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Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007 at 12:13 pm

How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot with Search Engine Optimization

By Melissa Burdon
February 8th, 2007

Icon___Shoot_Foot.jpgWe’ve pleasantly lectured you about creating personas to help you empathize with your customers; to understand WHY they do what they do, so you can create a buying process that gives visitors what they want. This, in turn, lets you achieve your goals and increase conversion.

You have probably used some kind of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics to help you drive more traffic. Chances are, you’ve managed to increase traffic to your site using these techniques alone. More people are seeing your result, clicking on it and landing on your web site.

You are probably tracking your results; you know how many people are coming to your site through the result, and you know how many sales you are making or leads you are generating. You assume if you keep implementing these SEO tactics, you’ll continue to increase traffic and will therefore continue to increase your sales or leads.

Let’s do a hypothetical

Let’s assume that you’re converting two percent of your visitors. Sadly, this is more or less the industry average. You can tell yourself you made two out of every hundred visitors to your site happy (you hope). You should be asking yourself how come you couldn’t make the other 98 happy.

So you drive more traffic – this will increase your sales. It will also dramatically increase the number of site visitors you leave frustrated and unsatisfied.

Let’s take it one step further. Let’s assume you are using some SEO’s ‘worst practices.’ What are the worst practices in SEO Land? Overusing keywords on your pages. Listing indexes of keywords you know will bring you more traffic but don’t provide relevance for your visitor.

Have you considered that these techniques fail to build confidence in your visitors? That you’re not just thwarting a one-time mission, but potentially damaging your credibility and your brand long-term?

Be careful with your assumptions

Don’t assume just because you’re making some sales and generating some leads that you’re pleasing the customer. Don’t assume just because you’ve optimized your search engine rankings and are getting visitors to click on your Search Engine result that you are pleasing the customer. Don’t assume just because you made your site “usable” that you are pleasing your customer.

Does your site satisfy the intention behind their keywords? Does your site address your visitors’ motivations for wanting what you offer? Does your site speak to your visitors at different stages of the buying decision process? Do you know who your visitors are? Do you know why they buy from you? Do you know how they buy from you? Do you translate this knowledge into scenarios that help your visitors buy from you right now or later today or next week or even next year?

If you haven’t planned the scenarios on your site from the perspective of your visitors, you can’t assume you’re pleasing them. SEO tactics may be critical to driving more qualified traffic, but they’re only a benefit if you’ve optimized your sales process before you go prospecting for traffic.

You have far more to lose than you ever stand to gain by optimizing your online strategies backwards. That’s like ringing the dinner bell before you’ve put food on the table.

Pair that with using unprofessional SEO tactics that offer no value to the customer and spamming the search engines for the sole purpose of driving more traffic, and you will suffer the long term consequences!

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Comments (11)

  1. [...] Original post by Melissa Burdon and software by Elliott Back Tags: adwords, online marketing, seo, google adwords [...]

  2. The above comment is a perfect example of “how to shoot yourself in the foot” with SEO. Clever, building a bot that links back to your keyword-driven “blog” (or list of related content, poached to get attention for his software). When the real Elliot has something to say, we’d love to hear from him. In the meantime, you’re not inspiring much confidence.

  3. Same is true for Paid Search and even Display Advertising (if the Ad is over optimized for drawing attention while forgetting what is advertised)

    Without using any fishy SEO tactics is it possible to improve ranking, click through rate and conversion.

    The Description Meta Tag for example does not help you to rank better, but is used by several search engines for the snippet shown in the search results, if it is relevant to the page content. If normally the Meta Tag is used by the SE, but for some pages not (SE creates by itself a snippet based on the page content), check out the description and change it.

    Including in the description what the customer can expect if he clicks on the link to your site will help conversion and customer satisfaction. If you sell an item for example, use the word “Buy” in the meta description. If you provide product reviews as well, state it. Make it brief and precise. Together with a relevant Title and hopefully trustworthy looking URL are you producing a clear winner.

    Then you also better also deliver the promise, have a user friendly website, reassure the customer that he is in good hands and let the customer jump through as few hoops as possible. Some hoops like capture of address information and credit card data are still necessary today, but you should try to make the jumps as easy as possible for your customers.

    SEO is no good or bad thing on it’s own. What you do with it is either good or bad. To make it work right, is it necessary to make it part of your overall Internet marketing strategy and don’t treat it as something separate. It is not!

  4. [...] Is it possible to hurt your your voiceover business by increasing traffic to your website? Check out the answer given by Melissa Burdon in this post at the Future Now site. [...]

  5. I agree with you and have been writing about this for a while on Along with Web Analytics I’ve also done SEO and some SEM for several sites; usually the conversion rate is well under 1% (not even the industry average 2%…!). If some of my clients, current and former had 2% conversion rates – they’d be raking in money by the barrel.

    The truth is, many sites I deal with have conversion rates in the tenths of a percent – and they look at their problem as not getting enough of the right traffic – if they got a ton of traffic (IE: being #1 of most of their main keywords) there problems would be solved. But it’s never true and almost never happens that way.

    In fact, for my clients who are architects (current and former) it was almost always their BRAND that sold; they could get all the traffic up the Kazoo for styles of house plans, but almost always, people came DIRECT and bought, and most of the time when they came via a search engine and bought a plan – they used the search engine as a navigation tool (typed in the name of the architect or some variation of it).

    Will Search Engines help clients like this that much? Even if a client is #1 for all their keywords – could Search Engines possible send enough traffic when their conversion rate is a tenth of a percent? I don’t think so.

    Why not improve the site – get the conversion rate up past 2% and forget about SEO and SEM….you’ll still come out with a lot more sales.

  6. I have always thought of this while doing seo for any of my client. More so after reading the “Persuasion Architecture” article. It has really helped me a lot.

    Opened up a new world I was never aware of. Thanks a lot for your article.

  7. Part of the problem is that there is only so much criticism a client will acept of their website. I specialize in seo for small to medium-sized commercial websites, and 9 times out of 10 the owner has had hands-on control over the website design, architecture, texts, etc.

    I can either go to battle over dodgy text and wobbly sales texts, or go for the low hanging fruit first, get the site seo’d, and once we’re getting results and I’ve established my credibility, then look at improving the website.

  8. It is true Melissa..what you’ve mentioned here are so true..^^ It is rather better to do SEO one at a time so that your site won’t get banned from Google..and also make sure to write contents that are original and informative on your site so that you won’t just get a one time traffic but also a recurring traffic.

  9. Most clients assume that just having a top 10 ranking will solve thier problems, when the sales strategy needs to go hand in hand with any kind of SEO, and this is one of the main problems.
    You’re very right about the rest of the comments about spamming the SE’s too however, and it’s often a fine line.

  10. I have always felt that first priority is to please your readers and get them to take an action. It doesn’t mater how much traffic you have – you ain’t got anything without a website that converts. Fortunately the objectives of SEO and reader satisfaction are not mutually exclusive so with a bit of thought, you can achive both.

  11. yes this is very good idea to optimized sales process before go prospecting for traffic.

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Melissa is a Senior Persuasion Analyst at FutureNow.

More articles from Melissa Burdon

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