Converting Visits to Sales: SEO is Only Half the Battle!

by Ross Taylor September 16th, 2011 

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What is one of the biggest challenges for today's SEO agencies? Is it the latest Google algorithm change? Having to keep up with all the social media marketing avenues available? Finding quality links? Yes, those are all issues facing anyone trying to run a successful internet marketing campaign, but one that trumps all those is unrealistic expectations of the power of SEO.

SEO Isn't Effective

We got an e-mail from a client this week saying they'd like to cancel service, as they believed "SEO isn't very effective". I take personal pride in every campaign we manage, so I quickly pulled their latest reports to see what the problem was. This local home furnishings distributor had gone from being unranked to position one for their chosen keywords. Google Analytics showed 50-100 unique visits per day versus the 50 per month they were getting when we began the project. So why were they cancelling their service?

"Nobody Calls Us!"

Despite the massive boost in traffic and rankings for high quality and locally targeted keywords, they saw no measurable increase in revenue. How could this be? Surely if you've got exponentially more people finding your business online, there would have to be some kind of increase, right? With 75% of traffic coming from organic search, wouldn't the visitors be ready to shop? Not if the website stinks!

The Decision to Buy is Made in Seconds…

…In less than 30 seconds, that is, which is how long the average visitor stayed at the site according to the analytics report. I recommended to them time and time again to put more effort into the site and it's content, but my recommendations fell on deaf ears. I made it clear what our responsibilities as an SEO company were from the start, and recommended we renovate their site to maximize results, but they were happy with their own design and content.

Yes, when visitors hit the homepage, they were greeted by pixelated and stretched out images of their products which were hastily stuffed into a template provided by their budget web host. Not only that, there was a lack of clear product  images,  a shopping cart page with no products to add to it, and no address information anywhere on the site to indicate how to find their local warehouse.

Besides not making themselves any sales, this bad website can have long term effects, like showing Google their site isn't relevant because of their high bounce rate, or even worse, damaging their reputation in the local marketplace as pretenders rather than contenders.

The Answer

Before you even think about spending money on an SEO campaign, make sure your website is up to snuff and is conversion optimized to bring in sales leads. Here is a list to get you started with some ways to make sure your site's ready to convert searchers into buyers when it comes to an e-commerce site:

  • It should be clear what products and services you are offering
  • It should be clear how to buy the products, whether it's through a brick and mortar location, or online
  • Clear and attractive photos of your products
  • Detailed information and specs for your products
  • Easy and sensible navigation
  • Your web design should be consistent; each page should look like they belong together
  • Clear information about your business, including location and history, to increase trust

While many of these points are for websites selling products, many of these work for any kind of website that has the goal of representing your business and making you money!

Got any conversion tips of your own for any kind of website? Leave some comments and tell us what you think!

Ross Taylor

Ross Taylor runs San Francisco Bay Area SEO/SEM agency Alameda Internet Marketing. Hobbies include nerdy stuff like XBOX360 and reading comics. He lives in Alameda, CA with his wife and two kids.

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4 Responses to “Converting Visits to Sales: SEO is Only Half the Battle!”

  1. Great post, Ross! SEO these days is a buzz word – everyone wants it but not everyone understands what it means for a business. Website optimization does not mean conversion optimization. And it is not a part of SEO to convince people to buy.
    Another problem I see is that people do not want to track phone calls. They even do not want to ask where new customers found them. Really? In this day and age?

    • Ross Taylor says:

      Thanks, Lyena! I do make a point of letting clients know where my responsibilities begin and end, and while I'm happy to consult on conversion optimization, many just don't want to hear it. "Just get me to the top and it'll happen!"

      Yep, not tracking inbound calls baffles me as well.

  2. You hit the nail on the head!

    It reminded me of one of my first experiences in the world of SEO when I was told that "the site doesn't matter [...] just bring the PEOPLE to it!" (quoted text from actual email).

    Lesson Learned: it's a good thing NOT to work with people who don't appreciate how important it is to actually care about the visitors brought in via SEO.

    Hey, great post Ross. Thanks for sharing your story. Great point of reference.

    • Ross Taylor says:

      Thanks Glenn, I really appreciate your feedback. Wow, I think I've heard those same words before! Sounds like we both learned a valuable lesson! The only clients who have ever "broke up with me" generally haven't understood that you've got to deliver something worthwhile once they get there. Thanks again, Glenn!