The SEO Genie
The world of SEO contains the seeds for a great modern age “genie in the lamp story.” A business owner is granted three wishes, and among them, one is squandered on the wish “to have my website rank number 1 on Google.” Granting the wish, the genie then waits, ready to shrug his shoulders when the business owner returns to complain that ranking number 1 in Google didn’t bring the expected riches. “Master, you never told me *what* you wanted to rank for on Google.” Ouch! Lesson learned. Who knew genies knew a thing or two about SEO?
In the “perfect world” for any business, all Internet traffic will come for free because their website ranks idyllically on page one of Google for all their important keyword phrases. However, the road to this utopian wonderland of web presence can be long, and sometimes it can careen up and down steep slopes veiled in thick fog, especially if you don’t really know what your “important keyword phrases” are.
Once you get over the false assumption that organic traffic is free – to do it really well, someone will have had to invest in solid SEO best practices, and that costs money, time, or both – you then need to confront the issue that “my website ranks at the top of Google” is an empty statement unless you know for exactly what terms it is ranking, and more importantly, that ranking for those terms matters in the slightest.
How can ranking number 1 in Google for something not matter in the slightest? Well, it won’t matter much if you are not seeing a tangible marketing return for that ranking. You might have a web page that ranks at the top of the engines for a particular keyword phrase, but if you aren’t making any money off of that ranking, do you care? You might have nothing more than an interesting conversation piece for your next cocktail party. “My business ranks number one for “XYZ.” I’ve never made any money off of it, but it’s pretty cool.”
When I talk to businesses, there’s a concept that consistently comes up which tends to catch them off guard: A good SEO will get you to rank for just about whatever you want. Given enough time (and investment), you’ll rank. But you’d better make sure it’s for something that means the most for your bottom line. Sometimes this concept doesn’t dawn on a business at all. So alluring is the Xanadu of Google ranking, they fail to tie it back to their marketing goals and dollars.
So how do you get to that point where you know what terms are worth all the SEO investment? You test. If you have not been studying your site metrics for years, you might do well to put your website through its paces with some aggressive Pay Per Click marketing. With PPC, you can rank for 10,000 keywords 15 minutes from now, and you can precisely measure the effectiveness of not only the dollars spent on those keywords driving traffic to your site, but your site’s ability to convert that traffic to a desired action too. Eventually you will learn which keywords lead to the desired action most cost effectively on a per page basis based on cold hard analytic facts. Those, then, are the keywords you go after organically. Whether you come to determine that PPC should be just an SEO investment tool, or perhaps a solid part of your online marketing initiatives can also be discovered through good Pay Per Click tactics.
At the end of the day, a single web page might be able to rank organically for a small handful of keyword variations. You owe it to yourself to figure out which keywords, out of hundreds and thousands, are the ones that bring you the highest return. Pay Per Click advertising can prove this out for you in a matter of months (or weeks sometimes, depending on how aggressively you drive traffic). Then you can go down the path of optimizing your web pages to rank naturally for just those keywords that you’ve proven are your money makers.
Don’t waste your time getting your web pages to rank number one in Google for keywords you *think* they should rank for. Take the time to figure out which keywords are worth that time. Then it won’t be wasted.