We've all heard about how you can over-optimize for the almighty search engines in the name of SEO (search engine optimization.) Some people have said that you really can't optimize too much. As with anything, however, too much of a good thing is not necessarily a good thing. There are many people that won't touch optimizing for search engines because of the fear of they may put a bunch of content out there and it doesn't get a lot of traffic or any leads that convert. Some people feel it’s too stressful to consistently put out useful content, and many people start and give up after a bit if it goes nowhere.
Believe it or not, though, you also have to consider the possibility of taking on far too much traffic or leads. It is, in fact, possible to over-commit to a content strategy that doesn’t actually help your business, even if the leads flow in like honey. How does that work? Consider the following example.
Biting Off More Than You Can Chew!
One of the worst case scenarios of biting off more than one can chew in SEO is something that a LinkedIn connection of mine once shared. It's an interesting story of how one CEO cut ties with an SEO firm and decided to do the SEO himself instead. Interestingly enough, he did wonderfully on his own and website traffic boomed, as did the amount of incoming leads. However, he became so addicted to his success that the rest of his business suffered as a result.
Realizing how badly his company’s customer service had declined because of the lack of ability to handle all of the incoming traffic, he took down literally about 150 pages off of his website. This action cut the amount of incoming leads in half. After rededicating himself and his company to customer service, being able to actually focus more effectively on the leads they received, they righted the ship.
The article concludes with some very good points. First of all, you have to put customer service before bringing in new business. You need to pick your clients carefully, and you’re your leads are potential and actual customers, and not to be treated as commodities. These are all fantastic points, and so you should not let this article discourage you from doing SEO at all. You should just take into consideration the fact that you can go way overboard.
Therefore I decided to create the ABC's of How to Avoid Over-Optimization: Authenticity, Being Ready, and Customer Service.
The number one thing to consider about Search Engine Optimization is being authentic. Don't simply post a ton of content to make you sound like the best thing in the whole world. You might be, but most likely you're not. It's important to be personal and aim to make one-on-one connections with people is far more effective. If you go out there sounding like you're just trying to rank for keywords and come up number one on Google, chances are you'll turn off some of the people you're looking for. Most of the leads you may end up with could be mostly unqualified and are just pinging you out of simple curiosity.
Also, in the future, Google and other search engines could penalize your website quite harshly for overusing keyword phrases that don't flow naturally. You need to create authentic content, first and foremost, before anything else. You also want to show personality and style in your writing, on top of giving some useful tidbits of information. People are far more willing to contact you if you offered them some piece of useful information or an answer to a question that they were researching the answer for and found you. But they also want to feel like it was a real person giving them that information in a friendly and straightforward manner.
This goes back to the point of leads being customers, not commodities. While obviously you want that conversion rate to be high, it's very, very possible to become overzealous and take on far more than you can chew. It's easy to become too focused on the raw number of leads versus the number of visitors to a given page. If you find yourself getting a ton of leads, you have to be sure you can qualify them and convert them into sales without taking away too much from your current customers.
While being aggressive with content can be OK if you know you're ready to take on the new business, you have to be 100% certain that you're ready for a potential barrage of leads. In some cases, you may be able to grow with it, but if you're not ready to nurture 1,000 incoming leads and be able to serve the 5 or 10 percent or so of those that are qualified on top of your existing customer base as well as you have in the past, then take it slowly and be sure you're only getting the most qualified leads that you possibly can. In any case, be ready to take on new business at all times. You never know just what piece of content will serve you hundreds or even thousands of potential new customers.
It's also important to understand that with ranking highly on search engines, you'll get noticeably more spam. You need to be ready to accept that just because you have a high conversion rate on the web stat side of things, that it's the real customers that you get giving you the real value. In the end it's who you connect with that matters, and good content marketers and SEO specialists will tell you that, not just that you're set ranking 1st, 2nd, or 3rd on Google.
Every business is in the customer service business, and it is true today more than ever. This actually works hand-in-hand with Being Ready. If you spend all of your time chasing down new leads, chances are that could alienate some of your existing customers if they feel that their loyalty to you is less important than your incoming traffic. That's what happened to that law firm in the article mentioned earlier. If customer service begins to suffer, you have to consider why that is. You have to be ready and able to handle what leads you get while still giving your current customer base the same attention that they expect and deserve. Of course, there are considerations that you can make to hire extra help if the need arises. But as with anything, you can get carried away, and I'm glad that CEO learned from his mistakes, even if it was unfortunately the hard way.
The best kind of content to create is content that is not only aimed at new prospects, but also created for your current customer base. Your current customers are quite a valuable resource for content. It's actually a great idea to ask your customers what questions they would like answered. Chances are people looking for your services will want those same answers, and you'll possibly get more sales out of your current customers, or generate referrals from offering those answers. Providing offers at the end of blog posts is fine, as long as you don't make it only for new customers. It's fine to have that on your website, but make an offer that can work for anyone. This way if an offer is being used, it means those using it had to find out about it on your website, meaning your content is being read and is effective.
It's important to put out great content on a regular basis, but be authentic and be wary of going overboard. If you're careful with your keyword strategy and focus only on your ideal customers and what they're looking for, chances are you'll be okay. Just don't go looking for exposure simply for the sake of exposure. You may get it, and it might be overwhelming in a good way. But as with anything, moderate your content and schedule it out.
While spikes in growth do happen, if you're going to encourage it, be authentic, and if you get a barrage of leads and you can't provide top-notch customer service, then take a step back for a moment and consider your options. The worst thing is to get lots of growth and then panic and cut out a huge chunk of your content. While it can help you rebound, if you were getting all that traffic, you need to consider simply how to manage that great content better.
Something for CEO’s and marketing managers out there to consider: it's not often a bad idea to let someone else handle it for you. Focus on your customers first. After all, that's the whole point of search engine optimization, making new and loyal customers. Make sure you're ready for them.