There is something seriously wrong with the way websites approach their SEO goals. This is true even for companies looking to create inbound leads for the first time.
Let’s take the landing of the Neil Patel Blog.
Neil Patel needs no introduction and he is arguably one of the best online marketers around.
Why is his blog page headline about generating more traffic?
It’s because for any online marketer that’s a logical thing to do.
But here is the problem:
Once the traffic starts pouring in, you start worrying about generating leads.
When you start generating leads, you start thinking about conversion. After all, conversion is the goal that really matters. Not site traffic.
I. Wondering why conversion matters more than site traffic?
Recently, Neil Patel acknowledged the fact that his conversion rates did not keep pace with the growth in his site traffic and if he were to do it again, he would just focus on conversion!
There is a good explanation for why conversion matters more than site traffic.
Every one of your prospective customers goes through a “journey” before they become your customer. This is true for any business that wants to acquire customers.
Here is how the customer journey looks like.
As you can see, if you create a site that can help your prospective customers find answers at every stage of their decision-making process or customer journey, you have a good chance of succeeding in creating a successful online business.
The success of your site is NOT based on how many people visit your site. If your site visitors don’t find answers for what they are looking for, you are turning away people who would have become your customers.
If your site can do this job well for a select group of visitors, you will be far more successful than a site that attracts tons of traffic but gets limited conversion.
Traffic can go to hell (sort of).
Let’s look at three very good reasons for this.
1. The tail wagging the dog
Here is what Neil Patel had to say about his blog – “I grew my search traffic by 123% while my revenue only grew by 12.5%… not a good deal.”
Focusing on just the site traffic adversely impacts the ROI. It’s a classic case of the tail wagging the dog.
Your quest for traffic will make you blind to the customer journey.
With all the enthusiasm and adrenaline rush that propel people to start a business, you picked out your high volume keywords and did a great job in creating an SEO friendly site.
This is like setting up a store on a busy street where there is large pedestrian traffic.
A lot of people will visit your site.
You can broadly classify your site visitors into one of the following categories:
a. Site visitors who become your customers
b. People who were just looking for more information
c. People looking for freebees
d. Visitors who came to your site but did not find what they were looking for
All of the above categories of visitors make up the top of your sales funnel.
Once you realize what’s happening, you will start implementing lead magnets (have site visitors disclose their contact information in return for content upgrades or downloads) so that you can start selling to them.
Depending on how well your marketing automation and conversion process works, a small percentage of people from the middle of your funnel will eventually convert into paying customers.
Creating content that actually shows up on the first page of Google is becoming increasingly difficult. Increasingly, answer snippets, PPC ads, the location of businesses on Google maps and product images take up the entire screen.
Search for “wedding venues in San Francisco” and here is what you get.
Why waste your precious time and effort in ranking for high volume keywords if you are not sure about the conversion potential for the keyword?
2. Packing your candy store with a crowd of diabetes patients
When you just focus on traffic volume, keyword intent and the mapping the content to the customer journey takes a backstage. This leads to a lot of site traffic with high bounce rates.
Back in 2016, I paid cold, hard cash to some other site to drive traffic to my site.
The site that took money from me attracted people who fit the profile of my target audience.
I just assumed I am bound to get a bunch of new customers as long as I can drive “relevant” traffic to my site.
This is what happened:
Here is why it failed.
No matter how relevant the targeting was, my site visitors did not care for what I was offering. They were just directed to my site through a bunch of click-bait articles and they left as soon as they were done reading it.
3. Going after site traffic will boost your ego, not your sales
When an online business gets to a point where they feel the need for lead magnets, it means they have not understood the journey taken by a customer in buying their product or idea.
A better strategy would be to figure out what can you offer on the day you launch your site so that your potential customers will not only read your content but also give up information about themselves. This is the first thing you should do.
Here is what I did.
Before launching my product, I created a lead magnet.
The lead magnet has exceptional content that my prospective customers love to get their hands on. It has 7 chapters packed with insights, tips, examples, and results from scientific studies that guide the customer to present themselves better when they are ready to find a soulmate.
It has practically no sales content and the only prompt to sign up is at the end of the content.
When you put your customer first and create exceptional content and awesome lead magnets, your conversion rates go off the charts.
In my case, my lead magnet has relatively less traffic (about 300 daily visits), but has a 50% conversion rate!
When your site traffic is “polluted” with all kinds of visitors with only a fraction of them converting, you end up with a lot of noise to deal with.
While your primary interest is to find out how your most profitable customers behave, you will be grappling with lots of data on site visitors who seem to be doing nothing but to boost your ego!
II. Practical tips to grow site traffic without sacrificing conversion
The idea of starting a business by targeting a group of people who are likely to buy from you is not a new concept!
Always build a site with content that directly addresses a pain point or solves a problem for a core set of users who are most likely to purchase or subscribe to the idea promoted by the site.
1. Understand your customer in the real world first
Before you write content for your target audience, talk to your potential customers. Catch them on the street, bribe them with gift cards to answer your questions, ask your friends and family to introduce you to your target customers.
In other words, do what it takes to get in front of your target customers in the real world.
When you catch hold of your target customers, ask them the following questions:
a. What are their pain points in using a product/service that you will be selling?
b. What would make the products/service better (in terms of delivery, support, packaging, pricing)?
c. What are the competitor products/services they are currently using?
d. How did they go about choosing a product/service?
e. What is the source of information that helped them make up their mind about choosing the product/service they are using?
Ask follow up questions based on their responses to dive deeper into their aspirations, fears, frustrations and motivations.
This is a vital step that will allow you to create something of value for your target audience.
2. Now build content for your target audience
Write in-depth, high-quality content that directly addresses the target audience.
Worried that the keyword you are using has low search volume?
This is not the time to worry about search volumes.
Also, remember search engines are smart enough to understand the intent of the searcher and the content.
You will be pleasantly surprised to see your content ranking for keywords that you never targeted!
Here is an example.
3. Roll out call to action buttons and lead magnets from day 1
Writing content that converts is great. However, please remember that not all target customers will convert and some of them will require more time and persuasion to convert depending on where they are in the decision making cycle.
Also, if your product is not something that the customers are already familiar with and know how to use, you may have to educate your customers a lot more before they buy from you.
HubSpot does this very well through their blog. They have informative content that addresses their potential customers’ questions at every stage of the decision-making process.
In this screenshot you see how HubSpot is prompting the blog visitor to
download their guide on starting a successful blog through a scroll-trigged popup. They are not asking the blog reader to buy HubSpot. The focus here is on educating the potential customer.
Don’t forget to implement marketing automation tools from day 1 so that you have a process in place to not only capture information about your leads (such as name and email) but also a system to nurture your leads through automation.
4. Now expand your keywords
The last piece of this puzzle is to scale your traffic profitably.
If you are already targeting your most profitable customers, why should you scale site traffic through organic search?
Here are three good reasons:
1. Explore all closely related topics
You may want to educate your customers and prospects on several related topics relevant to your product.
For example, if you are selling craft beer, maybe you may want to write an article on 10 scenic spots to enjoy your craft beer. Remember how Michelin tires used restaurant ratings to promote their brand?
Follow this simple method to expand your keywords without straying away from the keyword intent that’s most profitable for your site.
⦁ List the top converting keywords: Let’s assume you are selling gift items for beer lovers and your top converting keyword is “beer gift ideas”.
⦁ Top converting keywords + Function or Target Audience: Now expand the application of your keyword or the target audience for your keyword.
A simple keyword search on Ubersuggest tells us that you can offer your products as gift baskets as opposed to individual items or go after the beer-loving dad market. In either case, you are likely to retain your conversion rates.
⦁ Top converting keywords + Event or timeframe: You can also expand your keywords by adding a key event or time frame (example season). For example, Father’s Day seems to be a great occasion to send gift items for beer lovers as shown below.
If you are running a site that targets business users, use the same principles to expand your profitable keyword list. Think about adding keyword phrases pertaining to industry vertical, job function of your prospects, uses cases, and specific compliance requirements (example: GDPR).
2. Diversify your offering
You can expand your keywords if you found a clever way to diversify the product offerings. This may not work in all cases, but you should consider it carefully as you will be attracting a different customer base.
You could venture to “wine gift ideas” and target a completely different set of customers.
Other examples include a dating profile writing company choosing to offer online dating services or an online data backup service provider venturing into data security services.
3. Go after branded keywords
You may want to target branded keywords belonging to you and your competition.
Here are some of the best approaches to targeting branded keywords belonging to your competition.
⦁ If people are searching for “<your competitor name> alternative”, you should go for it with everything you’ve got! Customers want an alternative and this is a great opportunity to offer what they want.
For example, Fuga Cloud, a European cloud service provider has done a good job in presenting itself as an AWS alternative.
⦁ Do you believe your product is superior to your competitor product and a lot of people just search for comparison between the products? You should definitely create a “<your product name> Vs <your competitor name>” and write it in such a way that it is credible. Don’t go about bashing your competition but provide an unbiased review based on facts.
Here is how HubSpot takes down Marketo with this article that ranks on page 1 for the keyword “HubSpot vs Marketo”.
⦁ Definitely avoid keywords such as “<Competitor name> + download” or “How to use <competitor name>” as customers may have already taken a decision to use your competitor’s product and want specific answers to use the product.
5. Do you have a game plan for the expanded keyword list?
So what happens when you have exhausted all the profitable keywords to drive organic traffic?
You could graduate to PPC campaigns or deliberately expand the keywords beyond the core set of profitable keywords.
Why would you expand your target keywords if they are not going to result in conversions?
There are several reasons to do it.
⦁ You want to educate your customers on a wider range of topics.
⦁ You see value in exposing your brand to a broader audience base.
⦁ You have created a content generation machine and the drop in conversion rate is not going to hurt you.
When you expand your keywords that go beyond the purchase intent of your core customer base, please have a game plan ready for the new site traffic that will be hitting your site because of the expanded keywords.
Here are a couple of ideas to give you a head start:
⦁ Carve out stand-alone monetization programs for pages that drive traffic for keywords that you cannot convert.
For example, your core product is craft beer, but you ended up creating an awesome blog post on romantic restaurants in your area. Figure out a way to get sponsored listings of additional restaurants that did not find a place in your page.
⦁ Create a site structure that makes it easy for your site visitors to navigate to related articles or search for content.
Sumo has compiled a study of several blog templates and you should definitely read their article to get an understanding of how to structure your content.
In summary, always start with your customer in mind and try addressing their needs first. Keep your focus on conversion and sales.
Keyword volume and traffic should come into question when you have figured out who your customers are, what they want and how they go about purchasing products from you.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.