• Monday, December 21st, 2009

Answer these three questionsWith SEO, like life, it’s about the questions you ask, not the answers you get.

Not long ago, I was dropping some shirts off at the cleaners.  I had noticed that a few of my buttons were cracked and broken.  I asked the young woman working the counter if they repaired buttons.  She simply replied “No, we don’t.”  I was puzzled, I thought all cleaners did this – now I would have to either find a new cleaner, or repair them myself.  But then, possibly sensing the building frustration on my face, she added; “We can replace the broken ones if you’d like.”  What? I was dumb founded.  How could this woman be so clueless as to not understand that is what I had meant?  It seemed fairly obvious to me that I didn’t actually expect them to be sitting back there with a tube of crazy glue repairing the buttons.  Then it occurred to me, I had asked the wrong question.  Even worse, I had expected them to interpret what I asked into what I meant.

What’s your reason for asking the question?

Before you ask any questions, you have to have a qoal – or two, or 10.  What is it you want your Web site to do?  Guess what? Tony Robbins and all the other self-help dorks have something to teach us about SEO.  If you can’t measure it, it’s not a goal.  It might be interesting, but it’s not a goal.

Which of these statements might make a good goal for a Web site?

  1. I want a web site full of silly pictures of cats that spreads joy and happiness throughout the world.
  2. I want a Web site full of silly pictures of cats that attracts 25 bazillion visitors a day and makes so much money in ad revenue that I have to use a wheelbarrow to take my checks to the bank.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for joy and happiness, but how do you measure it?

Are you asking the correct questions?

After you have a goal, no matter how simple or grand, you must also set measurable steps to achieve it.  Each of those measures are the questions you need to be asking.

If you want to have XX number of visitors per month, that’s an easy measurement.  If you want XX dollars in ad revenue a month, also an easy measurement.  If you want to rank on page one of Google, well, that too is measurable.  However, is the phrase your are measuring the right one?  Does it support your end goal, or is it just interesting?  For example, many companies set a goal of ranking on page one for their own name.  While that certainly is something that every company should be able to do, I don’t see that as a worth-while use of time.  Simply because if you don’t rank for your name, you have bigger problems.  A more important question; How does your site rank for the name of the products you sell?

Just because you can, does not mean you should

It’s important for you to understand that just because you CAN measure something, does not mean you should, or need to.  If you are selling widgets for $10.25 a piece, perhaps 2,00 page views is pretty good for you.  Perhaps 10,000 page views translates into sales of 150 widgets, enough to keep your staff maxed out.  But are page views really what you should be measuring?  Are they what drives the success of your site? Sure, you could show a chart the demonstrates an increase in page views equates to in an increase in sales, but that’s selling harder, not smarter.  There’s a reason wal-mart doesn’t count people as they walk into the store.  They know it doesn’t matter.  Sure, there is a general correlation, but what really drives sales is shopper’s ability to find what they want quickly, and at a price they are willing to pay.  Can you say the same about your Web site?

What if the reason it takes 10,000 page views to sell 150 widgets is because your Web site is difficult to navigate? Or your products are hard to find, or your check-out process is too complicated?  Perhaps, the questions you should be asking are;

  • What’s the ratio of completed to abandoned orders?
  • How much time does someone spend on the site before they make a purchase?
  • How many pages do they look at before they purchase?
  • What are people searching for with your on-site search tool?
  • What is your bounce rate?

Conversion doesn’t not have to mean selling something, maybe you want people to request more information, or to call an 800 number or download a white-paper.  Whatever it is, identify real things that may effect your conversions.  Those are the things worth measuring.

Compare Apples to Apples

While you may be able to make some broad industry comparisons, don’t get caught up in “benchmarks”.  Your site is your site.  Even if a competitor sells the same products as you, they will (probably) be using a different method and process to do it.  You can’t and shouldn’t model yourself after what you *think* they are doing.  Do what is right for you, for your company.

Test Everything

Now that you have your goals and measurements established, make sure you do lots and lots of testing.  It’s possible that something as simple as a button shape, or the hair color of a model could make a big difference in your sales.

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Now get busy setting your goals and determining the right measurements so that the next time your boss asks how many page views your site had, you can tell him “Sorry, we don’t repair buttons.”

Have fun!

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