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ROI on SEO: A Detailed Analysis of Cost vs. Return


The digital world is in constant flux. Innovations are constantly altering the landscape, shifting consumer behaviors, and remapping the pathways to success. Amid this flux, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) remains a constant beacon, guiding businesses towards the prosperous shores of online visibility. But the question that invariably arises is, how does the investment in SEO translate into returns? And, what’s the actual return on investment (ROI) on SEO?


Before plunging into the numbers and percentages, it’s critical to understand what SEO entails and how it serves as a vessel for businesses to reach their potential customers. SEO is an organic digital marketing strategy aimed at improving a website’s visibility on search engines. It targets the quality and quantity of traffic to your website through organic search results, thus enhancing your brand’s visibility and credibility.


The Cost of SEO

The cost of SEO varies significantly depending on various factors, including the size of your business, the competitiveness of your industry, and the specific goals you’re trying to achieve. Many small businesses invest around $750 – $2,000 per month on SEO, but for larger corporations or highly competitive sectors, the investment can climb up to $10,000 per month or more. The expenses typically include on-page and off-page optimization, keyword research, technical SEO, content creation, and analytics.


The Return on SEO

In the world of digital marketing, where the cost of advertising is steadily increasing, the potential returns from SEO are compelling. The most attractive aspect of SEO is that it’s an inbound marketing strategy. Unlike traditional advertising, which involves reaching out to consumers whether they want to hear from you or not, inbound methods center on making it easy for your audience to find you when they want information.


A study by BrightEdge shows that organic search drives 53% of all site traffic, making it a critical channel for businesses to leverage. Therefore, the potential returns can be massive, given the size of the digital market. It’s reported that 14.6% of SEO leads convert to sales, which is significantly higher than the 1.7% conversion rate of traditional outbound methods.


The ROI on SEO

To calculate ROI, you need to measure the revenue gained from SEO and subtract the cost of your SEO strategy, then divide this by the cost of SEO. But here’s where things get tricky. SEO isn’t a one-time project; it’s an ongoing investment. Its effects are not always immediate. It may take several months to see significant results, which can complicate the ROI calculation.


Let’s consider an example. Suppose your SEO costs are $2,000 per month, and after six months, your SEO leads have generated $30,000 in revenue. In this case, your ROI would be:


  • ROI = (Gain from Investment – Cost of Investment) / Cost of Investment * 100%
  • ROI = ($30,000 – $12,000) / $12,000 * 100%
  • ROI = 150%


This indicates that for every dollar invested in SEO, the return was $1.50. Now, this is a simplified example. In real scenarios, you’ll need to consider various factors like lifetime value of a customer, average order value, and conversion rate.


The Value of Long-term SEO

SEO is a long-term strategy. A study by Ahrefs showed that only 5.7% of newly published pages ranked in Google’s Top10 within a year. However, businesses that persevere and invest in a consistent, well-executed SEO strategy tend to see exponential growth in traffic and conversions over time.


According to a study by Search Engine Journal, SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate. This statistic demonstrates the inherent power of attracting customers who are actively seeking your product or service.


With consistent effort and investment in SEO, businesses can improve their visibility, build credibility, and drive more organic traffic. The long-term ROI is therefore not only the potential revenue but also the establishment of a strong, reliable brand image and loyal customer base.



Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising is often juxtaposed with SEO. PPC offers immediate results – your ads start appearing as soon as you start paying. However, the moment you stop paying, the results disappear. On the other hand, the results from SEO are slower but have lasting effects. Even if you pause your SEO efforts, the previous work will still hold some value.


Moreover, research shows that 70-80% of search engine users focus exclusively on organic results and ignore paid ads. This fact again emphasizes the importance and potential high ROI of SEO.



The value of SEO is undeniable, and the ROI can be impressive. However, it’s crucial to remember that SEO isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. It requires an upfront investment, ongoing commitment, and a strategic approach to generate significant returns.


In the grand scheme of digital marketing, SEO offers a powerful and cost-effective way to increase visibility, attract high-quality traffic, and grow revenue. With a well-executed SEO strategy, businesses can achieve a robust ROI, making the cost of investment worthwhile.


Moreover, with the growing reliance on digital platforms, SEO isn’t just an option; it’s a necessity. The right SEO strategy can drive your business towards long-term growth and sustainability. Proving that when it comes to SEO, the return isn’t just on the investment; it’s on the future of your business.

Ikonik Digital

As an ROI-focused agency, Ikonik Digital helps brands and businesses reach & understand their customers while growing the bottom line.