“We’ll get you to #1 in Google” is the standard pitch used by SEO agencies worldwide — and it’s not likely to change soon. But sometimes, getting to #1 in Google isn’t good enough.
Here’s an actual example from one of my clients:
After spending over $7000 over six months on SEO and social media services, a local insurance company called me up. “Our SEO agency’s doing a great job,” the owner told us. “Our rankings are fantastic. There’s just one problem: the phone isn’t ringing.”
If the traffic’s coming in but not resulting in leads, we immediately assume something’s wrong with the website. A thorough analysis of the client’s analytics didn’t uncover any obvious issues like an excessive bounce rate or 404 errors. One problem did immediately become apparent: there was almost no traffic.
I pulled SERPs for the website. The client’s site ranked extremely well for a wide variety of place specific search terms, like “auto insurance city state.” However, using Google Keyword Planner to research the monthly volume of these keyword phrases, I discovered that the client’s targeted search terms averaged a mere 20 searches per month.
Do what I say, not what I need
In this particular case, we learned that the client’s SEO agency (let’s call them BadMojo) had asked the client for a list of keyword phrases they wanted to rank for. The client, who is a fantastic insurance salesman but not a web marketing expert, sent over a list of long-tail location-specific keyword phrases.
At this point, I would call the client’s attention to the low search volume associated with these keywords and recommend some alternate targets. My goal is to help solve the client’s business problem, rather than simply doing what the client asks. I start with the assumption that the client isn’t a sophisticated online marketer — and therefore shouldn’t decide on a marketing strategy without first articulating a business goal.
Instead of taking this step, BadMojo took the client’s money. Over six months. The client got the #1 Google search results he wanted — but no traffic. And the phone never rang.
Step 1: What is your business goal?
I don’t create a plan or quote a price without asking for the client’s business goal. Sometimes clients want #1 search results for branding reasons and aren’t concerned with traffic. (I’ve even had clients who wanted top search results for vanity reasons.) Usually, though, there’s a goal in mind, whether it’s leads or sales.
This client wanted the phone to ring. The technique BadMojo deployed, SEO, is fundamentally sound. The client had 100% reach for their targeted keywords.
So what went wrong?
I place the failure squarely at BadMojo’s feet. Instead of counseling the client on the importance of search volume in keyword selection, they took the client’s money and delivered zero value.
There’s a reason I always train account managers in keyword research extensively before moving on to other subjects. That’s because a robust keyword list is absolutely the backbone of both SEO and SEM. My standard keyword research template is pretty simple:
- Keyword Phrase
- Monthly Search Volume
- Adwords Page 1 Bid
That’s it. KEI and page 1 bid tell me how competitive the keyword is, which helps us make an educated decision about the amount of resources required to gain reach.
If a client has a modest budget, I recommend less-competitive long-tail keyword phrases.
When a client has a sizable budget, as in this case, I advise going after higher-value, higher-competition keyword phrases.
The takeaway: choose your keywords carefully! There’s nothing worse than burning your online marketing budget to become the biggest fish in a raindrop — even a dozen raindrops.