One of the frustrations of helping other people market their product or service on the web is, often times, a lack of control over the way that product or service is presented on the website, the website design — or even the product/service itself.
There are some things that search marketing can accomplish, like helping your site achieve better rankings for relevant keywords and a growing channel of valuable traffic, but long term success depends on turning those new visitors into actual customers (hopefully over and over again). If the site and/or product lacks the ability to turn those new visitors into long term customers, even the best SEO isn’t going to help much.
A lot of internet marketing consultants, myself included, have begun to make site usability and conversion optimization part of our list of services. However, many companies are resistant to those suggestions when they’re coming from the “SEO guy.” I guess for a variety of reasons (which I’ll probably save for another post).
So, here are a five site issues that SEO/SEM can not fix — that will affect the long term success of your online business:
- High Bounce Rates. Bounce rates above 35% or so should be of concern. While it IS true that targeting the wrong keywords can cause high bounce rates, if your bounce rates are high across the board you have a problem. Think of it this way: If your bounce rate is 50%, every visitor is actually costing you twice as much as you think it is. Chances are users aren’t immidiately seeing what they expected when they clicked on a link to your site. Look at what keywords are being clicked and make those the emphasis of your landing pages… and USE LANDING pages. Don’t send all your traffic to the home page!
- Low Rate of Return Visitors. A site with a very low return visitor rate usually makes search marketing largely unscalable. Growing traffic and sales over time depends on turning one-time visitors into repeat users. Otherwise, you end up paying (in some fashion) for nearly every visitor every time they visit your site. Your site’s growth potential is only as big as your budget. This will not bring long term success. You have to figure out why qualified users aren’t returning.
- Higher Than Average Cart Abandonment. Looking through analytics data many times reveals that users make it all the way to the purchase page, or even 1-2 steps into the purchase process and then abandon/exit the site. Some of this is expected, but with an overall internet-wide abandonment rate of around 60%, there is always room for improvement. If your rates are above this average, you have particular reasons to be concerned. Think about how difficult the process is, how it can be simplified, credibility, security and even return policies and guarantees.
- Bad/Wrong Pricing. The science of pricing is not something that I pretend to be an expert in. However, I do know that the wrong price can kill a great product. Comparing prices online has never been easier. A user has to see value in your offering that matches or exceeds the price point. Maybe the pricing really is okay but you’re not presenting the benefits of the product in a way that excites the user. Sell the sizzle.
- Lack of Focus. A site without a clear focus… better yet, a PAGE without a clear focus is doomed to fail. You should imagine that each path through your site is a guided journey from entry to checkout. Every action that the user has the opportunity to take should lead them one step further toward that goal. That means that if you’re not really using social media to turn visitors into customer, then skip the Facebook and Twitter icons. Dig through path analysis data. And if you’re not sure that your pages are focused, try a service like crazyegg.com that can help, cheaply and easily, visualize what users are paying attention to when they reach your site. This is sometimes a huge wakeup call for subpar layout and design.
Too often site owners point fingers when trying to figure out why things aren’t working. While sometimes that blame may be well-founded, it’s important to remember that the best search marketing can’t fix a broken website.
What did I leave out?