While normal advertising interrupts people, search allows you to sell what your customers want, when they want it. Search is not intrusive, and does not look or feel like any other form of advertising.This is a modified quote from many places.
First things first, if you input $1 dollar into a system and it produces more than $1 (in a stipulated amount of time), then ROI is positive, i.e. you made more than you invested.. But ROI can have different connotations than just money made vs invested in getting to the # 1 Rankings for various keywords. For e.g. SEO has side effects such as Reputation management, brand management, not losing customers (because good SEO can selectively rank SERPs for page 1 of branded searches). Good SEO also makes websites better, analytics better, email marketing more robust and so on.
If we were talking in pure numbers, then depending on your industry, SEO can have different types of ROI. For a dentist, each patient can be a lifetime patient with revenues in upwards of 10s of 1000s of dollars. A thousand dollar / month spend on SEO for doctor is almost a no-brainer. For restaurants, it’s a very inexpensive way to launch and be found in local community (compared to traditional advertising ). SEO can be really inexpensive for beginners because something is better than nothing and there is always the beginners luck (Google always ranks newbies in the mix of results to confuse SEO’s).
So what Ranking #1 is worth to your business is something you would know more, since you know your business more. Also, you know that brand and image management is as crucial as having money these days. So spending a little bit of money to protect your brands reputation is not a bad investment. Customer Reviews are the easiest way to improve your brand, and good SEO always has reviews.
So as you can see above, SEO is just more than rankings promised by a SEO company next door. IT’s so much more than that, and it’s worth so much more to you, your customers when done right. SEO can be worth everytime you don’t lose a customer because your site loads slow, SEO can be worth everytime a search user makes an impression on your business. SEO is about educating your customers in a way that can leave a long impact on them. SEO is patience, it’s a long term strategy to gain, retain customers. SEO makes your findable, trustable, reviewable. I can go on an on, but what is worth to your business?