How do I drive traffic that converts using SEO? Keyword selection!

Search engine optimization (SEO) is very important for any website, most would agree with that. There are many aspects to good SEO but here I am going to focus on just one, keyword targeting and selection.

I will assume for purposes of this post that you already have quality content on your website (which we know is a must for good rankings). Keyword targeting and selection, in my opinion, is the second most important aspect to search engine optimization (SEO), behind your content. Meta tags, link building, alt tags, html, CSS, load time, I could go on and on, but none of these are more important then selecting the right keywords.

So the question was, how do I drive traffic that converts? Start with a list of keywords that you think your customers would type into a search engine if they were looking for you on the web. Try to think from their perspective and not yours. Years of being in your industry and looking at the competition in your vertical can give you valuable insight, but look elsewhere. Ask a friend that isn’t involved in your industry; ask a family member who lives in different part of the country. Here’s a novel idea, ask your customers. If you have an ecommerce site or contact form ask how they found your site. Another great resource is pay per click campaigns. If your company has ever done PPC advertising, login to the account look at what drove the most sales or traffic to your site.

While you are making your list try to think of every variation of that keyword including misspellings. For example, if your keyword is “lake front properties” you could also target “lake front homes”, “water front properties”, “vacation homes”, “lake properties”, “lake front land”, etc.

I have written before about long tail keywords versus short tail keywords and their importance. I stated in that post that I think you should target short tail keywords first. Why? Just read the article, gosh.

So now that you have your list you have to narrow it down, at least initially. Start with the most relevant keywords, preferably long tail and start integrating those into your campaign. ***WARNING: This isn’t going to happen over night.*** Sorry, I had to do that but seriously you have to be patient. Keep watching your analytics, see what keywords are driving traffic. If you don’t have software that can track your sales from their origin be sure to ask your costumers what search engine and what keywords they used. You’ll be surprised how many will remember. Keep track, in a spread sheet if you have to.

Bad Keywords
While you are finding your good keywords, avoiding the bad ones is just as important. Many times in the years that I have been doing this I have found keywords that drive great traffic but never convert to a sale. Usually this means that keyword is very popular (you might even have a good ranking for it) but you don’t have the content to support it. If you go into your analytics most likely you have a ton of page views but your page views per session is low and bounce rates are very high. This is a keyword to avoid unless you develop content that is more in line with the keyword. A good example is a small home builder targets “mansion home builder” but all the homes on his site are tiny. A customer isn’t going to stick around very long and some can even get angry. Neither of these options is ideal.

Summary
Choose your keywords carefully, using every resource that is at your disposal. Order your keyword list by relevancy to your product. Begin targeting the long tail keywords first. Patience. Patience. Patience. Research. Research. Research. Then continue to fine tune to the campaign. Using the right keywords, you will get those conversions. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to use the comments area below this post.

Website Analytics, Random and Boring Stories and an Obvious Conclusion

YOU MUST HAVE AN ANALYTIC TOOL
This article is assuming that you are already tracking your website statistics, because if you aren’t then you are dumb. A rude way to start, I know, but seriously if you aren’t using some form of analytics stop reading this right now and go set up a FREE Google Analytics account. What are you still reading for, GO, NOW.

So as we know, everyone has a good analytic tool to review and monitor their websites activity. The more you use the tool the more you’ll learn about what your sites visitors are doing. Why do they always leave from page X, or why doesn’t anyone ever click on the link Y? I have studied website statistics for 13 years for many different websites, I can really have fun. My question here is, what statistic do you use to determine success or failure? I understand that we should be looking at all the stats, but for the sake of argument, what is your companies’ most important stat?

Visits, Page Views, Pages/Visit, Time on Site, New Visits, Absolute Unique Visits, and on and on and on.

STATISTICS RANT AND A BAD EXAMPLE
As a young college student in an advance political science statistics class, a very smart professor led his lecture by asking, “What are statistics?” My answer, “Whatever you want them to be”. He did not appreciate the answer as much as I did. Instead of the smart alec answer, I should have explained that I believe that statistics can be twisted by many things. EXAMPLE: Ask 100 people to choose between A, B or C. If you say “ONLY 10% chose A” or “90% chose B or C”. What if given those stats, 88% chose C? That’s a terrible example, but hopefully the point was made. Ideally, you would say A=10%, B=2% and C=88% but if you wanted to alter someone’s perception (which people do all the time), you see how easy it is.

REAL WORLD EXAMPLE
A few weeks back I was discussing a websites performance with a client. We had just completed a redesign and they couldn’t understand why their page views and time on site had decreased. After digging some and comparing the old site to the new site we determined that the old site navigation wasn’t as clear. Their customers had to go through more pages to find what they wanted. The site had the same number of visitors and the same number of sales. In this case, if this client had chosen to use only page views as their core determinant then it would have been logical to call the redesign a failure. [BTW, their traffic and probably their sales will be increasing soon because of the SEO we integrated into the new site. Sorry I couldn’t resist.]

Many sites that I manage determine success by an order/sale or by a form submittal, others covet pure traffic. Personally, I suppose if I had to pick just one it would be “Visits”. I would only select this because I know the conversion rates of all the websites I manage and I know that the conversion rates stay consistent regardless of visits. So I know that if I convert .005 percent of all visitors and I increased visitors, then I know I increased sales. Of course that’s cheating…

CONCLUSION
You really need to look at all aspects to truly determine the success or failure of a website. You should even look at external factors like seasonality and overall web traffic for your verticals. The truth is each site has a different idea about success, just PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t use “HITS”. You need to find your own determinant. You need to find what’s most important to you or your client and stop reading my blog articles and stealing mine. 🙂