People who are new to making sales online often miss peak online selling months, because of either a lack of preparation or a failure to understand online seasonality. When a site design project is held up or search engine optimization (SEO) initiatives are delayed, the resulting lack of search engine rankings and traffic can represent a huge opportunity cost. By understanding seasonality, and the time it takes search engines to respond to SEO, you can do a better job of scheduling projects . . . and making sure you have a “Plan B” if there are any delays.
Many of our customers use trend tracking to ensure that their search engine optimization campaigns will be in place during times of peak customer interest. Google™ has a free tool called Google Trends, which allows people to discover historical search traffic for top terms. Because search engine optimization takes weeks or months to take effect, it’s important to have most of the basic work implemented in advance of demand.
Search engines like Google generally take time to respond to SEO, especially if a site has not had any major changes for some time. This is because sites that have grown “stale” are not regularly visited by Google, so on-page changes can take some time to be discovered. At the same time, link building (which acts as an endorsement for your site and its content) needs to be indexed and factored into Google’s algorithm as well. Once these items are in place, Google still takes some time to apply its new information to the search results. With Google’s recent update (called the Google Caffeine update), many new pages get indexed faster . . . and established and trusted websites that add new pages are more likely to get priority.
From a budgeting standpoint, it’s important to have SEO and linking campaigns in place ahead of time. Because companies often budget on a fiscal-year basis, executives should be on board early on so they can sign off on an increased spend in the current fiscal year for sales expected in the year following.
If your site has yet to be launched, the advantages of a “soft launch” cannot be underestimated. Allowing a search engine to find your site (or several important pages) prior to its “grand opening” allows you to start the SEO clock early . . . and start pointing links at your website. While some people worry about getting too much traffic before the site is ready, a more common concern arises when a site launches and traffic takes several months to trickle in.
Like most other marketing and advertising budgets, SEO and link-building dollars have been cut back because of the slow economy. Some online companies have even gone out of business. From a competitive standpoint, this presents an advantage to companies that plan to stick it out. It’s now possible to move ahead of companies that were previously aggressive with their SEO and link building. Furthermore, companies that have closed up shop are going to be disappearing from the search engine rankings, so this could be one of the best times to start or improve your SEO projects.
Is your peak season happening right now? Although you can still get customer traffic, the cost can be higher. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising through Google AdWords and Microsoft® adCenter can get your content found within a few hours. During profitable times like the Christmas season, for example, PPC can be a very worthwhile source of site traffic. Nonetheless, PPC campaigns tend to work better once they’ve been running for a few weeks, because search engines use your click history to determine how relevant your site is compared to other advertisers. If you can improve your “quality score” with PPC engines over time, you may get better ad positions for a lower cost-per-click (CPC) than the advertiser who has an ad listed beneath yours.
For any online marketing project involving search engine optimization, executives and decision makers need to be patient in waiting for results, but quick when it comes to executing SEO. The inscrutable nature of search engine algorithms means that there is no easy answer for when SEO efforts will translate into first-page rankings.
Because the vast majority of positive website rankings increase at some point, an investment in SEO today may pay off next week, in six months, or a year from now . . . in ways that greatly exceed the return on investment. By understanding the “hurry up and wait” nature of the search engine rankings game, you can have your work in place while your competitors are still drawing up their project plans.
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