Return to: GROK Dot Com 11/15/2001

Beyond Search Engine Positioning

You might be asking, “Why’s my favorite Conversion Rate Guru talking about Search Engine Optimizing and Positioning (SEOP)?” Well, it’s tough to convert traffic if you don’t have any, know what I mean? You probably know search engines remain the most popular way people find websites and account for over 80% of the traffic to some sites.

Having a website that’s a killer conversion machine is a big part of improving your results. So is insuring a high ranking in search engine positioning. But beyond positioning, you want to make sure what the search retrieves is persuasive and drives action. I’m not an SEOP guru, but my friend Anthony Muller of Zenhits, author of “The Buyers Guide to Search Engine Positioning and Optimization Services" is. So I asked him to share some of his best stuff.

Anthony cautions it's a misconception that high rankings on major search engines are enough to determine whether your e-biz will succeed. “Search engine positioning is a must," he says, "but there is a lot more to it.” A high ranking by itself does not mean more traffic, and even more traffic does not mean more sales if your website can't maximize conversion.

What good's a high ranking that's so badly worded, nobody clicks on it? Or an okay-worded ranking that brings in only a fraction of the traffic you'd get if your copy captured browsers' attention and moved them to action? Not good … in fact, maybe even doubly bad! You look undependable if your listing is so short it seems like you can’t be bothered with the details. Worse, suppose you sit at the top of the list with a vague, misleading blurb. Imagine how annoyed folks are going to be when they click through and don’t find what they expected. And guess what happens when you lure folks to a site that doesn't engage them in the conversion process? (Hint: we've been here before.)

Conversion, in Anthony's words, "is about getting the prescribed response." For search engines, the action you want to motivate is a click. Here’s what you need to know so you get the clicks you want.

An SEOP Fable

Phil sells designer clothes for pet sharks. He goes to an SEOP company to generate traffic for his niche market. The company says it will do several things: identify valuable keywords, get him high rankings on top search engines, optimize his home page and create an information page (an added webpage that is keyword rich). Phil checks the company out and gives their proposal a thumb's up.

They get busy and locate some keywords and synonyms, then proceed to optimize Phil’s home page, targeting the phrase “Shark Clothes.” Since the SEOP expert's goal is a high ranking, she puts “Shark Clothes” in the title tag of the home page (part of the HTML code the search engine looks for). She succeeds! Phil gets a top ranking on Google that looks like this:

Shark Clothes
... for sharks who are fashion-conscious and shark owners who are embarrassed by their naked pets.

Like most SEOP companies, this one is good at getting high rankings, but it doesn't understand conversion. What we have here is a top ranking that doesn't drive action. No persuasion. No calls to action. No real appeal to benefits. The conversion rate of this ranking will be a fraction of what's possible.

Compare that listing with this one:

Buy Top Designer Shark Clothes Now and Get FREE Shipping
Are you a hip shark looking to stand out from the school? A shark owner who wants to strut your pet in finery on his morning walk? Phil has what you need.

What’s different? The imperative "Buy" gets attention and creates momentum toward taking action. "Now" reinforces the urgency. FREE shipping provides a clear benefit. Then a “richer” descriptive sentence appeals to emotion and creates strong mental imagery. This listing is likely to get 20-50% more clicks than the first one! And all we did was add a few very important words in a very specific way to create a link that doesn’t just sit there, but actively converts traffic.

This gets Phil the click, but it isn't the end of the story. Anthony reminds us, “You have to remember the mentality of the generic SEOP / SEO expert is to “Bring you the horse” not “help him to drink.” If you neglect the conversion capability of your site, then all the extra traffic from your conversion-sensitive high ranking will mean little.

To do your job well, Anthony emphasizes, "You need a significant and steady level of traffic. This makes the conversion tweaking process much more efficient." Think of your visitors as really cool lab rats (I mean this in the most flattering way) and they are going to help you map out that conversion maze. In the end, "once the conversion is done, more traffic at higher conversion just makes more bang for the buck."

Wanna play Math? Let’s say you get 3000 unique visitors a month and have a conversion rate of 3% (which is higher than average). That's about 90 sales per month. If your improved search engine rankings get you 5000 visitors a month, then at the same conversion rate (3%) you'll have approximately 150 sales a month. Goody … more money in your pocket. But my loyal readers know you can do even better. Let’s assume you increase the conversion rate of your website to 5%. 5000 visitors at a conversion rate of 5%? That's 250 sales per month. Don't you love the mileage of a few extra words and an efficient conversion process?

Nobody's gonna wrap this up better than Anthony, so I leave you with this closing thought (eat your heart out Jerry Springer): "Traffic is of prime importance, conversion is of prime importance, one's existence without the other is a horrible waste of potential and earnings."

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Return to: GROK Dot Com 11/15/2001

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