October 20, 2008
Every business owner is on a look out for cost effective way to market their business. Especially with the recent recession where survival depends on tightening the belt and getting lean, online marketing is an option nobody can afford to ignore. The benefit from search engine marketing (SEM) has taken the marketing world by storm as the results are more accountable and also more cost effective compared to traditional marketing strategies.
But the conflict begins when as a business owner there is confusion regarding what you expected out of a search engine optimization campaign and what is actually being delivered by the SEO pro. When expectations get unreasonable, it is difficult to manage the SEO campaign and it’s doomed to fail.
On the other side of the fence, SEO pro might be desperate to close more number of deals and thus misses to explain their clients the “results” that should be expected out of the campaign. This could lead disillusionment and a false notion that SEO is not working for their business. Do remember that “SEO is effective and beneficial for any business searching to promote their presence online” but there is no way to guarantee sales lead. SEO targets to drive highly targeted web traffic that are on a look out for your services or products, but again a lot of things need to be taken care of, before a visitor gets converted into a final lead, namely, the site itself which should not be a turn-off for visitors, display of proper information, easy navigation to contact information or inquiry form, service/product pricing, your company credibility in market, industry competition, etc.
What can you expect from your SEO pro?
Well to answer this in simple terms, you need to closely look into your SEO contract. Study, analyze and understand what the dotted lines tell you. Does the contract merely list down the services that will be provided by the SEO pro during fixed time frame or does it also includes what results will be delivered by the SEO campaign.
SEO provides the following 4 deliverables which can be numerically measured:
- Search Engine Rankings
- Web Traffic
- Return on Investment (ROI)
You can expect any one or combination of any of the above results, depending on your ultimate business requirements and what you are trying to promote online.
Let’s take each of the above deliverables in more detail to clear doubts:
Search Engine Rankings:
This tops the list of results expected by clients undertaking SEO campaign. Please understand that rankings on search engine crawlers like Google, Yahoo, Ask, AOL etc can never be guaranteed or controlled. This is dependent on the particular search engines own search algorithm and calculations for crawling. But generally clients still demand top rankings. But do they know what particular rankings in particular?
What’s the use if you do get top rankings in certain keywords, but they do not generate traffic? At the same time you should not expect instant top rankings for highly competitive phrases and keywords. The truth is even moderate competitive keywords can be a real challenge, if your site is brand new. Always remember rankings take time and constant efforts to build up. The only way to measure results is to constantly check the progress. A gradual positive pattern on chosen keywords shows that the SEO campaign is working.
As a client you can NEVER expect a specific keyword to always rank well. Rankings fluctuate unexpectedly and even dip to extreme extent. An experienced SEO pro will keep a constant eye over those movements and try to find the cause and immediately undertake damage control to rectify the situation. It is important to place your trust and give the SEO pro time to do their job.
Web Traffic is the number of visitors that are driven either to your website, an e-commerce portal, blog or a reference site.
Once the SEO campaign kicks off, one of the desirable results clients expects is an increase in traffic which is reasonable, but should not be heavily relied upon since it is possible to manipulate traffic to a site with unethical short cuts. The question is not whether the traffic is increasing but whether SEO manages to bring the right kind of traffic to your site. Planned SEO can only begin only after you define who the target audience is to your SEO vendor, so that the SEO pro does not wastes time shooting in the dark aiming anyone and everyone.
The role of traffic should be downplayed, if you belong to a niche industry where the keyword search volume is naturally low. You should expect some improvement but make sure your expectation of traffic coincides with search volume of your main keywords.
Also if you already enjoy significantly heavy traffic, then the focus should shift from traffic to conversion rates and that means driving the right traffic that are ready to buy what you are selling.
People have a tendency to get mesmerized with number crunching and web analytic statistics regarding what exactly is conversion rate. A generally accepted formula to calculate your conversion rate is as follows:
Conversion Rate = [(Total Web Sales / Unique Web Traffic) / Average Sales Price] x 100
It simply means you need to understand the trick is not where you appear on a search engine or even how many unique visitors you attract to your site, but rather how many of these visitors you convert into customers. Visitors turning into customers are conversion rate. But an SEO pro can only do so much; the actual closing of deal depends entirely on you.
An SEO pro can help by making recommendations, suggesting specific improvements to the site’s architectural structure, etc, but when it comes right down to it, they are not the ones running the business. They can help put everything into alignment, but the client is still responsible for their side of things. This is the reason why no legitimate SEO company can guarantee conversion rate and will not include conversion rate in their SEO contract, since the control to convert traffic to customer depends on you.
Last but not the least, every SEO campaign begins with the objective to improve your bottom line. It not just about getting the top 5 or 10 ranks or if you can get ‘X’ amount of visitors to your site. What ultimately matters is whether the amount you invest in SEO campaign is giving you more than you spend. It needs to be profitable. Just like when you make financial investments with hope of earning better returns, the same is the case with SEO. The key here is to remember that instant return on investment is not possible. As a client you need to wait for the fruits to ripe. If you get too impatient and pull out; you might drain all the benefits that might have been in the pipeline. This is the reason that SEO is not a one day job or one week or even one month activity. At the very minimum it is advisable to wait for at least 90 days before expecting improvements. Sometimes it can take 6 months or even a year depending on keywords, competition and industry etc.
The above 4 are the main deliverables expected from search engine optimization program. Focus on which deliverables are important for your marketing goals based on your budget and time availability. Ensure to always keep your feet firmly rooted to ground and your expectations realistic. Hire a SEO pro and actively participate in drafting a formal SEO contract which clearly outlines and defines expectations and services to avoid misunderstandings later on. Build a positive rapport with your SEO pro and ensure you do not ignore the recommendations provided by vendor to improve your site. Remember it’s your site and SEO pro is dependent on your complete support to succeed with the SEO campaign.
This does not mean SEO pro can shirk their responsibilities. If the work that goes into the campaign isn’t performing as per your expectations then move on and find another SEO pro who can produce reasonable results you expect (contract permitting and right amount of time frame being given to produce results).
Mark S. is a qualified SEO pro working with Analtyix Solutions (www.analytixsolutions.com) which is a fast growing back-office service company for Finance and Accounting, IT, Marketing and Operational services. Analytix has been doing SEO for various industry websites from business brokerage, outsourcing, IT, dentists to e-commerce industry. To receive a free SEO analysis of your site contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org