What is the cost to acquire SEO visitors?

Online marketing professionals talk about ‘free’ natural search visitors as opposed to paid search visitors, yet these are not usually free as a lot of work will have gone into SEO or search engine optimisation or writing and creating an excellent website.

It is possible to calculate the cost of these visitors historically and compare this cost of acquisition to other methods. At ExtraDigital we do this regularly to help assess where best to focus the online marketing investment.

The actual costs of new SEO visitors are remarkably low.

For the majority of websites we have worked on these costs vary from as low as 0.05pence up to about 80pence per new visitor to the website. In the last twelve months the average value is 0.5pence per new ‘natural search’ visitor across a range of nearly 30 websites. The image below shows the range of values for 27 different websites (data is from April 2013-April 2014 and the cost used is the SEO or unpaid search fee).

** note – these are all websites we have worked on for over 12 months, and none suffered Google penalties for over optimisation or bad link building practises.

Our research also shows a variation by language and by how long we have managed the website SEO. Some languages (such as Arabic) give a higher percentage increase in natural visitors than others. This might be due to less competition in the arabic search market, or it may be due to specific expertise in this area. The largest gains in natural visitors are seen with websites we have managed for 1-2 years, compared to those we have managed for 6-10 years where many of the significant gains occurred many years ago. Ongoing work has partly been to maintain high visibility rather than gain it.

With the cost to acquire natural visitors by SEO so low (compared to paid search) it is easy to see why this forms such an important part of most online marketing strategies.

However the cost of a new natural search visitor is not the most useful  bit of information, as these visitors can be of varying quality. So to be useful for making marketing investment decisions the visitors must be qualified according to their behaviour on the website. This is relatively straightforward for eCommerce as there is a sale value that can be used For B2B or informative type websites more thought is needed on how visitors are to be valued. Often a variety of measurements can be used to capture time on site, visits to a certain page or section as well as contact by phone or webform.

Qualifying the visitor enables the more useful cost of acquiring a ‘useful’ SEO visitor, and this is the data on which relative investment decisions should be made.

By Rachel Cornish

Thursday 22nd May 2014

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