The 7 Best Ways to Gauge ROI for SEO Efforts

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

The old expression rings true to this day, especially in the fragmented, fast-moving world of digital marketing. How do you know which investments and strategies are paying off, and which ones are a waste of time and cash? 

Instead of wandering in the dark, it’s time to shed light on the situation. Thankfully, there are a few reliable ways to gauge returns on your SEO efforts.

1. Keyword Strategy Payoffs

Of all the factors that play into SEO success, keywords are the most sought-after, with a clear return on investment for brands across the board. 

There are several tools that reveal how your brand is performing on certain keywords, and from there you can determine which keywords are leading to more clicks and conversions on specific web pages. Branded and non-branded keywords both matter, according to VWO.

Some software also gives you deeper insight into how keywords are impacting page performance in organic search, which will clarify how your investments are panning out. This could save you from engaging in bad habits like keyword stuffing or fix any technical SEO mistakes that hold you back.  

2. Appearances in Featured Snippets

Only the top five URLs get more than two-thirds of clicks on most results pages, according to info from Impact Plus, meaning the biggest brands with the deepest pockets typically see the most success on organic search.

But smaller websites shouldn’t despair, because Google Features like snippets, carousels, and long-tail answer boxes are now on the table, and not very difficult to obtain.

These featured information boxes live in the “position zero” spot above organic results, meaning that they tend to outperform standard ranked pages and lead to greater returns. 

Marketers should create content that answers common questions directly and efficiently, and use plenty of original data and insights to separate themselves from the pack. This can be done in short articles, long how-to guides, case studies, testimonials, and FAQ pages. 

3. Likes and Shares On Social Media

Social media has long been part of the digital marketing strategy, but determining ROI isn’t straightforward. You can track clicks back to your site and calculate revenue streams, but don’t forget to gauge the shares and likes that make your content more visible.

You can dedicate a huge chunk of your budget to social media ads and promotional campaigns, but to maximize ROI on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, give audiences content that they’ll want to repost and show to their friends and followers. 

Also take advantage of user-generated content, which has a great return potential as well. You never know what crazy piece of viral content from a random user will be a game-changer for your brand.

4. Backlinks from Trusted Sites

We’ve known the power of backlinks for a long time, but with Google showing more discernment for the quality and relevance of backlinks in 2020, you need to be smart with your spending as well. No more spamming, buying links, or attempting to navigate around the rules.

Be honest – it may be time to abandon some of the outdated approaches to backlink building that still exists from marketing departments of the past. Adopt a “slow and steady” strategy that focuses on earning links the right way, with quality content and smart networking.

Accept that ROI may not be quick or obvious with this technique, but the snowball effect will bring you big results in the long term as clicks, shares, and backlinks accumulate. 

5. Real Results for Local Search

Small businesses typically look at foot traffic and bottom-line revenue to see gauge the effectiveness of their marketing strategy, but SEO has some different rules.

Compare how your web pages rank for various keyword combinations, including business type, city and neighborhood location, and other niche long-tail keywords that users may be searching for on the go. 

The benefit of local SEO is that searches are made with high purchase intent, meaning that web page visitors are more likely to walk into your place of business or make a phone call that leads to a sale. After all, they are often already within striking distance of the location when making the search, whether at home, in the car, or on the street.

6. Quick Customer Acquisition

With so much consumer choice and a wealth of free information available on the web, purchases happen faster than ever, even with far more variables at play. 

The customer acquisition process is accelerated, and this metric can tell you how well SEO efforts are working.

Keep a close eye on your customer journey patterns to see which web pages and assets outperform the rest. Figure out when and where casual users become interested shoppers, and identify the moments when they hit the checkout button to seal the deal.

The faster it takes for someone to go from an uninformed web surfer to a happy customer, the more effective your SEO strategy. WebFX reminds us to analyze every possible customer acquisition avenue and allocate funds accordingly. 

7. Referrals and Successful Promos

There is still a huge word-of-mouth component to digital marketing, many brands rely on promotions and referrals to attract new audiences and make existing customers more engaged.  

The SEO benefit here is that more clicks and shares lead to a better ranking in organic search, and this creates an upward cycle that promotes visibility and hype at the same time.

Always observe the uptick in sales during the period when you run the promo or referral program, and see what effect this has on your top keyword rankings. The more campaigns you run, the more you’ll learn from the process, increasing efficiency each time. 

Remember to run promos on partner sites and with other influencers to get that extra SEO boost from backlinks that explicitly mention your brand and any offers on the table.


At the end of the day, the goal of any marketing strategy is to exert the least amount of effort and spend as little cash as possible to yield maximum returns. It may sound shady, but it’s simply smart business. 

Considering that billions of dollars go toward SEO annually, it makes sense that we try to trim the fat on SEO budgets and get rid of anything that doesn’t give us the results we want.

With these seven metrics in mind, you can be more vigilant about SEO spending and focus on the money-makers that matter most to you and your brand.