SEO Heretic

Search engine optimization is an important aspect for every website to consider and implement because, lets face it, for most websites search engine traffic is where the traffic comes from. And what is not to like? SEO traffic is free, it is plentiful, and it can be easy to get sometimes. But if you are responsible for a website’s performance, SEO needs to be understood in the context of how it impacts the sites performance. Amateurs usually think high performance can be determined simply by looking at a websites traffic volume – but that is a huge mistake. That is exactly the mistake all those dot com companies made back when the tech bubble burst, and they all went bankrupt. When I refer to performance, it means how well the site helps the organization accomplish its goals (to make the company money, to produce sales leads, etc.)

And so I’m going to say something that might strike some as being heretical;

SEO is not all it is cracked up to be.

How come? One of the biggest reasons is that of all the referral sources coming into your website, SEO traffic is the worst when it comes to conversion rates. The best thing about SEO traffic – the traffic coming from search engines – is that it is free traffic.  You sit back and just watch the people flock into your website.  Excellent!  If you are one of the lucky ones, the web traffic to your site grows exponentially and you – the guy responsible for setting it up is hailed as a hero. This is when you need to ask for a raise in your pay and benefits, for sure. I say it is time to ask for a raise because at some point in the future, things will change – Google will alter their search algorithm and traffic that was taken for granted will drop to a trickle. Management then looks at you – the guy responsible for the earlier success – and will expect you to pull a rabbit out of your hat. And hey – maybe you do manage to do it, but then maybe not. 

The point I’m making here is that just looking to SEO can be a mistake, because a high performance website does not always correlate with high SEO traffic. Consider these facts:

  • High “performance” of a website is not tied to the level of traffic to the site – another heretical statement for sure – it refers instead to how high your conversion rate is. What percent of your visitors convert into a sale, or a lead, etc.
  • Bookmark Traffic is the best, of course, since they are the people who know you and have marked your website to be able to return. The previously made a purchase and are coming back for more.
  • Next best is Referral Traffic which comes in a close second. This is the traffic coming from other websites, because the person trusts the referral website and that trust transfers over to your site. They may still be researching different products, but they are serious about it.
  • Paid traffic is in third place, which is somewhat surprising. Before seeing the statistics I would have thought it would be a close second to Bookmark traffic, but it isn’t even close to Refferal Traffic in regards to conversions. Paid traffic is an important source of web traffic for many companies – but it is important to know that the conversion rate from that source is not very high.
  • And in last place for referral source traffic is SEO traffic – the traffic coming from the search engines.  Wow, who would have thought that?  Doesn’t Google tell us that the people clicking on your ads are targeted and motivated buyers?  Yes they do – but then they are trying to sell you the ads, remember?
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