You need SEO.
How often as a business owner have you heard that?
I need SEO.
How often do you think that?
I have SEO.
But is it actually working? Am I getting the right ROI? Will it damage my business to stop paying for it? Am I getting value overall?
It’s reasonable to ask these questions but is it reasonable to have this level of uncertainty around such an important service you are paying for?
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. This is a set of practises that improves your visibility and ranking on the results pages of search engines like Google & Bing.
We’re not going into any more depth than that here. I’m making the assumption you have a fairly clear idea of what SEO is, if not how to do it. If you’re keen to learn a little bit and want to carry out some SEO of your own here are 5 SEO tips that take no time and need no expertise.
Why do I need SEO?
Making sure your business is ranking well on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) and is visible to more potential consumers has obvious value. Beyond that it serves as consistent presence and marketing to ‘lurkers’. Lurkers are those members of your audience that consume a lot of your content or are regularly served your pages when they use a search engine but do not engage at all. Social media is the natural home of the lurker. You will likely be someone’s lurker. They may well be yours, too. It’s ok.
Lurkers want your products or services, they just require some convincing. Providing visible, valuable, & clear content is the only way to secure their future business. Without this that revenue won’t appear. The only variable you cannot control is the time it takes for this segment of your audience to become customers or clients.
How do I make the most of my SEO?
The very first thing you should do to make sure you’re making the most of your SEO is to understand what you want. This may sound odd. There’s very little point in having goals if you aren’t clear on the rationale behind them. For instance, wanting more traffic to your website is too broad. Where do you want this traffic? What is the desired outcome from this increased traffic? How do you foresee this increased traffic benefitting your business? t’s important to have clarity for yourself. If you don’t know exactly what you want you won’t be able to provide an effective brief to a third party.
The second thing is to understand why you want this additional traffic. Is it in line with your general business growth plan? Are you promoting a particular service or product? More often than not the knee-jerk response to this question is ‘to make more money’. Whilst this is perfectly reasonable it isn’t helpful at this stage. If you sell footwear, for example, and want more traffic to your selection of running shoes an SEO partner should ask why. Are you looking to niche or specialise in that product? Are you taking advantage of a consumer trend you’ve identified? Maybe there been significant changes in that industry like a high-profile brand partnership – think Micheal Jordan and Nike. Or have you simply ordered too many and need to offload them – that’s fine, too!
Having a clear idea of what you want and why you want it will give clearer focus to the first discussion you have about SEO. This brings me on to the third process for making the most of your SEO, the brief. You need to be as clear as possible about your goals from the outset. Lay out what you want and why you want it.
The final point in this process is then to assess the information that comes back to you. It’s really important that you allow your SEO-er to give a thoughtful, uninterrupted response to your goals and allow them to ask follow up questions. If they have no questions this is not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe your brief was just that good!
Don’t assume any one element of SEO is ‘critical’ to achieving your goals. If you begin dictating terms on keywords, for example, you could be inhibiting the process that would bring you greatest success. If you’ve done your due diligence on your SEO partner trust them to put together a strategy for you. It is, however, crucial that you discuss openly how realistic your goals are in relation to the timeframe you want. SEO is not a quick fix, most campaigns will take around 6 months to show real results. As long as all parties are aware of this and it has been discussed from the start everyone knows where they stand. Not only this but you can more accurately measure success.
The SEO lie.
So far so reasonable, right?
Here’s the rub. How’s your starting position?
If your website isn’t built to handle this increased traffic you’re about to receive it will cause you more problems rather than solve them. In this instance ‘built’ can mean anything from the structure of the website itself all the way through to copy or image optimisation.
Just using SEO is not the magic bullet it is often said to be. It’s very easy to show big improvements in traffic, in reach, in engagement, followers, likes, the list goes on. But what does that actually get you? What is the pay-off? What do you want the traffic to do? Where do you want it to go? Why do you want it there? What is the end goal? If you’re just after some more likes then congratulations! Although I suspect that you’re paying for more than that? At this stage it really doesn’t matter how much more money you throw at SEO, the results will be broadly the same.
Sure, there are several SEO practises that can smooth that out a bit but that won’t be a complete fix and it doesn’t halt the decline in brand authority. Don’t panic – I’m not suggesting a re-design. What you need is another acronym.
What is CRO?
CRO stands for Conversion Rate Optimisation. This is the set of practises that improve the percentage of your website traffic that converts. It’s important to note that ‘converts’ in this context means ‘completes a desired action’. This could be anything from signing up to a mailing list to purchasing expensive products or services.
If your website is not adequately set up to handle additional traffic and to effectively direct it you run the risk of damaging your business. It should be part of any SEO process carried out by a third party to look at the current provisions for handling added traffic and making recommendations to maximise the potential of the increased volume. Because SEO just leads the horse to water, it doesn’t make it drink.
It’s important to view SEO and CRO as two sides of the same coin. Generally speaking these services should complement each other and co-exist within a strategy. We separate the two in order to explain them but it’s very rare that a client doesn’t have a mix of the two in the strategy we put together for them. Do we charge double? Absolutely not. Will other agencies charge for SEO and CRO separately? Some do.
The best analogy for CRO is the party.
Night falls and guests begin to arrive at your house. There is nobody to greet them at the door. There is no music playing, no food or drinks prepared, no decorations up, and you are sat in front of the TV ignoring everyone. Everyone leaves. None of your guests are likely to come to another party of yours and, perhaps worst of all, they’ll tell all their friends how bad it was.
In theory everything needed for a successful party is present. Music could be sorted in moments. Drinks and food could be taken out of cupboards and fridges for easy consumption. Decorations could have been put up and you could have been a welcoming, effusive, & accommodating host. It’s all there but it’s not presented well, or at all.
To transpose this social faux pas to a website – having all the products or services your audience wants isn’t enough. Having lots of attention and a big audience isn’t enough. You must make it as easy as possible for your audience to become customers or clients. The customer journey and your CRO should be optimised to seamlessly segment your audience and cater for their needs. Knowing how your website does this can also re-inform your SEO strategy. For example, it may alter your keyword focus or your Facebook Ads campaign goals.
When considered from a strategic standpoint it quickly becomes clear that CRO is the more valuable service. Anyone who’s taken part in any sales training in the last 30 years will be familiar with the 80/20 rule whereby 80% of your turnover will come from 20% of your customer base. If you’re able to increase this (or even just maximise profits from your existing client base first) without extra expenditure on SEO – it becomes a bit of a no-brainer.
As mentioned previously CRO and SEO are two sides of the same coin. They should be viewed as equally important and of equal value. So why isn’t CRO talked about? Why is the acronym itself rarely used or still causing confusion in meetings with clients?
CRO is (usually) quicker to show results than SEO. Particularly if you have fairly high traffic to your website already. The results are (generally) easier to measure and strategy alterations are easier to implement. It’s also easier to ask a client to action something if they can see (and value) the impact it will have on their business. This extra layer of accountability can be uncomfortable for the service provider, particularly with challenging projects. CRO also takes a huge amount of research to be done effectively.
How to choose a SEO or CRO partner. Money vs Business
The biggest compliment a client has ever paid me (in my eyes) is that they felt I got excited about the same things they did. They had never experienced this kind of connection with a digital partner before and, for them, it made all the difference. The truth is I do get as excited about their products as they do – I’ve even been on site and sold those products to their customers to prove it! The secret to finding the right digital partner for SEO, CRO, or anything else is to find someone who is interested in your business, not in your money. Will they spend the time to really learn about your industry and understand it? Can they prove it? They must be invested in your success.