For Agencies

Building a Business Case for SEO in Searchlight

One of my favorite ways to use Searchlight is building a business case for SEO. It’s a core feature; the Business Case Builder allows you to project the opportunity for increasing revenue or leads through SEO in specific markets.

Think of it as a crystal ball – a crystal ball that comes in handy at an agency when you are speaking to new prospects or looking to grow existing client accounts year-over-year.

I’ve found that the Business Case Builder helps to both set expectations with clients around SEO and hold my team accountable for results. The data from the Business Case Builder in Searchlight is also extremely useful for setting quarterly SEO and content strategies. By understanding which keyword themes present the most opportunity, you will make smarter optimization decisions and generate quicker, better results.

Business Case Builder Setup Best Practices 

1) Selecting Categories

Much of the value in the Business Case Builder comes in selecting categories that are specific enough to give you actionable insights. I frequently work with SEO clients in higher education for whom we focus on optimizing degree programs.

When I’m building a business case, I compare categories such as education degrees, business degrees or psychology degrees as opposed to bachelors, masters or doctoral degree categories. Selecting keyword themes that are more specific to the searcher’s intent will yield greater insights.

SEO clients in higher education in Conductor Searchlight

2) Calculating the Opportunity

This is the section I tend to experiment with the most. Since I can pull many of the other variables for the Business Case from other data sources, my decision on how to calculate the opportunity will have the most significant impact on my SEO projections.

The bigger result is not always the best here since SEO can be rather unpredictable – I aim to produce projections that look reasonable and attainable. Always under-promise and over-deliver!

opportunity calculator in conductor searchlight

The first option above, “Use one of the scenarios below…” is likely your most conservative model. If you are working on a site that hasn’t been well optimized in the past and you know that the keyword space isn’t highly competitive, you can probably select a more aggressive model. In a competitive keyword space, however, you should use a more conservative model.

The second option, “Improve my ranks to a specific position,” will likely be more aggressive if your existing rankings in the category you selected vary greatly. For example, moving all education degree keywords to page 1 when many do not rank in the top 50 is very aggressive and may not be realistic. If you have selected a more specific and well-performing keyword category, moving all rankings to #10 may not be as aggressive. Use your best judgment here.

The last model, Conductor’s Market Analysis algorithm, takes known data into consideration to predict the opportunity for SEO. This is similar to a model we use at Fathom to project SEO opportunity. This model weights historical ranking data, keyword competitiveness, search volume and the level of aggressiveness to predict the impact SEO can have on business results.

3) Entering Conversion Data

If you have access to the site’s analytics data, you’ll want to jump in to pull this data. And if you want to get really specific, you can create segments to look at the conversion rate for the specific pages you are optimizing. For some sites, there will be a big difference in the site’s average conversion rate versus the conversion rate on the pages you are optimizing (if you aren’t optimizing the entire site). If you don’t have access to this data, your best bet is to ask a prospective. If all else fails, guess.

site conversion data in conductor searchlight For e-commerce, the value per conversion is usually more straight-forward than it is for lead generation sites. Again, if you have access to this data, use it here. If not, or if no one knows, you can simply enter $1 and approach the results as incremental leads. The Business Case Builder will give you revenue opportunity, but you can interpret the number as leads instead of dollars.

business case opportunity in conductor searchlight

4) Selecting a Click-Through Curve

Conductor gives you a lot of options and flexibility to select the click-through curve model that you think fits best to your situation. Are you comparing keyword categories that contain mostly long-tail keywords? There’s a click-through curve for that. Are you looking at more general SEO opportunities for a B2B site? There’s a click-through curve for that! Pick the model that you think is closest to reality.

click-through curve in conductor searchlight

5) Entering Traffic Data

Similar to the conversion data, you should dig into analytics to get as close to reality as possible. Again, if you set up custom segments for specific URLs or content sections of your site, you can get super-precise data pretty easily. I recommend using this number over the total site traffic if it’s a large site. On a smaller site, the overall monthly traffic number will work.

If you’re optimizing a site that is prone to a lot of seasonality (large spikes of traffic some months and lower volume other months), I recommend pulling traffic data for the past year and using a 12-month average. This will give you the most reasonable prediction on a site that experiences traffic swings due to seasonality.

12 month site traffic average

After You Build a Business Case

Once you’ve built your business cases you’ll be armed with data to make smarter decisions about your SEO strategies. And if you like to keep your eye on the prize, you can add the Traffic Tracker and Revenue Tracker views to your workspaces to make sure you are hitting the projections you created. While these projections are not intended to be a precise prediction, they can add clarity and accountability to your SEO operations.


If you are a Searchlight user and have not used the business case builder feature yet, hopefully by now you have a sense of both the benefits you can achieve from it and how to set it up. If you are not yet a Searchlight user, hopefully this post has given you an idea of how a web presence management platform can help you size the opportunity and report against your search marketing goals.

What else can you do for your business or clients in Searchlight? Learn more about the web presence management platform here.