So you’ve got an online business that’s trying to grow and all you keep reading about is the importance of getting traffic. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? More visitors surely means more customers?
Blindly chasing traffic is one of the major issues I see with online retailers wasting time and money for a result that doesn’t leave them any better off. Become efficient with the type of traffic you’re trying to attract and the metrics that matter (revenue, cost per acquisition, conversion rate) will begin to improve. You’ll get these improvements faster too!
Where to Start?
If your site & business has been around for awhile and you have some sales coming in then the best place to start is by taking a look at your current traffic. If you haven’t got Google Analytics Tracking installed on your site yet then get it installed as a priority. While you’re at it, make sure you have added your site to Google Webmaster Tools (Search Console) and linked it back to the Google Analytics account. Ideally you’ll have some goals configured and eCommerce tracking enabled too. Don’t worry if you haven’t done this yet or are unsure on the process as I’ll provide an easy to follow guide on this in the coming weeks. (Update: you can view a guide on creating goals here.)
Once everything is all setup you can navigate to the Acquisition > Search Console > Queries section within GA. Here you’ll see a list of search queries that your site is already showing up for.
This list can be used to direct your SEO campaign towards keywords that just need a little more improvement before they bring in a lot of traffic. What you’re looking for in this list are keywords with strong commercial intent that have an average position from 3 to 15.
Have a look at the click-through rates the top 10 search results get for organic desktop searches in Google (Source: Google Organic Click-Through Rates in 2014).
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You can see that getting a keyword to jump from #5 to #3 can nearly double the traffic for that keyword. Push one from #3 to #1 and you could triple that traffic. It’s a lot easier to improve the rankings of existing keywords on existing content by a few spots than trying to get a new keyword on a new page onto the first page of results.
Start With the Serious Buyers
Now, not all of the keywords in this list will be worth the trouble, at least to start with. Some will have no commercial intent and others will be from buyers too early in the buying process. Sure, you might be able to sway them to become a customer but we’re starting out here and want to be efficient – less work for more customers. It used to be easy to remove the guesswork from this but unfortunately Google now hides the search query data making it difficult to know where a customer originated from leaving you no way to see what keywords convert best for you. Unless you’re running Google AdWords you’ll have to use your industry experience and some common sense remembering the the focus is on customers, not traffic.
Usually the highest traffic search terms in an niche are short, generic and highly competitive. Not what you want when chasing results fast or need cheap traffic. The ‘buyer keywords’ on the other hand are three or more word phrases with small traffic but often easy to rank. The small traffic doesn’t mean less money though.
Here’s a real world example to show how you can get better value from the serious buyer traffic (I’ve just changed the product name to ‘widget’ to respect the privacy of the the site owner):
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The “widget” keyword was extremely difficult to get to the first page of results and despite having nearly 10x as many people searching it, the “buy widget online” keyword is bringing in 1.6x the revenue. “Widget” was attracting all sorts of people to the site and not all of them wanted to buy something. They could have been researchers, job seekers, competition, people looking for help…all we know is they weren’t going to buy.
Don’t Pay for Vanity Traffic
While all of this is important for planning content and directing your SEO campaign, it becomes even more important when you’re directly paying for the traffic through advertising with Google Adwords or Bing. It’s so easy to get traffic with Adwords that many online retailers get distracted by chasing large visitor numbers rather than actually getting potential customers. They don’t understand that avoiding that large chunk of traffic is better for their business.
If you don’t have eCommerce tracking set up yet (make that a priority!) then have a look at the keywords you are targeting in your Adwords campaign and see if you’re targeting broad, generic terms with low buying intent. If there are some keywords in there that are getting a stack of traffic but don’t contain buyer specific such as “buy, for sale, on sale, order a, purchase, pricing, cheap etc” then consider pausing the vanity keyword and replace it to include variations with the buyer specific terms. Also, make sure the buyer keywords are for products that you actually sell!
You can take this to the next level too by looking at the Search Terms report within your Adwords campaign. Go to the Dimensions tab > View drop-down: Search terms. This will provide the list of actual search terms being used to trigger your ads and will give you more detail about your traffic than just the Keywords list.
Go through this list with the same purpose, find the vanity keywords wasting your budget and also the ones with strong buyer intent.
This will naturally be easier and more accurate if you already have ecommerce tracking setup and if you do, look for the vanity keywords not producing sales and the ones that are. You should see a pattern appearing with them.
With this Search Term data you can either create new keywords out of the buyer intent terms, pausing the wasteful ones OR you can add the wasteful ones as negative keywords to the campaign. Do this every couple of weeks and you’ll eventually stop paying for bad traffic while getting more traffic from potential customers.
This is the guts behind running a successful Adwords campaign and planning SEO & content that will deliver customers and not just traffic. Forget about attracting traffic to your site and make it all about getting those customers!