I realize that to some, this is a dumb question. I mean, if you have a Web site, why would you NOT optimize it for search? Organic search is the cheapest way to bring people to your site and paid search is the easiest, so it's a no-brainer for you to recommend that every blessed Web site on the Internet dive right into search marketing, right? Wrong.
So, as you stare into the distance, wondering how to figure out if you are ready for search, what you really want to know is if your site is ready for customers.
Suppose you are opening a small shop on a busy street in town. What's the first thing that you'd do? You'd order the best merchandise you could find. You'd make sure it was attractively laid out. You'd be positive that you had helpful employees to answer questions and to run the cash registers. In fact, you'd do absolutely every one of those things before taking out a big ad in the local paper, right? You'd never take the ad out if your store wasn't ready.
Image by LaPetiteTwinkie via Flickr
But too often, that is what I see on the Web. Folks approach me every day asking for help with search marketing when the simple truth is that their Web sites aren't ready for customers. The sites might be hard to use. Or have little information. Or have no way for customers to actually buy anything--no online buying and no easy way to move offline.
But still, they want search marketing. They are convinced that the problem isn't that their Web site stinks on ice, but rather that not enough people are visiting. Trust me folks, if your Web site is awful, you want as few people to see it as possible. Not only won't they buy from you, but they won't come back. They might even tell other people how bad it is. That's not the kind of word of mouth you are looking for.
No, don't let this advice paralyze you. Some of us are our toughest critics. We see all the blemishes on our sites without noticing what's positive. Your site doesn't need to be perfect, but it does need to be good. If your Web site is no good, then sending more people to it won't be the answer.
So, take a hard look at your Web site. If you can honestly say to yourself that folks arriving at your site can find what they need and figure out how to buy what you are selling (online or offline), and you have the sales to prove it, then you are ready. For you, search marketing really is a no-brainer.
But if your Web site causes customers to faint dead away, or call you on the phone to complain how they can never find anything, you have a bigger problem than search marketing that you need to solve first. Once you do solve it, then search marketing will bring you far more impact than you'd ever dreamed.
Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.
Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.
Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.
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