One of the passions that I have is Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing. I have a Masters Degree in Marketing and I have always had a passion for understanding why people do what they do and I seem to have a knack for getting great placement for my keywords in Google. The question that I wanted to know is just how much impact would it really have on a business to have a top ranking for a keyword that is very specific to their industry?
People are always telling me how much better their business would be if they only had a top 5 ranking in Google. They speak top positioning as if it were the Holy Grail to unlock the potential of their business! BUT IS IT ALL THAT IT IS CRACKED UP TO BE?
So I choose to put this to the test, I have two clients who are in very high margin businesses but their Internet sales; rankings and overall Internet strategies have been disappointing. They have owned the domains for a number of years and have relevant content on their pages.
They have not done any real optimization but did have meta-keywords on each page from when their web sites were written. They were basically blank slates with no bad habits and low search volumes. They had the basic of for e-commerce and some feedback forms to get more information. I am not going to tell you what the specific sites were but the industries are medical devices and convention supplies.
My first steps were to determine what their highest margin or most profitable products were and also what they would like to be selling online. What had the lowest rate of return and what items had pictures that really helped the customer to understand just what they would be getting. They each picked five total product and we I am not talking about popular keywords but sort of niche business-to-business phrases that have low search volume but are highly specific to the industry. So they should be perfect for a SEO project. High relevancy, low search volume niche products.
Over the next few weeks I shifted the non-ecommerce parts of their sites to Joomla, so that the clients could post updated information and I could use rewrites for content slurping and appropriate page titling.
I then shifted their ecommerce engines from asp to php with static page rewrites. I kept it simple, by placing the key products on the main page and created tracking pages for Google Analytics with some feedback forms for product information.
So with the new pages, new product descriptions and a focus on getting these products on the first page of the Goog, it was time to get started. The typical process is keyword analysis to determine what their customers may be looking for, I also called some existing customers to ask them what they refer to the product as and how they would search for it in a search engine. Its important to remember that its not what you call it, its what they search for. I also deconstructed the competitor’s sites and checked out what keywords they were optimizing and targeting. You don’t have to be faster than the lions of the Internet, you just have to be faster than your competitors.
I use a blend of back linking, good neighbor policies, articles, press releases, top to bottom optimization and good old fashion content. Content is king, the more relevant the text without trying to keyword stuff or perform any backhat seo.
So enough talk, tell me about the results. One client had spectacular results and the other client had above average response but not a lot of sales. Both clients were in the top 10 for google for three keywords and in the top 15 for all of them.
We measured success for that client not with just web sales but also with feedback forms and their offline sales. In the 3 months that I worked this project their average monthly traffic shifted from 350 page views to just over 1400 views per month. This may not sound like a lot, but its about conversion ratio, the more qualified people that made it to the site the greater the chance of success, remember this is very specific business-to-business selling.
The next site had stellar sales; they are a biomed company that put their specific products online. Their site went from about 800 unique visitors to 1700 per month with 80% of the traffic coming from direct keyword searches. I used the goal tracking mechanism of Google Analytics and almost 60% of the visitors to the site made it to the first goal conversion and the final number was about 6% to check out. Amazing results.
I am going to be using some A/B testing to zero in on the layout and product mix that works most effectively for conversions. My expectation is that with some real work we can take the conversion ratio to 10-15% of the unique visitors.
So does top positioning in search engines really mean that much? If you understand your target and the goals of your customers high search engine rating can bring qualified customers to your site. And qualified customers are the easiest to convert into buyers. My advice, carefully plan what you are going to do with your customers once they are at your site, what a conversion looks like, is it a form submission, is it an order? You have to measure the results and not just the traffic. But yes, top positioning means real money. If you have a top search engine ranking and are not making money, take a look at the checkout process – see where people are abandoning the cart, and ask yourself “what would it take to convert more viewers into buyers?” You don’t necessarily need more views, you need more people converting into sales.