When I first started doing online marketing as an in-house SEO, one of the most difficult things for me to determine was what success would look like. What kind of results could we realistically expect? How would we know when we had succeeded?
I think this is one of the reasons that we get so focused on being #1 at Google, or on increasing traffic to a certain point (both good things, but not always the best primary goals): those things are measurable, and you can tell when you’ve won.
Still, it’s a fair question. And a hard one to answer. Some companies get better results than others. Some companies have better products than others, or better follow-through, or perhaps even better luck. What part of your results can definitely be attributed to SEO?
Recently I had a rare opportunity to do a direct comparison of two directly comparable websites.
I’ve been working with A Plus Educational Supply for a full year now. When I started working with them, they had two websites: one each from the two main stock catalog companies for educational supply dealers. The two sites were comparable in importance and usefulness, similar in traffic and overall quality, and neither of them got many orders.
A Plus hired me to work on one of the sites. I found out about the other one in the course of my initial research, but they asked me to concentrate just on one of the sites, so I ignored the other.
The fortunate site got an SEO makeoever, a blog, linkbuilding, and regular monitoring and response to analytics. The unfortunate one just continued as it had been.
How do the two compare after a year?
The unfortunate one had no PageRank at all. It didn’t get crawled by Google. It had no links, except one from the company that hosted it. No orders arrived through it. The domain name is still registered, but the owners let their hosting lapse at the end of the school year and it is no longer online.
The fortunate one has thousands of links and a PageRank of 3. Their sales over the past year are 600% higher than the previous year, even though this has been a very difficult year for their industry as a whole.
Interestingly enough, their traffic is not much higher than it was. Their rankings are better, and their traffic is better focused — it’s their customers rather than random visitors — but their conversion rate is enormously improved.
The same company, the same people, the same products, the same location, the same economic conditions — the only difference between the two websites is that one got ongoing web marketing efforts and the other didn’t.
One is very successful, and the other is dead.