What’s the best measure for SEO? ROI? No, not really, but ROI does have its place. SEO ROI metrics do help to see if SEO efforts created results. They also establish comparative measures between organic and paid search and help project revenue potential based on additional investment. But these only scratch the surface of SEO’s real value.

A good way to think of SEO is like real estate. How much value is their sitting on Main Street? Is it worth the extra rent or is the lower cost of a space a couple of streets over make more sense.

Well, on Main Street everyone in town and everyone driving by sees you. It generates a lot of exposure, creates awareness, and even the way you look may affect the way you’re perceived and the desire to do business with you. How easily can that be quantified?

Yeah, SEO is a lot like prime real estate. It brings a big but harder to measure value  in the opportunities it creates and the way it affects how your brand is perceived. Let’s take a closer look at a variety of factor’s impacted by SEO.

Brand Awareness

Every search produces an entire page of results. If you appear on page one, even if you don’t get a click it’s literally free advertising. The more you are seen, the more you become viewed as a leader in your area. In time this exposure pays off, especially as Google continues to evolve the way it presents information.

For example, Google’s Quick Answer Boxes position relevant information at the top of a search results as an answer to a search query. This makes for great brand exposure, but a page one search result for your site reinforces your brand.

Demonstrate Expertise

Being selected as one of Google’s Quick Answer Boxes also positions your brand as an expert. SEO applied to all pages especially blog posts, company information, and product pages increases your appearance in search results and makes your online content more available. Maybe it isn’t needed immediately, but the same search may be done later to grab the information ignored the first time. Whenever it happens, your content when viewed positions you as an expert in the minds of those who find you through organic search.

Manage Reputation and Competition

Reputation and competition really belong in the same category. The more you dominate search results for information about your brand the less likely potentially unwanted information will reach the eyes of your prospects and customers. In the same way, your competition will find it hard to reach your customers’ eye balls.

A Fast Introduction to New Audiences

Breaking into a new market can be costly. SEO can reduce that cost. Through keywords and quality content you can promote your brand to new audiences at a low cost.

Assigning a cost to this approach can be challenging. A member of your new target audience may notice you on a search results page one day, then the next click a PPC ad that drops her onto a landing page that leads to the conversion. Would she have clicked the PPC ad without the SEO experience (with no click though)?

That’s a tough question to answer. Attribution modeling, a data model combining analytics and tagging to track user interaction with your brand, can deliver insight, but it’s still hard to measure the impact of your title and meta-description on a search engine results page on awareness.

Support Other Marketing Efforts

SEO benefits both online and offline efforts. A search result presenting your website may create awareness or it may reinforce what a prospect saw on TV, Facebook or even on a billboard while driving.

Here again attribution modeling can help assign some value, but in the end, it really comes down to the value of running a business on Main Street. What’s great about SEO is that Main Street is always changing, so if you want to change your location, all you need to do is embrace it.

Want to learn more ways SEO can bring real value to your business? Check out our ebook, The Marketer’s Guide to Managing and Maximizing SEO Success.

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Also published on Medium.