Ever see one of those movies where some secret government agency has a super high-tech office in an old, dilapidated building in some rundown part of town? The camera starts on the outside, looking over a ghetto as it moves down the street. It zeros in on a rundown building that a squatter would be embarrassed to live in. Then, as the camera moves inside we are shown a state-of-the art facility worthy of a Manhattan high-rise office in the 22nd century.
Sometimes SEO is just like that, but the opposite. A lot of time and energy is spent on the "exterior" (search engine rankings) while ignoring the interior (building a great website.)
Imagine yourself driving through a newly renovated area of town. The asphalt is freshly laid with bright yellow lines down the middle. Young, budding plants have been planted along the sidewalks between the street and newly stuccoed office buildings that look to be full of leather bound books smelling of rich mahogany. Now imagine walking into one of those buildings to find torn up carpet, water-stained ceilings, crumbling sheet rock on the walls, and someone doing their business off in the corner.
Imagine the change of emotions you'd feel. Stepping up to the door you feel confident that you're walking into a place that's going to meet your needs. But as soon as you open the door, you're hit with a stench that is the forebear of whats to come.
Focusing on search engine rankings while ignoring the quality and usability of your website may be a great way to get visitors in the door, but what will they find once they get there?
Putting your money where it counts.
When you're on a budget, as many businesses are today, you really want to spend your money where you're likely to get the greatest benefit. Unfortunately, money isn't always spent on what is actually the most beneficial, but rather what is perceived to be. While SEO can help you gain exposure and drive traffic to the front door of your website, if what's behind those doors isn't up to expectations, all the money getting them there is simply a waste.
A couple years ago I had my wisdom teeth removed, had a root canal and then a cap put on one of my teeth all in a couple of months time. I had to see several different dentists, each a specialist in a different area, so I got to see quite a few dentists offices, noticing a stark contrast between them.
Most of the offices were roomy and full of nice furniture, but one stood out as a genuinely scary experience, especially for someone who suffers from mild claustrophobia. The receptionist's desk was two and a half feet wide and piled high with about a years worth of "stuff that can wait."
I was placed in one of the procedure "rooms" looking right at someone else being examined by one of the nurses. As I laid back in the chair to get some X-rays, the nurse had to duck repeatedly around overhanging equipment while stepping over a small office trash can to get out to the hallway. It was like trying to perform an operation in a closet.
This is what many business websites are like when they focus on SEO and ignore their website design. There is nothing wrong with investing in SEO to drive traffic, but SEO is not the end of the story.
A while back we had a long-time client undergo a major site redesign. They had held their rankings pretty solidly over the years but the site was design was getting stale. We had also been prodding over the previous months to address their site's many inefficiencies. Because their business had been growing significantly since we started working on their SEO campaign, they were never in a real hurry to make any changes. But finally they made the move.
The client invested in a major redevelopment of the site and rolled it out to the public. Almost immediately something amazing happened. Their conversion rates jumped by 30%!
This jump wasn't the result of new keywords optimized, or previously optimized keywords suddenly moving up in the rankings. The increase in conversions was directly tied to making their site more appealing and user-friendly.
The new site design cost them about what a years worth of SEO cost them. With a much more user and search engine friendly site, the efforts we were able to shift the efforts of the SEO campaign from creating band-aid solutions to being able to invest in a far more focused keyword targeting campaign.
With the additional revenue the client began talking about expanding the online marketing efforts; and why not? With a newly polished, high-tech interior, why not do all that you can to drive even more traffic to the higher-converting site?
No one can deny the value of getting first page placement for relevant keyword phrases. But many small businesses still need to be convinced that there is more to marketing than rankings and traffic. Bringing traffic into the slums isn't all that difficult to do. Getting someone to buy from you while they're there is. Lucky for you, it's not too great of a distance to go from trash to cash. Conversions do matter. And in the end, conversions are what matter most.
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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