By David Leonhardt, SEO Consultant
Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions in SEO is that ranking at Google and Yahoo is all that counts in search engine optimization. Potential clients come to me with a single goal: "Get me a top-ten ranking at Google." Some will also mention MSN, and a few will rhyme off a list of search engines and want to rank well at the top 200 of them.
It is time to separate fact from fiction.
Yes, your SEO consultant can get you a top-ten placement at Google. But...
1. If the placement is for "dirty brown shoes", it probably won't help your shoe store one bit, even if I get you the first place ranking. Few people are actually searching for that term.
2. Being number ten might not help much either, depending on the term. People searching for "Essential Nectar liquid vitamins", will probably click on the first result they see, or at least on one of the "above-the-fold" results that do not require scrolling. On the other hand, someone searching for "liquid vitamins" might check through two pages of results to familiarize herself with the options available.
3. If your title tag reads like a cheap list of search terms, it will not be enticing. For instance, if it reads: "vitamins, liquid vitamins, multivitamins, multi-vitamins", you might skip over it in favor of the next result that reads "Liquid vitamins from the Liquid Vitamin Supplements Store".
4. If your description tag is a mess, people will more likely skip over your listing, even if it does rank number one, in favor of one that sounds like what they are looking for. Google and others use the description tag usually when the term searched for is found in it, so make sure to include your key search terms in a description tag that actually reads well.
I recently responded to a forum question, which went something like this: My site ranks number one for this term at this engine. The term is searched this many times per day, and the engine has this percentage marketshare. Can I expect this many visitors?
That's not an SEO challenge; that's a math problem: searches x marketshare = visitors
I responded with a few factors that override mathematics in the SEO game, including the site's title tag and description tag, as well as whether the term lends itself to scrolling. I also pointed out that it depends on the title tags and description tags of the competition, too.
Another factor that makes predicting traffic difficult is the abandonment factor – how many people click on none of the results because they get interrupted or confused, or abandon the search for a new one because they find themselves off-topic or searching too broadly.
It also depends on how many sponsored links there are and how they are marked. Often at Yahoo and Lycos, for example, there are so many ads that the average searcher might never scroll a screen or two to see the organic (natural) results.
And, of course, it also depends on the color of the walls in the room the searcher is clicking from, the weather outside and how well they slept last night. But there is little you can do about that.
What you can do is to work with your SEO consultant to choose the most effective search terms for your business and make sure he develops a title tag and description tag that sell to both humans and the search engines. Then make sure he is monitoring not just the rankings for your key search terms, but also the description used by each of the search engines.
A good ranking at Google and Yahoo is just one measure of your SEO consultant's success. A more complete evaluation is that he is your partner in building long-term, targeted traffic.
About the author:
David Leonhardt is an SEO consultant
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