What Matters More — SEO Rankings or Lead Generation?
As a business owner, it’s often hard to know where to focus. Should you put more resources into search engine marketing and rankings? Or allocate more of the budget to lead generation services?
From our perspective, both are important. And you can’t have leads without rankings. But the connection between the two and how it matters to your business isn’t always so clear.
Why SEO Rankings Don’t Matter
In a sense, SEO rankings don’t matter. After all, what good is it to win first prize if no one around you seems to care? This odd detail has always been a factor in SEO marketing.
Our goal as marketers isn’t just to get our clients to the number one spot on Google. That’s only a means to an end. The real prize is that a top ranking gets our clients new leads and new sales. That’s the true value of SEO.
Rankings don’t matter because ranking shouldn’t be the goal of your search marketing strategy. Ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs) is merely a tool that leverages that visibility on Google, in order to turn it into sales. And importantly, it’s not always necessary to rank in the first position in order to reduce costs and resources and grow sales and revenue.
Why Rankings Should Equal Leads
From time to time it happens: a business has found just the right niche and ranks among the top search results for their products or services — but they don’t see increased lead generation.
What’s happened is that the company may be exactly what search users are looking for, and for that reason they’re getting a lot of clicks. But those clicks aren’t translating into leads and sales. It’s not that such a business has done their SEO wrong, generating leads and sales just requires a different approach.
As you improve your SEO rankings, you should expect to see your business grow. If not, something might be off in another area of your marketing. One way through this is by focusing on your Cost per Sale / Cost per Acquisition metric.
How to Generate Leads with SEO
Lead generation beyond simple rankings has to be about other marketing factors. How good is your copy? How optimized is your design? And how well do you do at getting people to your site?
First, there’s click-through rates. To generate leads you need clicks — ranking and visibility aren’t necessarily enough.
Consider this: Does it really matter if you’re first or third, or fourth or fifth? Some tests seem to suggest that it may matter less than you think. A search user who surveys the visible results on the screen may not click the top-ranking result if the second, third, or even fifth result has a better title tag and description. Yet, should enough search users click on your lower-ranking result, you may find yourself moving up in the SERPs anyways.
The right headline and page description can earn you more clicks, even if your search result doesn’t rank first in the SERPs. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to consider how well your copywriting does what it needs to do.
Moz recommends using PPC ads testing to quickly find the best headline for a particular page of content. This has the advantage of being quick and more effective than trying to wing it.
Beyond PPC, go back to your marketing personae. Think about the emotional triggers, the copywriting formulas being used, and hone in on your target user. This is of course far beyond SEO, but that’s sort of the point. Remember, your ranking search result is leverage, but a click and a sale are your goal.
Lastly, consider the UX of your target web page. Specifically, look at the placement and design of any calls-to-action (CTAs). If they’re not getting the clicks needed, there may be room for improvement.
Eyes move around the screen in predictable patterns, often in a capital “F” shape. If your CTA falls outside one of these primary visual zones, that may be the problem. If your clicks are low and your CTA is in a good place, consider the copy of the CTA itself, the button color, the context of what else is on the page and how it relates to your CTA button.
Again, UX is generally not thought of as part of the SEO wheelhouse. But these things work hand in hand to turn your search user visitors into leads and sales.
So in closing: SEO rankings are dead; long live SEO rankings. The truth of the importance of ranking highly in SERPs isn’t in the vanity of the metric itself. The point is what that high ranking can do for your lead generation and sales growth.
If your rankings are respectable, it’s time to look at your cost-per-click return on investment, and how well you convert clicks and leads. If these fall short of expectations, it’s time to put SEO aside and look at how well other elements of your marketing are working. Of course, this is often a feedback loop, where, as your clicks-throughs and sales climb, so do your SERPs rankings.