What do you expect from your website? That is the first question you should ask if you plan to build a company website, re-design your current one, or implement an Internet marketing strategy. Through my seemingly countless consultations with business owners and corporate marketing executives, I have concluded that far too many are mislead when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). I provide Internet strategy consulting on a daily basis and have noticed a number of commonalities across the various discussions. They are presented below.:
As a business owner looking to get more leads and generate more sales through your website, you may have a difficult time with optimization if you
(1) Believe that SEO will bring instant results.
Search engine optimization takes time. Making a significant jump in search engine rankings frequently takes anywhere from three to six months. If you are launching a website for the first time, it could take a year, especially in highly competitive markets. Unfortunately, many business owners expect results to come in much quicker than that and often blame the optimization company for failing to achieve the goals they expected in a short period of time.
(2) Hire a company that guarantees top 10 results.
I teach business owners this hard to swallow reality of SEO every single day. No one can guarantee top 10 results. Honest SEO consultants will tell you this up front. Even the search engine companies say that it is impossible for anyone to guarantee top 10 placements. Yet still many insist on a guarantee which is not feasibly possible. You should be weary of companies who offer these types of guarantees. If you need to be on top within the next five minutes, use pay per click (PPC) services.
(3) Use SEO as the only means of generating leads.
Search engine optimization is a very powerful sales and lead-generating tool. Investing in SEO should be one of multiple channels for many businesses. Many brick and mortar businesses that rely only on an optimized website may be setting themselves up for problems when their rankings drop or their competitors get ahead. An experienced Internet strategist will be able to offer several means of potential target market traffic and Internet marketing advice.
(4) Expect top results based on your web design quote with a vague “SEO included” as a minor point in a proposal.
There are web design companies who offer a “bit of SEO” and there are SEO companies that offer web design. I would typically place more trust in the latter if my goal was to generate leads. Every single day business owners just like you hire web design companies that “add some SEO” to the proposal as an add-on rather than an important feature of the project. If your web design company failed to consult with you regarding the optimization process and sent you a proposal that doesn’t have a significant section about SEO, don’t have high expectations for your website’s lead generating ability. That’s obviously not to say that it won’t generate qualified leads. It might but you probably aren’t getting the best out of your site.
(5) Hire a company that doesn’t keep up with changes.
During preliminary discussions, many companies continue to ask me to include “submit website to search engines” in the proposal. They are always shocked to learn that the technique went out in the 1990s. These days, SEO involves the basics of on-site work and link building but there are also press releases, social media networking, viral content for link baiting, and so on. Ask your current SEO company to explain those to you!
(6) Rely on SEO software.
SEO software cannot replace a professional SEO specialist. In rare cases software may be helpful but it won’t get most companies very far. There are simply too many factors to consider and each website should be handled with respect to its own history and goals. Each website must be optimized and marketed using a customized process. What works for one website may not work for another.
(7) Have unrealistic expectations.
As stated earlier, there is a common misconception among many business owners that all you have to do is “add some SEO” and you’re all set. It simply doesn’t work that way. Moreover, just because your website is at the top it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will instantly generate countless sales. It is true that being at the top gives you the potential to get significantly more leads than you otherwise would (e.g., as compared to being on the 9th page), but you have to be realistic. Having an optimized website may not bring your business instant riches, but it can help substantially toward increasingly the bottom line when implemented properly. Think of the logical opposite of not being found which is that you won’t make any sales, produce any leads, or be able to service existing customers.
Additionally, don’t insist that one word (e.g., “cars”) should be your top keyword term. Not only will your website not rank in the top 10 for that term, it completely misses the point of optimization. In many cases, you want to target your local niche market who can purchase your products and services and are able and willing to do so. If you are selling cars locally, don’t target people outside of your selling area.
(8) Confuse SEO with PPC (pay per click).
SEO and PPC are two separate means to an end. They are both methods used to generate target market traffic to a website. It is generally believed that SEO can yield a better return on your investment although it is more difficult to measure. On the other hand, PPC is highly measurable but in some highly competitive markets has become so expensive that many businesses have been out-priced and simply cannot afford it any longer (or to even start up).
(9) Believe that SEO is easy.
Anyone can learn the basics of SEO which is probably why so many business owners and some webmasters continue to believe that SEO is easy. The truth is it’s not. There are so many factors to consider that hiring a company with experience is your best bet in achieving great results.
In a rough analogy, think of optimizing your website in terms of bringing your car in to be fixed. You understand that the engine is broken and a few more pertinent details such as having a broken pipe or valve but be honest, do most people understand (or even care to understand) the details of it? You brought the car to a specialist and expect them to know what to do. Few would consider fixing your car as simple enough for anyone to do. The same is true for optimization. You search for a company that you believe to be reputable and let them take care of the details, of which there are many. While it is true that there is no standardized certification program for SEO as there may be with auto mechanics, it is up to you to find the company you believe to be reputable.
(10) Ignore the bigger picture.
SEO and Internet marketing approaches are not just about getting people to your site. If visitors don’t feel that your business is credible, they will quickly move on to your competitors’ sites. When web surfers land on your site, you have seconds to show them what they want or they will be lost. Unfortunately, business owners (and some SEO companies) restrict their thinking to a high ranking for their main keyword term. They don’t care about anything else but getting to the top for “Miami Used Cars,” for example. Ugly and amateur websites will not convert website visitors as well as they could otherwise perform. It is understood that beauty is in the eye of the beholder but let’s get real here. A website that looks like your high school sophomore nephew put it together last Sunday probably lacks the content, usability, calls to action and other factors considered to be of importance for making the sale. In a world where users are looking for easy access to specific content, that poorly developed, time-consuming flash intro just won’t cut it. Stick with the professionals – they can save you a lot of headaches.
*Note: I originally wrote this post as an article that was published in July 2007 for an Internet marketing magazine which has since ceased operations. It’s remarkable how after a year and a half it’s still relevant.