Search engine marketing is an intense game of strategy, analysis, and patience. But, it’s also a game with multiple, sometimes even conflicting, goals. Depending on who you talk to you, some will tell you SEO is about rankings, while others will tell you it’s about conversions. It’s a classic political struggle trying to answer the question, “what will bring in the greatest profits?”
You need exposure to get the traffic that leads to new business. But, you need to be user friendly in order to convert the traffic you’re getting into new business. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?
Anyone who has been optimizing a site for more than a week understands the value of getting strong search engine placement. Anyone that has had top rankings for more than a week also understands that bringing in new traffic that doesn’t convert is pointless.
Why SEO is Like Government (and why government isn’t like SEO)
SEO is a lot like government. No matter how many years we’ve been at it, there always seems to be more to do. And, like a good (or bad) law, we often don’t see the effects right away. But, unlike government, SEO’s analyze the results of their work. When a bad strategy is implemented, it gets repealed. Not very often is a bad law or government program withdrawn, regardless of the “unintended consequences.”
But, I digress.
With SEO, there is almost always something that can be done to improve your site and your search rankings. But, after making specific changes, you must be patient enough to wait for the results of those changes. Then you can come back and compare the new results against previous results. This is the same whether you’re making changes to improve your engine rankings or to increase conversion rates.
The changes you can make to your site are virtually endless when testing is involved. But, making too many changes too quickly, without testing and comparing the results, will almost always lead to a less than optimal marketing campaign.
Making Changes that Make Sense (and a lot of cents)
When you make changes without implementing proper tracking and testing procedures, you will often get both positive and negative results (or a combination of both), but you won’t be in a position to pinpoint which of those changes were responsible for what results.
Let’s say you made two changes to your home page, one was for rankings, the other for usability. If both rankings and conversions increase, you probably have performed two winning changes. But, what if rankings went up while conversions went down?
Simple, go back and undo the usability changes, right? Not necessarily.
It may be that your optimization changes improved rankings, but negatively effected usability, despite having made other usability changes. The usability changes you made may have actually resulted in a positive improvement, but that improvement was counteracted by the optimization changes that, while improving rankings, had a larger negative effect on conversions. Performing both of these changes at the same time makes it hard to pinpoint cause and effect.
Had you performed these changes separately, say the usability changes first, you might have seen an increase in conversion rates with little or no effect on rankings. The following week you would then make your optimization changes to find that your rankings went up, but your conversions dropped to levels lower than they were previously.
Now you know what to do! You undo your optimization changes, because, in this case, better rankings reduced conversions. Since you measured and tracked the results of each change, you can easily undo the change that had the greatest negative impact and then perhaps try something different to improve rankings.
Looking for opportunities to improve your site is an ongoing process. Every change and every test gives you valuable insight into what’s working and what isn’t. If you uncover a problem, you can’t sit on your hands and do nothing. But once a “solution” is implemented, be patient and look to the results to see if it was a viable solution after all.
The Goal is Profits (not first page rankings)
In search engine marketing, there are often many goals: improve rankings, get more sales, increase conversions, drive more traffic, etc.
Profits can be achieved by improving rankings, getting more sales, increasing conversions, driving more traffic, etc. But, none of these is the goal itself. It is a means to the goal. Each of those paths can, and often do, intersect, and any of them can also lead you further away from your goal as well, if you’re not careful
When I talk about getting more conversions for less money, I don’t necessarily mean being able to spend less money, though that would be nice. But, getting more conversions for less usually requires spending more money, but paying less for each conversion.
Testing every change on your site allows you to keep making improvements in SEO, usability, conversions, etc. so that you can achieve your goal of getting each conversion at a lower cost than the month before. The way I see it, if marketing works the way it should, your marketing budget should always be increasing rather than decreasing, assuming, of course, that you can handle the increased business that the improvements continue to bring in.
Making sure you are using a measured approach to all your marketing efforts allows you slow, steady, and consistent growth in profits. When it’s all said and done, it comes back to doing all that you can to improve your business, and measuring the results to make sure that what you’re doing is working. Measuring only the end result without measuring the success or failures of the processes along the way will only result in a nice tasting goulash of a marketing campaign. Why settle for that when you can have the prime rib instead?