Is SEO Profitable? What is the ROI of natural referencing?

No Comments

You have heard that natural referencing, SEO , is the most profitable way to capture traffic, but when you request a quote from providers, you are told quotes of several thousand or tens of thousands of euros. It is therefore quite natural to be able to estimate your return on investment (ROI) in the medium term, but the truth is that… it is not possible!

… This subject is a bottomless pit that gives you a headache!

Why invest in SEO?

We have already launched websites, without branding, without storytelling , without even legal notices or social networks and they are aiming for a turnover of 500K € after 2 years of activity.

With only a web page and a good SEO, we generated a few tens of thousands of euros before investing in the other levers previously mentioned…. This is exceptional ? No, not with a pure player who has 100% of his activity on the web. He has the right mindset!

Usually, customers have everything else and ask to start or strengthen their digital strategy of innovative SEO solutions: private network of sites, domain name snapping, blast ... but between these two types of customer, there is the one who is wondering if he should invest in SEO and how much will it earn him?

Before knowing how much it will bring in, it may be wise to start by knowing how much it will save me?

Before even calculating the ROI of SEO, it is important to note that we invested in natural referencing for

  1. reduce your advertising investment : reduce an advertising budget which, as its name suggests, no longer allows you to capture traffic when you stop paying.
  2. capitalize on its activity , its company and its domain name

Why invest in SEO rather than Facebook or Instagram?

Social networks are the culture of the moment, while Google SEO is progressive over time.

That's why a social media post often doesn't last longer than 24 hours ...

… Before being replaced by fresher content. But be careful, your posts are still visible. Source: Mediatrium

If the duration of a post on social networks is often ephemeral, it logically varies from one platform to another. It ranges from a few minutes or a handful of hours to several days. It should also be noted that this publication lifespan strongly depends on the reactions that Internet users will have. This makes it very easy to find old posts, even more so since they come back to the fore with a simple comment or sharing.

Lifetime of a post:

  • Twitter : 18 minutes
  • Facebook: 5 hours
  • Instagram: 9 p.m.
  • LinkedIn: 24 hours
  • YouTube: 20 days
  • Pinterest: 4 months
  • Blog: 2 years

A web page will have increasing visibility over time!

Why is SEO ROI calculation such a bottomless pit?

The basic formulas are very simple

How to calculate the ROI?

Return on investment = (Revenue - cost of SEO) / cost of SEO

and we can explore the calculation of the ROI down to its social impact and consider the Social Return On Investment SROI - cf. investopedia

The ROI of SEO, a nonlinear mechanism

The equation “+ traffic = + results” does not work as simply because it depends on the situations, the concept and the positions in Google at the moment T.

Each project is a specific case that poses fundamental factors that SEO providers or any other digital agency, or e-commerce specialist, do not master. These are mainly

  1. market knowledge
  2. the capacity of the client, or project leader, to capture it, regardless of the technical capacities of the service providers. You have to be ready!

The business plan model is not viable in SEO

In business school, we have always drawn up business plans in order to learn the inner workings of business and demonstrate our management skills in order to control our net margins and after-tax results ... and so it is in the best of physical worlds: ours.

On the internet, young growth hackers and all those who teach lessons on how to generate business on the internet know that the world has changed and that: business belongs to the one who knows how to catch it. Hence, one of the two basic rules of SEO.

The first Google position, it's either you who take it, or your competitor!

This expression does not mean that it is not what we learn in business school but simply that the model has changed.

How to have SEO that generates ROI

The development of a business on the internet and especially in SEO is based on keywords, an MVP * and a Proof of Concept which justifies increasing investments over time.

1. Keywords and traditional activities

It's simple, you already have an activity and you want to get started on the internet. It's simple, you sell Bayonne ham nationally or are army equipment suppliers on innovative technologies, for the army or the aerospace industry, you will have business prospects ranging from 10% to more than 100%. of your turnover.

The importance of SEO is to activate the right levers and target your customers!

The limit of traditional businesses is often that they are not cut for the web but a simple transposition of the offer of a traditional store.

Thus, it is often recommended to aim for a turnover of 10% in the more or less short term depending on the activity and the geographical area targeted.

Ex. Your Bayonne charcuterie and ham shops generate 3 million euros in turnover, targeting 10% of turnover, or 300,000 € is an achievable objective. How quickly? It will depend on the means made available.

2. Disrupt, launch an idea and innovative concept for the web

“Imagining solutions that shake up pre-established patterns” - article Le Monde, that's the direction so sought after by startupers. The idea that will allow an AirBnB to transform the hostelry, an Uber to revolutionize the urban transport market and Facebook and other social networks to “kill” traditional media to become the new model…

3. Mindset, Growth hacking et MVP

Today and more than ever, today we are talking about mindset and this ability of an entrepreneur to create value in our company. To do this, we have to break out of established patterns, in business schools, through business plans in particular, and test the market and the techniques to conquer it. Hence the second fundamental rule of a good SEO provider which says:

“Anything that is not prohibited is allowed!”

MVP = Minimum viable product

In the context of the design of web services, or products (it is sold in the same way), the minimum viable product (or MVP , from English: minimum viable product) is the version of a service / product that allows get maximum customer feedback with minimum effort.

It is thus possible to test the market with a single page website on specific products / services. After having generated a few tens of thousands of euros , we can then attach this product / service to a money site.

The objective is to generate a proof of concept on which to channel growing investments.

Growth hacking: a well-kept secret

Growth hacking is an activity consisting in "activating the growth" of a company, in particular a startup, by a set of marketing techniques allowing to accelerate quickly and significantly the growth of its turnover.

What today's web giants are putting forward is the concept but rarely the techniques that allowed them to be launched because all of us are testing many modern techniques that are closer to hacking than to investment. advertising, too expensive during the launch phase.
Ex. “Scrapping of Craigs List ads by Airbnb” by Pierre Paperon

In our opinion, calculating ROI is a short-term solution that cannot correspond to the progressive and increasing ROI of natural referencing.

The calculation of an ROI is however possible, our colleague Stéphane Jambu offers here a case study by example.

If it is necessary to pose an ROI, by the technique of the wet finger, one observes benefits to

  • 5 to 10,000 € to target 50 to 150,000 €
  • € 15,000 for a turnover of € 150 / 300,000
  • € 30,000 to achieve € 400 - 600K

Do we have immediate results?

Sometimes yes, immediately, sometimes after 3, 6 or 12 months.

It depends on where we are and where we want to go!

Immediate, short, medium and long term results

There are no rules but sometimes we can get results

  • immediate by working on a weakly competitive long tail
  • in the short and medium term on moderately competitive requests
  • in the medium and long term on competitive requests

What is a competitive “keyword”?

The keyword phrase is overused and actually refers to word phrases .

Simply, and this is not completely wrong, we would like to say that

  • expressions of 3 words and more are weakly competitive
  • 2 word expressions are moderately competitive
  • 1 unique word is very competitive

but that is not exact because, one does not take into account the volume of pages existing on the requests.

It is recommended to use the allintitle command : keywords

Below a few tens of thousands the request is moderately competitive, below weakly competitive and above very competitive.

but this is not complete without a competition audit that the keyword competition checker of seobserver can give us:

With this view, we can determine part of the efforts to be made and establish part of the estimate.


The ROI of SEO doesn't just depend on SEO?

A business is not only based on SEO and the impact of SEO on a business often goes beyond a measurable commercial activity at time T on a website.

In a perfect world, the ROI would only depend on these 3 variables

  • The conversion rate of your activity (on average, between 1% and 6%)
  • The number of visitors generated by SEO
  • Your average cart (how much, on average, someone who buys from your site spends at one time).

However, there are factors or variables that it is important to monitor and control independently of SEO

  • Marketing et dynamique de vente qui impacte le taux de conversion et peut le faire passer de 1 à 6%
    • Impact of the sales policy : offers relating to the first purchase, as well as to loyalty
    • Conversion channels : often there are not only sales that are concluded on a payment terminal but pdf order forms, omnichannel sales in physical stores

“Google ads appear to have a high ROI, but they often build on and benefit from many other forms of marketing.” Harvard Business University 2017

  • Branding et actions complémentaires
    On peut s’efforcer de tracker tous les scenarios ou canaux d’acquisition, il ne faut pas négliger que le ROi est fortement impacté par le
    • Branding: the brand image and therefore the notoriety in which, we can include, the story telling, the certification and the expertise or the singularity of the product or service offered….
    • Multichannel acquisition : today having an acquisition policy 100% based on SEO is risky, in order to perpetuate a business, it is important to multiply the acquisition channels with positive advertising and offsite actions, whether in the clipboard, display or field presence. Even Ali Express opened a pop-up store in Paris in 2020

  • Limit of the business model
    • Choice of target keywords: if you sell “ham from bayonne” and target the generic and very popular query “ham”, you will not have a better conversion if your offer is not very complete and popular.
    • Positions obtained: reaching the top 20 can be much easier than reaching the top 3 or going from 3rd to 1st position
    • What is a good 20% or 50% bounce rate? The bounce rate, defines the ratio of people who saw a single page and who then left the site. This is not necessarily bad for long specialist articles that may even include calls to action. Remember that a single web page can generate tens of thousands of dollars!
      To bring it down in terms of keywords, a low generic bounce rate, of the order of 20/30% indicates that your site is based on its notoriety while a bounce rate of 50% that it drags a specter more customers… but this can be analyzed really well only in detail because the page which generates tens of thousands of euros can have 80% of bounce rate….


  • Techniques employées et les types de pages SEO
    Il peut y avoir des actions qui rapportent rapidement du ROI mais plus on augmente d’ambition en terme de revenu plus on aura des actions à fort ROI à moyen et long terme. Dans le cas de la construction d’un cocon sémantique où l’on retrouve 3 à 4 types de pages, les différents types de page sont très clairs et l’on retrouve.
    • 1st level pages - value € 15,000: video, AB testing, computer graphics….
      5% of pages make 80% of turnover; Ex. New Real Estate Program Bordeaux
    • Level 2 page - value € 5,000
      Commercial seo page. They capture traffic and help with sales; Ex. New real estate bordeaux chartrons
    • Level 3 pages - value 500 €
      Non-commercial seo page; Ex. Bordeaux new real estate fair
    • Level 4 page - value of 100 €
      Its sole purpose is to link pages together and push higher level pages.
      Example of pilot projects and other eco-neighborhoods


  • The buying cycle
    we are not going to sell airbus planes as easily as packets of crisps. between the two, there is the theme of travel which is very interesting because, as in the previous example of a semantic cocoon in real estate, we must have commercial and non-commercial SEO pages in order to capture Internet users. In this theme, we find short and long distance trips where the value is increasing and the need for non-commercial information is also increasing.

… etc., etc…


The subject of ROI in SEO is a bottomless pit because it allows you to reduce advertising investment, to capitalize your activity but it has the merit of raising real questions: am I ready, where do I want to go ? How can I learn and be well supported?

Are you willing to pay to see?

Specialist in growthacking and e-commerce, you will benefit from our experience to develop your contacts and your turnover in record time!

    SEOCAmp Paris 2020
    Black Hat Cycle Case Study

    How to self-finance your startup with aggressive netlinking? or the story of the launch of a platform which without branding, without social networks, without partners (marketing) and without legal notices ... generated 100,000 € with only a few web pages , good marketing and good SEO!

    Return on investment

    Did you know that google referencing is the central pillar of your communication? Undoubtedly the most profitable leverage around which your paid advertising actions should revolve.

    Free quote

    We offer professional SEO services that help websites dramatically increase their search score to compete with the highest rankings even when it comes to highly competitive keywords.

    Receive one free advice per week

    Our latest news

    View all publications
    No Comments