Great Rankings… But Little Organic Traffic?

SmartSearch Marketing January 17, 2012

Most of the time an increase in search engine visibility does generate additional organic traffic, but what should a B2B marketer do if it doesn’t? Have you ever been a victim of this scenario?

Below are three aspects of your SEO Program to analyze and improve to ensure that your SEO investment is generating website visitors, prospects and ultimately leads and customers.

Track Rankings…But As A Secondary Metric

Too often, B2B SEO programs are focused solely on increasing search engine rankings, and success is measured via ranking software and some type of “visibility score”.

In my opinion rankings should be tracked, but only as a secondary metric. It’s fine to track and report position (or rank), by keyword, and by engine — in order to understand the impact of your specific SEO efforts, but the ultimate goal of any B2B SEO Program is traffic, leads, customers and sales.

I’m not suggesting that search engine ranking scores are a bad thing. Our agency uses this type of analysis as one data point in a comprehensive SEO solution. The point – organic search rankings are a contributing factor, not a primary success indicator.

Even more importantly, I believe that ranking metrics allow B2B search marketers to use as a way to gauge whether or not their efforts are having a positive or negative impact and to find out if the pages they’re optimizing for a certain term are actually ranking, or is it another page on the site that’s ranking well, but isn’t the most ideal page for conversions.

Improved Visibility, But No Traffic?

The real question is: if your SEO Program is generating increased search rankings yet you’re not receiving any additional traffic, what might be the problem?

If rankings are increasing but organic traffic is not, here are three aspects of your SEO program to analyze:

1) Are you focusing on the wrong keywords?

This should always be one of your first considerations. Are you targeting internal “marketing speak” words and phrases versus the words people actually search for?

For example, one B2B firm insisted on targeting the keyword: ‘claims re-pricing’, which is how everyone in the organization described their business.

However, keyword research indicated that virtually no one searched for this phrase. Rather, there was 10 times the search volume for the phrase: ‘medical claims re-pricing’.

This insight alone allowed us to refocus the SEO program and generate not just visibility (on a non-used phrase) — but traffic and results (on the words people actually search for).

Think outside your “marketing box”. You have one way of describing your products and services, but potential customers may have a different way of thinking about what they need. Survey your customers and ask them how they would go about finding you online.

2) Analyze search query volume and intent

The way people search, and the words they use, definitely changes over time. Make sure you are analyzing search query trends.

One aspect of B2B SEO that’s very challenging is conducting keyword research and understanding the intent behind search queries. This is particularly true for B2B firms with long, complicated sales cycles. PPC campaign data (if available) can help you gain a better understanding of which keywords convert, and which keywords are more research oriented.

As another example, one firm wanted to target the keyword: ‘business satellite internet’. This is exactly what they provide, and they have been referring to their business this way for years.

But, an in-depth analysis of searcher behavior shows that overall volume for search terms related to ‘business satellite internet’ has been steadily decreasing over the past 5 years, and new search queries including Mobile, Broadband, and Wireless-related terms are on the rise.

There is a fundamental shift taking place in this industry and the way customers think about these services. This firms SEO program needs to be revised to reflect this shift in buyers’ behavior.

A couple of useful tools you can use to conduct this sort of research are Google Trends and Google Insights. Do you have suggestions for more market research tools? Please post in the comments below.

3) How does your listing appear in the SERPs?

It’s easy to become fixated on SEO metrics such as visibility and traffic, but don’t forget to review the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)! Is your organic listing accurate, unique and compelling? How does it compare to the other listings on the page?

Here is one example. If you are searching for:’B2B Search Marketing Agency‘which of these listings would you click on?


The second listing is much more readable, unique and compelling.

B2B SEO experts must utilize the Title tag to optimize for keywords you’re targeting, but also make sure your title is captivating and entices a click-through. Same for your Meta Description tag – though there’s very little optimization benefit to the Meta Description anymore, but the description is still very important in terms of how searchers perceive your firm. Utilize these 155 characters to their fullest potential and make sure your listing is captivating and entices action.

In Closing…

An increase in search rankings should translate to an increase in organic traffic. But, if this is not the case, B2B marketers should analyze:

A) Keywords

B) Search query trends

C) Your actual listing as it appears in the SERPs.

My final thought on why improved rankings might not be correlating to increased traffic is how searcher behavior has changed in the past several years. Today, not only do most searchers not visit pages 2 and 3, evidence is suggesting that most people don’t even scroll down the first page.

What that means is if you’re not listed in the top 1-5 results, you’re probably not getting the clicks. So, even if your SEO efforts have taken you from oblivion to the bottom of Page 1, you’ve still got a mountain to climb to get in the top 3!

B2B search marketers should continue to track visibility as a contributing factor…but remember — the success of your SEO programs will ultimately be judged based on ROI metrics related to leads, customers and sales.

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Patricia Hursh is the president and founder of SmartSearch Marketing. Today she leads the Client Services division of the agency. She specializes developing digital strategies and full-funnel marketing solutions for B2B companies. Patricia leads multi-functional teams to ensure bottom-line business results for SmartSearch Marketing’s clients.