Too many people mistakenly believe the goal of seo is solely to achieve high ranking for a few keyword phrases and this mistaken belief can cause their efforts to fail before they’ve even begin their search engine optimization campaign. So what is the true goal of seo and how can knowing it improve our optimization strategy and our overall success?
Aligning SEO Goals With Business Goals
To understand the goal of seo let’s take a step back and think about more general business goals. Chances are the goals of your business are to make money. If not you probably won’t be in business very long. And the way you’ll make money is by selling something. Whether it’s a product or service you sell you’re selling something. It’s not important at the moment what it is you’re selling or how well you’ve planned out your time and expenses, or how much profit you make from each sale. The point is you’re trying to sell something and that’s why you’re working on optimizing your website for search engines.
Given the object is to make a sale which would you rather have happen? Would you rather one visitor come to your site and buy something or 1000 visitors come and leave? I can’t speak for you, but I’d rather have that one visitor with the cash stop by for a visit. When it comes to seo then, what you’re looking for isn’t just visitors, but visitors who are more likely to buy what you have to sell. You’re looking for qualified traffic. The fact that not every visitor will buy something is pretty obvious and it should come as no surprise that your website will need need to work to convert some of those visitors into customers. What’s less obvious is that with many visitors no matter what you do on your site you won’t be making a sale.
All Search Traffic Is Not Equal
The reason everyone wants search traffic is because the right traffic from a search engine is already partly sold on your products and services. Just by typing a few words into a search engine searchers have indicated they’re interested in something. That doesn’t mean though that you want every searcher to land on your site. If you sell guitars it won’t mean much if someone who’s searching for the plays of Shakespeare finds your site through a search engine. They probably won’t stay very long if they do click on your link. It’s not every visitor you’re looking for, but those that are more likely to make a purchase.
Let’s say you have a site that sells softball equipment among other things. You sell softball bats and gloves. You sell a variety of each from companies like Wilson, Rawlings, Easton, and Louisville Slugger. You naturally think to target the keyword ‘softball’ on your site since it gets a good amount of searches and spend your time and efforts doing what you can to optimize your site for the single word. Truth is most people who type the single word softball aren’t looking to buy anything. They might be looking for the rules of softball or to see if there are any leagues in their area or information on how to play better. They’re probably looking for all sorts of things, but least among them is a bat or glove to purchase. However someone typing the less popular search ‘Easton slow pitch softball bats’ into a search engine is much more likely to be looking to make a purchase.
Your goal then isn’t to rank for what seems like a popular search term, but rather to find those search terms that will give you a better chance of making a sale. Your goal is to direct the people making those searches to the pages on your site which have what they most likely are looking to purchase. And your goal is to do what you can on your site to convince that person to purchase what they want from you.
Your seo goals should be to target a variety of search terms that have a better chance of resulting in a sale. It really shouldn’t matter if you rank #1 or #20 for the terms as long as they are sending qualified traffic to your site and that traffic is resulting in sales. Once you find those terms that are leading to sales you can work to improve their rank, but to focus only on rank will lead to a lot of wasted time and effort.
Your goals should also be to drive qualified traffic your way even if it doesn’t come from a search eninge. You sell bats and gloves so get some links on sites about softball. It’s not important if those links will help your site with search engines. It doesn’t matter if those softball sites have no page rank or will do much to increase your page rank. What is important is that the people visiting those sites are interested in softball and if your link indicates clicking on it will take someone to a page selling either softball bats or gloves or both then the people who click those link to your site are very qualified traffic and your job in making a sale is that much easier.
What you want to do when it comes to seo is find those phrases that lead to sales and look for more of them. Create pages on your site that you can direct that traffic. As long as you’re getting traffic from those phrases the actual rank isn’t important. Yes you should work to increase the traffic that’s converting and if you’re converting well for a phrase for which you rank on the second page in the results you should work to get a page one listing, but don’t focus on the rank itself. You may do better to find a few more keyword phrases that also drive qualified traffic to your site. You may find that improving your meta descriptions produces more click throughs on your page two ranking which yields in more sales. You may even find that rewriting your title ends up getting more clicks and traffic even while it drops your page to the third page of the results. The end result though isn’t where your pages rank, but getting that traffic to convert.
If you’re only goal is to drive traffic to your site and you don’t care what happens to that traffic once they get to your site then focus all you want on where your site and pages rank. But if you do have some real goals for those who visit your site, like getting them to make a purchase, then keep in mind it’s not where you rank that will lead to success. It’s getting traffic from phrases where the visitor is half way to that purchase before they ever get to your site and all you need to do is close the deal. A few visitors like that are worth much more than thousands of visitors who leave your site the moment they arrive.
Focus your efforts on getting qualified traffic and on converting that traffic and you’ll be much more successful than if you focus your efforts on where your pages rank. The goal of seo is not where you rank. The goal of seo is getting qualified traffic and converting that traffic into paying customers.
If you liked this post, consider buying my book Design Fundamentals