Gabriel Goldenberg is an expert on search engine optimisation (SEO). He has kindly agreed to let me reproduce in Office Jotter some of his writings on the topic. This is the first of them.
You can read about Gabriel’s services at his Web site, SEO ROI.
(Nepotism false alarm: I know Gabriel because he’s married to one of my nieces. His writings are here not because of that but because he’s an expert.)
It’s spring and Google’s whacked another group of link buyers, and we in the SEO world again buzz about the winners, losers and what to do next.
The question of what to do next is essential even for white hats, though, indeed for every open-eyed SEO.
Q: Why worry if you’re a white hat?
A: Google is cutting the ROI on SEO and has been for 8+ years. Guess who’s winning the fight, slowly but surely?
In 2002, Google introduced product search, competing with price comparison sites.
From 2003–2006, Google added “Quick Answers” results. Stock quotes, weather, sports scores, movie times and flight information were directly published in SERPs.
In 2007 “Universal Search” pushed everything else down to make room for maps, video, blogs, news, images, etc. The biggest winners? YouTube and Google Maps.
In 2011, Google hid 15–25% of SEO-traffic referring keywords from SEOs.
Don’t take my word for it, see this infographic by Google.
And it doesn’t even cover evolutions like Google financial lead-generation ads, cutting out affiliates, nor how Google ads take up an increasing share of search results.
The point is simple. Google monetizes search traffic. SEOs monetize search traffic. If you don’t evolve to generate your own traffic by email, direct traffic and referral traffic (aka PR, guest blogging, social and ads), your business will shrink or flatline.
- For ecommerce sites, the clearest solution is to maximize conversion rates on SEO traffic. SEO should be an acquisition channel running at breakeven, profit to come via followup email and other marketing.
A compromise solution for the impatient is to minimize the price on the searched-for-product (to increase conversion rates) and upsell/cross-sell and/or bundle non-searched for products.
Travel sites got the message years ago and that’s why they bundle flights, hotels, car rentals, travel insurance, tour packages, etc.
- For publishers selling ads (affiliates, Adsense, CPM etc.), this makes the need to niche yourself extremely important. Sure your generic site can rank for “how to get a prom date” and “executive flight charters” but you can’t offer a common newsletter for both visitors.
The magazine industry knows the value of targeted traffic and that’s why ads in Time magazine are multiple times cheaper on a per-subscriber basis than ads in Car & Driver.
When the algorithm turned against content farms, their value shrunk overnight. Why? It shrunk because they had no self-generated traffic from email newsletters or people returning for regularly published content (e.g. blogs).
- For lead generation sites, test using a checkbox at the end of the form to invite people to get your relevant newsletter and/or use the thank you page to generate an email subscription. For example, insurance comparison sites can offer newsletters on saving money in general, including the free report, “5 Secret Savings at the Supermarket.”
You obviously can’t keep generating insurance leads from these same people, but if you build a relationship via email, you can offer affiliate coupons and have subscribers generate social traffic for your main lead-gen activity.
- For non-profits, aim to educate your target donors via SEO and social, then use free reports to build an email list. Your challenge is largely that people aren’t searching for you anyways, hence the importance of building an email list.
Example: You’re a charity for hungry people in Ecuador. Write about the socio-economic situation there and cover the news, to generate search traffic. Once people have arrived, invite them to get more information in your “Plain-Language Primer on Ecuadorian Hunger” report.
That's it for now!