Anybody who has been online for any length of time, and has had any success with achieving good search engine placement, knows one thing: Rankings are not cast in iron. In fact they are very fluid. Sometimes you can hold onto a top spot for years, other times you're constantly battling to stay on the first page. That's just the nature of search engine algorithms.
While rankings can be important for generating exposure through the search engines, there is another factor that is even more important than whether you hold the number 2 or 8 spot for your keywords.
Rankings, without traffic are pointless. In fact, while rankings can be a significant factor in growing your traffic numbers, traffic itself is not reliant on rankings. You can be in the number one spot and still get less traffic than your competitor in the number three spot. And even beyond that, you can often get better traffic (higher conversion percentages) not being in that top spot.
The question then becomes, how do you maximize your rankings--regardless of position--and turn that into the kind of traffic that produces strong conversions? Let's explore a few ways that you can generate more traffic to your site, despite any particular placement in the SERPs.
Choose Relevant Keywords
Keyword research and selection is important in determining now only what kind of traffic you will get but how much traffic potential you have overall.
Every so often we perform a top to bottom review of a client's SEO campaign, looking at work performed weeks, months, and years ago. Looking at the analytics, keywords, and on-page optimization is sometimes pretty revealing. One of the things we find quite often in our reviews is that the keywords that were chosen in months past are no longer providing the benefit that they once were. In fact, looking at keyword search trends we find that many keywords simply fall out of favor, being searched far less frequently over time, while other phrases are growing in search volume.
Reviewing optimized keywords regularly is a good way to spot new trends and analyze performance of older keywords. You can often easily adjust your optimization strategies quickly to adapt to the new, better performing keywords. Just be careful that you're not sacrificing quality for quantity. That's a mistake that you won't want to make.
Create Compelling Titles and Descriptions
A good title and description can often provide a far greater traffic benefit than a higher position on the page. While there are always those that click blindly on the first link on the page, most will take a few seconds to scan the results to make sure they click only on those sites that appear to be most likely to provide what they were searching for.
Using keywords in your title and description is essential, but titles and descriptions need to be more than a laundry list of keywords. This is your mini-billboard. Take the time to craft your titles and descriptions in a way that compels the searcher to click on your listing rather than the others on the page. Go for the click, not the ranking.
Analyze Competing Websites
One of the things you can do during the keyword research phase as you are deciding which keywords you want to optimize first, is to analyze the competing websites for any given phrase. You can often find phrases that are valuable in terms of traffic and relevance but have far fewer serious competitors in the search results.
You don't just want to look at the number of results the search engines return, as that's only one indicator of competition. What you want to do is evaluate each website to determine if they pose a serious threat in terms of efforts put into optimizing for that particular keyword. If the competition is fierce, keep digging for other keywords where the competition is more lax and rankings are more easily achieved.
Focus on Branding
If you've done a good job branding your name online you will often get additional clicks in the search results regardless of position. One way to build your brand is by placing your business name in the title of each of your pages. If you go this route most SEOs will recommend placing the title at the end rather than the beginning of the title tag. However, I think that there is a time and a place for placing your business name at the front. If branding is important, then the front is where you'll get the most impact.
The benefit here is as searchers perform multiple searches they continue to see your name in page after page of results. The more you appear in these results, if the searcher sees your name time and time again, you begin branding your business name in their minds for all these searches. Each search increases the likelihood that you'll get clicked, even among strong competition.
Another option to increase branding is to run PPC campaigns for keywords where you are already ranking well in the natural results. This puts your business in front of the searchers twice instead of just once, and increases the likelihood of getting the visitor to click into your site.
Focus on Search Engines That Matter
This may seem like a no-brainer, but I still see people falling for the old SEO trick of guaranteed rankings on engines like AltaVista, Excite, WebCrawler, etc.
If you haven't heard of those engines, or they are only vaguely familiar to you, there is a reason for that. They don't matter. Even the third largest search engine, MSN, drives so little traffic compared to Google, you can imagine how much value there is in achieving rankings in engines that has a fraction of MSN's audience!
All the search engine rankings in the world don't amount to much of anything if they don't produce traffic. Too often the focus is on rankings and almost just as often that is done at the expense of traffic. Yes, you'll get traffic with rankings, but by implementing the ideas above you can generate far greater amounts of traffic out of the same amount of effort.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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