News Flash: Great Web Traffic and Great SEO Rankings Do Not Get You Sales.

Great Web Traffic and Great SEO Rankings Doesn't Get You Sales

I work with businesses of all sizes. Some are very “web savvy” others not so much. I find a common thread through many of these businesses: they are under the illusion that if they are #1 on Google they’ll get all the traffic and therefore all the sales they can handle. WRONG! There are so many more factors.

I’ve talked before about keyword selection, but for our purposes here I summarize with an example. Let’s say you sell widgets and your companies name is “ABC Manufacturing”. You might rank #1 in the search engines (SEs) for “ABC Manufacturing” but are no where to be found for “widgets”. Even if you were ranked well on the search engine results pages (SERPs) for “widgets”, it is such a broad term it is unlikely to convert very often. I say this to point out that you may have a #1 ranking but that ranking my not give you great traffic or sales if no one is searching it.

Before we continue, I will give you this: if you are #1 on the SEs for a great keyword that is relevant to your product, you should get great traffic.

So, you have researched your market and have decided that “widgets” is the number one target. As I touched on above, a high ranking in the SERPs for “wigets” may indeed garner great traffic numbers but that can be deceiving. If you focus exclusively on “widgets”, in most case (and all that I have dealt with) you will not necessarily get sales. In a previous post I discussed Traffic vs Conversion, where I discussed how while short keywords can get traffic numbers long keyword strings get conversions. This is not rocket science. If someone is beginning there search for a widget they may not know much about those products. They might start with a basic search engine search by typing “widgets”, right? As they become more familiar with the type of widgets that are available they might search some thing more specific like “home widgets”. As they become even more familiar they might type “stainless steel kitchen widgets”, follow me? The more specific the keyword term used, the closer that consumer is to making a purchase (it is true, trust me). In an ideal scenario, when that customer does their first search for “widgets”, your website comes up. Then when they do the following searches, your website comes up as well. With that said, if I had to choose between a customer searching for “widgets” and a customer searching for “stainless steel kitchen widgets” (assuming that is the type of widgets I sell), I choose the long keyword term every day and twice on Sunday. So just because you get great traffic that doesn’t necessarily mean you will get conversions to sales.

Website Design
OK, now your getting great traffic to your website because you’ve targeted your long keyword terms and you are ranked highly in the SERPs. You’ve got all this traffic and when the customers get to you website, IT SUCKS! You can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars (through search engine optimization (SEO) or pay per click (PPC)) getting traffic to your website, but if it is poorly designed they still might not purchase. “Poorly designed”? What do I mean? Everything from the users interface (UI), how they navigate the site, how the product is displayed, the aestetics of the site, all of that plays a roll. I don’t even want to talk about the stability of a website. If the site crashes constantly or gives the users errors, see ya, they are leaving. When selling anything online you have to have the consumers trust. The aren’t going to give their credit card number to some shady looking site that doesn’t function properly. You can build that trust by having a well designed and functional site. I’ll briefly mention it here, but does your website properly “funnel” the customer to where you want them to go? I plan to delve into that in a future post, but funneling in website terms, in this case anyway, is the process of leading the customer to the purchase button.

So, now you are doing awesome. You picked your keywords well, you optimized you website and have good rankings, your getting good relevant traffic for you product and you website is doing its job and getting the customer to click purchase. Well, there is still a lot to worry about. How is your purchase process? Does it require too much information? Does it have too many steps? Are you bogging them down with up sells (can you say An ecommerce experience should be as seamless as if they called a great customer services representative. I look at a lot of analytics for a lot of websites and I know when there is a problem. You can see it clear as day. Customers get so far along in the purchase process and then they just leave the site. Sometimes it is more obvious why then others. Either way, 99 times out of 100, there is someone else out there selling a product just like yours and if people get frustrated, they’ll bounce.

All of things build on one another. Don’t just focus on traffic or rankings, in the end the bottom line is sales. Great keyword selection and web site optimization can lead to great traffic. Great traffic and website design can lead to great conversions (purchase buttons clicked). A great ecommerce solutions (great customer services) will lead to happy customer who will give you sales.

Now if your product sucks, you are on your own.

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.

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

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.

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.

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…

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. 🙂

Web Developers, IE6 Sucks, Get Over It!

So you developers, coders and Mac people don’t like Internet Explorer (IE) and you REALLY don’t like IE 6. I see it on Twitter, I see it in the media, I see it every where []. I know some of you don’t like it because you prefer Safari or Firefox (I prefer Chrome). Some of you point out legitimate technical issues with IE6. Maybe it’s not as compliant as other browsers or maybe it doesn’t have as many cool plug-ins or the performance isn’t as impressive. Maybe you just don’t like The Man (Microsoft). Whatever the reason you hate IE or IE6, GET OVER IT.

Personally, I am not a big fan of IE6. Although I use IE8 on a daily basis, it is not my default browser. I also use Chrome, Firefox and Safari every day. I say all that to point out that I am a seasoned browser user and I don’t have any hidden agenda here.

The push to “ban” IE is humorous. For you all that are promoting the ban…I love the big banners on your websites (attempting to force users to upgrade) and the little icons attached to your profiles (with the line through the IE logo). That’s all real cute. You seem to think that the visitors to your websites (your customers) need to change (are wrong), “let’s force the upgrade”. <sarcasm>That is a great customer service attitude people.</sarcasm>

I know that other browsers are gaining market share. I have read articles that IE only has 50% of the browser market now. What market are you looking at? Most likely a tech site with a more tech savvy customer base. I maintain the analytics for well over 50 websites and while browsers like Firefox have gained ground Internet Explorer on average still has 75% of the traffic. Of IE’s 75% on average I would say IE6 is about 17%. That is a pretty large segment of your market. So do you want to ignore them because they have a crappy browser? I bet the clients you are developing the website for do not.

In a perfect world, everyone would have an updated browser that is fully compliant. We don’t live in a perfect world. Many of my clients still get traffic from IE5. Am I saying you have to support every browser forever…NO! But if you are getting significant traffic from the browser no matter what version, you need to support it.

What I am attempting to say here is…bite your lip, put in the IE exceptions and make the site work across all browsers. You may not like it, it may be a royal pain in the butt, but if you don’t you WILL risk losing a customer/client.

Natural search engine ranks are important, but traffic is what you want.

So many clients get caught up in where they are ranked on the search engines. They type in their most coveted keyword and look to see where they are ranked. Honestly, I do that too. But, the most important thing in Search Eninge Optimization (SEO) is driving traffic for to your web site. Below is a great video discussing the topic.

SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday – When to Track Rankings from Scott Willoughby on Vimeo.

google, google, google and google

Are Yahoo and MSN irrelevant?

google I look at my Google Analytics (GA) every day for my sites and many of my client sites and Google continues to send exponentially more traffic to our sites than all others combined. I am not making a profound discovery, I know. Google has dominated the search industry for a long time. The interesting thing is even when client sites have superior keyword rankings on Yahoo or MSN (I am not even getting into AOL), Google still sends more traffic. Does any one out there use Yahoo or MSN?

BTW, I typed this on Google Docs and posted it using Google Chrome.