Ever see one of those movies that show some super-secret government agency with plush high-tech interior offices that belie the exterior location? You know the ones I’m talking about. The secret spy base in headquartered in a rundown part of town in a dilapidated building that nobody but a squatter would give a second look. But as the camera moves inside we are shown a state-of-the art facility worthy of a Manhattan high-rise office in the 22nd century. Sometimes SEO is just like that—but the opposite, actually, with companies obsessing over superficial metrics like top ten listings. And the biggest culprits of this obsession tend to be small business owners with websites!

Businesses spend a lot of money on the SEO “exterior” (search engine rankings) while ignoring the “interior” (a content-rich, usable website) altogether. Can you image driving through a new part of town, with freshly painted lines on the newly laid asphalt, young budding plants along the sidewalks and newly stuccoed office buildings that look to be full of leather bound books smelling of rich mahogany? Now imagine walking into one of those businesses to instead see torn up carpet, water-stained ceilings, crumbling sheet rock on the walls, and someone doing their business in the corner. The inside doesn’t exactly give you the good feelings that you had before going in. Focusing on rankings while ignoring the usability of the website is a fantastic way to embed the image I provided above into every one of your visitor’s minds.

Small businesses are often on a much tighter budget then their big corporate counterparts. And when you’re on a budget, you really want to spend your money in the most beneficial areas. Unfortunately, money is most often spent on what is perceivedto be the most beneficial areas. While SEO is beneficial in gaining exposure and driving traffic to the front door, it is not always the most beneficial place to spend the small business marketing budget. What’s on the inside matters just as much

I recently had to spend more than my fair share of time at dentists’ offices. Between getting my wisdom teeth pulled, a root canal, and a cap, I visited a number of local dentist offices in the area. In the process I was able to see a stark contrast between them.

While most of the offices I visited were roomy and full of nice furniture, one stood out as a genuinely scary experience, especially for someone who suffers from mild claustrophobia. While this office didn’t have fully enclosed (mostly just partitioned areas), it was cramped for space. The receptionist’s desk was two and a half feet wide and piled high with about a years worth of “stuff that can wait.” While I was in one of the procedure rooms I could see right into some of the other procedure rooms where people were being worked on. As I laid back in the chair to get some X-rays, the nurse was literally having to duck around overhanging equipment while stepping over small office trash cans. I had never been so scared in my life!

While a small business may spend money to be in a good location in a nice part of town in a building with a nice exterior, the inside can be a different matter all together. This is what many business websites are like when they focus on SEO and ignore their website design. There is nothing wrong with investing in SEO to drive traffic, but SEO is not the end of the story.

Recently we had a long-time client undergo a major site redesign. The old site was getting a few miles past outdated. Over the years we’ve done well to get their rankings in place and holding steady while continuing to target new keywords as well. We had also been prodding them on occasion about the inefficiencies of their site and how some modifications would do them some good. Their business had been growing pretty significantly since we started working on their SEO campaign, so they were never in a real hurry to make changes. But finally the day had come.

The client invested in a major redevelopment of the site and recently rolled it out to the public. Almost immediately something amazing happened. Their conversion rates jumped by 30%!

This jump wasn’t the result of new keywords optimized (though that was being done), nor was it the result of some previously optimized keywords suddenly moving up in the rankings (though that happens too). No, the 30% jump in conversions was a direct result of a new, more appealing and user friendly web site design.

The new site design cost them about what a years worth of SEO cost them. And the results are time saved from a new back-end system and a more user-friendly front-end. This of course means saved time and additional profits to boot. And with additional revenue on hand, the client is talking about investing more into SEO. And why not? With a newly polished, high-tech interior, why not do all that you can to drive even more traffic to the higher-converting site?

No one can deny the value of getting first page placement for relevant keyword phrases. But many small businesses still need to be convinced that there is more to marketing than rankings and traffic. Bringing traffic into the slums isn’t all that difficult to do. Getting someone to buy from you while you’re there is. Lucky for you, it’s not too great of a distance from Harlem to Manhattan. Conversions do matter. And in the end, conversions are what matter most.

Stoney deGeyter is CEO of Pole Position Marketing. The Small Is Beautiful column appears on Thursdays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Analytics | Search Marketing: Landing Pages | Small Is Beautiful

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About The Author: is president of Pole Position Marketing, a leading online marketing strategy company established in 1998 and currently based in Canton, Ohio.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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