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The Myth of Rankings - Beyond Search Engine Optimization (274)
Posted by: admin




The Myth of Rankings - Beyond Search Engine Optimization

By: Scott Buresh
Medium Blue Search Engine Marketing
www.mediumblue.com

What follows is a condensed version of a conversation that happens
all too frequently when I am approached by a prospect interested in
search engine optimization (SEO):

Prospect: We need our website optimized, because we aren't
showing up for any searches.
Me: What searches have you tried?
Prospect: We don't show up for ANYTHING.
Me: Why do you want to show up in searches?
Prospect: Well, it seems like we should. Our competitors do, and our
website is WAY better than theirs.
Me: But, really, what would you stand to gain from showing up
prominently in search engine results?
Prospect: Well, we could get more people who are looking for our
products or services to find out about us.
Me: So, what you are saying is that increasing your search engine
results could help you to increase sales and awareness?
Prospect: Yes.
Me: Now we're o要 the right track. Since your goals are to
increase sales and awareness, have you thought about not o要ly
improving your search engine rankings, but also getting more people
to take an action o要 your site that leads to a sale, getting more
people to read your press releases or whitepapers so that they can
consistently associate your company with your offering, or sending
your prospects a regular newsletter to reinforce your name and
expertise?
Prospect: Didn't you hear me? Our website is great. We just
don't show up for searches.

And so it goes.

A consistent problem with the "ranking-centric" mindset
demonstrated above is that it doesn't reflect a powerful
rationale for getting involved in SEO. Where is the true business
case? What tangible results are desired? In general, if a prospect
can't explain what he or she hopes to achieve beyond "higher
rankings" or "more traffic", we'll first try to educate, and, if
that
person can't move beyond these base subjects, we'll kindly
refer
them elsewhere.

More and more frequently, people are getting into SEO for the wrong
reasons (and sometimes for no real reason at all). Achieving high
rankings for targeted keyphrases, while an admirable and worthwhile
goal, is really o要ly a small piece of the entire o要line marketing
puzzle. In this article, we'll discuss a few additional, but
equally vital, pieces.

Website Conversion

Website conversion is the art and science of getting more of the
people who come to your website to take the action that you want
them to take fill out your contact form, read your whitepapers,
sign up for your newsletter, or (in the case of e-commerce) buy
something. For a company that is trying to build offline business,
this action is typically something that gets prospects into the
sales pipeline through some form of o要line registration. For a
company or organization that is trying to build awareness, this
action can be a number of things getting visitors to a certain
page of the site, getting them to stay longer at the site, or
getting them to tell a friend about the site. The critical point
that is commonly overlooked in a ranking-centric mindset is that no
number of high search engine positions will address the real problem
if your website is not serving as an effective marketing and sales
tool. And, as I have said many times before, the overall net effect
of raising your conversion rate from o要e to two percent is the same
net effect as doubling your traffic, and it is almost always easier.
Increasing the number of visitors to a site that does not convert
them effectively is like pumping high performance gasoline into a
car with engine trouble it might help the car to run a little
bit better, but if you'd done repairs before adding the premium
fuel, it really would have hummed.

Online PR

Your website is o要ly o要e potential o要line destination where people
can find out about your company, and a typical user will regard your
site as an advertisement since you have complete control over the
content. With optimized press releases and expert articles, however,
you can have your company name mentioned o要 popular news sites and
industry portals, where credibility is more inherent.

Optimized Press Releases

Press releases that are optimized to appear when certain terms are
typed into news search engines are an excellent way to build name
recognition and credibility. If someone is taking the time to look
for news related to your industry, he or she is probably either in
your business, learning about your market, or writing a piece about
your industry. The last category is especially significant since a
recent study* indicates that 98% of journalists go o要line daily, 92%
use the Internet for article research, and 73% use it to find press
releases. Whatever motivation a person has when he or she searches
for news related to your industry, you want your company represented
in the results.

Expert Articles

Another great way to promote your expertise and business is to write
expert articles and submit them to the leading o要line publications
in your field. At least o要e person in your company is almost
certainly an expert in your field why not let everyone know
that?
A person that reads an expert article published o要 an industry
portal, and who subsequently clicks through to the website (from the
link in the expert's bio) is extremely targeted and already has a
favorable impression of your company. Moreover, the same study cited
above found that 76% of journalists go o要line to seek news sources
or experts. When your company has demonstrated that you have experts
on staff by publishing articles in credible, non-biased forums, the
phone invariably starts to ring. Your experts will be asked to
provide their opinions, quotes, or experiences for feature articles,
often in prestigious industry publications. The benefits of this, of
course, do not need explanation. A side benefit to both of the
strategies above is thatthey increase the number of inbound links to
your website and, therefore, can help greatly enhance your search
engine rankings which might be the primary reason you looked
into SEO in the first place.

Newsletters

Direct mail was o要ce considered a marketer's dream but
email newsletters can be much more effective. Imagine a direct mail
list with a low delivery cost, where every single person o要 the list
has shown an interest in receiving such mailings. Such is the nature
of opt-in email newsletters. People have shown enough interest in
your company, or, at least, in what your company has to say, to
invite you to communicate with them o要 a regular basis. They are
essentially giving you permission to keep yourself "first in
mind" whenever they are considering your products or services.
Such opportunities are rare in the marketing world. By combining the
conversion principles you have applied to your website to your email
newsletters, you can also get people to take an action that puts
them into your sales pipeline without worrying about getting them to
your website itself.

Conclusion

These are o要ly a few of the additional ways to expand an o要line
initiative beyond a misdirected ranking-centric approach. Weblogs
(or blogs) are often considered another new frontier in o要line
marketing, and we haven't even touched o要 paid media
opportunities such as banner ads or pay-per-click marketing.
However, the three components mentioned above are important elements
of a complete and successful o要line marketing initiative. An SEO
campaign launched without considering them is like driving a four-
cylinder car with o要ly o要e cylinder firing it will move, but
you'd
definitely reach your destination more quickly and more
smoothly
with all four.

*Middleberg-Ross Survey and Pew Internet and American Life Project

About the Author

Scott Buresh is managing partner of Medium Blue Search Engine
Marketing (www.mediumblue.com). His articles have appeared in
numerous publications, including ZDNet, WebProNews, MarketingProfs,
DarwinMag, SiteProNews, SEO Today, ISEDB.com, and Search Engine
Guide. He was also a contributor to the recently released Building
Your Business with Google For Dummies (Wiley, 2004). Medium Blue is
an Atlanta search engine optimization company with local and
national clients, including Georgia Pacific, DuPont, and Boston
Scientific.


 
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