Whenever I ask a prospect what their goals are, all too often their answer is, "We want to rank in the top three results for keywords A, B, and C."
Is that really a goal?
Now, I understand that high rankings (or, rather, organic search traffic) are important. I sincerely believe that a sound organic search strategy should be the core of every business's marketing efforts.
This goes back to the old adage of running a business (location, location, location). You must be where people are actively searching for your product or service offerings.
However, imagine that you had the perfect retail location and yet your storefront was filthy. Perhaps there isn't as much as a sign with your company's name on the front of the building. Perhaps, once you get into the location, not a single item has a price tag and the salespeople are nowhere to be found.
That traffic coming through your parking lot isn't going to help much, is it?
There are three basic rules that you need to follow to have a successful Web presence:
- Brand matters.
- Usability matters.
- Search engine optimization matters.
The look and feel of your Web site is a key component to success on the Web. For example, last summer, a retailer that was enjoying great rankings in the search engines approached my company about a possible redesign of their Web site.
When I pulled the site up, it was very evident that these folks needed a facelift (the site was very '90s, with no brand -- not even a logo -- and it was poorly organized). This e-commerce Web site was typical of many: it was graphics-heavy (not even formatted consistently) and had little to offer in terms of (keyword-rich) product descriptions.
Bottom line: there was no way that I would drop my credit card info on this Web site. I didn't trust it. If I were a common searcher, I'd probably spend about five seconds on the page that I landed on, then hit the back button and check out the next result.
Build a Web site that exudes credibility and trust with your target audience. Because online, a competitor is always next door to your perfect location. And, next door to them is another competitor. You get the picture?
OK, let's assume your Web site looks great now. So, if you manage to get the traffic to your site, you probably want people to fill out a lead form, call you, or buy a product.
Too often, prospects tell me that a phone call is a major point of emphasis for them, yet you can't easily find their phone number on their page. Check some of the most successful e-commerce or lead-gen Web sites and you'll notice that most of them display their phone number on the top right of every page. Little things like this can have a dramatic impact on your success.
Some people make a lot of money consulting on landing page optimization for paid search efforts. If you're looking for a great book on landing page optimization, check out Tim Ash's book or get some tips in his Search Engine Watch By The Numbers columns.
Every click/visitor to your Web site is valuable. Yet many don't put the effort to get the most out of every click.
Once you get people to your site, what do you want them to do? Download a white paper? Sign up for a newsletter? Complete a lead form?
Now, be honest with yourself. Are you making this action obvious to your visitors? People on the Web have very short attention spans.
That brings me to another point: how long does it take your Web site to load? Use this free tool to check your Web site's load time.
Search Engine Optimization Matters
Now, just because I put SEO last on this list doesn't mean that this is the last thing you should do. Oh no. The creation of your information architecture absolutely should be done in conjunction with your SEO efforts.
Your SEO team should research (or at least approve) the content management system and coordinate the design and site development. SEO is the foundation of your efforts.
And, coincidentally, search engines like that content, too. So, the more search engine friendly you make your Web site, the more usable the site will become. If your content is good enough, people might want to link to your Web site.
Guess what. Search engines love this stuff, too! Ever seen Wikipedia show up in your searches on Google?
So, next time you're trying to determine your SEO goals, stop for a moment and think about the bigger picture. SEO is just one part of Web success.