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Is SEO Worth It? The Answer Is in This Flowchart



Is SEO Worth It? The Answer Is in This Flowchart

According to HubSpot, 69% of marketers actively invest in SEO. But is SEO worth the time and money in your case? If you’re looking for a quick, straightforward answer to this question, just use this flowchart:

Flowchart to help determine if SEO is worth it

Here’s how it works: If the answer to both questions is “yes,” then SEO is probably worth it for you. This is because SEO increases your chance to rank high for relevant search queries and get consistent, qualified traffic that you don’t need to pay for.

But if the answer to all of them is “no,” then you may be better off with a different type of marketing.

Not sure how to answer those questions? Read on to learn more.

Question 1. Are potential customers searching for what you sell or do?

If you run a local business, then the answer to this question is almost certainly “yes”—at least statistically:

  • 4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local information (Google).
  • 76% of people who search on their smartphones for something nearby visit a business within a day (Google).
  • 28% of searches for something nearby result in a purchase (Google).

In short, if you’re not showing up for relevant local queries, then you’re leaving money on the table. Local SEO helps with this, and we have a full guide on that.

But if you have an e-commerce, SaaS, or small online business, this may not be the case, especially if you’re doing something completely new or really niche.

Search for "smart bathing system" in Ahrefs' free keyword generator turns up no results

Companies producing smart bathing systems (or smart baths) like Kohler probably need to invest in other types of marketing before people really catch up with their technology. Right now, everyone is just taking a normal bath. Data via Ahrefs’ free keyword generator.

So the first step is to plug what you do or sell into a keyword research tool and see if there’s any search volume.


For example, if we plug “commissary kitchen” into Ahrefs’ free keyword generator, we see that it has an estimated monthly search volume of 5,900 in the U.S. alone. This answers our question: People are searching for what we do.

Keyword ideas found by Ahrefs' free keyword generator for "commissary kitchen"

But even if this isn’t the case, people may be searching for individual products or services you offer. So it’s worth plugging some of these into a keyword tool as well to see if people are searching for them. If that’s not the case, don’t worry. SEO may still be worthwhile—and that brings us to question #2.

Question 2. Are potential customers searching for solutions to problems your business helps to solve?

Even if people aren’t searching directly for what you do or sell, they may be searching for problems to solutions you can help with. And there’s quite a high chance for this given that:

  • 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine (BrightEdge).
  • 71% of B2B researchers start their research with a generic search instead of queries containing a brand name or product (Google).
  • 53% of shoppers say they always do research before a purchase to ensure they are making the best possible choice (Google).

For example, we have a tool called Content Explorer that’s basically a searchable database of billions of webpages. Virtually nobody is searching for it on Google. However, they’re searching for problems the tool helps to solve, such as link prospecting or finding content ideas.

Content Explorer search results for "fitness"

Topics with high traffic potential and low competition. Results are in English and show sites that a new site can compete with. Go.

SEO is often worthwhile in this case because you can create content that teaches searchers how to solve their problems with the help of your product or service. This is precisely what we do at Ahrefs.

Excerpt of an Ahrefs blog article talking about Content Explorer

One of our blog posts explaining a solution with the use of Content Explorer. This article gets an estimated 1.3K monthly organic traffic.

To see if people are searching for problems you can help solve, just use a keyword research tool as we did in question #1. This time, insert the name of the problem your product or service can solve. Also, see the Questions tab to look for relevant questions.

Keyword ideas found by Ahrefs' free keyword generator for "relax"

Let’s say somebody invented a brilliant relaxation program/product and gives it a completely new name. That name surely won’t have any search volume. But as you can see, the problem of not experiencing effective relaxation does. So that person can create content answering questions about relaxation and generate awareness about their relaxation program.



If you need more information for your research, you can take it to the next level with features offered by premium SEO tools. Not only can you look up more keywords in one run, but you also get more metrics, have access to advanced filters, and can even see your competitors’ keywords.

Matching terms report results for "calm down, chillax, relax, relaxation, wind down"

A small sample from our Keywords Explorer. Here, you can see similar research for relaxation-related questions, but we’ve also used more seed keywords and advanced filters to show low-competition keywords with considerable traffic. Also, you can see the Traffic Potential (TP) of those keywords—more search volume doesn’t always translate to more traffic.

How much does SEO cost? 

So if you answer “yes” to question #1 and/or question #2, then SEO is worth it in theory. But there’s one more thing to it: the cost/effort may outweigh the reward.

Basically, you have three options for investing in SEO:

  1. Hiring an agency – Probably the most expensive option, costing $134.66/hour (+ retainer) on average. But you don’t have to learn SEO, and you can start fast.
  2. Building a team or outsourcing to freelancers/consultants – Somewhat expensive. On average, SEO consultants cost $122.33/hour (+ retainer), freelancers cost $68/hour (+ retainer), and an in-house SEO specialist costs $71K/year (in the U.S.). You need to know what you’re doing, and you need to invest time in the hiring and onboarding process.
  3. Doing it yourself – The cheapest option. But it takes time and skill.

There may be a fourth “hybrid” option: hiring an agency/freelancer for some time to see the results. Then you may want to build an in-house SEO team or even learn SEO yourself.


We surveyed members of the SEO industry to find out how much they charge for SEO services and what pricing models they use. Read the study here.

Bar graph showing most SEOs charge $76–$100 and $101–$150 per hour

If you decide to hire an SEO agency or a consultant, ask them if they think SEO will be worthwhile for you. A good agency will give you an honest answer and be able to explain why it’s the case one way or another.

If you’re going to do it yourself or hire folks to do it, you need to learn how SEO works and do keyword research to make sure you’re pursuing the right keywords.

Generally speaking, the more people search for something, the more competitive and difficult it is to rank for the said thing. That’s why if you’re new to the SEO game, then it’s likely worth it to go after low-competition keywords to start—as long as they’re still relevant to your business.

List of keyword ideas with corresponding data like KD, Volume, etc

Here are some takeaways: Everyone knows dogs need food; some people wonder if they can share a banana with a dog; and human-grade food and air-dried dog food are relatively new concepts that not many people are aware of. No surprise there. The second keyword has a medium ranking difficulty (KD), while the last two are relatively easy to rank for.

If you want to learn more about SEO to make informed, confident decisions, go to our free learning materials:

Final thoughts

So if you’re looking to boost your business with SEO, the absolute number #1 consideration is to determine whether queries related to your business get any search demand. After all, SEO is all about channeling a part of that search demand to your website.

Finally, I believe the answer we tried to provide in this article is the most straightforward, i.e., the quickest answer you can get to this question. But obviously, it’s just that. It’s not a thorough analysis of your business and its market environment. Treat this as the first step in your SEO journey: an invitation to create or ask a professional to devise an SEO strategy just for you.

Got questions or comments? Ping me on Twitter.

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7 Data-Driven Content Strategy Tips For Improving Conversions



7 Data-Driven Content Strategy Tips For Improving Conversions

There’s an old maxim in the marketing world, “content is king.” This has been true as long as search engine optimization has been around, and probably dates back even further in the world of general marketing.

But as simple as that adage is, it leaves a lot of room for interpretation, namely what kind of content?

In those early SEO days, it meant identifying your keywords and jamming them into pages anywhere they would fit.

But modern digital marketers are smarter (not to mention that strategy doesn’t work anymore).

These days, successful content starts with a plan that’s backed up by numbers, a data-driven content strategy, if you will.

But what exactly does that mean?

In simple terms, it means developing content using an approach built on user information. This can include information like demographics, survey answers, consumer preferences, etc.


You probably don’t need to be told why this is important, but just to make sure there’s no doubt, let’s be clear: Using a data-driven content strategy helps you decide where to spend your time, effort, and money.

In other words, you have finite resources. You don’t want to waste them on people who aren’t likely to convert.

A data-driven content strategy allows you to tailor your marketing campaigns to generate the best ROI.

For the purposes of search engine and PPC specialists, it can help you decide which keywords to go after, ensuring you’re targeting the right audience.

Sounds simple enough, right? All you need to do is pop open your content research tool and look for commonalities, right? Sorry to burst your bubble, but there’s a bit more to it than that.

But never fear, that’s why you’re here.

In this helpful guide, we’ll give you a step-by-step approach to developing, implementing, and optimizing your very own data-driven content strategy.

Ready to get started?


1. Set Your Content Goals

The very first thing you need to decide is what you’re hoping to accomplish. You can’t be all things to all people, so you need to make some choices.

Do you want to increase traffic? Are you looking to make sales? Do you want more leads?

Determine what your content goals are and identify the channels best suited to meet them. Once you’ve done this, you can establish your key performance indicators (KPIs).

Be sure to keep this in mind while you’re creating content.

Everything you add to your website or campaign should serve a purpose. If you’re not sure what it’s doing, your audience won’t know either.

2. Define Your Target Audience

Now that you know what you’re trying to achieve, it’s time to figure out who to go after to make it happen.

Comb through the demographic data and other information you have access to. Spot commonalities that occur across many or some of your targets.

Many marketers find it helpful to create customer personas. Using your data, imagine a typical person for each of the various roles you’re targeting.


For example, you may have a prospect persona, a lead persona, a buyer persona and a repeat persona.

Put yourself in the shoes of these imaginary people.

What type of language resonates with them? What is their highest level of education? Do they want professionalism or personability? Why are they on your website? What do they hope to accomplish with your help? Be as detailed as you can.

Many marketers even give them a name. For example, if you were creating personas for your plumbing supply company, you may have:

Lead Larry – 45 years old

A mid-career plumber, Lead Larry owns his own one-man business. He makes $75,000 a year. He went to a trade school and his work van is 6 years old. He’s looking for a way to reduce overhead and find cheaper parts than his local supply company. He values hard work, honesty, and professionalism.

Be as creative and detailed as you like, just remember this isn’t a fiction-writing exercise. You’re creating personas based on your typical target, so keep your persona in line with who they actually are.

3. Review Your Competitor’s Content And Do Topical Research

Now it’s time to take a look at what the competition is doing. Maybe they’re just flying by the seat of their pants, but they’re probably putting some effort into their campaigns, too.


Review what they’re doing and look for what appears to be working.

For example, if they’re blogging, they may have a view counter on the page. If so, what type of blogs are getting the best results?

Look for trends in your industry. What’s everyone talking about? Is there a big trade show coming up? Or a new technology about to be released?

Figure out who you’re competing with for clicks, not just to see what’s working for them, but also to gain ideas for content of your own. Start making a list of things you want to cover.

If there are influencers in your niche, this is also a good time to check and see what they’re posting about.

4. Conduct Keyword Research

Once you’ve settled on what your content should be, it’s time to perform that old SEO staple: keyword research.

Using a tool like Google Analytics, Semrush, or something platform-specific like YouTube’s Search Insights, figure out the type of language your content needs to use.

This will help you in more than just the SEO aspect, too.


Using keywords in your content demonstrates to your audience that you speak the same language they do. And that doesn’t mean English, it means using the nomenclature everyone in the niche will understand.

Going back to our plumbing supply example, that means referring to a product as a “three-fourths full port threaded ball valve,” rather than a “metal connection thingy.”

Okay, that’s a ridiculous example, but you get the point.

The good thing is that you probably already have a working, if not expert knowledge of this.

5. Create Content That Aligns With Your Goals

If you remember, the very first step to creating a data-driven content plan was to determine your goals.

Now, equipped with everything you’ve done since then, it’s time to create the content that addresses them.

Don’t be intimidated. You don’t have to be F. Scott Fitzgerald to write the kind of content your audience wants. And you’ve already done a lot of the foundational work – now it’s just time to put everything together.

Your content could take nearly any form, videos, blog posts, infographics, case studies, or white papers.


If you’re not comfortable doing these on your own, it should be reasonably easy to find a writer or videographer in your area or extended network. Just ask your connections for recommendations.

If you’re still not confident in your ability to deliver or you can’t afford to hire someone, don’t worry. We have an excellent piece that will walk you through everything you need to know about content creation.

6. Promote Your Content On The Right Channels

You’ve created your masterpiece of relevant content. Now it’s time to share it with the world. But how do you do that? Do you just post it on your corporate blog and wait for Google to index it?

You could take that kind of passive approach, but this is great stuff you’ve just made. Everyone in your niche will want to consume it. And to make sure you get the eyes you want on it, it’s time to promote it.

But before you go linking to it on Facebook, Digg, LinkedIn, and every other social media platform and aggregator site you can think of, pause for a minute.

When you were developing your user personas, you hopefully received some data about where your targets live online.

Are they regular Twitter users? Do they haunt industry-specific forums? Are you connected to them via Slack or other instant messenger apps?

Find out where they hang out and post away. In most cases, if you’re not sure if your targets use a platform or not, you should just go ahead and post anyway.


There are some sites where you can be dinged for unpopular content (Reddit, for example), but most of the time, there’s no harm.

This is also a time to start thinking about how you can repurpose your new content.

Do you have an opportunity for a guest blog post on another site? Or, would your new infographic fit perfectly in your next investor report?

If your data-driven content is built on the solid principles we’ve discussed, it will get engagements.

7. Use Analytics To Measure Results

After your content goes live, you can begin measuring your ROI to see what you did well, where you missed the mark, and what could be optimized to perform better.

This is where the KPIs discussed back in step one come back into play.

Some of these are easier to track than others.

If increasing sales or conversions was your goal, you should have data that backs up performance. Likewise, if you set out to improve traffic to your website, you should have the analytics to track that.


Things like brand visibility can be a bit trickier.

Regardless of what it is you’re using to determine success, you should find the data you need to track performance in Google Analytics.

For a detailed walkthrough of this process, we’ve provided information on exactly how you can measure content marketing success.

A Data-Driven Content Strategy Is A Winning One

Data is a marketer’s best friend. It tells you exactly what works, what doesn’t, and often, why that’s the case.

And a data-driven content strategy is vital for success in today’s hyper-competitive business and SEO environment.

Use the tools available to you to gather data – that’s why they’re there.

Learn to identify what the numbers are telling you and use them to help you craft the kind of content that not only attracts views but gets shares and achieves your goals.

More Resources:


Featured Image: metamorworks/Shutterstock

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