When using Pay Per Click Advertising such as Google AdWords or Bing Ads and SEO it’s crucial to understand the effect these mediums are having on your sales. Unfortunately I’ve seen several businesses write off their Online Advertising as a failure early simply because they could not understand and react to the data their advertising was giving them.
Combine this with miss-information from “SEO Cowboys” more interested in your business rather than your success it’s little wonder why SEO and PPC is a daunting affair.
1 Metric is Not Enough – Look at the Big Picture.
Here are some scenarios:
My Search Traffic is Down by 20% – My SEO is not Working
So yes, this could be the case of course – BUT it very well may not be. Look into things further, are your sales up? Are visitors spending more time on site? Are they spending more?
This could also mean you are getting less irrelevant visitors and more relevant visitors. If 20% of the visitors to your website were totally irrelevant and never converted then who cares if you lose them? Making your site more relevant to terms that attract buyers and not just visitors is not a bad thing.
My Ranking For “Widgets” is not Number 1
Ranking Position alone should not be your objective, look at other metrics together to build a full picture. It’s a common mistake in SEO that website owners obsess about ranking number 1 for a specific term. I’ve had this discussion probably 500 times but you really need to look at the bigger picture.
The fact is you may never rank number 1 for the term you may think is the best for you, or at least it may take you years. The smarter money is ranking for 1000s of terms that are highly specific for the following reasons:
You are not putting all of your eggs in one basket. You will likely have more visitors, more sales and have more consistency than if you just focussed on your “main terms” alone
Of course ranking for what you think is an important search term is great, but don’t solely focus on it – especially if that term is rarely searched for (I’ve had clients ask me to put all of our effort into ranking for terms they THINK will bring home the bacon but instead have next to zero search volume – we’d never do it because we’re not in the business of saying yes -we’re here to make our clients money).
Likewise with AdWords don’t focus on just one metric. For example: You might see your costs rise but don’t immediately react – if you’re spending more on AdWords and this results in more sales then dropping your budget or stopping your ads is just throwing money away. Likewise, if you see a bad week or even month don’t rush to make changes – chances are it’s just a fluctuation and over reacting could compound things resulting in longer term poor performance – give it time, your patience will be rewarded.
A common mistake I see ALL the time is AdWords advertisers solely focusing on CPC’s (Cost Per Click). If your CPC’s rise but that results in better positioning which in turn results in a higher conversion rate and more conversions (and they are profitable) then great! I’ve seen so many advertisers resist increasing CPCs and as a result their AdWords campaigns stagnate – it’s quite painful as an AdWords manager to have good data that clearly shows performance improvements are there for the taking yet the client will not commit.
Performance goes up and down – give it time and don’t make rushed judgements
It’s 30C outside and I’m sat on my deck writing this blog, I can hear all of my neighbours in their back gardens barbecuing, playing with the kids and you can guarantee the local beach is heaving. So don’t be surprised that when the weather is unusually hot your e-commerce website experiences a slow down (unless you’re selling air-conditioning of course!), in times like these you can be sure that most of your customers have sitting inside on the computer firmly out of mind so don’t panic or change your entire SEO strategy based on what could just be an anomaly.
On the other hand, there may not be a clear reason: sometimes performance drops of and inexplicably picks up again a week or two later. If you overreact immediately then you might not see things pick up instead you could see even poorer performance.
Understanding Your Analytics and Trusting Them
Don’t just compare this month to last month. If you do so, you are potentially looking at anomalies and seasonal variations. Of course, you should use this data to determine your progress but confirm it by seeing how you faired at the same point one year ago – or even further.
Here’s an example:
You sell Air Conditioning products and you observe July’s organic traffic is 20% lower than Junes. You could assume your SEO is falling backwards: but you may be wrong.
Compare it to the same period 12 months ago (and then even 24 months ago) and you may see it’s the case every year that July is worse than June as June (the beginning of summer) is the best time of the year for you as consumers buy your products at the beginning of hotter periods. You could then even find that although July was worse than June this year it’s still better than previous years which would mean your SEO is potentially working great.
Compared to last year traffic is significantly up.
Now, imagine if you reacted and changed direction based on misinterpreting the data – you could be losing sales when in fact you should not have changed a thing.
Also compare “apples for apples” and don’t just react from the first metric you see – confirm everything and be patient.
Things are not Happening Fast Enough – There Must be a Quicker Option
SEO and PPC are very effective forms of Online Advertising but they reward patience and understanding. There is a lot of bad advice on the Internet where SEO and PPC is concerned and it’s very frustrating to see good websites hurt by implementing bad SEO advice when all along their analytics data painted a different picture.
I recently saw an email from an SEO company telling one of my clients to build a second website to engage in more “risky” SEO tactics to avoid a Google penalty on the main site to rank for a specific term that has pretty insignificant search volume. This alone is one of the worst pieces of SEO advice I’ve seen. Essentially an SEO company is advising website owners to perform SEO outside of Google Guidelines and not only this, create another site that would directly compete with the main site potentially taking away the main (successful) sites rankings – think of all the duplicate content! It’s this sort of advice that kills successful websites and it’s why the SEO industry has such a bad name.
In my mind there are only two possible reasons for telling a highly successful website to do this:
- The SEO company is incompetent.
- The SEO company is putting their own interests in front of the clients i.e. Attempting to get their short term business by promising short term results regardless of the long term pitfalls for the client.
In another example, on a popular UK Business Forum I regularly see posts such as:
Should I buy Forum Links? Should I do Blog Commenting? How Long Does SEO Take? How Cheap is SEO? How Quick to Get to Number 1 in Google?
Until you understand that SEO is not a quick fix strategy and one that you will have to view on a long term basis you are not going to reap the rewards.
The problem is though, is that this stuff works in the short term. Building dodgy links, stuffing pages with keywords still works to a degree but the writing is on the wall. Google is becoming less and less tolerant of this type of thing and are pulling the plug on previously successful websites almost daily.
Website owners that expect overnight improvements will naturally succumb to promises of “quick fixes” but as we’ve seen time and time again the most successful websites have an SEO strategy that gives sustainable results in the form of gradual improvements over time – it’s all their to see in the data. If you create a site with a long term and sustainable SEO strategy you will protect yourself from large fluctuations and penalties as search engine algorithms evolve.
The SEO Industry Needs Regulation
I actually hate the term “SEO.” We are not optimising for Search Engines, we are optimising for people. If your website is relevant to search terms that people are entering into search engines and people like your content and want to buy from you, you will be rewarded with better rankings. A simplistic view granted, but SEO boils down to being there with the best possible result when someone looks for your product and service.
The problem is, many SEO companies will look for ways to circumnavigate search engine guidelines and deliver quick results based on loop holes in search engine algorithms. As loopholes get closed websites are left “high and dry” and struggle to recover. If they had simply followed the rules from the start they’d be prospering and be in no danger of a penalty.
Essentially, many SEO companies are misleading websites to make a quick buck and in the process destroying businesses. It’s tantamount to fraud. SEO companies are selling a service based on delivering it “illegally”. It’s like wanting to buy a new car, rather than wait for it to be delivered you pay a cowboy to get it to you quicker: by stealing it and selling it to you at a lower price.
Google Penalties are not enough.
This may sound a bit shocking but I firmly believe that Google Penalties are not enough. Rather than simply penalise the offending site the SEO company concerned should share the penalty. Further more, just like the Google Certified Partner program for AdWords, SEO companies should be forced to demonstrate competence and viability but to an independent body.
Unfortunately, we’re a long way off this but there are steps for clients to take. For instance, in the UK the Recommended Agencies Register lists the highest recommended agencies in the UK (we’re on it!) and the Google Certified Partner Program and Bing Ads Accredited Professional qualification is a good way for clients to verify the SEO or PPC company know what they are doing. Taking this first step to validate a potential SEO company is the first step to ensuring your business succeeds using SEO and PPC as part of your marketing strategy.
So the next time you get any SEO advice be cautious and make sure you understand what your TRUE position is by understanding your Analytics – the numbers cannot lie but SEO cowboys that have their own interests before yours regularly do!