Do You Need SEO, or Do You Need a Better Website?

As a Denver SEO consultant, every so often a potential client with a poorly converting website asks for SEO services. I want to give people what they ask for, but I know that finding a way to bring more visitors to a poorly converting website isn’t going to help. The conundrum for me is simple: I have to tell these people that they shouldn’t buy SEO services from me (or anyone else) until we can get the website working better. As you can imagine, this doesn’t always go well! 🙂

Sometimes the problem isn’t that people aren’t finding your website on the search engines – it’s that the website doesn’t work.

Let’s say that you have a website which sells (or at least tries to sell) dog toys. Unfortunately, your website isn’t generating a lot of sales. You decide to contact some SEO companies to see if they can help you get more visitors, the assumption being that more visitors will equal more sales. However – more visitors don’t always equal more sales. If a website is a poor performer, adding an extra 10,000 visitors a month isn’t going to have a big impact on sales. Improving a website’s performance, however, could make a big difference right away.

Do you need SEO serivces? Click for a larger view.

Do you need SEO serivces? Click for a larger view.

Here’s how you can figure out if you need SEO or if you should focus on improving your website first:

1. Is your website working? It might seem like a dumb question, but can you conclusively say that your site is generating leads or sales? Note the use of the word “conclusively” – Google Analytics and call tracking can go a long ways towards establishing:

  • If your website works
  • How well your website works

Without analytics and/or call tracking that shows your site is effective, it’s sometimes very hard to justify any investment in SEO…and guessing is never a good basis for making a business investment.

2. Is your site working better or worse than average? The average conversion rate for a website visitor is 1-2% (for every 100 visitors, 1 or 2 will buy your product and/or contact you about your service). This average is very low – some website owners have conversion rates as high as 25% (phenomenal), while others have very profitable websites that only convert 0.1% of their visitors.

In my experience, conversion rates of 2% or more are a pretty good baseline. If your site is doing better, you’re probably doing things right. If your site is doing worse, chances are good that you have some questions to ask.

NOTE: If you operate a profitable website and your conversion rates are really low, you might want to re-define your idea of a conversion.

3. Have you tested your website? A great way to determine if your website “works” is to engage in some really simple testing:

  • Pay-per-click advertising: PPC will help you determine if your website is working – just make sure you have tracking in place. If you’ve paid for 1,000 visitors and you’ve only generated 2 dog toy orders, you know that your site is converting poorly. On the other hand, 100 orders from 1,000 visits is proof you’ve got a winning formula.
  • User Testing: Paying professional website evaluators to look at and critique your website is a good way to get a sense of your site’s effectiveness. It’s not hard-core data, but it’s often very insightful (we recommend UserTesting.com). Try and get 3 or more tests at the same time – that will help you find some common problems with your site without relying on the opinion of one person.

4. Which offers a better return – improving your website or generating more visitors? While the answer to this question will be different for every website owner, it’s very important to ask the question. If your site is already getting a healthy number of visitors, it might be more profitable to focus on improving the performance of your website before you worry about SEO.

Of course, there’s no reason that you can’t work on both.

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