It’s campaign review time, and instead of discussing a question I have recently fielded, I am revisiting a statement I unfortunately hear from time to time. While I have used this space to discuss the relevance of data points and the impact of social media channels, today I will address a broad-reaching issue that (ideally) should be discussed before engaging in an any type of ongoing SEO/SEM campaign. That issue is dissatisfaction with SEO results.

Statement:  “I’m not getting the results I expected; maybe SEO (link building) just isn’t for me.”

Before going any further, I want to highlight my point that an online marketing campaign should be thoroughly discussed, thought upon, and decided in preparation of promoting your web presence. If you can’t answer the following question honestly and without hesitation, there are likely greater obstacles facing the growth of your business that very few SEM firms will be able to overcome.

“What do I want out of my SEO (link building) campaign?"

Our business development team does an excellent job of reviewing this idea with potential/eventual clients, but they understand that a gentle reminder of a client’s decision is necessary from time to time. 
Taking a step back, I want to add some context to this question. After reviewing a client’s data (visits, traffic sources, conversions/engagement, etc.) I often try to relate the numbers to real-world success. Typically, new visits with conversions (sales/contacts) are stats that I am eager to point out. However, increases in the aforementioned metrics don’t always bring a smile to my client’s face, and this is when I hear that a client is not pleased with what we have achieved together. There are hundreds of reasons why some will be dissatisfied with seemingly great results, but I want to review the 3 I hear most often.

Pain Point #1: “We aren’t #1 for keyword X!”

An initial contract engagement with our clients lasts 6-12 months on average. During this time, we are (in a nutshell) contracted to produce front page results. For me, increasing the number of front page results from 2-3 keywords to 20-30 keywords in that time is a huge win! The disconnect between my joy and a client’s pain over these figures is typically that our long list of wins is delivered minus 1 or 2 “important” keywords, and that our wins are “irrelevant” by the client’s standards. These keywords may be ultra-competitive (think “personal injury lawyer"), your domain may be brand new, your content could have been duplicate–these are a few of the many reasons we have not immediately shot to the top of the results page. If you are getting involved with an organic link building campaign to achieve success for 1 or 2 terms, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. 

Pain Point #2: “I am getting too many unqualified emails; the leads are a waste of time!”

As with many things (the weather, the appearance of gray hairs, the Raiders’ road record this decade), I am unable to control who is doing what on the Internet. While this seems to be silly to point out, I am occasionally caught off guard by those who would think otherwise. While yes, I did recommend that you target “attorney san diego” to promote your law firm as it nets thousands of views a month, I cannot be held responsible for the percentage of those who aren’t a qualified lead. I am sure that for every one visitor who uses that keyword, legitimately needs your help, and has a good case, there are dozens more that have no case, and worse, no money. While we may have increased your overall number of leads (and some will be bad, I am sure), the number of emails that come through due to a one-keyword phrase is not the only benefit of link building efforts. A truly effective campaign will pursue these broad match terms with thousands of visits, but will also focus on long tail terms (like “foreclosure attorney la jolla”) whose visitors are highly targeted and more likely to produce quality leads. 

Pain Point #3: “We’re #1 for keyword X & the leads are great, but we are not selling enough units!”

“A great product will prevail, even in the absence of creative marketing.” This is something I heard back in my college days and I genuinely believe it. If you offer a product with unique qualities that serve a need, you stand a good chance at making it. On the flip side, if your product is run-of-the-mill, with little to no value, even the most accomplished marketing guru will be hard-pressed to save you. Although Furbys, Tamagotchis & Hannah Montana stand in direct opposition to my own counterpoint, I am rarely called upon to promote products/services on this scale.

I do, however, often speak with people eager to cash in on verticals that are in a sudden boom period (gold, iPhone apps, etc.). What usually keeps clients such as these out of our link building portfolio is the shelf life of the product boom, or usually, the highly competitive keywords accompanying them. For argument’s sake, let us pretend that we do get top-ranked results within the campaign period and we are producing leads at a rapid rate. We discover that upon further investigation of the product/service that leads are moving on to purchase elsewhere. Perhaps a competitor is undercutting our client on price or the client’s sales team is having a tough month? Whatever the reason, a link building campaign cannot be ultimately responsible for who purchases and who does not. Conversion from a particular keyword does start with a presence there, but ultimately it depends on the experience a visitor has.

“So, what should I want out of my SEO (link building) campaign?"

What you should want is to naturally increase the awareness to your brand, through a variety of keyword channels, over an extended period of time. There are other benefits to marketing your site through link building, but at its core, it is a long-term solution to improve the health of a business, not get it off the respirator.


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