What can SEO do for your website? If you’re thinking “increase traffic” right now, you’re part of the 99%. The more accurate answer is to increase leads/conversions/sales.
A snippet of SEO history
In the past the search engines were very trusting and naive. They took a site at face value, and ranked them based on simplified metrics, such as how many backlinks the site had OR where it mentioned popular phrases over and over again. Initially the search results were good and everyone was playing along nicely. Then cracks started to show. Some website owners started to find the easy win loopholes that existed. They created spammy content filled with key phrases that read poorly. They created simplified directory websites (I’m sure you’ve all seen one in your time, usually it’s followed by clicking the back button) pumping out hundreds, thousands even hundreds of thousands of backlinks. After a few years, this became the norm. In order to rank, you had to compete in this area.
These were pretty dark days for the web and Google was watching it happen. Websites were becoming bloated with duplicate content with poor readability, making it increasingly difficult for Google to crawled all pages. To add to the bloat the web was getting exponentially larger also. There was a demand for low friction, easy to subscribe directories / blogs / link farms. For any one site there was a thousand or more of these low grade sites propping them up with back links. Very quickly the web was littered with these sites, and Google was left to crawl them as part of their comprehensive sweep of the web.
Although these tactics work in small doses today, they form part of the ‘short term gain, long term pain’ solutions that some agencies are still pedaling to a market of consumers that are seeking quick increases in traffic.
But Dan, if these tactics still work, why wouldn’t I adopt them?
The most obvious reason is that Google is getting increasingly good at detecting this style of activity on the web even in watered down applications. You simply run the risk of Google penalising you for doing the wrong thing. Penalties are usually difficult to come back from. As a business owner, I couldn’t imagine signing up for this.
The second less obvious (but just as important) reason is short term tactics reduces user experience. By chasing after the top trafficked keyword only (or top 5/10/20 etc) simply skews the site in one OR more directions. By the time they are ranking for that term, the user experience has been compromised to greatly that conversions suffer.
The unsung hero of any successful web business is the ‘long tail keyword’. Although it would make up anywhere between 30-70% of traffic on the average site, it would equate to a much larger proportion of the conversions of a site.
Why the long tail? Because it’s at the business end of search.
Think about the last search you did for a product OR service. Let’s run with the last time you did research for car OR house. Did you buy on the first search you did? How about the 5th? Although buying a car OR house are an extreme example, the simple fact is that very few web searches we do as consumers end in a sale on the first request.
The principle behind not chasing the most popular terms is that a website will be built for the users, not for search engines. A user centric site will be feature and content rich and will naturally rank for the longer tail key phrases mentioned above. By ranking for these terms, you will also build a strong foundation that will naturally rank for the broader / more trafficked terms also. As the site is user centered it will see more conversions from less traffic. Less traffic, also means less of the people who are not ready to convert, therefore less sales support.
So what are you waiting for? Go dominate the highest converting phrases on the web!
Author: Dan Laidler