16 August 2010 | Tanya Goodin

Top search rankings are just a part of successful SEO campaigns

Are we finally dismantling the incomplete myth of SEO as a simple, headlong rush for highest visibility, measured by a simple metric – ‘being top means success’.

Tamar’s vision has always been focused beyond the simple rankings metric but the debate around the value of top positions on the search engines has been refreshed this year and I’ve been following with increased interest.

Our conversion-driven, integrated strategies are informed by the view that being top of the page rankings is only one part of the complete online marketing arsenal.

So what are the most useful measurements in SEO? There are contrasting views on which SEO metrics are relevant and informative. There is a school of thought that believes it is time to effectively discard the top rankings tactic – as a way of re-educating clients stuck on a singular metric.

It’s true that SEO still seen by many businesses, understandably, as “getting to the top of rankings”. After all, the customer journey nearly always starts with Google, Bing or other search engines and so high visibility is seen as essential.

I don’t believe that we have to dump the “rankings” metric – but it is the methodology informing this high visibility that makes the online marketing difference. There is clear value in being top of the search returns and definitely an advantage in being “above the page fold” – but that value is measured in more than simple search engine positioning.

There is practically no value in being top of the rankings month on month if those links drive high volumes of people to things they do not want.

The metric is not how much traffic, but its quality, measured by conversion – through sales, increased inquiries, greater activity around call-to-action, deeper customer engagement. High-volume, low conversion traffic is a wasted opportunity.

These metrics provide data that can show in detail what the ROI of an integrated SEO campaign is and they also step over the “vanity trap” of simply being top of the page.

For example, we’ve delivered increased uptake of calls to action and 40 per cent greater sustained conversion with higher quality of engagement on one client’s website through an integrated strategy that involves among other things, site redesign, optimisation, increasing back links and an innovative social media push.

This need for integration is particularly important now and is driven by the fact that search engine innovations are focusing on delivering personalised returns and real-time search results, and this reshapes the SEO terrain. The Google Caffeine overhaul also has meant that, at least in the short-term, SERPS are going through a period of change.

Personalised search, where Google and the others monitor a user’s search behaviour over time and deliver returns that more closely match this behaviour, offers challenges but not as big as many suggest. An integrated, conversion-driven SEO campaign will still deliver on the marketing goals.

People now are also finding the information they need not only from the leading search engines but also through YouTube search, Stumbleupon, Twitter, Facebook and the growing number of platform-specific mini-engines.

How do we measure SEO in 2010? Naturally, a week-by-week analysis of keywords, levels of traffic driven and “the detailed conversion effect”; but more, quality of traffic from social media touchpoints, sentiment, reputation score, consumer feedback volume and quality.

Driving highest quality traffic will lead to whatever marketing goals have been set and engage, convince, convert. The goal is not simply to be top, but to be top for a reason, which is to drive business growth, revenues and customer trust.

Tanya Goodin

Tanya Goodin

Founder of Tamar