Stop SEO wagging your dog of a website

Stop SEO wagging your dog of a website

It wouldn’t be right to say I’m anti-SEO, but I am certainly disillusioned with the pedestal on which so many businesses and marketing teams place it at the expense of *cough* real marketing.

SEO is important, no question. Good web content should always be produced with an eye to how it will be handled by search engines. Without it, potential customers may never come across your website, your products or content, no matter how fantastic. But SEO isn’t really a marketing strategy per se. It’s more akin to media buying, where marketers choose which magazine, radio show or television program in which to advertise based on the potential size and demographics of the audience.

Yes, I know half of your reading this are probably nodding in agreement or sighing in irritation at how screamingly obvious my point is. Most of us have already put SEO in its proper place in our toolbox and never open a campaign discussion with a top goal of “we want to rank high for…”

But I still come across that cart before horse mentality. Too often I hear of businesses that shrug off discussions of content and site structure, even sales funnels, as irrelevant to the topic of being number one for a keyword phrase that an inexperienced mind says is the key to success and untold riches. It’s as if some marketing departments are so far behind, they’ve only just caught up with 2006 while the rest of us moved on from this strategic dead-end years ago.

I still hear stories of unnecessarily over-complex SEO and under-baked marketing dictating website site maps. If you’re adding pages to your website solely to rank for certain keywords, before long, your website becomes a disconnected mess of low quality, often repetitive content. Those pages may attract more traffic but may also be absolutely crap at everything else.

But then again, the core goal of the SEO-driven webpage is to rank for a particular keyword or set of keywords over any other consideration. What actually appears on the page is somehow less important than whether it will rank. It is therefore destined to only ever be a myopic vision focused on a tiny sliver of customer research suggested by an SEO keyword report. A keyword report most likely generated from assumption instead of genuine insight. To the marketer more focussed on SEO KPIs, the experience of the website taken as a whole just doesn’t come into it.

SEO is simple. It’s only a delivery system after all. What it doesn’t do is absolve someone from the need to develop a genuine marketing strategy based on *gasp* customer insights and *horror* likely website paths from entry to conversion.

The smart marketer understands that each webpage, each piece of content, each email, tweet and print advert is a step on a single journey, each one merely prompting the reader to the next step on that journey until — finally — the potential customer arrives at the page that will persuade them to buy now. That journey may have hundreds if not thousands of different permutations. But to each individual customer it should appear like a seamless flow that may take them all the way from initial awareness to that final call to action.

What about identifying who your most likely customers are (buyer personae), what their motivations might be to buy your product and how far along towards a purchase they might be, designing persuasive content around those topics and then using SEO, email, social media and more to help that content reach the maximum number of those prospects?

What about planning your ideal website with a clear, easy to understand architecture, where every page serves a purpose to the visitor, and then find the best ways of optimising each of those pages?

But experience tells me that all that sounds like too much hard work when an SEO wunderkind is offering massive traffic increases with a few tweaks of code and some hastily thrown together landing pages of cheap copy.

He’ll hit his KPIs, but marketing and sales have no guarantee of hitting theirs.


  1. This is a great, keyword rich article.

    If I had a dollar for every landing page that isn’t linked from the main navigation request made by our clients I’d have at least $200. If I were driven by money I suppose that might be a good thing.

    I’ve always viewed SEO as a snake oil trade, my previous blog had reasonable content that outranked key players in a few industries and I received less than 100 visits per month.