An open letter to small business owners
Dear Small Business Owners,
On behalf of search marketers everywhere, I urge you: Put down your rankings reports. They’re not providing you nearly the value you think they are. Rather than focusing on how Google and Yahoo rank your site, focus on how your human visitors rank your site. Do they:
- Find the content they’re looking for? (that could be a product, a service description, your phone number, an article, or anything)
- Take the action you want them to take? (buying, calling you, signing up for a newsletter, etc.)
- Tell their friends about your site?
- Repeat these steps time and time again?
Here’s why I’m writing: I had the pleasure today of speaking to a group of about 50 Seattle-area business people who were very eager to understand search marketing better. This was the Business Wire-hosted event that I mentioned last week. Chris Boggs and Rand Fishkin spoke on the panel, as well. It was a terrific event, you should’ve been there.
One thing that’s sticking in my mind now, some 12 hours later, is a question one of the attendees asked, which went something like this: We have thousands of keywords we want to track. What’s the best way to monitor how we rank in the search engines for each of those keywords? What tools do you guys use with your clients? There’s nothing inherently wrong with the question; I’ve heard it a lot, and understand why it gets asked.
Chris, Rand, and I all replied that we have internal tools that we use for this. Rand mentioned that SEOmoz has/had one client with about 50,000 keywords who wanted daily (!) rankings reports. In addition to answering the question, I took it as an opportunity to talk politely about why I don’t like rankings reports:
Too many business owners and webmasters look at rankings as an end, as the goal. Rankings are nothing more than a means to an end. You don’t automatically get rich when you land on the first page of Google. All you get is traffic. And then the really hard part happens — you have to turn that traffic into customers. You get rich when you have a great web site that lets visitors do the steps I listed above.
Yes, we do have an internal tool that provides ranking reports to clients. I can’t imagine having to do that every day; I shudder when a client wants even weekly reports. In my perfect world of SEO Nirvana, this is a service we wouldn’t even offer. Maybe someday….
Small business owners, please — put down your ranking reports. Cut the amount of time you spend looking at them in half. Take that new free time you have and spend it on developing great content, seeking new links, getting involved in social media, starting a blog, or polishing your local search efforts.
These are all better ways to spend your time than looking at a chart of ranking reports.
I hope this letter finds you well.