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Before even getting into SEO let me ask you a question…How do your customers look for your type of business when they need something you sell?

Do they open up an internet browser and consult with Google, Bing or Yahoo? The probability is that they do. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the total demise of the traditional yellow (golden?) pages.

Getting ranked organically nowadays is real challenge for the vast majority of businesses.

The Internet, although massive, is quite crowded and almost no matter what industry/niche your business is in there will be a lot of “noise” from your competitors. Bear in mind for every keyword there are only 10 spots on the front page of Google.

Google have come on leaps and bound in recent times with location based searching in an attempt to better segregate the web, to delivery more relevant results. The result is that when we search for things we need, suppliers who offer solutions locally rank closer to the top. However, even with these advances it is still extremely difficult to stand out from the noise for most business owners.

The reality of 2011, unfortunately, is that if as a company you spend a fortune on having a really swish website designed and budget nothing for SEO then there is the distinct possibility, perhaps even probability that your website will never make a return on the investment you put into it.

This point is so important in this day and age that when I set up WSM I decided that one of the founding principles of the web design side of the business would be that we would offer SEO as part of the cost of the web design job.

How important is it really to rank well on search engine SERPS?

There are a number of fairly recent studies (Cornell University Study – Study) out about SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) ranking and how where you are placed affects the traffic you receive on a monthly basis. Also in 2006 AOL accidentally leaked data on over 36 million queries, which Richard Hearne analysed and provided us with some interesting insights.

The numbers from all three studies are different but not completely dis-similar and for illustration purposes to demonstrate how important where you rank on SERPS is, below are the median value’s which I feel most accurately reflect the information available today:

Nice Pie Chart, but who cares?

If you’ll permit me I’d like to create a hypothetical example which will better illustrate what these numbers really mean.

Let’s say you are a builder based in Ireland and for ease, lets say you service the entire country.

Below is a screenshot of the Google keyword tool which lets us get an estimate of how many people are searching for a given keyword on a monthly basis.

For illustrative purposes, let’s just take the second keyword – extension house. Each month there are approximately 3,600 people going to Google and typing in the words house extension, in the search box. As illustrated above the figure of 3,600 monthly searches (from Ireland) could also have any other words included (example: to, on, of, ideas, plans…etc.)

So working on the numbers from both diagrams above we can make an approximation on traffic to your website as follows:

When somebody from Ireland searches Google for: House Extension, if you were in

#1 spot – 1,638 monthly visitors
#2 spot – 565 monthly visitors
#3 spot – 363 monthly visitors
#4 spot – 198 monthly visitors
#5 spot – 180 monthly visitors
#10 spot – 97 monthly visitors

So the math here basically is:

#of searches X percentage of clicks = approximate traffic estimate

Now onto the really interesting stuff! Let’s say that the builder’s website converts 1% of the traffic that arrives at it, into a sale. For the example let’s allow that the average house extension brings in €40,000.

(To digress for a moment: conversion rates vary wildly depending on niche, how well your site is designed, what the visitor is expected to do, whether you already have a relationship with them, and many other factors. I’ve taken 1% as a rate for the illustration of my point and also because if your website is not converting at least 1% of visitors then please contact me immediately!)

So the sums for the estimation go like this:

# of visitors X conversion rate X average sale price
= approximate SERPs rank value

So let’s see what type of money our builder is going to make depending on where he is ranking organically on Google for the search term – house extension.

#1 spot – €655,200
#2 spot – €226,000
#3 spot – €145,200
#4 spot – €79,200
#5 spot – €72,000
#10 spot – €38,800

Anything after 10th spot and you might as well not have a website from the point of view of how much revenue it is pulling in for you.

Search Engine Optimisation is the mechanism by which you can deliberately move your website’s SERPs position up the rankings. For each and every business there is a different value to the amount of money being on the first page of Google will bring into your company.

That said, I think the example above clearly indicates why being on the first page of Google is so important and also how not paying for SEO could be costing your business an absolute fortune.

What are your thoughts on SEO and the points above?