When discussing a possible search engine optimization (SEO) project with a client I’m often asked: “If I optimize for a particular key key phrase and get a first-page placement on Google, how much traffic can I expect?” (Just happened again a few minutes ago, which prompted me to bang out this quick post on the topic.) If this is a question you ponder yourself, read on!

When it comes to deciding whether or not to proceed with an SEO project, don’t think traffic. Think ROI!

Now don’t get me wrong. This is certainly a reasonable and legitimate question, and there are estimators available, including Google Ads Keyword Planner, that can help provide a rough “ballpark” figure of projected traffic for a specific keyphrase.

But very often, especially in a smaller regional area, those numbers are quite low. And it’s not unusual for the numbers to be too low to even register any data (although that doesn’t mean there’s no activity at all). And this in turn quite often causes people to decide to forego optimizing their website landing pages and other content.

But that’s a big mistake.

You Can’t Take Your Traffic Report to the Bank

Raw traffic figures, while certainly interesting, are not what’s important here. What is important, as is the case with any other promotional effort, is return-on-investment (ROI). Let’s face it. You don’t take any money to the bank just because thousands of people visited your website. You only get to make bank deposits when someone actually buys something. (I know, big reveal.)

Raw traffic figures, while interesting, are not what’s important.

So forget about total traffic numbers (even though that’s what most SEO “experts” want you to focus on). Instead, think in terms of quality traffic that will actually convert to sales and what you can reasonably expect from a return-on-investment standpoint. I’ll illustrate with the example from my conversation this morning.

Think Customer Lifetime Value

This particular company provides private patrol services in a very specific geographic region (radius of about 100 miles). Their primary targets are HOA’s, apartment complexes and business parks.

The fact is that optimizing for the key phrase “private patrol service” in this small market area is not going to result in a flood of traffic. But again, it doesn’t matter. What it will do is put this company front-and-center when one of these searches does occur. And if this results in even a single sale, the relatively small cost of optimization will pale in comparison.

For instance, if that single new project results in an annual net profit of anything over $400 (the investment in monthly SEO management), this company is already in the black. (Their actual average net profit per project is actually in excess of $2,000.) And this doesn’t include all of the additional new business opportunities that will fall out (home security systems, video surveillance, access control, gate guard, referrals, publicity, etc.).

In other words, consider the customer lifetime value (CLV) when deciding on what you can afford in terms of acquisition costs.

A Simple “Go or No-Go” Decision

The decision-making process here is pretty cut-and-dried. Do you think that showing up on the first three pages of a Google search for a key phrase will result in at least one additional sale? If the answer is “yes,” then you should optimize for that key phrase. If not, then pass.

So again, when it comes to deciding whether or not to proceed with an SEO project, don’t think traffic. Think ROI!