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Where To Invest In SEO For Maximum Impact

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You’re a savvy marketer.

You know the importance of changing with the times, adopting new technology, and taking advantage of new opportunities.

So, it’s no surprise you’ve recognized the importance of search engine optimization (SEO).

After all, SEO is on an epic rise and helping businesses of all types find new customers.

And, if you’re in the process of expanding and targeting new markets, or just considering it, SEO should be a vital part of your marketing strategy.

But, you may find yourself wondering just how you should get involved in this field. Is it really worth the time, energy, and investment? Unequivocally, yes.

We have all the information you need to know about why you need SEO, how to invest in it, and everything else you might need to convince hesitant stakeholders in your organization.

Is SEO Worth it?

Every business in the 21st century needs a website. And because you need a website, you need SEO to help customers find you.

It’s the best and most cost-effective way to both understand and reach customers.

The primary source of the traffic to most websites, it helps build your credibility and gives you a clear understanding of what your customers are searching for.

Good SEO means better traffic from more qualified leads, increased engagement, and more conversions.

SEO Amplifies Your Marketing Plan

Your brand doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

And because the internet in general and mobile devices, in particular, continue to be the primary tools for customer research, your online presence is paramount.

SEO works in conjunction with your other marketing initiatives, amplifying your results.

Imagine, for example, you’re a window company sending out a postcard mailer to potential new customers in your area.

One customer is interested in getting a quote for installation, but he accidentally threw away your collateral. And he can’t quite remember the name of your business.

So, he does a search for “window installation in my area.”

Thanks to your investment in SEO, your company shows up at the top of search engine page rankings (SERPs) and he contacts you instead of one of your competitors.

In this example, both your flyer and your SEO investment have done their job, with each performing better than they would have on their own.

It’s A Growing Field

According to a study by The Business Research Company, the global search engine services market grew at a compound annual growth rate of 16.7% from 2015 to 2020, reaching a value of nearly $46.7 billion.

This rapid growth trend is expected to continue, with the market for SEO services reaching $217.8 billion by 2030.

It should also come as no surprise the biggest name in this field remains to be Google.

According to Similarweb, Google is visited more than 89 billion times a month. This gives it by far the largest market share, accounting for 92% of all searches.

If your website isn’t ranking highly in SERPs, however, you’re missing out on a lot of business.

Effective SEO opens the door for exponential growth and helps you stand out from your competition.

SEO Creates Positive Experiences

No matter how brilliant you are at marketing, and we’re sure you’re amazing, consumers will always view your campaigns with some degree of skepticism.

That’s because they know your goal is to present your brand in the most positive light possible.

After all, McDonald’s wouldn’t sell nearly as many burgers if their slogan was “Eh, it’s okay,” instead of “I’m loving it.”

Regardless of which tagline is more accurate, customers know when you’re pumping sunshine – and that’s what makes reviews so important.

Studies have found as many as 82% of consumers say they read online reviews for local businesses, with 91% saying positive reviews make them more likely to use a business.

Not sure what reviews have to do with SEO?

The link between Google Reviews and SEO rankings has been long established, as positive reviews are a strong signal to search engines about your site’s trustworthiness and authority.

Now that we’ve covered the benefits of SEO, let’s take a closer look at the nuts and bolts of an SEO campaign.

What Is A Typical ROI For SEO?

Every successful business has one thing in common: They keep their balance sheet in the black. And an important component of that is making smart decisions with money.

Let’s put it on the table: SEO is not free.

Even if you’re willing to do all the work yourself, you’re still sinking a considerable amount of time into doing all the things it requires.

And that’s time you could have spent on other business initiatives. But trust us, SEO is worth it.

There are several different metrics you can use to measure the return on investment (ROI) of your SEO. You can measure your campaign’s success using things like:

  • Organic search – your page’s ranking in Google or other search engines.
  • Organic traffic – your share of non-paid search engine traffic.
  • Business metrics like backlinks, impressions, or clickthrough rate, among others.
  • Business profitability – conversions into sales (though you may also find value in opportunities and/or qualified leads).

SEO has been proven by some agencies to attract leads at 25 cents on the dollar when compared to paid search.

How Much Should You Invest In SEO?

By this point, it should be clear that your business needs SEO.

And that means earmarking part of your marketing budget for it. But how much, exactly?

If you don’t know where to even begin answering this, you’re not alone.

Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer.

Depending on where you’re starting from and where you want to go, there’s a huge amount of variance.

But there is one truism: Like mattresses and car batteries, you get what you pay for.

If you try to take a budget route, you’re probably going to get budget results.

You could contract with one of the many SEO scammers with “Guaranteed First Page Results!™” only to fall victim to a bunch of black hat tactics that end up getting you penalized and effectively erasing your site’s visibility.

But if you don’t have a massive SEO budget, don’t worry. You can still get good results just by focusing on a few of the most important factors, namely:

  • Site architecture: Ensure good crawlability, follow webmaster guidelines, and pay attention to user experience.
  • Good content: Regularly add fresh, keyword-rich content that matches search queries and satisfies user intent.
  • Quality backlinks: Natural backlinks (not link farms) from high trust-high authority sites can help you shoot up the rankings.

But, what does that mean in terms of dollars and cents? The short (and admittedly frustrating answer) is “it depends.”

SEO takes time and if you’re expecting overnight results, you’re going to be disappointed.

You should budget for a minimum of six months to see results. And that will vary depending on your needs.

A first-class SEO agency running a local campaign may run you $500/month.

If you’re setting your sights on loftier goals, an international campaign will require a budget five to 10 times that.

But of course, the most cost-effective way to handle SEO is simply to become an expert yourself by reading articles like this one.

For a more in-depth walkthrough on how to determine your SEO budget, read this article.

How Do You Invest In SEO?

The first step in investing in SEO is determining your goals.

Are you looking to expand your sales funnel? Increase customer awareness? Show up in a specific number of searches per day?

Figure out what you want to achieve, and then decide on your strategy.

Once you’ve landed on a plan of attack, you can work out which tactics you need to achieve that strategy.

Confused by the difference between strategy and tactics? The easiest way to remember it: tactics are small scale, whereas strategy is large scale. Strategy is why and tactics is how.

For example, Napoleon wanted to invade Belgium to drive a wedge between his British and Prussian enemies. That was the strategy behind his Waterloo campaign.

The attack of the French cavalry in an attempt to break the British center at the Battle of Waterloo was a tactic used to help achieve that greater goal (which failed, as any high school history teacher could tell you. Sometimes tactics are unsuccessful, though they don’t always derail an entire strategy as they did in this case).

In case that just muddied things up further, we have a handy piece that does a much better job of explaining it than a ham-fisted example from 19th-century warfare.

Need help developing a comprehensive SEO strategy? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered there, too.

If you have the budget to cover it, there are a number of paid SEO tools that are well worth the money.

From keyword research to evaluating backlinks, these programs can provide you with clearer insights into your campaigns and help you boost overall SEO efficiency.

For a breakdown of some of the best-paid SEO tools on the market, click here.

Should You Invest In SEO Or PPC Ads?

SEO has a better average ROI than pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, so that’s what you should be using, right? No.

Both are valuable, and ideally, you should have a mix of paid and organic search campaigns that make sense for your company and your current assets. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

While you could write a book on just this topic, we’ll attempt to give you a very brief overview of the benefits of each and what you’ll be investing your time and money in.

Advantages Of SEO

  • Website traffic: SEO can help increase the total number of people who visit your site and land more clicks overall.
  • ROI: As previously discussed, SEO is more cost-effective than PPC, though be warned: Neither is cheap or easy.
  • Branding and awareness: Organic search puts your business in front of potential customers based on search queries, increasing visibility around search terms, and exposing people to your brand.
  • Credibility: Ranking highly in SERPs can play a large role in building trust. Many users skip right past the paid ads and click on organic results instead.
  • Longer-lasting results: While SEO takes some time to begin seeing results, it also takes longer to drop off. An optimized site can maintain a high ranking long after a PPC campaign has been deactivated.
  • Stability: Similarly, whereas PPC ad positioning can change according to bids from the competition, a site with good SEO will hold a relative position even if you forget about it for a while.

Advantages Of PPC

  • Faster results: Once you launch a paid campaign, you should begin seeing more traffic, clicks, and conversions right away.
  • Algorithm changes don’t affect positioning: PPC is bidding for the top spots on a SERP, which means you don’t have to rethink content and strategies every time Google updates its search algorithm.
  • More control: Because you have control over your spending, you’ll always know what kind of returns you are getting, which in turn makes budgeting easier.
  • More accurate targeting: Paid search ads let you target based on an entire range of factors including demographics, geography, and time of day, so you can more accurately go after an audience.
  • You can use visual ads: People are more likely to click on images of the product they’re searching for. You can do this with PPC, but not with organic search.

Your SEO Investment

What exactly are you spending your budget on with an SEO campaign? In short, architecture and content.

If you’re handy with HTML and CSS, you need to evaluate your site to ensure it’s well-built.

That means improving crawlability and structural issues, ensuring it creates good user experiences, loads quickly, and doesn’t have 404 links.

If you don’t know your way around code, you should be able to hire a professional to handle this for you for a reasonable price.

The content is a bit more straightforward.

You want to ensure your website has the information your targets are searching for. Effective and meaningful content will drive the traffic you want and improve your overall ROI.

For your convenience, we’ve provided a guide to developing an SEO content strategy and information on how to create evergreen content that will continue to drive traffic for months or even years.

How Should You Structure Your SEO Investment?

By this point, it should be clear that you need SEO. Now it’s just time to figure out where your budget should be going.

As with nearly everything SEO-related, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here.

What works for your business depends on a lot of factors, including your market, goals, and overall marketing budget.

However, if we could make a suggestion, it would behoove you to hire a strong SEO team.

There are a wealth of professionals out there skilled in various aspects of SEO, including technical SEO, keyword research, and content creation.

Don’t have the budget to hire anyone? Never fear, these are all skills you can master yourself with some research and hard work.

Just keep in mind common traits SEO professionals share and work on cultivating those skills yourself.

Conclusion

Don’t kid yourself – SEO is a massive undertaking. But it’s not overwhelming. You have already taken a great first step just by reading this article.

There’s a lot that factors in, but with the right attitude and a clear strategy, you can get the results you want, no matter what your budget is.

Now, get out there and start working on your ranking.


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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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