Teaching, Promoting, Cheering UX and SEO Since 2002

Do SEO’s Bear the Burden of a Company’s Conversions?

There’s nothing like returning to the bonfire to see how hot it really is. I was a rather good SEO back in the mid-90’s when I considered it fun to be one. Once everything was rigged by money, the work lost its thrill for me.

Even though I moved into Internet software usability and user experience QA testing and usability/user experience web site design, and later, the art of information architecture, I was never able to sever my roots in organic SEO. The way I see it, there’s no logic in pouring money into PPC, ad words, link buying and all related activities if a web site sucks once the target visitor gets there. Note that I said “target visitor”. This isn’t the same thing as throwing money into the search engine breeze, hoping a dollar of it lands on the head of any person who may be persuaded to click into a web site.

In August I officially returned to the SEO industry, working for a local company who had first hired me last year do perform a usability audit for their web site. The company has someone at management level smart enough to understand the value of search engine marketing along with a web site designed to convert once a visitor arrives. Even if a generally vague and unsure person lands on a page, we’re working on making that act convert by creating funnels that signal their specific needs. These are the types of things I recommend to clients but I never get to know if they implemented them. Now, in my new job, I’m remembering why I left SEO.

One of them is the burden an SEO carries. I’ve long sensed fear and desperation by some members at Cre8asiteforums when they come for help. It sometimes sounds as if their jobs are at stake if they don’t get advice. Like politics, if something is desired and it doesn’t happen fast enough, the person(s) doing the work are removed (fired, voted out of office.)

Jill Whalen’s
latest newsletter highlighted one of situations with Expected Traffic Increase After SEO. A writer asks,

Our CEO is looking for a specific goal in site traffic generated by organic search, based on our implementing SEO recommendations.

Let me guess. That “specific goal” is a 70 – 100% increase in conversion rates in about 2 months of a mix of organic SEO and PPC. Without needing to read any farther, I know what’s being asked for. It’s a combination of high page rank, high position in SERPS, a sharp increase in traffic and a miraculous leap from that to increased sales. It’s that miraculous leap that CEO’s and management are asking for, without having any clue what it means. They just want it.

And, they want it in writing and guaranteed. Or the SEO is banished from the kingdom.

I have a better idea these days about why black and gray hat tactics remain. They’re there to save an SEO’s ass. Some industries are so filled up with sites that desperate measures are called into play, regardless of whether they are blessed by search engines. I have a natural fear of buying links that comes from experience. Some CEO’s love to gamble though and are perfectly fine with throwing thousands of dollars to buy inbound links from high PR sites. What happens when that link selling site is caught and it’s yanked from search indexes? What does an SEO do when they attempt to describe risky practices and all the while management has their fingers stuck in their ears singing “La La La La, sorry I can’t hear you.”

Jill wrote:

In addition, you probably shouldn’t be looking at a month-to-month increase in anything, but how each month compares to the same month in the year before. This is because there are often seasonal shifts in traffic, even for B2B sites, due to vacations, holidays, etc.

How many SEO’s never had a year to prove their efforts weren’t done in vain?

Unfortunately many of you aren’t wealthy enough to tell your boss to go stick it when they blame you for high bounce rates or low time spent on the site. Even suggesting to management that cleaning up landing pages or performing a usability site audit to find where it throws out visitors is nightmare material. How do you ask them to invest more money when they’ve got you, the holy SEO, to wave your magic wand?

I understand why so many folks who gained fame in the SEO industry jumped ship for related practices such as social media marketing or content writing. The long term success of a company isn’t sitting on their shoulders now. They’ve paid their dues. I also understand why so many SEO companies are rip-offs and scam artists who find it easy to rob companies. It’s because the myth of SEO = conversions has been accepted as reality. Those who hire SEO-fakers don’t ask questions first. Those who write articles and give talks on SEO=conversions rarely mention all the pieces of the pie. To this day, the topic of usability is so looked down on by the SEO industry that even those in the usability industry have given up trying to reach out to SEO’s.

I’d really like to see more SEO practitioners widen the scope of their methods to include insisting that the site’s they’re assigned to convert will follow up with properly designed landing pages, excellent navigation, obvious tasks and calls to action once they get to the site, and decrease bounce rates by not aiming for any old traffic.

Conversions are fools gold when not mined for by those who know what the hell they’re doing. Companies who hire SEO help must be taught exactly what it is they’re asking for so that when they see numbers doing the tango, they will be patient, ask the proper questions and provide the SEO with all the assets they need to make the conversions process work. That includes a professional, attractive and conversion/persuasion designed web site.

It should also include not breathing down an SEO’s neck while they do battle on a company’s behalf.

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