Growth Insights for CEOs

SEO for the CEO: What You Need to Know, How Not to Screw It Up

Posted by The Chief Outsider

Maybe it’s happened to you: your board looks at your budget for web marketing and asks about key performance indicators. As the CFO or CEO, you boldly look over the data from your marketing team and condense the complexity to a quick test: How are we doing on these five keywords? One of your board members measures the effectiveness by doing web searches: Are we ranked in the top 3 on Google for this one? And as the wind shifts, Marketing starts to focus on a few keywords, looking at rankings instead of results.

Meanwhile, the OTHER 500 search terms that are driving traffic go under the radar, and the bounce rate (one page visits) doesn’t budge. While one search term can look like the prize because it has high volume, it doesn’t necessarily convert into new business. And more traffic doesn’t necessarily mean more sales. Top rankings don’t matter if they’re the wrong search terms.

Example: we had a client who was #1 ranked for “data storage.” That’s a huge category (135,000 searches/month), but what we learned is that’s not the term a buyer uses to look for purchase information. It’s an informational search term, not a transactional term. It’s one a consumer might use, but not an IT manager. Web sales went up over 200% when they started ranking on terms like “disk to disk backup,” “d2d backup,” etc. For productive search engine marketing, the objective is to understand “the mind of the market.” Tech-savvy prospects use much more specific search phrases. These keywords have lower volume of search, but higher rates of conversion.

Another client wanted to rank on “track hurdles.” This is a good high volume search term, but it is general: inexperienced searchers could use that phrase to look for videos, for stats, for track events, for coaching tips…or to buy track hurdles. “Track hurdle companies” is right on the money. A term like “international track hurdles,” while having fewer people searching for it, may pull more buyers because of international specifications. Of course, searchers looking to “buy track hurdles” or “track hurdles online” also look more like buyers. One keyword phrase is just one keyword phrase…but it may be related linguistically to over one hundred search terms which are ALSO sending traffic to the site. Web optimization takes into account related phrases, weaving a “market basket” of targeted search terms into the language of your content, and even influencing the site architecture.

Too often, a client comes to us after a site redesign. They’re unhappy with the design firm because the new site did not perform better than the old site. In some cases, they are in crisis because they lost a LOT of traffic, and/or lost their rankings. Guess what? A design firm is not a web marketing agency, and neither are those smart people who are doing your IT. SEO should be strategic; design is a tactic. As such, the first task on a site redesign should be to engage a search marketing firm to develop the strategy for the site. Don’t budget for a redesign and forget to budget for SEO; and don’t guess what it costs. This is the most highly leveraged, most productive line item in your marketing budget.

Optimizing your website for search takes intense research, competitive analysis, deep marketing experience, skillful writing and then patient iteration to improve performance over time. There’s a reason most companies need an outside vendor: the expertise that comes from experience. SEO is strategic, in that it should align your website with your business goals. Once implemented, the benefit lasts for years. Don’t dismiss it as a marketing tactic for people below your pay grade; understood properly, and implemented as an important component of your business strategy, it is a lead-gen gold mine.  


John Rasco, President and Founder of RefreshWebThis guest post from John Rasco is the second of two parts. The first one is here.  Rasco is founder and president of RefreshWeb, a B2B search marketing firm. His experience encompasses running an ad agency, marketing director for a public company, and 25 years of tech marketing, working with dozens of companies, from start-ups to global brands . RefreshWeb specializes in optimizing websites for business growth, with clients across the U.S.

Topics: Digital Marketing Tactics, CEO Marketing Strategy, CEO Choices, SEO