I’d guess that even the least tech-savvy user of the internet will have hears of SEO in one form or other.
It is, after all, constantly in the news for both good and bad reasons: sadly, it’s the bad news stories that generally get the top billing, like black hat seo, but that’s just human nature. We all like a bit of misery to keep us going. SEO is underpinned by an essentially simple principle and that is to get a bigger share of business you have to make your website more search engine friendly. If you optimise your site successfully, the likes of Google will pick your business up on the radar, and hey presto your rankings will start to increase and so will your share of the market. But is that really the case? Does increased search engine ranking automatically equate to more sales?
The answer, in short, is a qualified yes. Why qualified? We’ll save that for later. The higher the ranking, the more likely the business is to increase its sales figures. Still not convinced? Then here’s some statistics for you to chew over. 2.6 billion Local searches are carried out each month and that figure is forecast to grow by another 50% this year alone. 80% of customers search online before they buy goods. Of those 80%, 98% will only choose to do business with a company that has a page one listing on the search engines. 41% automatically choose the website that listed number 1, 12% choose the second listing, 8.5% choose the third listing and so on. There are only 10 vacancies on a page 1 listing on the search engines, so it follows that if your business wants to get there, it has to pull out all the stops and use whatever resources and tricks it has at its disposal to achieve this.
So, is that all there is to it then? Get a first page listing and everything will be hunky dory?
Well, the short answer to that is no. Search engine ranking is undoubtedly important, but it’s not the be all and end all, and neither should it be a goal in itself. All businesses want more website traffic, but that won’t necessarily mean more sales. It’s not where you’re listed that really matters, so much as what information you are able to convey to visitors. Ok, that may sound like heresy, but whether your website is listed on page 1 of Google or page 3 won’t really make that much difference at the end of the day. 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? 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 most of us. We 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 and the looming 2.2 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.