst recommends. As a side benefit, the biggest issues tend to get identified first. This means that while analytics is a time consuming process, you often see strong ROI early on in the process. A few simple changes can make a dramatic difference in terms of conversions and sales.

Tactic #2: Usability = 80% to 200% increase in desired metrics.

According to Jacob Nielson, usability improvements six years ago averaged 135%. That means you could more than double your metrics simply by making your site a little easier to use. These days, the average improvement is lower, but still a strong 83%. (To note, it's higher if you look at specific metrics.) That said, 83% is nothing to scoff at.

The main reason the number has dropped over time is that designs are getting better than what we were accustomed to viewing in the 90's. Based on my personal experience working with web sites and their usability issues, I can assure you website sales on ecommerce sites can improve dramatically with a simple usability review. I have worked on some projects were usability changes resulted in an ROI increase of 4000%. Simply removing a few simple obstacles from the path of the user does wonders in helping them move through the process.

Tactic #3: SEO = (the wildcard) 40% to 4000+%

When it comes to low-cost ways to make your business recession proof, the real wild card is search engine optimization. Unfortunately, the improvement from this tactic varies wildly. Some sites respond very quickly to simple on-page optimization techniques, while others require more attention to detail and additional off-site or on-site optimization help. Some sites require a full scale search engine marketing campaign in order to see strong results. It really just depends on how well optimized the site already is and how saturated the market is. That said, you can't get around the fact that a simple optimization project on a website can result in dramatically increased rankings and traffic.

It's important to note that while analytics makes it possible to get a good feel for the success of search engine optimization campaigns, it's difficult to measure the full impact of SEO. Factors like "the long tail," ranking positions, and tracking systems can make it difficult to calculate the true return from an SEO campaign. Not the least of these issues is the fact that search engine optimization campaigns have grown far beyond what they were even a few years back. Search engine optimization is no longer limited to the simple research and placement of keywords and links. It's now part of an all encompassing online marketing plan designed to drive traffic, exposure and targeted links using a wide range of tactics. That makes true ROI for a search engine optimization campaign hard to nail down.

Secret Tactic #4: Combined All Three = Exponential Results

Not surprisingly, each of the three tactics I've outlined here play off of each other to produce even stronger results. Combine any two or three of them and you'll see ROI increase exponentially. Combine search engine optimization with usability analysis and you'll see a significant change in website navigation and architecture. These changes will result in stronger search rankings and higher conversions from the flood of new traffic.

Combine Usability with Analytics and you'll end up with suggested improvements that will give you invaluable insight into your visitor and the way they use your website. Implement the suggested changes and chances are high you'll see a bump in your search engine optimization campaign results as well. (Note: You may not like what you learn about people's opinion of the site after that type of review, but implementing changes based on what you learn will provide a dramatic return on the investment.)

While attending last week’s Search Engine Strategies event I saw first-hand how the possible recession we're facing is on many marketer's minds. Nonetheless, a recession doesn't have to stop business, and it doesn't have to stop online marketing. Savvy marketers will take this opportunity to improve the customer experience and get the most out of their websites.

This is why I love what I do, and why I focus on these three areas first when marketing websites. Most companies want to run headlong into the social media game, when they have not even taken the first steps to get the most out of their own websites. I'm quick to caution them of the need to improve the experience at home before then invite more people to the party.

March 25, 2008

Matt Bailey is the founder of SiteLogic, a web marketing consulting company. He leads seminars and teaches companies how to use their sites more effectively and to build a web business by applying common sense sales and marketing techniques. He is a specialist in interpreting web site statistics into practical usability.

Matt has been in the search marketing industry for ten years, and started leading classes in the late 1990's. One of his first opportunities was as a regular speaker for the Ohio Innkeeper's Association, teaching practical web site marketing techniques. Since that time he has worked with hundreds of companies, instructing them in web marketing principles.

Matt takes a very holistic view of website marketing, including accessibility, which has become a passion and a crusade. His goal with The Web Site Accessibility Blog is to teach companies that they can easy apply search marketing and accessibility techniques to their web sites.


Wonderful piece, Matt! Excellent point about usability and removing the barriers. It's amazing how a few simple adjustments can yield significant results.

Right on Matt. If anything, in the case of small business the recession will drive them to leverage the web even more. Sinking their resources into SEO (Attracting business), usability (converting business) and then tracking it (measuring business) is the most bang for their buck due to the visibility of it all.

I particularly liked the point about how the tactics reinforce each other. It's a point that often gets lost. We keen on the idea at where we view e-commerce success as the result of a process of increasing conversions via effective e-commerce product site search reinforced by increased search visibility. It's becomes a self-reinforcing process of business and sales improvement.

Another tip. Don't spend more than what you earn. Less debits, easier life.

Awesome article Matt! Such a nice informative article to read. Whether during times of recession or recovery, your customers need to be aware of what added values your company provides them – extras that save them money, time, and frustration. Businesses must work on creating competitive advantage for themselves to stand out from their competition.

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Search Engine Guide > Matt Bailey > Three Recession Proof Tactics You Can't Afford to Miss