Even though SEO can get you ranked well in search engines it takes a lot more than traffic to be a successful online business. The fact is that SEO isn’t magic or fairy dust. Ranking #1 for a phrase, even a competitive one doesn’t automatically equal mega-profits.
I’ve seen it too many times to count where a business bends over backwards to build links, write content and fill their site with the “right” keywords only to be left wondering, when the windfall is coming. No matter how good your SEO strategy is, there are certain ailments that even back links from Google couldn’t cure.
Not Meeting User Intent
If you rank really well, but you still aren’t making money, there’s probably a good reason for it. One of the things that many websites face is a disparity in what we call “user intent”. See, you may have top 10 rankings for all the keywords you want, but if they aren’t the RIGHT keywords, you’re still probably going to struggle.
I knew a business that specialized in home maintenance and handyman jobs specifically for seniors. So they wanted to rank for keywords related to “homes services for the elderly”. So what’s the problem with that? Well, primarily that phrase, as a search query, relates to senior medical care and visiting nurses. The company might be able to rank for a phrase like that with the right techniques, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. If your site is not going to meet the user intent for a search phrase all you are likely to wind up with is an astronomical bounce rate.
Another one of the biggest problems any website faces is usability. If a would-be customer finds your website difficult to navigate, they will probably be more likely to find another site that is easier to maneuver than to try to figure out yours. That’s why if you’re not doing usability testing then your SEO efforts may be wasted. Why spend all your time and resources getting to #1 if people are looking at your site and then deciding that #2 looks much cleaner and easier to operate? Oh, and a “search bar” and “sitemap” on your site does not equal good usability.
There are a lot of things that can result in a poor user experience. But probably the most annoying issue is not being able to find what you want, or not being able to find your way back where you came from. That’s where bread crumbs and internal links can be a major ally in both SEO and usability.
Another way to improve usability is to respect convention and familiarity. Web users have become used to certain in things, like having the Header link back to the Home Page, and standard elements like About Us and Contact pages. They may look for these kinds of things and if you don’t have them users may get frustrated and leave.
Usability testing can cost thousands; even tens of thousands of dollars if you want to spend that. But there are certainly cheaper ways of doing it. Having small focus groups look for specific things, and comment on how easy or difficult it was to accomplish that goal is certainly an inexpensive, but informative option. But your easiest resource for usability feedback is your customers. Their remarks and observations may be the best way to get the insights you need to iron out the bumps in your usability. We are all too close to our own work to see it objectively and the only way you can ever truly evaluate your own site is to view it through someone else’s eyes.
Failing to Manage Your Online Reputation
There’s an expression, “there’s no such thing as bad press” it reflects the notion that any coverage of you or your business can only lead to more publicity and more people talking about you. While there’s still some truth to the sentiment, the internet has changed the game. The thing about bad press now is it lingers forever.
Trust and credibility have become a major concern for online shoppers. They only want to give out their credit card numbers to companies with a good reputation. So before shoppers become customers, they may want to know what others are saying about you. At that point, the rest of SEO ceases to matter. Regardless of how many links you have or how smart your site architecture is; if everything people read about you online is sending up red flags, they will probably buy from your competition.
Your reputation online can be comprised of a number of things, press, reviews, interviews, really anything that bears your name and exists on the web. If you aren’t aware of your online image, or aren’t actively managing it, there’s at least a chance that it could be bad. And a bad online reputation is inevitably going to undermine your business.
Online reputation management (ORM) can be a major undertaking, but the first thing to do is figure out where you stand. Most internet users don’t delve much more deeply than the first 10 Search Engine results, so in order to break it down into small pieces, start by reviewing the top 10 results for your company name, flagship products and key players on your staff.
The kinds of results you’ll find generally fall into one of 4 categories, non-existent, good, not-bad, and ugly. Non-existent just means that when you Google yourself you find mostly un-related citations. The good stuff is favorable reviews, good press, positive press or other kinds of complimentary mentions. The not-bad stuff tends to be pretty neutral. For example, your social media profiles don’t really enhance your image, but it’s better than a rant from someone who hates you. Then of course, there are the rants from people who hate you. Literally hundreds of sites are dedicated to giving angry consumers an outlet for their frustrations. Those diatribes can rank for your name just as easily as a press release about how you donated to your local animal shelter.
Make sure you know what ranks for your company name now, and dedicate your self to fixing it or maintaining positive results. Sign up for Google or Yahoo! Alerts to stay abreast of new mentions of your brand that may appear. If you have a lack of an online reputation, social media profiles, and directory listings are a great way to create new web pages which are about your business, and they can help build your network. If you have a really severe reputation problem, it could take some real time and effort to offset the ugliness and you may have to bite the bullet and enlist a pro.
Bad Customer Experiences
I have a saying; no amount of SEO or ORM can fix a bad product, high prices or lousy customer service. If you have real internal problems, then your search engine rankings and what ever results fill the top 10 for your name aren’t going to matter much. Well actually, if your business practices are lacking then chances are your online rep isn’t going to be all that good either, so now you have 2 problems on your hands.
It does amaze me when a company invests more money in getting their site ranked than in developing a business worthy of rankings. You can own the number one spot for every one of your keywords, but if every customer you get out of it becomes an angry or disappointed customer, you’re going to see an increase in bad online press and a decrease in return visitors. Any company, no matter the industry, relies on repeat business and customer loyalty. So it comes down to this, before you worry about making a link bait video go viral, make sure you have a structure in place to support new customers and satisfy their needs.
The other purpose of managing your online rep is to actually to gain feedback and insight on what is being said about you. There are a number of tools and platforms which allow us to become virtual flies on the wall for every conversation relating to our brands. To ignore that, or fail to capitalize on the opportunity that creates is just unfortunate. A business can pretend not to know where their weaknesses lie in order to avoid addressing them, but it’s only going to cripple the bottom line. Don’t waste resources on getting turbo-charged rankings until you’re positive that you can make the most of the traffic that high rankings can bring you.
Modern business can’t really afford to neglect the power of search engines and high search engine rankings. That’s why SEO needs to become a part of any website’s marketing discussion. But if you don’t have your ducks in a row, it could all be for nothing. The best way to make the most of your money and your rankings is to ensure you have the right keywords, on a usable site. Combine that with a solid online reputation that is backed by a strong business model and you become virtually unstoppable.
Guest author Jessica writes most frequently for the German based ReputationObserver.de, an online reputation management platform. She has worked in the field of internet marketing and SEO for several years and specializes in ORM, link building and blogging.You can also guest blog here.