Consider the B2B Sales Cycle When Measuring SEO Success

Written by Nick Stamoulis

During initial conversations with potential new SEO clients we always try our best to convey that an SEO strategy is built for the long term. A client might not see much movement within the first few months, or even within the first year if it’s a competitive niche. New clients often claim that they “get it”, launch into the new campaign, and then within a few months the questions start coming. “Why hasn’t my ranking improved for such and such keyword?” “How come my visitors aren’t trending upward yet?” “Why isn’t SEO translating into sales?” In the grand scheme of things a few months is nothing in the SEO world, especially in the B2B sector.

Compared to B2C industries, the B2B sales cycle is typically much longer. There are more people involved in the B2B decision making process and products or services have an impact on the functionality of the business overall, so the decision needs to be the right one. B2B services and products can also be very expensive. One product might cost thousands of dollars. In addition to finding the product that is the right fit, the budget also needs to be taken into consideration. A company might start researching a product years before they are financially in a place where they can actually purchase it.

SEO work should absolutely translate into sales, but it’s important to keep in mind just how long it can take to close a sale. If you have a long sales cycle, someone that visits your site through SEO in October might not actually purchase the product until the following June, or possibly even longer than that. That’s why you can’t look at how many sales are coming from SEO in increments of one month.

The first step is to gain search engine trust and start to see some improvement in visitors generated from the search engines. This in itself can take up to six months or more. Then, once you start to see that upward trend (however slight it may be) you need to wait for the sales cycle to come to fruition.

A year is an acceptable amount of time to wait and determine how an SEO campaign is doing in regards to sales. You can look at where your sales were the year prior and compare it to where your sales are after a year of SEO. However, what’s an even better indicator of SEO success in relation to sales are the sales potential that your SEO has generated over the past year. Maybe you haven’t closed the deal yet, but what is in your pipeline? Again, consider the sales cycle. Has your sales team had lots of good leads to work with in the last year? Are many of the leads still waiting on a final decision from management or looking for a way to make room for your product in the budget? When it comes to SEO, the key is to do the right thing for a long enough time period instead of giving up when it doesn’t equal sales immediately.

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