Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The End of the Debate?

Profitable companies need leads (traffic) and sales (conversions).  Debates rage in corners of the internet about which is more important, web site traffic or conversions. 

Clearly, both traffic and conversions are necessary for a site to achieve its highest measure of success.  Without one, the other is of no consequence. On that basis, there is no debate.  Web traffic and your site’s ability to convert that traffic are equally important. 

However, when you begin to develop an internet marketing plan, particularly your site design, you will focus on one, traffic or conversions, before the other. 

But which one? 

Choosing to optimize your site to attract traffic will probably tempt you to stoke your web copy with keywords, create and crosslink to lots of pages and generally have a site that is candy for the Google bots.

But, when surfers visit, will your search-optimized site be able to convert them into customers? 

To answer that question, I searched Google for “search engine optimization”.  I figured, to get a natural page one rank for such a popular search term, a web site or landing page would need to be built for search engine rankings first, then conversions.    

The search results proved me right.  More right than I expected.  The results on the first page include an article-listing site, a site with no apparent calls to action, a site with more calls to action than I have ever seen on a single web page and one site that featured a large SUBMIT NOW call-to-action button (fortunately I keep my cursor on the “Back” link and I escaped before I fell into their clutches.)

One common characteristic among the results was uninviting blocks of text.  Sheer keyword-laced content is a basic SEO technique and, to rank for such a high demand term, these sites had to resort to packing it into their landing and home pages.

After a quick scan, I don’t think I would use any of the listed services to develop a site that is well balanced for traffic and conversions.

If your site isn’t built to convert traffic, how else will you convert them?  While your web site should do everything possible to attract the search engines, building it primarily to convert traffic will usually give you the best return.  To allow it to do so, focus your traffic-building efforts outside the site, or within the site as part of your conversion architecture.

By Stephen Da Cambra

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