Chapter 5

SEO ROI Calculator

Using an SEO ROI Calculator can help you plan out new SEO investments, or to get a better understanding of the expected return from your current investments.
SEO ROI Calculator
Go to SEO ROI Calculator

With all the possible variables which can go into calculating your SEO ROI developing your own customized criteria for measuring your return on investment can seem pretty daunting.

Luckily we've created a simple to use SEO ROI calculator for you, allowing you to input your costs, keywords, conversion rates, and lifetime customer value and quickly get a good idea of the results you should expect from your SEO efforts and investments!

There are four steps to using our SEO ROI Calculator:

  1. Gather the data required for the SEO ROI Calculator
  2. Ensure that data is as accurate as possible
  3. Use our SEO ROI calculator with the data you gathered and get emailed your results!
  4. Making sense of the SEO ROI calculations you receive

Read further if you're not sure how to get all of the data you'll need, or if you already have all of the data you can skip straight to the calculator!

How to gather the data required for the SEO ROI Calculator

Numbers you will need to gather for this calculator:

  1. Total Monthly Search Volume: for all keywords you’re looking to build a prospective SEO ROI around. This data can be gained through tools like Moz, Ahrefs, or SEMrush using a keyword research tool that gives an estimated monthly search volume for each keyword you’re looking to target with content and link building.
  2. Total Production Costs: associated with the content production and link-building activities that will be required to rank for these keywords. If you’re not sure how to obtain these metrics in total see the “SEO Costs” section above.
  3. Lead Conversion Rate: This is the conversion rate to a lead from organic traffic on your site. If you’re unable to directly filter your organic conversion rate for some reason, a general conversion rate will do, but know that organic conversion rates typically perform much better than overall conversion rates due to the trust in the source interaction.
    If you have Google Analytics set up properly with conversion tracking this should be an easy metric to obtain, if you do not have conversion tracking set up properly that’s the absolute first thing you should do right now to make sure your marketing data is as accurate and informative as possible.
  4. Sales Close Rate: This is the rate at which your sales team (or website) converts a lead into a customer (the conversion step right after the lead conversion rate mentioned above). If you have a self-sign-up flow from leads then your sales close rate is likely 100%. If you have a freemium business, this could be the rate at which you convert free plan customers to paid customers.
  5. Average Lifetime Value of a Customer (or LTV): which is explained in our LTV chapter above. Essentially how much revenue a customer is expected to generate for you over the course of their time as a customer.
  6. Monthly Organic Spend: how much you’re willing to spend per month on your total SEO investment - think of this as your total production budget mentioned above spread out over the course of multiple months based on what you’re able to spend per month toward your SEO goals. So for example your total production budget might be $100,000 to achieve all of your keyword ranking goals, but you may only be able to spend $10,000/month which means we will be splitting that total production budget over the course of 10 months.
  1. Total Content Production investment needed for respective keywords (how much content needs to be built out to individually target each keyword appropriately for what is currently being ranked in the SERPs for those keywords) a good estimate for high-quality content writing and production is $.25-$1/word depending on technical needs.
  2. Total Link Building investment needed for respective keywords (how many links will need to be built to the content targeting each keyword in order for that content to rank in the top 5 positions of Google) which is a hard metric to nail down, though through our research we are able to find that on average a high-quality editorial link (for us) takes around $500 worth of time and effort to procure.

Numbers that we account for internally in our calculator:

  1. Traffic click-through rate (or CTR) is usually ~15% of the total volume (if you’re ranking in the top 5 positions) to determine the traffic you will actually gain from the overall search volume that you input.
  2. The overall conversion rate between your lead conversion rate and sales conversion rate means that we can calculate the number of customers you should expect to generate from the overall traffic of keywords you’re looking to rank for.
  3. The overall SEO ROI you should expect once all of these factors and costs are taken into consideration and assuming that from the actions that we’re taking the keywords you’re seeking to rank for will be ranking in the top 5 positions.

How to find the total monthly volume for the keywords you’re looking to target

  1. Navigate to Ahrefs “Keyword Explorer” tool and enter in a list of keywords you’re looking to target
how to find total monthly volume of keywords
  • Once you see your results for the list of keywords you’ve entered there should be a metric at the top of the list that says “Total volume:” this is the total volume of all keywords you’ve entered in for this search.
total volume of all keyword ideas
  1. If you’re confident in that list and don’t want to add any other keywords, you can take that total volume and use that as the Total Monthly Search Volume metric needed in the first step of the SEO ROI Calculator. If not, move on to the next step. 
  2. You can create a list of keywords by selecting all of these keywords and hitting the “Add to” button and hitting “New list” under “Keyword list” - you can then add as many keywords as you would like to this list and use the list’s view to establish the overall volume of the entire list, this will come in handy when adding additional keyword target suggestions while finding the best currently ranking content for each keyword, and topics to include in your content to target multiple keywords with a single article.
Adding keywords to a list in Ahrefs

How to find the total content production needed for a keyword you’re looking to target

  1. After searching your keywords in the Keyword Planner on Ahrefs as mentioned above you can click on each individual keyword for a full diagnostic of that keywords’ metrics, suggested keywords, and also what is currently ranking for that keyword as seen here:
keyword diagnostic in ahrefs
  1. From the page shown above, you can add additional keywords to your lists based on questions searchers commonly ask, or terms that match similarly to the keyword you searched for. Beyond this though you can see under the “Traffic Potential” box the “Top-ranking result” - you can click through to the top-ranking result, copy the text on-page and paste it into a word counter tool and get an understanding of the length of content  (and keyword density) you will need to write in order to compete on a pure content-basis.
finding word count of content
  1. Some content like pillar content pieces and long-form guides can rank for many keywords at the same time, if contextually relevant in Google’s SERPs - so while you’re totaling up your content costs associated with the content you need to write be sure to factor in if the content you’re planning to produce can rank for many of the keywords in your list of just a handful. 
  2. You may be able to save on costs significantly by making multi-chaptered pillar piece guides that can rank for hundreds or even thousands of keywords at once - which also allow you to focus link building on a single target for many keywords to rank, rather than several individual pages. When we do our SEO ROI Calculator in our sales process we factor this in and associate multiple keywords to the same content piece.

How to find the total link building needed for a keyword you’re looking to target

  1. After gathering the needed content costs for your respective keyword targets, scroll down to the bottom of the individual keyword breakdown page in Ahrefs and you will see a SERP overview that looks like this:
how to find total link building needs for keywords
  1. This shows the top 10 ranking pages in Google for the corresponding keyword, and their respective linking domains and total backlinks. The main factor to consider here is linking root domains. Linking root domains is the overall amount of individual sites linking to your page. This is vitally important, and also why you should be trying to acquire links from unique sites more than many links from the same site. Each individual domain linking to a page will increase that page's link authority significantly. 
  2. Beyond linking root domains you should consider the domain rating, it will typically take far more linking root domains linking to a page of a lower domain rating to make it rank rather than if your domain has a higher domain rating than the competition.
  3. You want to generally shoot for a 10-15% improvement in total linking root domains to your specific page in order to solidly consider a jump in rankings above the currently ranking pages. Many factors are at play here so that’s why this is really just an estimate that you have to understand has a range of effects - as the highest-ranking article here has fewer overall links than some of the articles ranking 4-7, and this is where relevancy plays an important role, the authority level of those linking root domains (the higher the better) and the relevancy of those links (if they’re highly relevant editorial links they will usually count for more authority than other types of links). 
  4. Another point to consider from this report is the number of keywords that are ranking for each page. You can click through and see the keywords ranking for each page, and pair that up with how well that page targets those individual keyword topic clusters, and plan your article to try to cover as many of these keyword targets as possible - even adding them to your keyword list as well. This shows as a good example too that one page can target hundreds and thousands of keywords and generate far more overall traffic than what you might expect when estimating based on one keyword per article.
finding keywords that work for topic clusters

Ensure the data is as accurate as possible

After you’ve compiled your data for all of the points mentioned above you want to make sure it’s as accurate as possible. Double-check all of the factors, such as your LTV, lead conversion rate, sales conversion rate, but mostly your production costs - as these can vary significantly and are harder to nail down.

It’s important to note that the production costs will just be estimates, and that’s fine! It’s very difficult to plan these things perfectly, this is to give you a solid range of expectations - but in our experience, our SEO ROI calculations tend to be pretty conservative, all things considered. The reason for this is that typically when you’re trying to target a specific content resource to a specific keyword, you will undoubtedly miss keywords that the content could rank for, and will rank for. Meaning you will actually under-estimate the total volume of visitors that your actions will yield. 

This calculator mostly accounts for content creation and link building costs - however you should try to incorporate your costs for other actions taken with SEO - such as site improvements, and other factors. You also don’t only have to account for blog content and those types of long-form content - if you think that you can have a solutions page rank well for a set of keywords, include those in your lists as well (though the conversion rate from those pages will likely be higher than from other content pages on the site).

Use our SEO ROI Calculator tool with the data you gathered

Note that this is a similar calculator that we use to project the SEO ROI of our prospective clients during our sales process, and follow up on this multiple times throughout a project to make sure the recommendations we're making for new link targets and content production will be valuable to our clients.
This is a lighter version of the calculator we use but customized so that you can input your costs, rather than the costs we've come to expect in our projects from our marketing inputs like content production and link building.

*It’s important to note that this SEO ROI calculator only calculates the cost and potential ROI of just the production costs for content and links using keywords and strategy that you’ve already determined - this does not include any costs for an agency base retainer, strategy work, technical audits, keyword research or content strategy. The calculator that we use during our sales planning accounts for all of our strategy and project management costs as well.

Understanding the results you get from our SEO ROI Calculator tool

When you’ve finished your SEO ROI calculator you will receive a results list and email that explains the factors that we calculate and what kind of ROI you can generally expect to make from your SEO efforts, and it’s important to note that these are all estimates based on the metrics you provide and given our best ability to collate the information that we have gathered through our time doing this for our own clients. 

If all of the actions you’ve totaled up in your production costs are accurate and allow you to rank in the top 5 positions for the keywords that you’ve selected and totaled up in your total volume estimate you should have a pretty accurate estimated SEO ROI with an accurate time to ROI and monthly/annual figure to look forward to!

If the actions you’ve totaled up don’t take place or don’t yield the desired result of top-5 rankings then of course you will likely not be making the full ROI readout that we’ve generated.

It’s important to note as mentioned above that if you take all of the actions to accurately predict this information and you perform all of these actions and have content ranking really well - it’s very possible that this ROI calculation will be an underestimate of what your true potential would be, as we’re simply unable through manual research to factor in all of the potential keywords that your content could rank for the traffic that those keyword rankings will generate.

Simply effective marketing.