SEO, as you know, stands for Search Engine Optimization, and you might rightly expect that SEO is about optimizing pages to appeal to search engines. And you'd be right. Increasingly, however, I am finding that clients believe so fervently in SEO that they aren't actually optimizing their pages for sales. If you are falling into the trap, you'll likely regret looking so narrowly at SEO.

This was all brought to mind by interactions with two different people the last few days who each are concerned about the same thing--search traffic dropping to their sites. When I dug into the situation further, I found that neither had any idea what kind of sales they were generating from their sites. One, in fact, knew that the page that had recently dropped in search rankings had an extremely high bounce rate, so they couldn't have been selling very much.

Now, for both of these people, the lack of sales was not a crisis, but the drop in search traffic and the drop in search rankings was a crisis. It was hard not to chuckle at how times have changed.

I guess you've been in the search business a long time when you can remember when you had to prove every nickel that would come in because we did this new SEO thing. No one believed it would work and no one wanted to do it.

And look at us now. Now there are people walking around that have such a rabid belief in SEO that they think it is an end in itself--that high rankings or even high traffic is some kind of magical elixir. It's not.

Getting people to the front door of your Web site isn't the end of the game. Unless you are optimizing your pages to actually sell things, online or offline, you're not ready for SEO. In fact, if your Web site stinks, you should probably try to have as few people find it as possible. If you don't know why you want people coming to your site, then figure that out first. Once you know your site can sell stuff, then it makes sense to use SEO and any other means at your disposal to drive as many people there as possible.

Originally posted on Biznology Blog
April 21, 2013

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.


"if your Web site stinks, you should probably try to have as few people find it as possible."

Ha! I always tells prospects that good SEO can't save a bad website. There has to be a balance between SEO, the user experience, and your business objectives---and sooner or later something has to give in order to make the others stand out. But you are exactly right--what's the point of driving traffic to your site if you aren't ready to actually do something with those visitors?

SEO seems simple, but I agree, it's not for beginners. The real trick is to make a site that is appealing to people. After all, I've never heard of a search engine buying a product or opting in for a free ebook!

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Search Engine Guide > Mike Moran > What are you optimizing your pages for?