SEO Is Not Worth Your Time & Money
You might find it hard to believe, but Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not a valuable service. The common assumption is that website growth is not possible without SEO. Getting to the top of Google is a right of passage. Of course, this begs the question, “The top of Google for what?” Therein lies the rub, and the reason that most of what you have heard about SEO and why you should pay $XXX per month to obtain it is wrong. So is SEO really a waste of time?
It’s About Keywords, Stupid
Keywords are a critical element in an SEO strategy, but are you using the right ones? How do you know you are targeting the right people with your keywords? When you created your keywords, did you get in the mind of your customer and ask they questions they would ask?
This is a critical step, but one that is easily glossed over when the criteria becomes which keywords get us to the top. The problem is, if your potential customers aren’t searching for those keywords, it doesn’t matter that you are on top.
If you design your website to answer your customers questions, you will naturally include the keywords your customers will be searching for. This takes time knowing and understanding your customer. It is done by creating Personas of your target market and thinking in terms of their needs.
Conversions, Conversions, Conversions
Once you attract visitors to your site, you don’t want them mindlessly clicking around, because they will mindlessly click right off your site. Your site must be able to convert visitors into contacts with a clear focus. If you’ve only done SEO and you haven’t optimized your site for your actual customers, you have once again done them a disfavor.
Optimizing your site for conversions means you understand the buyer journey, and how visitors at different stages will want to interact with your brand.
Visitors in the discovery stage are looking for high level answers to basic questions. Maybe they didn’t even know they had a problem to be solved, and are just now gaining awareness.
Visitors in the decision stage are comparing vendors and want to see features and prices.
Clear calls-to-action will help visitors know where to go to find the information that answers their question now. Landing pages then convert those visitors into contacts that you can continue to nurture throughout the buyer journey.
Analyze, Improve, Repeat
How often do you analyze the performance of your site, and then optimize based on what works? Jason Fried, in his book Rework, makes the point that only success provides valuable feedback for how to proceed. This principle applies to improving your site: you need to be able to capture and interpret the analytics so you can see what works, and keep doing that.
Do you know how effective your landing pages are? Do you know what percentage of visitors to your site become contacts in your CRM, and then customers? Can you track your customers back to their first interaction with your company? Was it via organic search, social media, or a paid advertisement?
If you can’t answer those questions, you don’t know what was successful, and you cannot build upon your success.
Optimize for your Customer
This brings me to why I believe SEO is not a valuable service. If you base your site optimization on Google, you have to keep up with 500-600 changes per year. This will, and has, left many companies with SEO plans that actually worked against them.
However, if you look past Google to see who they are actually optimizing their own search for, you’ll see it is their users. They want to provide the most relevant content, the best user experience, and the most trustworthy source of information. Their users are their priority, which is exactly who should be your priority.
Therefore, focusing on SEO is a waste of time. The best way to actually get to the top of Google is to optimize your website with your visitors in mind. Keep usability high, create compelling content, and answer the questions your customers have. Ultimately, this strategy will work and it will keep on working when Google makes changes, because you are aligned with their ultimate goal.