CEO’s and business owners often want to know how long until their product(s) will organically rank. I will have to calmly tell them that SEO Forecasting is a myth and educate them on the power of competitive benchmarking. Competitive benchmarking can give you all the answers you will need to rank higher than your competitors, but you may not initially like the answer, because there is a lot of hard work involved in ranking a competitive keyword. You mean SEO is hard work?! Yes it can be, especially given how far ahead your competitor is than you, but the silver-lining is that it could possibly happen over night…okay, maybe not over night, but a lot sooner than you may think. Rand Fishkin did it on a record-breaking 12 days, but of course it helps to be well connected.
Those who do not understand the online modality are usually stuck in the fantasy that online sales is a vast frontier ready to be colonized. Those who know better understand that the vast online frontier was over 10 years ago. Online sales is fraught with competition. A lot of Internet Shoppers are savvy. Studies have shown that 96% of people who visit a website leave without completing a conversion. 70% of people abandon their shopping cart without completing a purchase. A lot Internet shoppers expect free shipping. They pride themselves in their power of the search. 20% of shoppers use competitive shopping engines such as Shopzilla, which allow consumers to search for competitive pricing on products. If you do not invest in competitive benchmarking on your products, your “could have been” consumers will do it for you and possibly shop some where else. If you do not know your product competition you will likely have poor conversion rates regardless of your traffic and ranking.
Just as a company’s site structure is essential for traffic, so does a company’s employee structure come into play for conversions. Is it smart for a company to place all of the responsibility of Web Sales into the hands of one person? No, in fact it is not only irresponsible but also unfair. The SEO Strategist has a lot of factors outside of his/her control. Is it the responsibility of the SEO Strategist to do product design? How about product specs and pricing? This brings me to an often overlooked condition. I worked for a company who didn’t have a Product Marketer. It became extremely hard for me as a Web Marketing Specialist to get better specs for ad-copy. I did the hard work of competitive benchmarking on the products only to get nowhere as the pricing were still out of my control. You then become aware of how important your collaboration is with the Product Manager/Marketer. Marty Cagan seems to support many of my hypothesis on Product Management or Product Marketing. Having a one person for both roles was problematic for me as an SEO Strategist, which in my professional opinion, was also problematic for the company. The key factor is that the company was ill equipped to plan and execute for successful online conversions. I was the only one who valued and tracked data. Analyzing & implementation was very difficult with limited resources and unrealistic deadlines & expectations. The truth is there are a lot of reasons for online failures, but this article isn’t about who is to blame, it is about a realistic awareness of what you could be up against as a “web” person who is passionate about driving traffic.
So you may find yourself stuck creating great traffic gains, but constantly being reminded that you are not performing on the conversions. Company politics, of course, is a completely different subject, but often weaved into many interesting conversations. An understanding of Conflict Resolution can be handy, but ultimately it is not a position that one wants to be in.