Don’t let SEO platforms dictate your search strategy

Recognized leader in digital transformation, partner at Highbridgefounder of Martech Zone, speaker, author, podcaster and consultant.

Increasing overall business results can start with reviewing and deploying improved analytics markup on your business site.

Suppose your data reveals exceptional conversion rates of search engine traffic that are significantly higher than those of advertisements or social media. This is not to say that other channels should be ignored, only that the potential for increased sales is there if current landing pages could be optimized and new pages provided with significantly better content than the competition.

An essential tool used in an audit is a search engine optimization (SEO) platform. These platforms monitor both paid and organic searches and keyword volumes, and provide a ton of tools that provide insight into on-page optimization opportunities. Pages can be optimized by a number of methods, including:

• Optimized infrastructure to improve page speed.

• Optimized titles to increase page indexing for relevant keyword searches.

• Optimized meta descriptions that would make search engine users more likely to click on search engine results pages.

• Optimized page content with improved verbiage, better captioning and use of formatting, videos and other images.

There are of course concerns about whether the site will lose its rank or whether errors and warnings revealed by an SEO platform should take priority. These concerns are not uncommon, but they are often unwarranted given the context of the overall strategy.

Search engine optimization is often seen by consultants to power the algorithms of a search engine, which may be in direct conflict with the desires of the search engine user. Basically, all search engines want to provide better search engine results to users. As a result, it helps focus on the user, not the machine.

Some errors and warnings impact users. An example is broken internal links where a user cannot find the information they attempted to navigate to. However, many other errors and warnings do not affect users. Here are some examples:

• You mark an advertising landing page so that it is not indexed in search engines. Google Search Console and many SEO platforms will flag this as an error when you did it on purpose. You deliberately hide different advertising offers so that they do not attract organic search traffic.

• You develop a simple landing page with a signup form and it comes with a warning because it has low text-to-HTML ratios. Adding text would eliminate the very purpose of the design, which is to only provide a path to save and convert.

Search engine marketing platforms provide amazing reports on virtually every digital feature of your site. What SEO platforms don’t do, however, is provide useful information about visitors. Here’s an example we keep seeing: sites rank for an irrelevant keyword that gets a ton of traffic that immediately bounces around and never converts customers. Great for algorithms, prominent in all SEO platforms, but absolutely useless for your business.

In fact, it may even frustrate visitors. There are quite a few tech brands doing what they can to own keyword rankings, but offer nothing of value on their landing pages. I now skip these sites when researching my industry.

Let’s review those concerns and rephrase the question as important concerns:

• Are the site’s current rankings generating high-value visitor conversion rates?

• Do errors and recommendations have an impact on ranking and subsequent purchase behavior?

An ideal first step in every SEO strategy is to ensure that tags are properly managed across the site to accurately capture campaigns, events, and conversions. You still need to work from conversion all the way to the search engine to identify the right target audience, the right content, and compare the client to legitimate competitors.

When you understand how your potential customers use search engines to find the products or services you offer, then you can optimize your site and its content to attract appropriate search engine users. SEO platforms are essential to help you do this, but only after you are able to link buying behavior to search engine behavior.

So how do you know what to ignore and what not to? If you use Google Analytics:

1. Link your Google Ads account to your Google Analytics property.

2. Configure Search Console data in Google Analytics.

3. Ensure that all campaigns such as email, app notifications or SMS are correctly tagged with the UTM campaign code.

4. Check your default channel definitions in Google Analytics and modify them to ensure that all traffic is classified correctly by channel.

5. Use goals to measure how often users perform specific actions.

Google doesn’t report activity from its connected accounts, so it’s nearly impossible to track organic search visits by keyword through to conversion. However, you can use an SEO platform to identify which pages are ranking on your site and for which keywords. At this point, you can use analytics to identify these pages as entry points and start analyzing if these visitors are engaged and converting.

You now have a much clearer picture of how search engine users are finding, engaging and converting on your site. It’s time to go back and identify which keywords you might rank better for and which pages you should optimize or create to attract those visitors. At this point, your SEO platform can help, but only after you focus on the visitors that matter, not all search visitors.


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Brandon D. James