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November 14, 2007

Is Your Search Engine Optimization Campaign Broken?

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You’ve done the work, you picked your keywords, you’re using them in your site text and beyond, and still nothing. No visitors. No conversions. Just silence. Were all your search engine optimization efforts for nothing? What’s going on?

That’s the subject of a thread over at Sitepoint right now. An SEO has been approached by a client who says, despite ranking number one for many of their keywords, they’re still not getting many leads or bringing in conversions. They want to know what to do.

The first thing I’d want to do is take a look at the site’s analytics and see what keywords are bringing converting users into the site. I don’t care how many number one rankings you have in Google; if they’re the wrong rankings, they’re not going to help you or your site. Search engine optimization isn’t about collecting visitors on your site. You’re not a museum; visitors who do nothing but look at what you have to offer are of little value to you. You want visitors who will convert.

If people are landing on your site and then leaving once they see what you’re about, then it’s time do some keyword research, to choose the right keywords and learn how to use keywords once you’ve got ‘em. Use WordTracker or Overture’s keyword selection tool to pinpoint high activity search terms for you industry. Personally, I think Google Suggest and Yahoo’s Search Suggestions are two of the strongest keyword research tools out there. They give you a totally unfiltered view of what users are actually searching for. Google and Yahoo wouldn’t be populating their search boxes with those terms if that’s not what users were interested in. And better yet, because those are the terms being pre-populated by the engines and already in users’ search box, they’re more likely to use them. Running through these tools should help you discover new opportunities for keyword and content development.

The second thing I’d recommend the site owner do is run through his site, identify the conversion funnel and plug up all the holes. Users are landing on your site, right? Where are they exiting? Is there a common point where people jump ship? Maybe there’s a 404 problem or a complicated form or copy that could be written to be better optimized. Once you know where the problem areas are you can fix them. Simplify the conversion funnel to make it easier for people to convert. Unless this your aerobics workout we’re talking about, there’s no need for unnecessary steps. Give users what they want and then get out of their way.

Going along with that, make sure you have a clear call to action. Don’t be the site owner that gives customers so many choices on things to do that they get confused and do nothing. If you want them to click through to a different page, tell them that. If you want them to buy the product right there, tell them that too. The most compelling call to actions, whether created for search engine optimization or PPC, are those that include a compelling benefit. Encourage users to buy now in order to take advantage of free shipping or to click to read about how they can increase page views tenfold. Let them know what’s in it for them.

Related to plugging up the conversation funnel, I’d also recommend the site owner take a look at his site architecture and make sure that the high traffic pages aren’t buried 10 directories deep.

There are plenty of reasons why a user might visit your site and then leave without converting. Maybe it’s a site architecture problem, a copywriting issue or a sign that you don’t understand your core users. However, I think by analyzing your keywords, repairing your conversion funnel and engaging consumers, you’re sure to better any site or search engine optimization project.





One response to “Is Your Search Engine Optimization Campaign Broken?”

  1. Billy Shih writes:

    There are a few solutions out there that aid in finding 404 errors and other technical errors that may drive away users, but definitely the obvious and best place to start is good analytics to tease out the cause of low conversions.

    I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but testing is a perfect scenario for this type of situation if the problem is not related to technical issues. You can try out different messaging and the results of the test will tell you what customers respond to and what they dislike.

    I wonder how many other companies company are handling SEO so well without finding success. As you said, the whole funnel has to be solid or else there is money being left on the table.



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