I guess we all like to think we’ve got a handle on search engine optimisation and what it means.
It’s underpinned by what is essentially a pretty simple concept: if you want to get your business noticed, optimise your website so that if becomes more visible and apparent to the major search engines. Once you’ve managed to achieve this, it follows your rankings will improve, traffic will increase and consequently your business will become more successful. Is that really true though? Is ranking on search engines that important, and more to the point, will it automatically result in increased sales?
The short answer to that is no. Search engine ranking is important, that’s undeniable, but it isn’t, and never should be, a goal in itself. Every business would like to get more people to visit its website, but more visitors won’t necessarily translate into more sales. It’s not where you’re listed that really matters, so much as what information you are able to convey to visitors. For many SEO strategists that may sound like heresy: yet whether your website is listed on page 1 of Google or page 3 won’t really make that much difference. Obviously statistics have shown that if your website is not listed on the first 5 pages of the major search engines, then you’re not likely to get that much traffic as users tend to switch off after this time and look elsewhere. However you can have an organic website that is the first choice on Google’s first page, but it won’t guarantee that visitors won’t bounce away, and neither will it guarantee that their interest in your product or services will result in a conversion.
So how do businesses optimise their websites and increase their conversion rates if ranking isn’t the be all and end all?
That’s where it stops being quite so simple, and why if you, as a business owner, have the slightest doubt, it’s best to employ the services of a reputable SEO specialist. There are no quick fix solutions to optimisation. The most realistic and honest way to answer the question is by saying that genuine and sustainable interest in a website can only be achieved by taking a holistic approach to the whole process: in other words building the site and its reputation organically over a period of time. Of course, if money is no object, then you can pay for rankings and even bid for keywords, but realistically that’s not even an option for the likes of you and me. We mere mortals have to take it one step at a time.
The only way any website will turn increased traffic into increased sales is by giving your visitors what they want, when they want it and making it as easy as possible for them to find the answers to the questions they’re asking. Before any website can even begin to rank for keyword relevance, it has to be able to be found by the search engines and the content of the site has to be both relevant and readable. This demands both search engine friendly website architecture and quality content, especially after Google’s Panda update. Once a site starts to rank for chosen keywords, its popularity will increase. From there you can start to build backlinks which will add additional traffic and maybe a blog to keep your content fresh. The most important thing to remember is that rankings are a means to an end, as are keywords, links and blogs, and form a part of the overall strategy. Turning these optimisation tweaks into conversions is all that counts at the end of the day, and is only achieved by a combination of a sum of all these parts.