Search-engine optimization (SEO) provides several return on investment (ROI) measures that can have a positive impact on a company's bottom line far more visibly than most marketing tactics.

Yet, despite all the potential and the many SEO success stories, it can still be surprisingly difficult to make a case for investment in this marketing tactic.

The work involved in SEO is less tangible than in some other areas of marketing investment, such as an eye-catching Flash video for your website or a print campaign that's bursting with color and rich imagery. For marketers who place such value on visibility, it's on us to clearly illustrate how SEO delivers results.

Because SEO is Web-based, it is inherently suited to detailed tracking. Ask product managers for the cost-per-conversion on their latest radio campaign, and the airwaves will be silent.

That's not to disparage a healthy media mix, but think of investing in SEO as an opportunity to define new benchmarks for ROI on your company's marketing spend. But, as with any statistics, the tricky part is being careful not to compare apples with oranges.

Your key ROI metrics will depend on your marketing objectives. For example, the Wyndham Hotel Group sells franchise rights for several hotel brands, including Ramada, Super 8, Howard Johnson, and Travelodge. Its online strategy is straightforward: Reach potential franchisees during their pre-purchase online research using its hotel franchise website to inform and collect leads.

Driven largely by SEO and search-engine marketing, the company recorded a 600% increase in lead generation year over year. With an average sale price of more than $1 million per franchise, the additional sales arising from those leads sent the ROI of its online marketing effort through the roof.

For Sun Life Financial and the communications team behind SunLife.com, the same success metrics don't apply. The team manages Sun Life's corporate presence, an umbrella site that links to 10 Sun Life Web properties, each devoted to its local market.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dan Skeen is practice lead of Traffic Generation Solutions at Quarry Integrated Communications (www.quarry.com). His areas of expertise include social media optimization and search engine optimization. Reach Dan via 519-743-4300, ext. 2493, ordskeen@quarry.com.