Why I don’t want to be top of search for internet marketing

I am regularly asked to provide advice and SEO services to clients who’s stated objective for their search marketing is to be top of the search engnes (usually Google) for a key search phrase, it’s usually a frequently searched phrase and often very competiitive.

I have to explain that this isn’t a very commercial strategy and could be a a risky approach to their internet marketing. So why is focussing on a single phrase not wise from a business perspective?

Often people get hung up on getting a top search result for a key phrase and here is my advice to people who think that is what they need.

All Your Eggs Are In One Basket

Focussing your search marketing on a single phrase is likely to put your business at risk. Should you rely on the traffic generated for a specific search phrase there are several ways you could end up losing the majority of your traffic overnight.

Don’t get me wrong I’d love to have the top spot on Google for ‘internet marketing’ however if my business relied on traffic for that one phrase it wouldn’t be a very stable marketing model. By having your search traffic spread across a wider range of phrases you reduce the risk of one of the following being catastrofic.

  • Competitors getting a higher search result
  • Search engines changing their algorithm
  • A change in the way consumers search for your product or service

The Most Searched Phrase Is Not Usually The Best

From the analytics data of some of my most successful client websites it is clear that certain phrases tend to generate better engaged site visitors with longer time spent on site, more pages viewed and more conversions or sales. This is not a random behaviour, the more specific and relevant the search the better the likelihood your website has of creating a customer, the kind of factors that create these more engaged visitors include:

  • Location specific searches
  • Searches for a particular product
  • Phrases that include a key decision factor (e.g. In Stock, red, high capacity)

The reason for this is often down to lack of relevance of shorter search phrases to the actual need of the consumer. I know I regularly restate my search after an initial two word phrase doesn’t bring up sensible search results. I wonder how many clicks Boots the Chemist gets from people searching for footwear?

Capacity planning

Suddenly getting hundreds more search visitor for a particular phrase sounds great in principle however it is likely to have an impact on a number of aspects of your business from your hosting bandwidth usage (don’t laugh, your website can go down due to not planning sufficient bandwidth), your ability to serve enquiries and the ability of your business to actually deliver. Don’t underestimate the the impact of disappointed customers.

Use a holistic SEO service

Any search marketing service worth investing in should take some time and be monitored, and include aspects of:

  • Improving page content (Meta tags, text, headings, images)
  • Link building (do drive traffic and search position)
  • Review and analytics (to ensure that the imapct of the SEO is improving quality and quantity)

Without these you won’t have a measure of how narrow the range of search terms you are relying on are and therefore what risks you are running.

As an example I recently completed optimisation for a hire company, focusing on searches for weekly or long term hires. This has been tremendously beneficial increasing the average sale value due to longer hire periods.


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