6 of the Dumbest Things You Can Assume About SEO ROI

You own a small business, you've bought ad space in every local newspaper and periodical in a hundred-mile radius -- but business is still less than booming. “What’s wrong with people?” you spew at your computer screen in a fit of late-night rage. “My product is fantastic! Why does no one want it?!” You find yourself delving into a black hole of SEO-related articles and opinion pieces. The adrenaline rushes. The rage grows. Deep down, you know that these simple solutions can’t be real. Finding customers can’t be this easy. Someone is clearly trying to sabotage your business.

And then it begins: A full-blown argument between You and The Google…

  1. "But print ads generate 5.7x more revenue than digital ads for the exact same newspaper.”

    Yes, according to research, digital ads account for only 15% of newspaper ad revenue. "Aha!" you cry triumphantly. "That means that 85% of the revenue still comes from print ads!" That’s true, and good job doing math -- but having a bigger chunk of the pie doesn't mean a whole lot when that pie has shrunk to the size of a sesame seed. For every $1 a newspaper gains from digital ads, it loses $15 from print ads. Kind of like stuffing tissue paper into the gushing hole in the side of your boat.

  2. “Well, print advertising has withstood the development of the digital world so far.”

    Print ads can be stuffed in mailboxes, slid under doors, pasted in elevators -- even plastered on the sides of buses, taunting and humiliating you every time you’re 30 seconds late to the bus stop.

    But digital space is opening up, and mobile devices like smartphones and tablets make it easier for advertisers to distribute content quickly and effortlessly. A 2013 survey showed that nearly half of all American adults own at least one smartphone, and almost one-third own a tablet. Global smartphone sales are estimated to account for 66% of all mobile phone sales in 2014, and this percentage is predicted to rise to 88% by 2018. There are currently an estimated two tablets for every nine people worldwide. All it takes is one more mobile device out in the big wide world, and digital space increases infinitely with every browser page opened and every unpaid mobile app downloaded. The SEO ROI for a seasoned business taking advantage of this space is potentially limitless. Kind of like space.

    (“But space…” you whisper to yourself in the dark of the night, clutching yesterday’s copy of the New York Times. Or was it last week’s? Doesn’t matter. “... Space is scary.” You compose yourself just in time for the next click.)

  3. "The newspaper demographic is still loyal!"

    So are Rocky Horror Picture Show fans -- it still doesn't make it a good movie. Besides, when you're talking about SEO ROI (or any ROI, for that matter), "loyalty" isn't nearly as attractive as "new customers." Back in May of 2004, the least-preferred news source for young people (18- to 34-year-olds) officially became print media. And all those "loyal" newspaper readers you love so much? The low end of that particular age demographic is around 60. Next year it will be 61. The year after that it will be 62... See where this is going?

  4. "Print ads generate word-of-mouth, and word-of-mouth generates leads. So there!"

    In the Golden Age of print ads, this was undeniably true. Great ads generated buzz, and buzz eventually brought people to your door. Unfortunately, since the Internet cranked the speed of commerce all the way up to 11, "eventually" just isn't fast enough anymore. Word-of-mouth generates more leads than TV and radio ads -- in fact, it generates more leads than online directories, pay-per-click, and even straight-up SEO.

    But online marketing as a whole still brings in twice the amount of leads as simple word-of-mouth. Not only that, but tracking those leads is easier, more reliable, and far faster, thanks to online metrics. This can give your company a much more accurate picture of the actual SEO ROI per lead, as well as the ability to respond to market changes almost in real-time -- speeds that leave traditional word-of-mouth with a mouthful of dust.

  5. “But nobody cares about J-Law’s hair!”

    If you have a smartphone and use the CNN mobile app, you probably remember this unbelievably useless interesting update, when the star of The Hunger Games sparked a “breaking news” bulletin… because she got a haircut.

    But is usefulness really the point? A majority of Americans are willing to put up with a few ridiculous updates, if it means that they can have legitimate news updates around the clock. Think about it -- how many times do you check the news on your mobile device? Lots. And how many times does a single print newspaper update itself? Exactly zero times. The ads, like the stories, become old news the instant you’ve seen them.

    During the 2013 Super Bowl, there was a 34-minute blackout in the Superdome, and if you were like most viewers watching the game on TV, you probably flipped on your Facebook or Twitter to see what the deal was. And then you saw Oreo’s "You Can Still Dunk in the Dark” ad. The brilliance wasn’t about the ad itself, or the artwork, or the writing -- it was about Oreo’s ability to respond to an event and distribute content instantly.

    (This whole “SEO ROI” thing is starting to make sense. You tense up. This can’t be good.)

  6. “Blogging? Sounds like a disease.”

    The New York Times seems a bit confused about blogging, too. A decision to axe about 30 blogs this year at the beginning of July came at a surprising time. Many supporters of the decision have noted that the Times achieved success through “professional reporting;” Assistant Managing Editor of the Times Ian Fisher stated, “Blogs got very trendy about seven or eight years ago,” but that they created “constant pressure” to fill internet channels with pages of meaningless words.

    This sounds like a reasonable (if somewhat condescending) assessment. But interestingly enough, in that same article the Times never references its 2014 Innovation Report, which notes that news platforms like BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post are lightyears ahead of the Times in terms of audience engagement, ad revenue, and unique visitors. You want numbers? Blogging generates 67% more leads, and companies with active blogs have an average of 434% more indexed pages than companies without blogs. And what do leads and indexed pages get you? More traffic, more sharing, and more customers. But you do you, Times. You do you.

    (You sit back from your keyboard, sweating, shaking, your mind reeling, your faith in print ads… shaken. Was it all a lie? Was everything you ever learned about advertising just a cruel joke at the expense of your bottom line? Can SEO ROI really be that good?)

    Yes, it can be (and we can hear you even when you type in parentheses). Surveys show that 93% of marketers plan to use content marketing in 2014... and marketers don’t stick with any tactic very long unless it gets results. If that many marketing professionals are willing to invest time, energy, and money into one particular method… well, maybe it’s time you stopped arguing and started making money.