Conversion. It’s the reason that we marketers drive traffic to a website. Our goal, the one purpose of doing SEO, is to acquire new customers for our clients and our companies.

To do this, we perform keyword research. We dig in and learn about what it is that users are searching for. We try and put ourselves into the mindset of the people we hope to acquire through persona development and customer interviews. All of this effort comes out as a strategy. A keyword theme is written up, and so begins the process of ranking.

So why is it that, an average 97% of the time, the very people that marketers spend so much time working to attract don’t convert?

Is it that they just targeted really crummy keywords, and the traffic they send is junk? I don’t think so. You’ll often find that a well done SEO effort yields very engaged traffic, people that, you would think, would be highly inclined to buy.

Alas, not so much. Even websites with very high return on marketing spends are usually still in the single digits as far as conversion rate.

seo-is-flawed-seattle-seo

So, what’s the problem?

The problem is this: The assumption that we can tell what a person is thinking just by looking at the phrase that an unknown user types into a single field form is flawed. Why assume we know what they are thinking? Why assume we know why they chose to type in those specific words? Why assume that they are someone we can sell too? We can’t. Not really.

SEO, in this sense, is terribly flawed. If it were otherwise, we would have dramatically better conversion rates.

The simple fact is that the vast majority of users, even users who visit from extremely relevant keywords, simply won’t buy from you. The reason?

They aren’t ready to. And this is where nurturing, informing, and maintaining a relationship with a viewer becomes so vitally important.

And to curtail a possible objection that you might be thinking of, targeting your content to focus on just the people at the bottom doesn’t seem to work much better. So called commercial intent keywords convert people into sales well, but again, only a paltry percentage actually convert. All too often, the people who use commercial intent keywords just aren’t ready to buy.

What is the Solution to This Failure of SEO?

The conversion process can be summed up in the three word phrase “Browse, Compare, Buy”. It’s one of those things that any online marketer has had burned into their minds. Unfortunately, that places just as much focus on the Buy stage as it does the Browse stage. In our minds, the process looks a bit like this:

conversion path

In reality, the time it takes for users to come to an understanding of what they feel they need, how they are going to approach satisfying that need, who or what they are going to choose to satisfy the need, making a decision, and committing to that decision, is entirely different:

Capture

Making the decision and acting on it is usually the smallest part of the process. People can spend days or weeks thinking about a dress or a pair of shoes, but it only takes a moment to purchase, and yet we as marketers spend an enormous amount of time focusing on just that final step.

Take a look at the time it took to actually make that purchase. During that entire time, as the user gets the information they want and makes the comparisons that they need to make, they are being exposed to your competition. They may even forget you exist.

So What Can Marketers Do to Compensate For This?

This is where the importance of nurturing comes into play. Email nurturing, paid ads, social media contact, and so on are all ways that you can keep your visitors engaged, interested, and aware of you. Maintaining a clear conversion path is also important — part of conversion rate optimization (CRO) is to make sure that next steps are intuitive, so that people naturally and easily move themselves down the sales funnel to purchase.

Instead, we need to stop thinking about just the buy stage. The bottom of the funnel isn’t where the people are. Using ebooks, guides, and coupons as offers and backed with a solid email marketing effort, we can stay top of mind with our customers during the browse stage, help guide them through the comparison stage, and ultimately be the only choice for them.

Winning our customers isn’t just about keywords and rankings. It’s about being there every step in their journey.

If you are in need of help with your SEO and inbound marketing strategies, give us a call.

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