( A Metrics-Based Model ALWAYS Out-Performs Search Engine Models)
Ideal is between 20% to 25% of total visits. Normal Range is 18% to 27%. If lower than 18% you need search work. However, even if you are Number One in all the search engines, you will not see much above 30% of your total site traffic unless you buy into paid search. Even then you will not see much higher than 34% to 36%. As strange as it may seem, you really do NOT want to see much more than 25% of all visits coming from search engines. Okay you ask, what planet do I come from? Read on!
I think everyone knows what a search engine is. The only search engines you need to show up well in are Google and Yahoo. Of the two Google is far more important. Google is far ahead of Yahoo in most Twin Lakes Area searches. Still, it does pay to show up in Yahoo. Forget the other 4,000 search engines. Don't fall for the old scam of, "We will register you in over 4,000 search engines". It is a total waste of money. By the way, totally forget "registering" in any search engine. That is all done automatically by Spyders. There is no need to register, either once or on a regular basis.
Many people place way too much emphasis on search engines. One of the best strategies you can use against your competition is let them waste their time and resources sweating it out over their search ranks. While it is true that certain industries MUST depend on search engine ranks, you do not. If you read this entire Web site, you will learn all you need to know in two hours on how to boost your traffic.
What Is The Profit View Point?
If you are relying on search engines to the point that more than 30% of your annual site visitors are coming from the search engines, you are very definitely missing out on additional traffic. This means you may be losing business. Despite what everyone thinks, there are many ways to develop site visits besides search engines. Here is the proof.
Remember the first Internet search engines - Web Crawler and Lycos back in 1994 and 1995? And then all the others between then and now - like Hot Bot, Alta Vista, Northern Lights, Excite, and several others that have all but disappeared?
Well, ever since 1995 2Cooleys sites have shown up Number One or Number Two in all of the top search engines, whatever they were at the time. We always have, and still do, also show up in several additional spots in the first three pages of the major search engines. Under our chosen keywords it is not unusual for us to show up number one 99% of the time. We will also show up several times under different domains in the first and second pages. This as been the case for us since 1995.
And we have never paid one cent to do it.
In other words, it would be very hard to get any better search engine positioning than what 2Cooleys sites enjoy. No, we don't pay for these positions. Our positions are all "virgin" (organic) ranks. Now even with what many would consider the best positions possible, we still get only 30 to 35% of all site visits from search engines. So where does the larger balance of 70 to 75% of our readership come from?
The point I want to make here is that since we've had years of experience with top ranks I can say for sure what those top ranks are really worth. And in the past we have put several customers in top ranks too. Trust me, when I say that if all you depend on are search engines you are missing out on a huge amount of additional traffic!
Let me say it again.
If all you rely on is search engines you are missing out on some 70% more traffic that could be yours. Fully 70% of all 2Cooleys site traffic comes from sources other than the search engines - even with many top ranks under many keywords.
Best of all, that extra 70% does NOT COST US A CENT. But make no mistake that it takes TIME.
Every time I try to share this with people they stare at me like I'm from outer space. I usually hear, "Well . . . Yeah but . . . what else is there besides search engines?" The answer is this: "Use a metrics-based model, which search is only a part of."
As you saw in Direct Entries, most of your traffic should be coming from Direct Entries, not from search engines. Look at the real-world data in those 65 traffic reports. What do they show? That almost all get the majority of their traffic from Direct Entries. Moreover, ramping up your Direct Entries metric will cost you far less than paying for search engine magic!
A good linking program (not reciprocal linking) will also boost your total traffic. Master Direct Entries and master linking and you'll pick up far more than you ever will from search. Proof of this is found in the 65 reports.
But this does NOT mean search isn't important. It is. You have got to do well in the engines because without them, and with the way Spyders work these days, you'll miss out on a major chunk of qualified NEW business. Whoa! What was that? Did I say NEW?
The problem is that you can get only ten sites on the first results page of most search engines. Yes, I know, if you set your browser or other defaults, you can get more. But most people don't do that.
Then there are some 100 area tourism businesses who want to show up in those first ten ranks. They THINK they have to. But if you go to a high-dollar SEO, they will only guarantee you a spot in the first three pages. What many fail to realize is that those who are truly serious about what they are looking for DO go two and three pages deep. Many people make the mistake of focusing on QUANTITY, not QUALITY.
What It Takes To Get Top Ranks
It did not take Google and Yahoo long to learn that people were tricking their search parameters. Thus search today is based almost 100% on how popular any given site is. Plain and simple, your site must be popular with human beings if it is to rank high in the search engines. If two sites are nearly equal in popularity, then the site which is also paying for search ads will come out on top.
The chances of a Mom & Pop resort operation showing up in the top 5 ranks is mighty slim. But that is yet another mis-conception that many resort owners have - you do NOT need to show up in the top 5 spots, or even the top 10 spots to do well with search results!
AGAIN: The firms who charge large fees to "optimize" your site for search, and the firms who specialize in SEM (Search Engine Marketing) will tell you their goal is to simply get you somewhere in the first 30 returns. Forget the top spot. You don't need it, and it would cost so much you'd lose money even if you got that top spot.
HOWEVER, for certain types of businesses, it IS important to show up well. And if you are in one of those businesses ask yourself how much it is costing you NOT to show up well. If it is more than $10,000, call me. Rest assured that my personal top search engine tactics are not explained herein. Those are reserved for those who really need them, and yes, I do charge a bloody fortune for them because they are a lot of work.
What To Do If Search Is Too High
First, look at your Direct Entries. Chances are good that if your search metric is too high then the Direct Entries will be low. Balance them. Get the search down by raising the Directs. For examples look at the 65 reports. You'll see that in many cases the Direct Entries are low about as much as the search is too high.
Second, buy links in good tourism sites. You need at least 5 links in 5 different sites that have more annual traffic than your site does, and they need to be tourism sites, not some other topic. You get 3 links from 2Cooleys every year that you renew. Get links in OMR and in Arkansas Parks and Tourism and you'll have your 5 good links. Remember, that means links in five different domains. It does no good to have 20 links in the same domain. Parks and Tourism is free. OMR has reasonable prices. So getting the links you need is not cost-prohibitive!
What To Do If Too Low
If you are using the same keywords that many others are also using, then it become a game of chance, pure luck, that your keywords will work well. That is not a good position to be in!
What you'll need to do is use the less popular keywords nobody wants to use. Remember, everyone else is in a major feeding frenzy over the top keywords.
The Long Tail
In fact the best way to tell a real SEO pro from a wanna-be ( and there are way to many wanna-bes on the loose) is the pro will tell you all about the long tail. Remember I said it takes TIME to work your way up in the ranks? Well, a goof pro will tell you to pick at least 1,000 keywords to start building your long tail. I know, everyone wants a fast, low-price method to be number one. It will not happen. You are up against guys like me who pay the price in time. If you don't invest the time I'll always be ahead of you.
If you are paying for keywords you'd better not just guess at what you think people are using! Your traffic report shows you what people are actually using. Worst of all DO NOT go by what YOU personally use. Here is why.
The Keyword Challenge
What most do NOT know is what keywords people really DO use. This is an important point. To make my point I'll tell you what happens when customers come to my office to look at their complete traffic report.
We play a game I call the Keyword Challenge. I ask them to pretend they are buying 10 keywords, and that each keyword will cost them $1,000 for a year. I then ask them to pick those 10 keywords. We write them down. Then I say, "Let's see how well your $10,000 investment paid off."
I then open a one-year traffic report where we look at what the top ten keywords were that people actually used. We then compare the real-world keywords in the report to what the customer picked for top keywords. Everyone who plays this game lost most of their money. Why?
The fact is that people use a long list of different keywords. Even the most popular keywords are used much less than most realize. Remember that long tail. Without a good, accurate traffic report you are playing Russian Roulette with keyword buys. The simple fact is people use literally hundreds of keywords, not just 5 or 10. When you learn how to capitalize on those low-use keywords in large quantities, you win the search battle with a flanking maneuver instead of a direct assault on your competition.
But such a strategy takes time, usually about a year. You can't rush it. And watch out for those who will try to tell you otherwise!
How To Tell The Wanna-Be Pros From The Real Pros
First, ask yourself this: How much real-world experience do they have? Where are they learning what they claim to know?
Here is the main point to keep in mind: People who really know what they are doing in both SEM and SEO do NOT need to make sales calls! They have all the work they can handle just from word of mouth. The people and firms that REALLY are good at SEM and SEO are far and few between. They don't phone solicit, and they rarely need to make sales calls.
I know who is really really good at SEO and SEM. They are expensive. I use them. But to get to them I have to get on a list and wait about six months to a year to work with them. These guys are good. I'm lucky they even talk to me.
Moreover, they are expensive. And they will tell you it takes time - like at least six months to a year to make any real progress. Only the scam artists will tell you that they can "do it" in a month for the low low price of just $500. Real SEO firms charge at least $5,000 to start.
Finally, if you get someone you are excited about using, the first thing to do is check out their references. Call those references with the understanding the person or firm will only give you their best references. But call the references anyway. Ask if those expensive efforts paid off. If the reference can't really explain clearly what the difference was, then it was not worth what they spent for it.
Written August 2008 by Gary Cooley