It’s incredible to me how many times I’ve spoken with a company who hears a number for SEO, let’s say $2,500, and they say “Wow that’s too expensive! I can’t afford that!”

But then I probe deeper and ask them what their goal is for SEO (in keeping with the example above). Oftentimes, I hear this:

Oh we don’t know what our goal is.

That’s fine, I say. How much do you make per organic visitor, or if it’s easier how much do you make per 1,000 organic visitors or per cart checkout from organic?


Let me be very clear here:

If you do not know your business numbers then you have no business spending on marketing.

Yes it is true that your numbers will vary based on channel and in order to understand your numbers you need to spend some on marketing. That is absolutely true.

But if you know your numbers, say that your average cart size per order from organic is $100 and on average 10% of your visitors buy within 30 days of coming to your site, then you know exactly the increase you need to see to justify an investment in SEO (or PPC or Facebook Ads or…).

In fact, it’s pretty easy to do that math.

Let’s play out the scenario so I can illustrate the point.

Let’s say you’re currently making $10k/mo from organic traffic on your ecommerce site. You make on average $100 per cart checkout and know that 10% of your organic visitors buy within 30 days.

So your current numbers are:

  • 100 orders per month
  • 1,000 visitors per month.

Pretty straightforward. So how do you break even within 3 months on an investment in SEO at $2,500 per month?

The math is simple. You need to go from 300 orders in those three months to 375. You need to increase traffic from 1,000 per month to 1,250 per month on average, or from 3,000 per quarter to 3,750 per quarter.

VisitorsConversion to checkoutRevenueAverage cart size
August 2021
September 20211,10010%$11,000
October 20211,25010%$12,500
November 20211,40010%$14,000
Total Sept-Nov3,750$37,500After SEO investments
Without SEO3,000$30,000Without SEO investment
YBreak even?

That’s it. Anything above that now is incremental revenue and profit. And since SEO (or PPC or Facebook ads…) takes a few months to get going, you may already be profitable on a monthly basis in the second month!

By the end of the 3rd month, instead of being up just 250 visitors a month you’re actually up 400 visitors per month. In December, without an increase in traffic, you’ll make an additional $1,500 revenue (profit?) in that month than you would have otherwise. If you even just maintain this for the next year, you’ll make $43,500 more than you would have otherwise from that SEO investment. For an investment of $7,500 (assuming you stop after month 3, which I don’t recommend and you shouldn’t unless you’re happy with that gain), you’ll make $43,500.

All of a sudden, that $2,500 per month isn’t so expensive. In fact, it’s more expensive to not make that investment than it is to make it.

There are three reasons why people don’t invest in marketing

From my experience, there are three reasons why companies don’t invest in marketing to the level they should:

  1. They don’t understand their business numbers and thus are reluctant to spend on marketing because they don’t know how to measure if it’s working and thus are afraid of wasting money. So, they underinvest and take forever to learn.
  2. They genuinely do not have the budget.
  3. Their business is not ready to handle the influx of new leads or orders.

The third one actually happens fairly often. 

The first two are more easily solvable than the third one.

If you don’t know your numbers, then run through the scenarios of what you would need to see from your investment for it to be worthwhile. You could do it on a spreadsheet or use a tool like Summit (still in beta, but very very cool) to create a whiteboard that does math.

For the second one (do not have the budget), you can start with a smaller investment and build up to a larger investment. No one has unlimited budget, and you get what you are able to pay for. If you’re able to spend $50 on a meal, you can’t go to the nicest steakhouse in New York and get the nicest steak. If you can spend $500, then you’re closer or there.

It’s the same with marketing. If you genuinely only have $500 to spend on SEO, then hire a freelancer to write some content for you that can rank and drive traffic. Focus on increasing your traffic and thus your revenue, and over time you’ll be able to make a bigger investment.

I hope this helps you understand how to better think about investing in marketing. Marketing should not be an expense line item, just like employees should not be.

Employees are an investment in your business. You hire them to train them up so they become profitable to your business.

It’s the same with marketing. You scale it up over time and expect it to pay a return.