At Vertical Leap we constantly come back to a discussion that rankings are what our clients are checking, so it is never going to go away. Part of our job is to steer them to checking for the right things, so that together we create and evolve a keyword list that is bringing visitors to the website.
There are some oddities though, where traffic (or even sales/leads) are not the metrics that are being used, and I thought that I would highlight a couple of these. We usually class these as vanity searches.
- A site that needs to sustain a particular search engine position because they are actually supported by advertisers, not the traffic that specific keyword brings, and the position is about prominence not visitors.
- A site that maintains a number 1 position because it looks good to clients, but you know (because you hold it!) that the traffic it brings is negligible.
Conversely sometimes, a single ranking can be very important to a client. There are industries where one phrase is so overwhelmingly dominant that the business can live or die on that phrase alone – all the other number 1 positions they may hold in all the secondary phrases just don’t bring the same amount of traffic as a first page ranking for the single phrase. Whilst there are ways to address this balance using the long tail, position changes have a big impact on the company bottom line.
Keyword choice is a very idiosyncratic thing though; occasionally we get a client who is driven by knowing what his top margin earning products are to get rankings for keywords that have no traffic, without ever working out that a smaller percentage of 100 sales is worth more than a higher percentage of 3 sales.
This whole situation adds an interesting dimension to a business though – the product line becomes driven by the SEO. But of course, the optimisation is just a reflection of search volume, which is a reflection of what your potential customers are looking for. Perhaps that’s not such a bad way to decide what to sell.
Sometimes an SEO campaign gets to the point where it is first page for a whole set of fantastic keywords, but the site converts at such a low level that the company can’t justify the SEO. Sometimes, it is just that the niche is just too small, and the traffic isn’t there, alternatively, additional work on the conversion rate of the site itself is needed to reap the benefits of the optimisation work that has been done.
Conversion as a metric for a search engine marketing campaign is common in pay per click, but less frequently applied to SEO, where despite the rankings arguments, success is as likely to be measured in increased traffic from search engines and divorced further from the post-click marketing efforts on the site itself.