The false promise of SEO?
In recent years, Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, has become something of a buzzword. Experts and amateurs alike have thrown the term around, often as the holy grail of ecommerce success without necessarily considering its limitations as well as its advantages. We would argue that in many senses this has meant SEO has delivered false promises on which it cannot be relied. Here we shed light on a subject that often mystifies, and provide some food for thought, as well as questions to ask yourself as you consider establishing or improving your own ecommerce presence and attempt to build your user-base.
1) Have you considered the changing sands?
The simple fact is that search engines exist to make money. In order to stay relevant to their users they constantly change the algorithms that drive their search responses. A sudden change, after hours of work and focus on your SEO strategy, can be both disastrous and supremely frustrating to a business that is over-reliant on SEO as a source of traffic. In order to avoid this type of frustration website owners should consider SEO as part of a wholly integrated online marketing plan, and consider properly the place of any SEO strategy within the whole.
2) Do you have time?
Those same algorithms are clever and can fairly immediately tell if a site is trying to short-cut the system by building links too quickly or using those links purely for the purposes of SEO optimization. If your site is discovered to be working the system in some way, it can render many hours of work fruitless. Unfortunately, SEO takes time to establish in any depth and you should actively question if you have the time and money to be able to deliver an SEO link strategy effectively. If you are looking for results quickly, it might be time to consider other options, such as PPC (pay-per-click) advertising.
3) Do you have the right knowledge?
Given the detailed knowledge of algorithm manipulation required to be successful, many companies either give up on the basis that their own knowledge is limited or turn to self-professed experts to do the job on their behalf. However, even those ‘experts’ are at the mercy of deliberately opaque algorithm development. They may well have strong specialist knowledge that can assist in improving rankings but, as with any marketing decision, businesses should always question the results of any SEO ‘specialist’ and never take SEO-driven traffic as a given.
4) Are you looking at quantity over quality?
If you have been fortunate enough to drive a large volume of traffic to your site, it is especially important to look at the quality of that traffic in terms of your site objectives. Volume is only a good thing if those visitors are actually behaving as you wish them to, perhaps purchasing or interacting with your products – whatever your site is designed to achieve. A quality visitor will always be a more cost-effective use of your marketing spend than a high number that bounce or simply browse without action. Again, other forms of online advertising that allow you to track and monitor cost per action may well be a better use of your time and effort.
For many years SEO has been key in the armory of tools available to the online marketer and in many instances can form an effective bedrock of traffic from which to build upon. However, good marketers will always challenge themselves by questioning whether it is truly delivering against their site objectives and will change their strategy and activities accordingly.