Creating an effective search engine optimization strategy is one of the highest yield efforts a company can make. All too often, however, the return on investment is not at the desired level. Most, unfortunately, find themselves unable to capitalize on the lucrative practice, often falling prey to the wiles of low-cost SEO firms and self-proclaimed SEO gurus. All too often, “SEO experts” deliver cookie-cutter solutions that focus more on using high-volume keywords rather than optimizing for the key phrases that truly matter.
As someone who’s worked in the SEO industry since the early days, I can tell you first-hand that trying to rank for the wrong keywords is the biggest waste of time and effort a company or marketing team can pursue. While increasing traffic to a website should have some effect on the website’s performance, it is one of the poorest indicators of a proper SEO strategy. What then should companies use to measure results? Conversions and qualified leads (MQLs).
More experienced SEOs will tell you that good search engine optimization isn’t about high-volume keyword integration: It’s about optimizing for user intent and increased conversions. In order to leverage SEO to maximize ROI, strategists need to target long-tail keywords, possess a deep understanding of marketplace competition, and account for user intent.
Striking the Right Balance in SEO
One of the biggest problems with search engine optimization is the lack of standardized practices. Effective SEO experts put in hours of continuous education to keep up with the latest trends and changing algorithms. However, the industry is woefully inundated with charlatan pseudo-professionals who are just out to make a quick buck. These are the same over-night success optimizers who rely on high-volume keywords to inform their SEO strategy.
At first glance, using high-volume search terms to boost site rankings might not seem like a bad idea. Why wouldn’t we want to target the keywords and phrases that most users are searching? The problem with this strategy is the sheer amount of competition it presents. Keywords and phrases with large search volume are typically information-seeking in nature and unlikely to lead to conversion.
How can SEO be a poor investment?
Let’s say the client is a mattress store in Victoria, Texas that wants to inform local patients about their services. An SEO professional might tell them the best strategy is to rank for the keyword “mattress,” which has a monthly search volume between 500,000 – 600,000. What that SEO expert failed to mention is that these numbers show the volume of “mattress” search queries across the nation, which has little relevance to the target audience in Victoria. This is also extremely broad and likely an informative (info gathering or seeking) search and not likely to convert into sales. Compared to the more specific search phrase “mattress store” or “mattress store near me” which gets around 50-100 searches per month in Victoria Texas, the broad search term my seem very attractive. Then over the next few months, as the client wastes thousands of dollars attempting to rank for a highly competitive search term, their competition who focused on the relevant search terms will enjoy steady leads and conversions from the terms more likely to deliver conversions.
Many companies fall victim to this deceitful practice, wasting time, money, and energy on a project that ultimately won’t bring them value. The key to developing a strong SEO strategy is striking the right balance between search volume, competition, and conversion. When this is achieved, that’s when the real magic begins!
Optimizing for User Intent
Finding the balance between volume, competition, and conversion means keyword researchers must keep user intent top-of-mind. The biggest reason search terms with large volume don’t drive conversions is because the user intent is typically to seek out high-level information rather than to find a specific product or service. In order to reach the viewers that matter most for conversions, SEO strategists need to research long-tail keywords and phrases that are most relevant to their clients. This is referred to as conversion rate optimization (CRO).
Let’s revisit that mattress store in Victoria. This time, they have partnered with an SEO agency that has taken the time to properly assess business goals and do the necessary keyword research. The strategist sees that the term “mattress financing near me” has a low search volume of just 132. However, the click-through rate (CTR) for this search term is 64%, meaning 64% of users searching this term are likely to click on the mattress store pages that rank high for it in the search engine results. Additional research shows that the phrase “mattresses for sale in Victoria, TX” receives a monthly search volume of just 27, but has a CTR of 80%. By strategically optimizing the mattress store’s website around the search terms with a high CTR, the SEO strategist effectively maximizes his ROI and increases conversions.
In this example, the SEO professional takes into account search volume, competition, and conversion likelihood to create an effective strategy that earns the client results. This is what companies need to look for when seeking to optimize their web presence: Not high-volume search terms that do nothing to drive conversions.
SEO: An Art Form, Not a Science
Search engine and conversion rate optimization are not an exact science. Experts need to take the time to understand their clients’ needs on a granular level in order to get it just right. At WiT Group, that’s exactly what our SEO strategists are trained to do. We work closely with each client to define their business objectives and deliver meaningful results through data-driven best practices. By accounting for user intent and balancing volume, conversion, and competition, our SEO professionals build winning strategies that earn real results for our clients.