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Q: I want to increase our natural search rankings. Currently we spend £2,000 a month for sales leads with Google AdWords and would like to reduce this by increasing our natural search through SEO. How do we go about it?

Managing Director
Direct marketing company

A: If we change your question to how do you get better value for your business, there’s more scope to reply.

For example, if the £2,000 you spend on Adwords each month could result in more sales leads, than that’d be worth it, wouldn’t it. More sales for the same money?

This is not to suggest that trying to increase your natural search rankings isn’t a good idea. But it’s a process that takes time, while you need results now.

The fastest way to get more sales is to make the pages of the website more effective, more compelling to customers.

A quick look around your site told me three things:

> It’s overall pleasant on the eye

> It’s actually quite hard to read in some places

> I wasn’t instantly sure what the proposition was. I had to think.

This suggests that your home page bounce rate (the number of visitors who exit your site at the home page) might be on the high side, maybe 40% or more.

Reducing the bounce rate will effectively deliver more sales, as more people will stay a little longer and this will overall improve your chances of selling to them.

To do this you need to redesign elements of your home page.

This needs doing professionally. It’s more than guess work.

You need to split test over a period of weeks to ensure the changes you make are really working.

Here’s an example test programme:

> Write your baseline data in a notebook, ie how many visitors bounce a week, noting which of your visitors arrive in on which keywords

> Make a change in your page, a single change you think will improve your bounce rate, ie make the page more “sticky”, eg, a more prominent sales message, use flash, or whatever.

> Measure this over a week, comparing before and after bounce rates

If the change improves the bounce rate, then great – you’re probably making more money, because less traffic is leaving your site, and consequently you’re winning more leads.

Now repeat the process, making further enhancements that your web analysis figures prove works.

Continue the enhancement process, split testing until your bounce rate is acceptable to you.

Split testing is the professional approach to making pages more effective. You’re acting on the basis of knowledge, not guess work.

Once you’ve improved your home page bounce rate, you can repeat the process with other key pages on your site, for example your contact page, or wherever customers make sales enquires.

Making Enhancements that really Work

To be sure you’re doing the job properly, ie, finding out where the problems are and split testing to fix them, you’ll need to analyse your site traffic carefully.

Google Analytics is free to use, but clunky – and it doesn’t allow you to segment your data very well. But it does work.

Personally I prefer ClickTracks. You have to pay for it, but it’s the easiest to use of the pro web metrics packages, and allows very detailed analysis of your data, which is another way of saying it’ll answer your specific detailed questions about how customers behave on your site.

Doing the SEO

Getting a good SEO plan off the ground and delivering results, ie high search rankings for free, takes a while. Maybe 6-12 months, especially with a new site, as Google generally favours old sites.

So while an SEO plan is important, you need to be making improvements today, which is why I suggest split testing and improving your existing pages.

Do both.

Split tested improvements will deliver more value, more leads, quickly. You’ll spend less to get the same level of sales leads. Or better still, spend the same to get more sales leads.

And by the time you’ve split tested all your site and got it running to maximum efficiency, your SEO enhancements should start to kick in.

What’s is crucial is that you act. If you leave things as they are you’ll just be wasting money. Inaction costs.

Here’s my advice:

Step 1 Get a quality web analytics package and start measuring so you can understand how customers are behaving on your site, what they like, don’t like, how many come back to enquire over a series of visits etc. Metrics matter.

Step 2 Start fixing your bounce rates using carefully monitored split testing of your enhancements. Don’t guess.

Step 3 Simultaneously implement an SEO plan, which will start to mature as your split testing runs its course.

Over a year, the result of all this should be twofold:

> For the same amount of traffic, more people will spend

> You’ll pay less for your traffic, less for AdWords.

More sales leads for less Adwords spend is quite achievable.

© Studio Rossiter 2007

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