Online Marketing: SEO is not *Free* Traffic

Online Marketing

A popular online marketing tactic is SEO (search engine optimisation) because it’s a way of gaining free search engine traffic.  There seems to be a large fan base of SEO companies spruiking the benefits of it because you can get ‘free’ traffic if your site ranks on the first page of the search results in Google.  While it is true that it doesn’t cost anything for Google to display your listing, there is nothing free about the time and money spent making your site findable via particular keywords entered into a Google search.

SEO is a combination of on-page optimisation – this includes things like making sure your title and meta tags are labelled appropriately, that you have a sitemap and make it easy for search engine spiders to crawl your site and fresh new content available giving the spiders a reason to continually visit your site – and off-page optimisation.  It’s the off-page optimisation – building the number of web links pointing to your site – that involves considerable effort and expense.

If you consider links to your site as being the online equivalent of votes then the more votes you have the higher rating that the search engines give to your site.  But it’s not just about getting as many links as you can, you need to get links or votes from other sites that are also well regarded in the search engines.

And things can change.  Let’s say that you have a business that provides ipad covers and decide that you want to build as many links to your site for the keyword ‘ipad cover’ as you can.  Perhaps you hire a firm to conduct the SEO for you.  Or you appoint a staff member to spend time writing articles about what to look for in an ipad cover, place comments on blogs and forums where people are discussing ipads and include a link to your site, and run a social media campaign highlighting the different ipad covers you offer.  This takes a couple of months but you finally start to see your rankings in the search results rise and eventually you hit the first page of listings and the traffic begins to flow.

It’s taken a lot of time and considerable effort but it’s happened, you are now in the number two spot in Google for the phrase ‘ipad cover’.  But then Google announces a revamp to their algorithm and your listing slumps to the bottom of the first page.

Or you find that the traffic is flowing but sales are not.  You know the site works well because you are making sales and don’t understand why the increase in traffic isn’t having the same percentage increase in sales.

However, you look a bit deeper into your data and discover that you are getting more sales from users reach your site after entering the keyword phrase ‘best ipad cover’ and that is the keyword that you should be optimising your ipad cover page around, not the more generic ‘ipad cover’.

So the work that has been spent on SEO starts all over again.

There is no disputing that SEO is a desirable online activity, however, it’s important to understand that it isn’t a free strategy and it’s best done as a secondary activity once you understand what your ‘money keywords’ are (your ‘money keywords’ are those keywords that visitors enter that convert into sales).  Once you know what they are then it’s time to optimise your site around them and understand that it’s an ongoing process to keep that top listing.