Sometimes my advice sounds controversial to clients. They’ve read things online, or had friends giving them advice, or even other people in the marketing field, and at first glance my advice may seem to contradict some of that.
This is one of those times.
Any small business owner or entrepreneur who has a website has had a lot of people recommend that they do search engine optimization. It’s all the buzz, and don’t get me wrong – optimizing your website, and your entire online presence, to be easily found by search engines is powerful for your business. So businesses are being told to learn how to do SEO themselves – which can be a very large learning curve – or paying someone perhaps thousands of dollars per month or more to optimize their website for search engines.
I’m going to flip the script and perhaps shock you by telling you that your business may not be ready for SEO.
Why your business may not be ready for SEO
A lot of people that we consult with about their website have their main goal of getting a lot of traffic to their website. What we know from decades of working with websites for small businesses is that traffic or number of visitors should not be your primary consideration.
There are rare cases when this is not true. Take, for example, a business who is primary or sole purpose is to sell advertising on their website or blog and make money from that. In that case, generating a lot of traffic quickly is the best way for them to make money. Their income is directly tied to the traffic viewing the ads on their site.
However, that is a very very small percentage of businesses. For everyone else, the goal of the website (in addition to the very basics of letting people learn about your business, products, and services) should be to convert prospects into paying customers.
SEO doesn’t convert. It does your business very little good if 1 million people visit your site and not a single one of them becomes a paying customer.
The whole purpose of SEO is to have your website found when someone is doing a search on a site such as Google. While finding your website on a search engine can be the first step in helping a prospect convert into a paying customer, it is seldom the most important one.
What your business should do first instead of SEO
If, however, out of those 1 million visitors, you had actually optimized your website for conversions, you may be able to turn ever-increasing percentages of those visitors into paying customers. If 1 million people visit, and 10 purchase, you are better off than you were yesterday when you were at zero purchases. If 1000 purchase, you are starting to see a huge impact on your business. And it only increases from there.
The first thing we look at in a website audit for a client is not actually how well their website, or their entire online presence, is optimized for search engines. We looked at how well the website is optimized to get a visitor to take an action.
What that action is can vary based upon the business, and can even very on different pages of the website. Ideally your business marketing will get to a point that it must very based upon the different page. But at a very minimum, especially for a business with a fairly basic website with fewer pages, there needs to be some type of call to action.
This is the one biggest place we see most small businesses and entrepreneurs missing out when it comes to their online presence.
We have seen clients who have come to us after spending thousands and thousands of dollars to have their website redesign, and they do not understand why it is still not getting the results in terms of paying customers that they had hoped. A quick review and we see that their website is pretty much missing any kind of strategic calls to action. A lot of them will have a very passive things included, which are still important, such as:
- Their phone number listed on the website
- A contact email listed on the website
- A contact page with a contact form, or similarly an ability to request a quote
- Other general contact information, either on the Contact or About page, and a side bar, in the footer etc.
All of this information is very important, and it is very important to have it easily visible and accessible to someone do you and your website in case they are already at the stage where they are ready to contact you. For everyone else, you need to be a bit more thoughtful and strategic.
The quickest and easiest thing you can do is add a specific call to action on every page of your website. This is not the ideal way, or the final way that we recommend, but if you have a smaller website with few pages, it can be a quick short term fix. In most cases, this could be a button with a very specific action, such as learn more, or contact us, linking to a very easy way for the reader to accomplish that action.
For a call to action to be most effective, it needs to be very specific, it needs to tell the reader exactly what to do, which may be something like click here, and it needs to briefly tell them what to expect after taking that action, such as click here to connect by phone, or click here to learn more.
How to work through your customer journey or sales funnel
For most of our clients, we go through a whole process to determine where in the final each page or blog post on the website could fit. For more information on how marketing finals are broken out you can check our online training. With our clients we strategically build a matrix that walks through each page, and outlines exactly what type of call to action should be included and where on the page, and then a graph of where of that connects to.
For most prospects, they will likely visit several pages and post on your site over the course of their journey, and it is most effective to have different types of call to actions based upon where they are likely in their customer journey towards the final goal of making a purchase. We also work with our clients to make sure that the entire funnel behind that initial action is set up, at least to a basic level, so that some of the steps of helping the prospect move along with the customer journey our automated and nothing gets missed.
Even on our own website, this is something that we constantly work on and fine tune.
We actually have clients work backwards from the final step, which is making a purchase or becoming a client or customer. If you think through that scenario, having a prospect find you on a search engine actually comes very very far down the planning process.
Some of our planning documents look like this:
Only AFTER a business has enacted at least a basic level of on-page optimization to include Calls to Action and having a solid basic funnel set up, do we recommend switching to a heavier focus on search engine optimization.
After some solid SEO strategies are enacted, both on site and offsite, do we recommend investing in pay-per-click advertising to drive any traffic to the website.
Ready to improve your website conversion and search engine optimization? Start with our FREE SEO Audit.
Vicky is the CEO and Chief Creative Strategist of Vicky Wu Marketing. She draws from 30 years of experience at the CMO level, the CEO level, marketing for Fortune 500 companies and multi-million and multi-billion-dollar organizations, PLUS strategies learned helping startups and nonprofits with limited budgets … now focusing on providing SMBs with effective and efficient marketing strategies – giving them access to the same level of expertise as the really big guys with deep pockets, that they may not otherwise be able to access.