Over the past year, we’ve seen an emerging trend among big business clients. It’s disturbing, this trend, because it points to the fact that a lot of businesses believed the SEO hype and didn’t pay attention to what the actual practitioners were saying. So we’ll say it again.
SEO is not the end all, be all of online marketing. It’s a layover point on the way to success; not the final stop.
Look at a car, as an example. It takes a lot of parts for a car to work and get from point A to point B. You can have all those parts but the wheels, and the car still won’t go. That’s what you’re looking at with inbound marketing. SEO is the wheels, but you still need the rest of the car to make it go.
Emerging Trend in Big Business Websites
Several potential clients have come to us lately with a big, fat, noticeable problem. They talk about needing optimization. They talk about keywords, traffic and links. In other words, they use a whole lot of SEO lingo to describe what’s happening. But they miss the boat.
When you’re getting 2 million hits for over 2,000 relevant key terms and phrases… When you have over 300,000 links to your site with relevant terms as anchor text on strong pages… In other words, when you have the kind of traffic site owners dream of, SEO is not your core problem. (By the way, these aren’t numbers picked out of the air – these are actual numbers for a site we recently reviewed).
That’s not to say your site couldn’t use more optimization, but it does mean it isn’t the core issue. The traffic is already coming in. It’s already relevant, interested traffic.
So what boat are they missing?
Somewhere along the line, these (and many other) business owners got the idea that traffic means conversions. They assumed that more traffic meant more people buying. As we have seen by the trend of potential clients, this is far from true.
Search Engine Optimization vs. Selling Your Product
To be blunt: SEO alone will not sell your product. It doesn’t matter if you have 2 million visitors if no one wants to buy your custom-made banana peel high heels for $300. It can’t make your product look interesting. It can’t make your prices worth paying. It can’t make the shipping costs look attractive, your services needed or your site usable.
If you have a crappy product, site or service, SEO brings publicity to your crappy product, site or service.
Touch, Taste, Hear, Smell, See
When you walk into a store to buy something, your senses are engaged. Think about that new car smell, or the smell of new clothes and furniture. You can touch these things, run your fingers over material and feel how soft or smooth it is. You can see the shine on the chrome bumper of a car or the dazzle of sequins on a dress. You can hear a clock chime, a car motor purr or a toy chirp. The only sense that isn’t engaged in most cases is taste.
On top of that, consider the way things are displayed. Cars are parked at an easy to get in angle. Jewelry is displayed on velvet backgrounds. Clothes are hung on the wall or draped around mannequins. In grocery stores, products are lined in such a way to move you through the whole store for those impulse buys.
Online, the only engaged sense is sight. We can’t reach in and touch the products. Therefore, your website has to make up for the missing elements through sight. Somehow, you have to grab that buying instinct with only what the person can see. How do you do that? By grabbing them by something far more powerful than the physical senses: emotional desire.
Tapping into the Powerful Emotion of Need with Content and Calls to Action
Need is a powerful emotion, but it doesn’t have to be there initially. What has to be there is the potential of need, or the “I want” syndrome. Does the visitor digging through your hand-made cuckoo clocks really need one? No, but they want one.
So what builds that emotion? How do you turn want into need?
It sounds sneaky. To some, it even sounds underhanded. What it really is, however, is marketing and buyer psychology.
Buyer psychology isn’t a myth. There’ve been enough repeatable studies to point towards science and fact. By guiding the buyer through “converting” content and calls to action, you’re allowing them to convince themselves they really need your product. How do you do this?
Well, we’ve covered this topic a lot over the past year, probably because of the trends. Here are a few posts that go far more in to depth than we have time for in this article:
In Presenting Your Product as a Masterpiece: You Can’t Market a Piece of Junk, we covered how to use product descriptions to sell. In short form, this means including the features, benefits, values and display pictures in an easily digestible, attractive format.
Online Marketing: Are YOU Practicing Converting Conversation explains how online conversions are much like a relationship, and must be careful managed. This article includes four rules for practicing the art of converting conversation. Are You Outstanding or Just Standing Out is the follow up, with several ideas of how to stand out from a constantly building din of online stores.
Finally, Has Your E-Commerce Shopping Cart Ran Away With Your Sales gives several solutions for shopping cart abandonment issues.
Sneaky Marketing or Good Business Sense?
If you think it’s sneaky, the way products are marketed, consider this. Did you really need that new T.V., car, shirt, shoes, etc. you bought? If you still had clothes, you didn’t need a new shirt or shoes. If you had a car, but it wasn’t pretty, you didn’t need a new one. As for the T.V., you don’t really need one of those at all. It’s not necessary to your survival.
All of these products were bought, by you the consumer, because you or the seller convinced you that it was a need – even though it was really a want. That’s how a consumerist society flourishes. So again, we say, you have to guide the buyer from the first step of clicking on a search result to the final step of clicking that last button on the buy.
The Final Word
It’s frustrating – for the client and for us – to see all that traffic disappear into the NetherNet. SEO brings traffic; it does not, necessarily, bring sales. Creating content that is buyer-value focused does. Creating calls to action that really mean something (buy now just means spend money) brings sales. SEO brings traffic so the sales are possible.
You don’t have to join the businesses suffering from too much traffic and not enough sales. Adjust your focus to included value-added content!