Jan 28, 2009
Everyone wants their site to rank well in search engines, and for obvious reasons (more site traffic!). SEO (search engine optimization) is a big part of building a successful site, but it should not be your #1 priority. Making decisions on your site solely for SEO benefit has some serious downsides.
For most websites, incoming traffic is simply not enough to achieve success. You need a conversion of some sort. People need to make a purchase, fill out the contact form, sign up to a mailing list, or take some sort of action that helps build your business. Without a conversion, traffic is useless.
While SEO might get the visitor to your site, it won't generate the conversion for you. What decisions have you made to generate a better ranking that now work against you in creating a conversion? Here are some things to keep an eye out for:
Ridiculous Amounts of Content
Why write 8 paragraphs of content when 4 is more than enough to make the sale? Effective web copy is all about cutting the crap, and giving the customer all the information they need in the fewest amount of words possible.
The longer it takes people to find what they need to know about your product or service, the less likely it is that they do business with you. So all the redundant, lengthy copy that earned your site a visitor ends up costing you a sale because it wasted their time.
Content Written for Computers instead of People
Content is what generates conversions more than any other factor. I would like to say it is our fabulous design, but in most cases that is simply not true. Saying "high-definition plasma television" 52 times on a page most likely won't help you sell any more plasmas.
When writing copy for your site, write with the customer in mind FIRST, then sprinkle in keywords when it makes sense. Writing primarily for search engines makes for ineffective copy, and sticks out like a sore thumb.
From a design standpoint, we often see the same trends as with copy. Sites are designed to rank well in search engines, but end up cluttered and extremely difficult for people to use. Just like with copy, sites work best when you design for your ideal customer FIRST, then do everything possible to rank well.
In most cases you can create a user-friendly, quality design while also writing code that works great for SEO. But there are bound to be conflicts as well, and you have to be certain about what is more important: the traffic or the conversion.
Doing the Math
As a design shop that is solely focused on clean, user-friendly design, you can tell what side of the fence we are on. But some simple math backs up my point.
Let's say you generate 2,000 visits as a result of being #1 on google, but due to some of the sacrifices you had to make in order to earn the ranking, your conversion rate is 2%. That is a total of 40 sales.
On the other hand, let's say the customer is your #1 priority. As a result you may choose to do a few things that boost conversion, but maximize your ranking. Maybe your site is #6 and generates half the traffic (1,000 visits), but has a nice conversion rate of 5%. Even with half the traffic, the end result is 50 sales because your site converts better.
I know this is a hypothetical situation, but higher conversion often ends up being a more powerful factor than generating more traffic. Plus, it's usually cheaper to improve conversion than it is to generate more traffic.
The answer? Learn to Make Compromises
SEO is still a great thing, and should be among your top priorities in managing a site that depends on conversions. Our company spends a lot of time and effort creating very SEO-friendly sites, but it always takes a back seat to user-friendly design that generates conversions.
Compromises must be made to maintain the integrity of your site's design and copy while also taking steps to maximize your search engine ranking. Understanding both sides of the coin, and working with an SEO company that understands them too, will ensure in the highest rate of success for your site.