What follows is a condensed version of a conversation that happens all too frequently when I am approached by a prospect interested in search engine optimization (SEO):
Prospect: We need our website optimized, because we aren’t showing up for any searches. Me: What searches have you tried? Prospect: We don’t show up for ANYTHING. Me: Why do you want to show up in searches? Prospect: Well, it seems like we should. Our competitors do, and our website is WAY better than theirs. Me: But, really, what would you stand to gain from showing up prominently in search engine results? Prospect: Well, we could get more people who are looking for our products or services to find out about us. Me: So, what you are saying is that increasing your search engine results could help you to increase sales and awareness? Prospect: Yes. Me: Now we’re on right track. Since your goals are to increase sales and awareness, have you thought about not only improving your search engine rankings, but also getting more people to take an action on your site that leads to a sale, getting more people to read your press releases or whitepapers so that they can consistently associate your company with your offering, or sending your prospects a regular newsletter to reinforce your name and expertise? Prospect: Didn’t you hear me? Our website is great. We just don’t show up for searches.
And so it goes.
A consistent problem with “ranking-centric” mindset demonstrated above is that it doesn’t reflect a powerful rationale for getting involved in SEO. Where is true business case? What tangible results are desired? In general, if a prospect can’t explain what he or she hopes to achieve beyond “higher rankings” or “more traffic,” we’ll first try to educate, and, if that person can’t move beyond these base subjects, we’ll kindly refer them elsewhere.
More and more frequently, people are getting into SEO for wrong reasons (and sometimes for no real reason at all). Achieving high rankings for targeted keyphrases, while an admirable and worthwhile goal, is really only a small piece of entire online marketing puzzle. In this article, we’ll discuss a few additional, but equally vital, pieces.
Website conversion is art and science of getting more of people who come to your website to take action that you want them to take – fill out your contact form, read your whitepapers, sign up for your newsletter, or (in case of e-commerce) buy something. For a company that is trying to build offline business, this action is typically something that gets prospects into sales pipeline through some form of online registration. For a company or organization that is trying to build awareness, this action can be a number of things – getting visitors to a certain page of site, getting them to stay longer at site, or getting them to tell a friend about site. The critical point that is commonly overlooked in a ranking-centric mindset is that no number of high search engine positions will address real problem if your website is not serving as an effective marketing and sales tool. And, as I have said many times before, overall net effect of raising your conversion rate from one to two percent is same net effect as doubling your traffic, and it is almost always easier. Increasing number of visitors to a site that does not convert them effectively is like pumping high performance gasoline into a car with engine trouble – it might help car to run a little bit better, but if you’d done repairs before adding premium fuel, it really would have hummed.
Your website is only one potential online destination where people can find out about your company, and a typical user will regard your site as an advertisement since you have complete control over content. With optimized press releases and expert articles, however, you can have your company name mentioned on popular news sites and industry portals, where credibility is more inherent.