SEO and Defining Site Objectives

I like digging into some of the patents and papers that come from search engines and academics who study how search works.

But something else I find fascinating is how marketing fits into Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and how important it is to know about both to be successful in getting traffic to a site. Or should I say the right traffic – visits from the people who will find the pages of a web site interesting and engaging to them.

A lot of that crossover is getting an insight into the words that people will both use to find a site, and expect to see upon its pages. That doesn’t come out of doing some research on wordtracker or nichebot or the Overture keyword selection tool (no longer available).

Those can be nice tools to use, but some of the most important steps in finding meaningful words that people will search for come earlier, before you should even be looking at those sites.

Finding those words comes from having meaningful conversations with the people who own the site, understanding what they hope to accomplish with their site, and trying to glean who the people are who will use that site.

Early on, you will want to know what are the objectives are behind a site. That’s a very good first step. A site can have more than one objective, and it can target different audiences with different objectives. Instead of just trying to increase traffic to a site from a search engine, it can help to know who those audiences are, and what the site owner wants those people to do once they get to the site.

Here are some possible objectives:

  • Selling goods
  • Selling services that aren’t offered directly on the site itself.
  • Attracting subscribers to online services hosted by the site.
  • Generating leads.
  • Educating an audience
  • Sharing information
  • Attracting advertisers
  • Building a reputation for a person or organization
  • Building a community
  • Storing and offering whitepapers and documents
  • Allowing private communications between members of the organization.

One of the nice things about defining objectives early on in an SEO campaign is that it can also be helpful in defining how successful that campaign is, and may suggest some strategies for that campaign.

But it also may mean that the person performing SEO needs to understand some strategies for helping a site owner fulfill these objectives once they arrive on pages of a site.

Example: an approach to optimizing a large site selling goods

Increasing rankings in a search engine is one approach to optimizing a site for search engines. But we also know from Chris Anderson’s article on the long tail that a site can attract traffic for a large number of words and phrases that don’t show large volumes of traffic in a tool like Word Tracker or the Overture Keyword Selection tool.

The article provides an example of the advantage that an online store can have over a big box showroom:

The average Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon’s book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles. Consider the implication: If the Amazon statistics are any guide, the market for books that are not even sold in the average bookstore is larger than the market for those that are…

So when it comes to optimizing a large site that sells goods for search engines, instead of focusing upon a few broad and popular terms to rank well with, it might be better to try to make sure that individual product names rank well in the search engines.

That may mean making sure that a search engine indexing program can successfully index a large dynamic site, and that each page has its own unique page title, headlines, and content which reflects those product names.

It can also possibly mean that those products should be accompanied by some articles to provide visitors enough information to make an informed purchasing decision, as well as giving search engines something to index.

So, what other SEO strategies might be used for some of the other site objectives I mentioned above?

Share

5 thoughts on “SEO and Defining Site Objectives”

  1. I think, Bill, this is one of the most important topics you’ve ever written about. It’s so critical to think about that niche of folk out there you’re trying to communicate with.. What keywords are they using when they try to find you? If your web pages do not rank well for those keywords then you’ll never be found by the right people. Being found by the wrong people for some keywords they thought might be relevant is a complete waste of time.

    The trouble is that the keyword tools show keyword usage by everyone so you can’t split out that particular niche of folk that are most of interest. Customized research on that would be expensive so the best you can do is talk to the website owner and make sure you’ve got the best guess at what his/her prospects are likely using.

    One analysis that can be instructive is to use the traffic data to see what keywords people used to find the web page in the search engine. Does that confirm that these people were probably your target audience? Or are they the wrong people and so both you and they are frustrated?

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Barry.

    As you note, there are a number of problems with relying upon the keyword selection tools.

    There’s no way to know if it is your audience reflected in reports from those tools, or some other audience completely. You also don’t know if traffic driven from those phrases is being inflated by keyword rank checking tools.

    Also looking at log files for traffic data might tell someone which words people used to find their site. Unfortunately, those are only going to reflect searches for words that are already on the pages of the site, and are being already found by search engines.

    A site’s internal search, if it has its own search function, may be a little more helpful. Visitors may use that to search for things that they expect to be able to find on a site. But those searches are still from people who have already found that site.

    There are other places to look to learn what words people use when talking about particular goods or services or topics. The conversation that I mention above is a good starting point.

    Before we ever get around to selecting keywords, we still need to think about what purpose or purposes the site will fill, and who are audiences for the site may be.

  3. Good point guys. I think that before even looking at any keyword tool, you have to spend a few hours with your client.

    And then ask him if he has any information about his site’s logs.
    The best would be to have information about the last couple of months. It would be good to ask him: what are the keywords that have been searched for lately? Did you notice any new keywords? Did these new keywords turn into better conversions that keywords that were used 2, 3, 4 months ago for the same products? Are you products cheaper than your competition? If yes, can we try to optimize for “cheap keywords”?

    And so on…The success of your SEO campaign can really depend on these elements that you would get with a cooperative client, not with keyword tools.

  4. Pingback: Defining your Site Objectives | inter:digital strategies

Comments are closed.