April 29, 2009
I've spent the last few weeks reviewing scads of websites for our new SEO Website Review clients and have noticed a lot of interesting things in the process. The sites have run the gamut from the "best I've ever seen" – to – "better off starting from scratch," with lots in between. Some were putting search engines before people, and others hadn't had a chance to even think about search engines yet.
The best site was fundamentally doing everything right, as was evidenced by the fact that they receive nearly a million visitors per month! The worst was a huge mess that hadn't quite transitioned into the 21st century yet. There was one that had recently lost a gigantic percentage of their Google traffic along with the big bucks that came with it. And another that was part of a plot to dominate all 10 spots on the search engine results page (SERP) for 1 keyword phrase.
What I kept finding was that nearly all the folks I worked with were highly focused on rankings for certain pet phrases that they believed were their holy grail to success. In some cases, a higher ranking for their phrase probably would increase their website traffic. For example, the really awesome site I mentioned is making gazillions on AdSense, so a higher ranking for their pet phrase could make them another zillion or so. And honestly, I'd love to give them the magic bullet that would do it for them.
But there isn't one.
In fact, there comes a time in every great website's life when it doesn't matter what you do on the page anymore; it won't affect your rankings. At that point, all you can do to move the needle is to obtain a boatload of recommendations from other sites – ideally all having your pet phrase in the anchor text of the links. This, of course, is a whole lot easier said than done. To do this you have to persistently be the best in your niche by doing and saying things that set you apart from the others.
In other words, you'll have to work your ass off!
Who has that kind of time? Unfortunately, most don't. Most are already busting their butts doing all the other things it takes to run a successful business, as they should. So instead, they focus on the wrong things.
I've got a secret for you. It's one you won't hear me say very often when it comes to SEO. While my mantra has always been to make your site be the best it can be, you may not actually need to bust your butt as hard as you think when it comes to your SEO goals.
You may just need to move the goal posts.
What if I told you that you were leaving money on the table right now because you were so fixated on your pet phrases? What if I told you that your pet phrases aren't even working for you?
Over and over in my reviews, I found that the words people were most concerned with were not always the ones on which they should be focusing. They were words that might bring a lot of traffic to the site, but they were also the ones that would take the most amount of work to gain traction in the SERPs. To top it off, they were the ones that rarely converted to a sale.
Here's the rub.
You already have this knowledge at your fingertips if you spend a little bit of extra time analyzing the right elements. Good web analytic packages such as Google Analytics (GoAn) provide you with everything you need to know – assuming you have it set up correctly and know what to look for. If you are running Google AdWords campaigns, you have even more data to work with. Unfortunately, while most of the websites I reviewed had the GoAn code on their websites, many did not have it set up correctly or were giving it only a cursory glance.
There's no way you can know where to focus your efforts if you're not accurately measuring what works and what doesn't.
Here's your challenge. Starting tomorrow (you can relax today!), instead of wasting time fooling around with keywords you think you need, use the data already available to you to learn where you actually should be focusing your attention. Then plan out your new SEO strategy accordingly.
Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a Boston SEO Services company.
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