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What are you optimizing your pages for?

SEO, as you know, stands for Search Engine Optimization, and you might rightly expect that SEO is about optimizing pages to appeal to search engines. And you’d be right. Increasingly, however, I am finding that clients believe so fervently in SEO that they aren’t actually optimizing their pages for sales. If you are falling into the trap, you’ll likely regret looking so narrowly at SEO.

This was all brought to mind by interactions with two different people the last few days who each are concerned about the same thing—search traffic dropping to their sites. When I dug into the situation further, I found that neither had any idea what kind of sales they were generating from their sites. One, in fact, knew that the page that had recently dropped in search rankings had an extremely high bounce rate, so they couldn’t have been selling very much.

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Now, for both of these people, the lack of sales was not a crisis, but the drop in search traffic and the drop in search rankings was a crisis. It was hard not to chuckle at how times have changed.

I guess you’ve been in the search business a long time when you can remember when you had to prove every nickel that would come in because we did this new SEO thing. No one believed it would work and no one wanted to do it.

And look at us now. Now there are people walking around that have such a rabid belief in SEO that they think it is an end in itself—that high rankings or even high traffic is some kind of magical elixir. It’s not.

Getting people to the front door of your Web site isn’t the end of the game. Unless you are optimizing your pages to actually sell things, online or offline, you’re not ready for SEO. In fact, if your Web site stinks, you should probably try to have as few people find it as possible. If you don’t know why you want people coming to your site, then figure that out first. Once you know your site can sell stuff, then it makes sense to use SEO and any other means at your disposal to drive as many people there as possible.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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