How to Avoid Search Engine Optimization Fail

Search Engine Optimization Fail

I’m probably going to get in a lot of trouble with many in my profession for writing this, but I don’t care. I’ve encountered far too many business professionals who believe search engine optimization (SEO) doesn’t work . The reality is that a bunch of promises were made without a shred of accountability for any of them.

We’re in the business of marketing, and marketing is all about the number of new clients and increased revenues. If the numbers don’t meet expectations, then it should be immediately apparent. Too often business owners are provided data reflecting the efforts of the SEO agency in terms of the number of posts, visitors, followers, retweets, etc. It may look impressive but if those numbers don’t reflect on the balance sheet, it has to stop. Period.

The sad fact is that there are many SEO firms that are only proficient at raising Internet metrics but are clueless when it comes to making a sale. You’re in the business of sales. What follows is a basic strategy to ensure advancing Internet metrics coincide with increased sales.

Set Specific Campaign Parameters

Before you agree to anything, make sure you know what you’re getting out of the deal and when you can expect to see results. Those results should be tied to a  monetary benefit for you.

Know what keyword phrases the SEO company will target for search engine improvement. Evaluate whether the chosen keywords are likely to improve sales. If not, choose other keywords. Your SEO company should have already performed keyword research and have a long list to choose from.

Know what channels the SEO company plans to use, e.g., social media, backlinks, bookmarking sites, internal linking, etc. They may only be able to speak in broad terms at the outset, because of uncertainty about how obtainable some channels might be. For example they may target sports-related sites for backlinks, but they won’t be able to say with certainty that they’ll get a backlink from Sports Illustrated. A reluctance or refusal to discuss the channels even in broad terms is a definite red flag.

Most importantly, know how much your increased ranking and traffic is worth to your bottom line. If the number of site visitors are projected to increase by 10 percent, how would converting only one percent of that additional audience offset the cost of the search engine optimization during the next six months? During the next year? You must do the math. The SEO company should be able to forecast results, and schedule follow-up evaluations based upon that forecast.

How to Calculate Gross Profit

Simply stated, gross profit can be calculated as follows:

Sales – Cost of Goods Sold = Gross Profit

Cost of Goods Sold normally includes both variable and fixed costs. Variable costs include things like materials, labor, packaging, shipping, etc. Fixed costs are things like salaries, office expenses, insurance and rent.

To be fair to your SEO team, it’s best to only include the variable expenses in the calculation about the value of their work. This is true for two reasons. Fixed expenses are just that – fixed. You’d pay them whether or not you were engaging in SEO, and you’re presumably  profitable before the new SEO clientele arrive. You’d only be watering down the value per new customer, while the new customers brought in by SEO spreads that fixed cost across more people, which raises your net profit. So unless you want to go to the more complicated calculation of net profit, keep it simple and use gross profit with only the variable costs.

Second, SEO itself is a variable expense lasting only 8 – 18 months with an impact on profitability that often lasts for years. That’s another argument for keeping things simple and figuring out gross profit and projecting the resulting numbers out for 12 months to determine whether SEO is profitable or not.

Promote What Your Site Ranks for Now

Believe it or not, many website owners don’t know what keywords their site is already scoring well for in search engines. Those terms are most likely low-lying fruit that only need a little help through SEO and a corresponding marketing promotion to gain new customers.

Your prospective SEO company should be able to produce a report that shows what keywords your site scores well for and your site’s relative positions in the search engine result pages for those terms. Improving search position for those keywords is a no-brainer, but you don’t want to stop there.

Categorize the keyword list into the five stages of the “buying funnel”:

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Learning
  • Shopping
  • Buying

The “buying keywords” are phrases a person uses while conducting the search that are likely to result in a purchase. Examples include phrases like, “personal injury attorney in Philadelphia” or “Invisalign dentist.” The searcher has demonstrated sufficient knowledge to be specific about their search and will likely buy from the website that makes the best case.

Obviously, you’ll want to invest more effort from the bottom of the funnel upwards. But make sure to include all stages in your SEO campaign, because they represent the entire buying cycle and improve the odds of being chosen. The keywords in the learning, shopping and buying stages will likely deserve specialized landing pages in many cases.

Use the keyword list that your site is already indexed for as a starting point for additional keyword research. Use the buying funnel stages as a guide to the words you want to add and can benefit from most. Use the entire funnel, but weight your efforts more towards the bottom of the funnel that will likely result in additional sales.

Buying Funnel Keyword Examples

To keep this simple, let’s use the examples of a personal injury law firm and an orthodontist practice for the keyword examples below that are organized by the stage of the buying funnel.



– defective air bag

– overbite causes


– Takata air bag lawsuit

– What age is best for braces


– Can I Sue for Defective Air Bag

– Cost of braces


– Philadelphia air bag attorney

– Medford orthodontists


– Best Lawyers for Takada Air Bag Lawsuit

– Invisalign dentist near me


– Philadelphia lawyers in Takata Class Action Suit

– Invisalign orthdontist with payment plan


Landing Pages that Convert New Customers

A page optimized for buying keywords will go up in rank and increase the likelihood of being chosen by a searcher, but that’s no guarantee of making the sale. The optimized page should be strategically designed to close the deal.

Tell the visitor why they should buy from you and make it as easy as possible for it to happen with a contact form, a pop up chat service or an online store. Some offer free premiums such as a whitepaper or a free trial in exchange for the visitor’s email or other contact information. These are usually reserved for landing pages higher up in the buying funnel and used for nurturing the lead to the buying stage.

The copywriter for a landing page ideally has a strong background in marketing writing. The prospect visiting your site has to be not only convinced to buy from you, but to buy from you right now. A buying decision delayed is a prospect lost.

There are numerous psychological techniques that are proven to persuade prospects, and they’re too numerous to mention here. Just make sure the writer of your landing pages knows the psychological triggers and includes them in the copy. Any seasoned marketing copywriter should be able to name at least three persuasion principles off the top of their head during an interview.

Marketing Persuasion Techniques

I was hesitant to mention marketing persuasion techniques, because they’re at the core of my business. However the three below are so obvious, anyone should be able to tick them off when asked. Know that persuasion is an entire field of study, and a good marketer will know many variations even on the three mentioned here. Not knowing any of them is a serious problem.


Limited Time: Create a sense of urgency for the prospect to act now because either supplies or the time offer of a discount is limited.

Limit Quantity: Limiting the quantity of an offering at a special price (e.g., limit three per family) actually raises the number of units sold. People don’t want to miss out.

Association: There are many variations on this principle, but the most common one involves celebrity endorsements. If a famous golfer recommends a particular golf club, it’s assumed to meet his or her standards. If a popular personality endorses a product, the prospect will associate the favorable feelings for the personality along with the product.

There you have it – the foundation of a successful SEO campaign. This fundamental approach to SEO is not exhaustive, but a good SEO company will fill in the details for you. Beware of any company that leaves out the parts mentioned above in a proposal. Also be watchful for vague terms such as “more concise copy” or proposals that only addresses more visitors, likes or shares without any mention of conversions. You want more customers. Never forget that.

About Brian J. O'Malley

Brian J. O’Malley is a marketing communications expert with three decades of comprehensive experience among all media channels including the Internet, video and television, audio and radio, and print. His reputation for excellent campaign execution and extensive knowledge of the profession has engendered a well-respected reputation across the industry and among national and international companies.

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