Hot tip: SEO isn’t just SEO anymore. You know what I mean?
Every day we get new prospects asking us to help them grow their business. Usually they are thinking about how we can help them improve their rankings and maybe assist with social media, since that’s hot right now. What they often completely miss is the big elephant in the room: A website that couldn’t sell ice water in the Sahara desert!
Well, guess what? Search engines want to rank sites that people find valuable. If your site isn’t doing a good job of selling the visitors you do get, getting more traffic is pointless. (And getting top rankings will be much more difficult!) But even if you could get the top rankings you want, what’s the point? A few more sales trickling in? How about turning on the fire hose instead?
Ask yourself this question: What would I rather have, top search engine rankings or a lot more sales?
Go ahead, think it over.
More traffic or more business?
Let’s make this easy by creating an analogy. Say you own a restaurant. As you invest money in marketing and advertising you start filling tables each night. Night after night you see new faces coming and ordering meals. But after a while you notice something peculiar. A good number of people who come through your doors don’t order anything off the menu. And those that do, only make small orders; a coffee here, a soda there, maybe an appetizer. You get a few full meal orders, but not many.
Then someone points out that rarely does the same customer come back a second time. What’s up with that?
You start running the numbers (+1 for analytics!) and find that each night about 300 people come into your restaurant. Of those three hundred, 50% (150) actually pick up a menu. Another 20% (60) place small orders and only 5% (15) order a full meal. That means there are 225 people each night leaving without giving you a penny.
You have a problem.
For many business owners, the solution is to invest in more marketing and advertising. But what will that do? Let’s say you double the number of people coming to your restaurant every night to 600. The result? Merely 30 more full means and 120 coffees. Would you call that a success?
Maybe you just need to boost it some more. More dollars invested can increase your traffic to 1200 a night, so you can serve 60 dinners and sell 240 coffees. That’s much bigger numbers! And while it may make you feel successful, at selling food, what’s the cost to bring all those people in the door?
Let’s take a step back. The food is good, this you know, so the problem is somewhere else. As you take a look around you begin to notice that your restaurant is roach and rat invested, cluttered and dirty. Your greeter isn’t very friendly and the wait staff doesn’t make people feel welcome. You have problems and it’s not your food or your marketing. It’s the restaurant!
You decide to tackle the problem, run the numbers and realize that to fix it right, you’ll burn through a full year of your marketing and advertising budget. Which also means you’ll lose well over 90% off your nightly traffic, leaving you with only 15 people coming through the doors each night. Fixing the problem means you’ll sell more meals, but even if you were to serve 100% of those that came through your door, it’s still not enough to succeed.
There seems to be no good solution. Or is there?
Improved usability works exponentially
In reality, fixing your problems may seem expensive, but the value brings exponential results. Let’s say you spend your yearly advertising budget and fix your restaurant. A week later your restaurant is squeaky clean. Now what?
Since you’re not advertising you find things worse than expected; only a handful of people are coming through the door, much less than you had hoped. But you notice something else, of the five or ten people that come through each night, only two leave without buying a meal. That’s new.
The next night you see a few repeat customers (that, too, is new) and another ten fresh faces. 90% of them order a meal. The next night you see the same thing, a few repeats and even more new faces. As you talk to your customers you find that (for the first time ever) most are coming not from adverting, but from word of mouth. In fact, one repeat customer brought a bunch of friends with him tonight!
As the weeks continue the pattern continues. Some repeats, some new and a few word of mouth customers. Pretty soon, your repeat and word of mouth customers are more than those that just walk in off the street! Before you know it you’re bringing in 60 people a night, selling 55 meals. Within six months you’re doing just as well in sales with zero advertising, as you were with heavy advertising!
As you conclude your budget year, you find that you now have money to invest in marketing and advertising again. This year an even larger budget! But now your marketing dollars will go a lot further. What you spent to sell 15 more meals a year ago, now nets you 250 meals! Why? Because you fixed the real problem. It wasn’t traffic, it wasn’t the marketing, it was your restaurant. Or, perhaps it’s your website.
A real-world case study
For years one of our clients dominated the #1 spot for their highest priority term, thanks to our efforts. They were happy, we were happy, everyone was happy. Not long ago we made some usability and architectural changes to the website. It wasn’t long after that we saw them lose their #1 ranking! But we were okay with that and the client was okay with it too. Why? Because, looking at the numbers, despite the ranking drop, their sales actually increased.
While it’s true, they lost some traffic due to moving from #1 to #4, the changes we made actually improved their website enough that more searchers were finding more relevant pages for more keywords. Because those searches landed on better pages, not only did the traffic increase, but so did the conversion rate. A loss in rankings resulted in a net gain in profits!
We call that a win and so does the client!
SEO is a waste if you don’t fix your site in the process
We all know that search engine marketing is important. But sometimes your web marketing dollars are better spent making a marketable website. Usability issues can kill website business.
Most people focus on getting more traffic to their website assuming this will be the best thing to help them grow their business. No matter what, SEO can bring in a lot of new business. However, by fixing usability issues you can often increase sales more than what you’d get by increasing traffic alone. A little usability goes a long way.
The great thing is that once you fix your website’s usability issues and increase your conversion rates, every dollar you spend on marketing and SEO will be more effective and have a much bigger impact on your profit margins. We call that a win too!