Insulating Ourselves From Google's Whims

Ranking well for our chosen keywords involves putting in a lot of effort up front, with no guarantee of ranking, or reward.

Even if we do attain rankings, and even if do get rewarded, there is no guarantee this situation will last. And this state of flux, for many seos, is only likely to get worse as Google advises that updates will be “jarring and julting for a while

Even more reason to make every visitor count.

If we can extract higher value from each visitor, by converting them from visitor to customers, and from short term customers to long term customers, then our businesses are less vulnerable to Google’s whims. We don’t need to be as focused on acquiring new visitors.

There is great value to be had in optimizing the entire marketing chain.

Hunting For Customers Vs Keeping Customers

It comes down to cost.

According to a Harvard Study a few years back, it can cost five times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to keeping a current customer happy. Of course, your mileage may vary, as whether it really costs five times as much, or three, or seven really depends what your cost structure.

However, this concept is an important one for search marketers, as it’s reasonable to assume that the cost of acquiring customers, via keyword targeting, is rising as Google makes the marketing process of keyword targeting more expensive than it has been in the past. This trend is set to continue.

If the cost of customer acquisition is rising, it can make sense to look at optimizing the offer, the conversion rates and optimizing the value of existing customers.

Underlying Fundamentals

If you have something a lot of people desperately need, and there isn’t much competition, it typically doesn’t cost much to land those customers. They come to you. If you have something genuinely scarce, or even artificially scarce, people will line up.

The problem is that most businesses don’t enjoy such demand. They must compete with other businesses offering similar products and services. So, if there is a scarcity issue, it’s a scarcity of customers, not service and product providers.

However, by focusing on a specific niche, businesses can eliminate a lot of competition, and thereby reduce the marketing cost. For example, a furniture manufacturer could conceivably make furniture for a wide variety of customers, from commercial offices, to industry, to the home.

But if they narrowed their focus to, say, private jet fit-outs, they eliminate a lot of their competition. They’d also have to determine if that niche is lucrative, of course, but as you can see, it’s a way of eliminating a lot of competition simply by adding focus and specialization.

By specializing, they are more likely to enjoy higher quality leads - i.e. leads that may result in a sale - than if they targeted broadly, as it is difficult to be all things to all people The cost of marketing to a broad target market can be higher, as can the level of competition in the search results pages, and the quality of leads can be lower.

Conversion Optimization

Once we’re focused on our niche, and we’ve got targeted visitors coming in, how can we ensure fewer visitors are wasted?

Those who do a lot of PPC will be familiar with conversion optimization, and we’ll dive deep into this fascinating area over the coming weeks, but it’s a good concept for those new to SEO, and internet marketing in general, to keep at front of mind.

You’ve gone to a lot of trouble to get people to your site, so make sure they don’t click back once they arrive!

Here’s a great case study by a company called Conversion Rate Experts. It outlines how to structure pages to improve conversion rates. Whilst the findings are the result of testing and adaptation, and are specific to each business, there are a few few key lessons here:

Length of the page. In this case, a long page improved conversion rates by 30%. Of course, it’s not a numbers game, more the fact that the longer page allowed more time to address objections and answer visitor questions.

As Conversion Rate Experts point out:

The media would have us believe that people no longer have any capacity to concentrate. In reality, you cannot have a page that’s too long—only one that’s too boring. In the case of Crazy Egg’s home page, visitors wanted their many questions answered and that’s what we delivered. (If you’d like more people to scroll down your long pages, see the guide we wrote on the topic.)”

It’s best to experiment, to see what works best in your own situation, but, generally speaking, it pays to offer the visitor as much timely information as possible, as opposed to short copy if there is a analytical, need-oriented motivation. Short copy can work better if the customer is impulsive.

As we see in the Crazy Egg case study, by anticipating and addressing specific objections, and moving the customer closer to the point of sale, the webpage is doing the job of the salesperson. This is an area where SEO and PPC, linked with conversion rate optimization, can add a ton of value.

The second interesting point was they optimized the long-term value of the customer to the company by making a time-sensitive offer.

The one-time offer test illustrates another important principle of conversion optimization: Don’t let the fear of a short-term loss stand in the way of a long-term gain

The offer they made turned a short-term customer into a long-term customer. If we have a lot of long term customers on our books, it can take some of the pressure off the need to constantly acquire new customers.

Optimize Everything

We engage in SEO because there are many similar sites.

The benefit of SEO is we can occupy premium real estate. If we appear high on the search result pages, we are more likely than our competitors to command the customers attention. But we stand to gain a lot more stability if we are not wholly reliant on occupying the top spots, and therefore less vulnerable to Google’s whims.

Published: September 26, 2012 by A Reader in marketing


September 28, 2012 - 9:29pm

Nicely stated. The recent or past year of updates has jarred the SEO community to say the least. What has not changed is the importance of a top ranking, more so the quality of the site and page in which people are landing on. On-site conversion is the second and jsut as an important step in gaining new customers. Make every visitor count.

Brian Greenberg
September 28, 2012 - 11:57pm

Great post Peter :) Google really changed things for seo's this year. I have been trying to re-educate current and new clients into not looking for shortcuts anymore, and adding real business value and strategies. I wrote a post on this that I would like to get your feedback on.

The question I get all the time is what do I do now after this google change? There are many things as you listed in your post that do not rely totally on Google. The last place I want to be is if Google hiccups... I am out of business.

September 29, 2012 - 9:10am

Seos shouldn't concentrate for ranking well for chosen keywords. Link building gives you guarantee to participate in long tails. More links you get = more visitors come. cheers from PL

September 29, 2012 - 10:36am

Seriously I love the alogorithm updates, but even after trying hard to get the top rankings, there is no guarantee that it will last for long. Now SEO becomes more harder than ever before after Panda and Penguin, at a point of time (when there is a new algo update from Google on Panda) I have experienced a huge traffic fall, later I started understanding about the update, experimented few things and at last now I made my website Panda and Penguin proof..

I have written an article on my experience with the Panda and Penguin updates at here..

Also please share your experiences here about these updates..

October 3, 2012 - 2:34pm

Great post. Its creating a superior user journey through the website and nurturing the leads that you do get during turbulent times that makes a successful business.

October 12, 2012 - 4:24pm

I just shared this post with others and asked them to really understand it and even write summaries and link to it. I even asked one blogger to write me a guest post about it and I will publish it. People - please listen to this advice. I've been trying to get ecommerce sites to understand this for YEARS - mostly to no avail.

Even before Google started taking away your best converting traffic it simply made sense to focus on increasing conversions. That goes double if you're paying for the traffic!

WRITE BETTER DESCRIPTIONS - follow Marsha Collins advice that your descriptions should be so good photos aren't really necessary - and that your photos are so clear and show the products so well that a description isn't really necessary. DO BOTH and your sales will climb as more people can SEE and KNOW your product IS what they want.

ADD MORE CHECKOUT OPTIONS - Just yesterday I was so excited I finally had enough money to go buy what I had been putting off. I picked out what I really wanted - put it in the shopping cart - and then 200% committed to ONLY buying from that one business I could not check out. The "cash" is in Paypal because I work entirely online. They don't take PayPal.

I even called them and asked if they knew of a retailer of their products that did. The person answering the phone has no information that wasn't online - and I would have to just keep picking random zip codes and searching 50 miles around to find retailers who most likely only carried a few items and did not even sell online - or take PayPal.

Sale lost - and all future sales. Hundreds from me yesterday and thousands or more over time. They have no competition in my eyes. I ONLY want THEIR products. But I can't buy them with a method that has been extremely common for YEARS that is used by a huge percentage of people who are active online.

There were only two businesses I really wanted to buy from yesterday - and neither takes PayPal so I could not buy what I wanted. The other business has competition - not as good as them but few know that - so anyone else would just go buy from another brand.

Businesses can not expect their potential customers to live like they do. Just because you believe in having credit cards they may not. Very large percentages of Americans do not qualify for a credit card and some can't even get a debit card from a bank. If you don't choose to have a checking account you can't even get a PayPal debit card. Yes, you could get a prepaid debit card - but many of those gouge you worse than the credit card companies!

If you want sales you have to let people use what they have. Do you really think they're going to go open a checking account and get a credit or debit card - or risk getting burnt trying out prepaid cards - just so they can buy from you? NO they won't.

I only want products from those two companies. If I can't buy them I won't buy them anywhere. I'll eventually find a local source - or talk a local business into carrying them. But in the meantime they are losing sales every month from me. And I have to believe there are many who had hundreds of dollars of products in their shopping cart and had the money to buy them - but left your business empty-handed because YOU choose not to bother to add more ways to pay. That is a big mistake.

So instead of obsessing over getting more traffic focus on what you can do yourself. Improve your product descriptions. Add information to make your site look more trustworthy. Make it easier to navigate. Improve the quality of your search results. And most of all ADD MORE CHECKOUT OPTIONS or that money that was yours for the asking will keep walking out that virtual door!

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