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CMO’s: It’s Time to Re-think SEO

Welcome to the Friday Commentary. In this series every Friday experts will shine a light on the digital industry. Where are we heading, what is going on and how should we approach this as decision makers? This Friday we listen to Matt Roberts, Co-Founder & VP of Product of Linkdex. Matt is a thought leader in Digital with a strong SEO background and mindset.


I was doing some research for a presentation at a Linkdex Think Tank and I found a post – 21 stats show CMOs leap before they look at ROI. There are lots of great stats in there like, 63% of CMO’s say “ROI will be the standard for their performance by 2015:” yet, today, only 44% say “I can measure ROI.”

What made this interesting for me what how that applies to my specific area of interest. Organic Search. and why SEO matters more than C-Level Execs think.

So why is having senior management define the direction of the company in a way that includes organic search important?

Organic search is not just a high traffic channel it’s a high ROI channel. In fact for brands, research tells us it’s often the highest ROI channel.

If 63% of CMO’s are really saying “ROI will be the standard for their performance by 2015:” then putting more effort into Organic Search makes sense. And the break down in strategic logic doesn’t stop there.

Overall, the highest Customer Lifetime Value (the future profits a company expects to earn from a customer thought their relationship with a business) is 54% higher with Organic Search than any other channel.

Research conducted by Edelman, the world’s largest independent PR agency tells us that the organic search channel is trusted by consumers in the same way traditional media is trusted.

According to Google and their research, 50% of purchases involve search being used at the Zero Moment of Truth.

McKinsey’s research about Consumer Decision Journeys’ tells a similar story. During the Initial Consideration, Active Evaluation and Closer phases of the purchase cycle, online research plays a critical role.

None of which is surprising if we examine our own behaviors.

What it does mean is that gaining attention, being present and persuasive and the Zero and First Moment of Truth and leaving consumers with a positive experience of your brands products, services and people is critical to managing the search ecosystem.

How many companies are optimising the management of search engine optimisation?

Linkdex sells Enterprise SEO Software to agencies and brands, which means I’m lucky enough to get to talk to the world’s best SEO agencies and in-house marketers. The story from both sides is consistent. Although there are examples of some CMO’s doing a great job at optimizing the management of SEO, there are too many where the light bulb has not gone on yet.

CMO’s let’s be clear. All the way through the purchase funnel your customers are using search in order to decide what to buy. The chances are your brand doesn’t have a voice when it needs to. What’s more, your customer really trust what find when searching, and for those that become customers through this channel, the chances are they will become loyal, high lifetime value customers.

The question for your SEO team today is: “If you had support from me, the right budget, people, influence and technology, how much more could we be doing for our brand, our customers and ROI.”

Go on. Ask them.



Matt Roberts is the Co-Founder & VP of Product, Linkdex. Matt began his marketing career 20 years ago in direct marketing agencies, before progressing into digital marketing. Even when the dot com bubble burst, he continued to immerse himself in all things SEO.
  • Russell O’Sullivan

    Hey Matt, great piece and agree where you say the importance of organic search creating a far more valuable and loyal customer for each business and brand.

    I think the “light bulb” moment for some CMO’s is still in the paid search arena where they can measure a direct response from the budget they assign to that channel. Being a brand that is in front of the customer as many times as possible (especially in the organic search) during the buying cycle, is as you say, key to long term growth.

  • Nick Garner

    Nice article Matt. I suppose the big challenge is proving organic search actually works i.e. the numbers are proven and is a safe thing to do.. In the end so often CMO’s don’t understand the ‘shades of grey’ nature of organic search and how it’s far more than just being visible on the last step of the purchase cycle. Its why I talk about ZMOT so much , because its so useful for explaining the complexities of real user behaviour in organic search.

    wouldn’t it be great if organic search was a linear story like PPC…

  • I guess it’s somewhat ironic, that the SEO industry has not done a very good job of branding the value of organic search, or educating folks beyond a very small amount of people on the importance and high ROI for the channel. En masse, non expert people instead say “SEO works but the time frame for it to become extremely powerful is long” and leave the conversation at that level. Everyone needs to go deeper to explain again in as simple terms as possible, how SEO does in fact achieve such high ROI and over what pay back time frame to replace the predominant sentiment currently espoused by too many decisionmakers.