Search Engine Optimisation—a cautionary tale

Ahhh, search engine optimisation. What a thorny topic this can be…

Last year one of my long-standing online clients, Robin, MD of Planet Numbers, phoned me up in a bit of a tizz. Apparently his website had ‘stopped working’.

‘What do you mean?’ I asked.

‘Well, suddenly we’re not getting any sales at all!’.

‘What have you changed on the site?’

‘Er, we’ve just had it search engine optimised by these SEO specialists. Cost us a bloody fortune.’

I went and had a quick gander at the site which, hitherto, had been pulling like a train (modesty forbids me to mention who wrote the copy).

Eek! (I actually uttered a slightly stronger word than Eek!, to be honest.)

Yes, these gurus had SEO’d all the copy, all right. And the hits were flying in from Google. Trouble was, once you arrived at the site it was virtually unreadable.

I mean, serious rubbish. Copy that looked like it had been written by a four year old. Full of all the right keywords (hooray!) but, to all intents and purposes, utterly useless in terms of driving online sales or even enquiries.

I rewrote it from top to bottom, keywords and SEO structure and all, and, as if by magic, the sales suddenly started coming in again. Literally as soon as my new copy was live.

Scary, huh?

All of which goes to show that SEO in itself is a pointless exercise. Unless your customers buy something when they get there, and unless you get the right customers going there in the first place, SEO is meaningless.

You’ve got to get them there, of course. And SEO in all its guises is the way to do it.

But when your punters arrive you’ve got to use every copy technique at your disposal to get them buying/responding or whatever it is you want them to do.

It’s about sales, not about hits.

As someone much cleverer than I, once said, HITS stands for How Idiots Track Success.

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