Myth Busters – Justifying SEO to your CFO

David Burgess
Reading time: 6 minutes
26th August 2011

The Ayima SEO Consultants spend the majority of their time liaising with Online Marketing Managers at some large well-known corporations. In managing SEO campaigns on a day-to-day basis in these environments, we often face the need to help them quantify SEO value and demonstrate ROI. The Myth Busters series aims to provide you with the knowledge and skills to perform as an SEO or channel manager in these environments.

1st Edition – Proving the Value of SEO to the CFO

So, with a feeling of elation you leave the meeting room. Finally, after months of deliberations, imparting of knowledge, Q&A and Proof of Concept, you now have unilateral agreement. The Product Director, who you’ve been gently coercing over the past few months now “get’s it” having heard of the implications of the latest Panda update. He’s desperate to kick off. The CTO will submit the roadmap into the next Development scrum having allocated resource in the up-coming sprint. The Marketing Director is chomping at the bit to inject new revenue, ideas and agility into his campaigns.

There is however one final battle, one glass door to knock on and one additional signature required before you get your hands on the PO. So, you fire up the coffee machine, compose yourself and consider trying to answer the $64,000 question. Just how on earth do I prove the value of SEO to the CFO?

Ultimate Clarity of Vertical Analysis & Performance

The key to engaging the CFO in SEO and enlightening them as to long-term benefits is not through endless Powerpoint slides, spinning graphics or 50 page technical Audits. The key to unlocking your prized SEO budget lies in cold, hard and ruthlessly transparent data.

The point during every meeting where market intelligence data of the sector in question appears on screen is always decisive. This is the point at which the collective focus is drawn. Everyone moves forward in their seats. The CFO knows your industry inside out but also knows intimately the key drivers and levers affecting the bottom line. Suddenly, in black and white, that moment of true clarity arrives when, presented is data highlighting two as yet undiscovered truths:

  1. Quite how badly the company performs within their industry against the competition in terms of SEO.
  2. The magnitude of the impact it would have on the business if SEO performance matched, or outstripped the competition.

Data Driven SEO

Data-driven SEO provides just such moments of clarity for your CFO as any industry can be analysed and any site ranked against a competitor. Here we see the intelligence report for the UK Hotel Sector analysing around 150 of the most competitive keywords. This exquisitely crystalises the relative strengths and weaknesses of competitors, based on a set of the highest traffic generic industry terms, and ranks them by the traffic they receive from their results for these terms.

This data provides crucial insight for the CFO of the sites listed. Even those sites receiving the lion’s share of the traffic could improve their visibility to drive more traffic and increase bookings by targeting more keyword terms. Sites with a good coverage of keywords but with little traffic really need to focus attention at the small number of terms contained in the sample that are driving the majority of the traffic.

Armed with this game-changing information, a concise, pertinent and targeted approach can be presented to the CFO, demonstrating how an increased budget for SEO activities could unlock vastly increased revenues and profit.

The CFO will be aware of the magnitude of revenues being generated by the likes of Laterooms.com in this list from online channels. The delta between existing revenue levels from current traffic and those of the market leader with their increased SEO visibility will represent an enticing cash target.

Linking SEO to Key Sales Periods

Planning is essential in order to demonstrate a schedule of works to your CFO to be funded by an increased budget. The attentive SEO will therefore not only plan out at least a quarter’s worth of activities. A longer term, H1 or H2 plan should also be considered to clearly define the activities that are to undertaken and their time windows.

In industries where seasonal or one-off events produce considerable spikes in traffic corresponding with the most crucial sales periods within the financial year, watertight planning is imperative. A blueprint that maps out those priorities and the most impactful SEO activities focusing on such key, annualised events demonstrates to the CFO that there can be direct correlation between SEO activities and a burgeoning bottom line during the key sales periods.

Such a seasonal traffic profile as this below, showing huge spikes around Christmas and in the run in to Valentine’s Day present a considerable opportunity on an annual basis to rollout SEO projects in the months proceeding these dates to maximise the traffic generated when there is increased Search volume. You must however ensure that you have left enough time for your activities to seed and for the changes to be realised in increased rankings if you are to avoid bolting shut a horse-free stable.

Ayima’s recommendation is 6 month time lag from the commencement of work and currently a 3 month time frame for link development to generate tangible results existing on Google today.

This plan should in no way restrict the SEO activities, nor should it be felt that once put into action, there is flexibility to change. Frequently, within all industries, golden opportunities are presented. The quick witted and agile SEO is always the first to act and to steal a march on the competition, taking home the spoils. The plan should also be flexible and update to reflect the changes that occur within the particular vertical, with the Client’s website(s), SEO industry changes in general and also crucially, changes to the business model of the Client and the KPIs set by their Senior Management.

Your CFO will only be further disillusioned with SEO as a viable business activity if the plan is executed entirely and yet the campaign has failed miserably to deliver on an updated set of KPIs and business objectives.

Why am I always told, “It will just take more time”?

Quality and long-standing SEO does take time. Period. Anyone who is trying to persuade you that they can deliver tangible results in a short time frame should be afforded a very wide berth. Any self respecting SEO consultancy would shy away from promising short term, paramount rankings for a money keyword such as [credit cards], especially if a site isn’t already ranking, albeit for more longtail terms within the industry. There will however be quick wins to be made and it is imperative that these opportunities are taken in order to demonstrate progress.

When considering large corporate websites, the development cycle will be focused on project based, sprint lead activities to improve certain sections of the site and business processes over time. By specifically reporting on the results of ongoing SEO activities integrated into the ongoing development, visibility can be raised as to increasingly SEO friendly nature of the site and the higher rankings, increased traffic and ever-increasing conversion rates that arise on longer tail key terms.

The Final Approach

So, as you approach that final door, the door that until now had proved a sheet of toughened glass too far it suddenly holds little fear. This time you knock with confidence rather than with the customary trepidation, safe in the knowledge that your request for an increased SEO budget is not only a compelling one. This time it is reinforced up with cold hard data, the integrity and validity of which your CFO cannot question.

3 Key Takeaways

  1. Analysing data the Ayima way provides un-rivalled insight into your industry.
  2. Short term wins are vitally important in demonstrating progress
  3. Ranking gains from Link Development take around 3 months at a minimum
Written By David Burgess
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