For many people (and possibly the majority), the web starts with Google.
Understanding the mechanics of getting traffic from search engines is extremely important in looking to scale a web business.
There are two main avenues here:
Organic search results (SEO)
Paid search results (SEM or PPC)
The first step in thinking about how your business can leverage search engines for traffic is to think through the potential keywords that a user might use in Google to find what you offer.
For each of these keywords, there are three core variables that you need to know:
Conversion and Revenue Potential
If someone searches your keyword and clicks on the link to find your site, will they become a customer? How much would that customer be worth to you.
Example: If you sell Accounting software, “buy accounting software” is a much better term to optimize for than “buy payroll management software”
Tool: Google Analytics. One of the best ways to learn what types of keywords convert best is to look at your Google Analytics data. This will give you a good picture of the behavior of visitors coming from varying keywords.
How many people will search for your term?
Example: Being first for a term like “Flights to Mexico” will generate a lot more traffic than being first for a term like “How to make a paper mache butterfly”.
Tool: The Google Adwords Keyword Tool. While not perfect, this tool will give you estimated keyword volume for specific terms.
How likely can you get a high ranking? Some keywords are incredibly difficult to rank for. Very large companies spend a lot of time and money on their SEO/SEM strategies, and have been doing so for a while. Beating them for the top terms is tough.
Tool: The Google Adwords Keyword Tool, and the Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool. The Adwords tool will show you competitiveness for paid search engine marketing, and the Moz tool will give you competitiveness data for organic search engine marketing.
So let’s say you have some good keywords in mind, and you’re not sure whether to invest in paid or organic search marketing. Looking at competitiveness data of your whole keyword set can give you a good idea of what to focus on. If competitiveness for a certain term is high for SEO but low for SEM, start with SEM, and if the opposite is true, look to invest in some SEO.
Here is a chart I’ve put together of a set of about 150 keywords for a project I’m working on.
For each keyword, I’ve plotted the SEO competitiveness rank (from Moz) against the SEM competitiveness rank (Google Adwords tool). The trend line shows the correlation between higher competitiveness for SEM and SEO.
Assuming we are targeting each of these keywords, those that lie above this trendline would be good targets for focusing on SEM and those that lie below would be good targets for focusing on SEO.
In a very competitive world for getting traffic from search engines, it is important to know which side to focus your efforts on. Understanding the relative competitiveness of each for a given keyword or keyword set can make all the difference.