Don’t Forget: SEO is a Means… Not an End


From Jenny: I’d like to introduce you to Erik Wolf, who is the author of this guest blog post. Erik and I have shared the stage at events such as The Business of WordPress Conference, Strategic Self Publishing, Digital Atlanta, and WordCamp Atlanta. We share the same philosophy about many web marketing issues, and he likes to tell it like it is. Enjoy the post and comment below if you want to add anything, agree or disagree with this viewpoint.


A few weeks ago I was giving an online marketing workshop and I asked the audience a question:

Why do you want to engage in SEO?

A hand shot up immediately and the gentleman in the front row said, “To get more leads.” Heads were nodding in agreement all over the room. So I asked, “How many of you would give the same answer?”

Almost every hand went up.

And they were all wrong.

Engaging in an SEO strategy absolutely DOES NOT get a business more leads: a successful SEO strategy helps a business get more traffic. It’s an important distinction. Traffic does not equate to leads or sales, but the opportunity to sell.

And if your website is incapable of cashing in on those opportunities, adding incremental traffic has zero impact on your bottom line.

The restaurant analogy:

Let’s say I opened a restaurant on the busiest street in the trendiest neighborhood around. There are lots of restaurants on the street and they all have their menus prominently displayed outside of the front door in the hopes of luring passersby inside for a meal or a leisurely snack.

This is a near perfect analogy for online marketing. All of the similar businesses on the street are looking to maximize their share of a finite amount of traffic. The menus outside are analogous to websites and someone walking in the door is analogous to a conversion (and note that it still takes work at that point to successfully complete a sale).

I will get fewer conversions…

  • If my prices are way out of line with the other restaurants on my street.
  • If my menu uses words and jargon that potential customers are not familiar with.
  • If the typefaces on my menu are difficult to read.
  • If the design of my menu is overwhelming, complicated or difficult to follow.
  • If the style of my food is unappealing to the people who walk by every day.

If my restaurant is suffering from one or more of these near-fatal marketing errors, all the traffic in the world is not likely to change my bottom line. And when I am fortunate enough to get a potential customer through the door, if I don’t greet my guest with friendly staff and an atmosphere that’s both welcoming and clean, I run a great risk of losing the sale.

Online marketing works the same way.

SEO’s job is to create opportunities for more conversions/leads by increasing traffic, your website’s job is convert traffic into leads and it’s your sales team’s job to convert leads into paying customers.

Ignore any of those critical ingredients and the entire effort was for nothing.

Never forget that SEO is part of a greater inbound marketing strategy — which should also include a strong website, email marketing, lead nurturing and other efforts — and that it takes more than traffic to increase sales.

Erik Wolf is a small business marketing expert and the author of two books: Blog for Business and Marketing: Unmasked. Erik is also the founder of ORBTR, the #1 sales and marketing automation platform for WordPress. Erik has been featured in The Huffington Post and among other media and has been a speaker at conferences including South by Southwest (SXSW), WordCamp Atlanta, WordCamp Chicago, and Ignite Denver.


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Jenny Munn

Jenny is an independent Digital Marketer and SEO Consultant with more than 10 years of experience helping companies and content creators generate brand awareness, traffic, and conversions with SEO. She is a frequent speaker and is on the faculty for the AMA (American Marketing Association) and has taught SEO to thousands of marketers over the past 10 years.

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