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Does Your Job Depend On Conversions?


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#1 cre8pc

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 12:27 PM

Some questions for both SEO's in the field and management:

1. Is your dependent on ROI? In other words, if your SEO work does not translate into a certain set of criteria, do you lose the job?

2. What are the criteria for ROI as managers see it? Is it higher revenue, rank, traffic, what?

3. Anyone: What are the typical expectations for meeting ROI? For ex., if an organic plan doesn't seem to be working, how long does it take to decide this?

4. Anyone: Are conversions just something SEO's make happen or does user experience web design play a part in the overall marketing plan?

I ask because I keep finding unreasonable demands on SEO's by management. The feeling is that changes should create immediate measurable results.

#2 jonbey

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 02:29 PM

Why should SEO's be responsible for conversions? Seems totally unreasonable to expect that. OK. .... thinking.

Right, an SEO's main objective is to improve search traffic. So after that it is the website's sales / copy writers usability people's job to make the conversion.

If an SEO manages to get somehow get huge amounts of unrelated traffic then they could get a slap, but is that even feasible these days? I guess in the past SEO's could game engines to get more traffic with all those sneaky tricks, but they don't work now do they?

Also, how do you measure ROI in SEO?

You could hire an SEO for 1 month and they could in theory bring increased returns over the next 5 years. The foundation that they build could be what turns the website into an incredibly profitable company.

Another way to look at it - should a copy writer be expected to increase profits immediately? Or a graphic designer?

#3 iamlost

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 04:17 PM

I called around (small answer pool partly due to being Canadian Thanksgiving holiday weekend) and got quite different answers - definitely a wide divergence of opinion.

The best answer to the problem loudly proclaimed by most of the SEO providers who responded was spelling out both what SEO services entail and what they do not up front and in writing, i.e. services contract.

Note: changed question order.
Note: 14 managerial types (hire webdevs), 8-SEOs (specialist or as part of webdev service offering).
2. What are the criteria for ROI as managers see it? Is it higher revenue, rank, traffic, what?
8-replies-managers what?[/b]
* 8-replies-managers: ROI is strictly profit/loss charged against/resulting from the SEO work/effort/contract/services agreement.

6-replies-managers (as addendums): SERP, traffic volume, and other measurement targets may be/are required by contract/service agreement but are not ROI.

1-reply-manager (as addendum): he sees too many SEOs and other webdevs with strange ideas about what ROI is. Uses ROI understanding as hiring decision factor.

* 6-replies-managers: ROI is primarily a financial metric reported 'upstairs' but they accept rank, traffic, etc. as ROI from web contractors because 'the web is different'.
see me in corner vomiting

2-replies-managers (as addendum): C-suite is so ignorant about web that so long as visitor numbers rise they are happy.
Note: I know that one of these two blocks/unblocks bots to manipulate 'visitor' stats - snakeoil is not restricted to SEOs

3-replies-managers (as addendum): they can't be bothered educating ignorant SEOs so accept all provided stats and do their own ROI (financial) calculations.
Note: All three very unhappy at lack of basic business knowledge of webdevs generally and SEOs specifically.
Note: Two very upset that SEOs are like religious fundamentalists in their blind faith/ignorance, will not accept others views.
can't understand why they hire the idjits, just encourages the problem

1. Is your [employment] dependent on ROI? In other words, if your SEO work does not translate into a certain set of criteria, do you lose the job?
(6-replies-SEO, 8-replies-manager): depends on contract/services agreement.

2-replies-SEO: yes.

4-replies-managers: indirectly dependent on ROI, directly dependent on how their advice/work affects required/collateral keyphrase SERP and associated traffic volume increase.

2-replies-managers: <abridged> bloody barnacles always have an excuse.

3. Anyone: What are the typical expectations for meeting ROI? For ex., if an organic plan doesn't seem to be working, how long does it take to decide this?
My personal opinion: prior to May (Caffeine) for Google and still for Bing is 3 to 6-weeks, possibly 6-months. By tracking and relating crawlrates for each SE bot one can be much more specific/accurate. Since May/June, for Google, from immediately to 6-weeks depending on site. Note: SERP drops due to site structural changes are deeper and harder/take longer to recover from in Google now.

3-replies-SEO: depends on site, on whether changes are ongoing, what changes are being done in what order...play by ear.

2-replies-SEO: 1 to 3-months depending on site.

2-replies-SEO: 3 to 6-months depending on site.

1-reply-SEO: up to a year.

8-replies-managers: review quarterly.

4-replies-managers: review monthly.

2-replies-managers: 30 days for some positive sign gives program another month.

4. Anyone: Are conversions just something SEO's make happen or does user experience web design play a part in the overall marketing plan?
My personal opinion: SEO builds traffic generally, search traffic specifically. There can be a conflict between SEO and conversion because there are both significant and subtle differences between SEO copy (content) and sales/conversion copy (content). Very few SEOs or copywriters can bridge the gap. (if you can do both you should be paid twice, once for each skillset :)) The SEO and copywriter must work in tandem. Usability should be an integral part of webdev, very few SEOs seem to have the knack.

4-replies-managers: we do an annual usability assessment. Plus monthly conversion reviews. The copywriters have guidelines based on these critiques.

10-replies-managers: <abridged> huh?

2-replies-SEO: we consider conversion which takes UX into account.

6-replies-SEO: <abridged> not our job.

Hope this is of value.
Huge ZenHugs

Edited by iamlost, 11 October 2010 - 04:18 PM.


#4 jonbey

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 04:47 PM

Note: SERP drops due to site structural changes are deeper and harder/take longer to recover from in Google now.


If you need proof, I am willing to sell my story as a case study. got to make money somehow :)

Off Topic offtopic
Things still bad, traffic still down by over 50%


#5 EGOL

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 06:48 PM

All answers are personal opinion...


1. Is your job dependent on ROI?

Yes, if you have a competent boss.


2. What are the criteria for ROI as managers see it? Is it higher revenue,
rank, traffic, what?

Profits where that is the goal of the organization... however, there are
organizations where simply spreading a message is the metric


3. Anyone: If an organic plan doesn't seem to be working, how long
does it take to decide this?

Lots of variables here.......

If you run an established site that throws new pages to TopSERPs overnight
then you should know if things are working pretty quick.

If you are buying links or have your own controlled links a few weeks
might put you in the money.

If you are starting a new site from scratch using whitehat methods only... you
better have quite a bit of time because you will need content then linkbuilding.



4. Anyone: Are conversions just something SEO's make happen or
does user experience web design play a part in the overall marketing plan?

Anybody can make conversions happen... but a person skilled in analytics or
in using A/B testing systems is who will really get them going. Of course,
if you are selling crap at the wrong price, advertised to the wrong market
don't expect much of anything to happen.

#6 A.N.Onym

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 08:38 PM

1. Yes, since that's the only way I measure results of my work.

2. It's not just about how managers/owners see it, but what you agree upon.

Obviously, managers see sales/money - so that's what you should tie your conversions to - as long as you control the funnel. Naturally, you'd like to define ROI as something that can be measured and that you contribute to, not something that doesn't depend on you.

For example:
- ranking positions
- search traffic increase
- number of downloads/contacts (if you control copywriting/design/analytics and can influence that)

I do prefer to measure my efforts in contacts, with traffic/ranking until we start getting contacts (or other similar goals).

3. I usually set expectations depending on the project (onpage - 1 week, new site - 6-12 months, old site - 2-3 months, linkbait - 2-4 weeks after promotion, etc), but people like to see ROI instantly (this is what most clients do, since they don't know SEO, remember?).

As iamlost said, the effect of a published articles/links (on client's or other websites) comes fast - within days or weeks, depending on websites. But if we are giving timelines to clients, that also includes work and sometimes months of it. It all really depends on the website.

4. I usually don't promise conversions, unless I also affect the website itself (design, copywriting, page layout, etc).

Of course, SEO can increase conversions from targeted traffic, title tags and meta descriptions, but I think it's unreasonable to disconnect SEO, conversions and overall site creation/improvement process. I usually don't take on projects that only rely on SEO, but won't allow me to influence conversions by improving the website (a much easier and faster way to increase conversions).

The management always wants results quick and the more the merrier. If they know SEO, they are more or less reasonable in that - that's why I prefer to work only with people, who either don't know SEO at all or understand how it works. One of the worst cases is when the owner has heard of SEO, has heard some tips somewhere or from other advisers, but misapplies them to the website and doesn't listen to sage advice.

Two very upset that SEOs are like religious fundamentalists in their blind faith/ignorance, will not accept others views.

That's what some managers have as well: they treat SEO as a one-time service with immediate, not as an ongoing service.

<abridged> bloody barnacles always have an excuse.

Right, and that depends on the circumstances. Many of them. If business owners/managers don't understand them, who's the bloody barnacle?

Edited by A.N.Onym, 11 October 2010 - 10:22 PM.


#7 cre8pc

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Posted 12 October 2010 - 11:29 AM

All EXCELLENT feedback (and helpful).

I think management level persons ask for conversions but have no idea what that means. Like politics, they expect messes to be fixed overnight or they fire/replace people until they get what they want.

What metrics are used to show a return on investment? I like split testing and data tracking, such as lowering bounce rates and increased time on site. But this doesn't always mean more sales. Something has happened on the site to block the conversion.

I'm still noticing, after years and years of discussing how UX design is critical to SEO efforts, at how many site owners and corporate management still think that SEO's can wave a magic wand and make everything right overnight, with no attempts to work on the site design or even landing pages.

I'm wondering if the term "conversions" is over used and generic. It seems to mean different things to people, depending on where they are in the web site management food chain.

Do you think SEO's carry a huge, unwarranted weight on their shoulders, esp. if their job security is tied to conversions?

#8 EGOL

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Posted 12 October 2010 - 01:07 PM

Many bosses don't realize that changing the photo on an ecommerce page could result in a 100% increase in sales....

.... then changing the prominence of the buy button can add another 50%...

.... then repositioning the value proposition on the page can lift another 20%...

If you can get that concept across to them then they might instantly leap from receiving the gospel to being an active proselytizer within the organization.

A good way to get the concept across might be to show them whichtestwon.com (recommended to me by DazzlinDonna)...

#9 A.N.Onym

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Posted 12 October 2010 - 09:30 PM

1. I think it's fairly easy to define the conversions - just see how the company makes money and tie any site actions to that - you know that already, don't you?

Instead of general web analytics metrics, I usually define actions that the visitor takes to reach the conversion (inside the funnel) as mid-conversions - a click on the "Add to basket" button, for example. This is more important, than overall metrics, in my opinion.

I'm not sure it's that easy to tie metrics to conversions w/o the actual conversions. In that regard, I'd only use metrics as supplemental proof of concept, rather than trying to call them conversions.

For example, is much longer time on site always good? Even for an e-commerce site?

You are right that almost anything can be called a conversion, but I'm fine with that as long that action is in the funnel and *is* related to website ROI. Subscription to a blog as one of the conversions - why not?

2. How SEO's job depend on his work results depends on:
- what he and the company had defined results
- how competent the boss is (EGOL had hit the nail on the head here)
- whether the SEO can change the site itself (and whether there are other people working on the site with or without this knowledge)

Seasoned SEOs, in my opinion - and experience ;) - try to shift these factors in their favor. I.e., some don't take up new sites at all, because they require lots of work, the client is likely to worry about not getting results and to blame all of this on SEO. So with enough effort, a SEO is likely to be working in relative comfort for his good clients.

The biggest issue, in my experience, is not what defines conversions, but when the SEO will get them for the client. This is what worries the client the most and what SEO has to defend from being reduced to 1 month for a new site.

3. As EGOL mentioned, it should be more effective to show the actual influence on sales of increasing the actual conversions. However, the only case, where it works perfectly, is an established ecommerce store (of which EGOL provided the examples in his post). For other cases, it should be considered, but may not be possible in that particular moment (i.e., a site w/o traffic and many actions that directly contribute to sales).

4. Overall, however, since there's a knowledge gap between SEOs and business owners/managers that can't be easily closed by SEOs (some clients just don't learn, don't believe what SEO says or make their own decisions in the wrong direction anyway), SEOs are inclined to run their own projects.

In fact, I think it's a fairly known development path of a SEO:
- inhouse or freelance SEO Assistant
- inhouse or freelance SEO Specialist
- inhouse or freelance Lead SEO / Strategist
- his own affiliate sites
- a dropship partnership
- his own site with web services (not exactly SEO services - SaaS, software for sale, if you will)
- his own manufactured products sold through a website
- an offline business with strong online presence

Some steps can be skipped or combined, but overall this is the way SEOs might develop themselves, so they can't be fired just because someone doesn't understand how the Web and people function.

So it's not just about conversions - it's also about the people that make the decision to hire/fire a SEO - sometimes you just can't control this variable, but sometimes you can.

Edited by A.N.Onym, 12 October 2010 - 09:48 PM.


#10 iamlost

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Posted 17 October 2010 - 03:51 PM

Kim didn't link in her blog post when she started this topic so I will because there are some links and comments that extend the conversation.
Do SEO’s Bear the Burden of a Company’s Conversions?
John Andrew's comment is especially important, perhaps the most critical part of any webdev's conversation with boss(es) or client(s):

Any consultant needs to manage expectations, and every SEO needs to do the same. When the job is assigned, it’s time to clarify expectations… not later. For direct questions like “how much increase in traffic will I see after SEO plan A” the answer needs to be “No one knows. Sounds like you need a test study, which can provide data for basing estimates”.

As he goes on to say, it is when you feel unable to manage expectations that problems occur. What I would add is put it in writing. In the contract if contracting, in a memo if employed. Oral understandings are subject to memory loss, hard copy backup is professional behaviour.

Kim wrote:

Companies who hire SEO help must be taught exactly what it is they’re asking for so that when they see numbers doing the tango, they will be patient, ask the proper questions and provide the SEO with all the assets they need to make the conversions process work.

Unfortunately, companies can not be 'taught'. Only people can be taught and often the pressure put on the specialist is simply pass through from higher up the management hierarchy. Corporate inertia exceeds that of the earth. :)

All you can do is specify certain requirements, including managing expectations, and walk if the organisation is firm in it's willful ignorance. The more specialists that walk away the sooner the employer will learn or he company fail. Unfortunately, especially in these economically fragile times, that may be a choice too far for many.

One last observation. Kim quotes Jill Whalen as saying:

In addition, you probably shouldn’t be looking at a month-to-month increase in anything, but how each month compares to the same month in the year before. This is because there are often seasonal shifts in traffic, even for B2B sites, due to vacations, holidays, etc.

then asks How many SEO’s never had a year to prove their efforts weren’t done in vain?
I will assume that to be an inadvertent double negative, simply a misplaced 'n'.

Several comments addressed this point. I should like to add that comparisons are made on data so that 'having a year to prove their efforts' may not be necessary. May not. If there is at least a prior years worth of data. Would be nice if it was already prettily collated although I like to work from source when/where possible but the last years, or longer, log files, etc. can provide benchmarks from which to work.

Then tackle the low hanging fruit, there is always some. So long as there is always something positive each report you may survive until the long term efforts show return. Of course, without having managed expectations, that may not help you but should make your replacement's job that much easier. :ph34r: B)

#11 A.N.Onym

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Posted 19 October 2010 - 12:14 PM

Yup, unfortunately, managing client's expectations is probably what defines the results. Sometimes, clients can be educated on what is behind the expectations and understand that.

Sometimes, however, they don't wish to understand anything and thus, it's impossible to manage expectations with them. It's usually best to stay away from such clients indeed.

That being said, there's one more point to add: working for the long-term target is risky and is not advised. Not only the longer it takes to prove one's worth, the harder it is to manage expectations, but even if you agreed on something a few months before, doesn't mean it'll hold true afterwards. There are ways/reasons to simply stop the cooperation by either side. For example, I've managed to secure 6-12 months of work for new or unestablished websites, but not one of the companies involved actually gave me time to finish my work (the starter work was always about building the site, not about promoting it - though one might say it should've been done otherwise).

#12 earlpearl

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 11:54 AM

Our businesses depend on conversions. Every step of the conversion process depends on them. Some of it starts with SEO, website design, landing pages, etc.

#13 iamlost

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 12:36 PM

There is an interesting split in mindset, I see it in this thread and especially in a similar conversation Are SEOs Responsible For Rankings Or Money? at OutSpokenMedia. And the divide is largely a matter of semantics.

* Those who see SEO as a person or company offering a service.
* Those who see SEO as a specific skill set.
I fit in with the latter.

Yes, a good SEO is (or certainly should be) cognisant of other webdev skill sets such as CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation) and ideally the two should work in synthesis. And, perhaps most importantly, when both are being done by the same person or firm they should be identified and costed/billed separately. Without the separation there is loss of control of the actual process and less transparency of where exactly the problem(s), bottleneck(s), barrier(s) are.

That does not mean that an SEO can not also do CRO or Social Media Marketing, or SEM (ppc), or whatever. It does mean that the 'extra' should not be lumped in as SEO. If for no other reason than the financial benefit of greater billing. At some point a proffered service is no longer any one skill set but a more general consultancy or broader service package.

#14 A.N.Onym

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 10:07 PM

iamlost, SEO + conversion marketing might as well be called Internet Marketing, which evolves together with Internet marketers.

Unless there's a serious need to separate actual SEO activities from any other things, I'd rather call everything Internet marketing for the sake of ease of interoperability, when anything that needs to be done for either SEO or conversions can be explained and implemented easily without trying to define, whether it is a SEO or a conversion or a UI change.

Edited by A.N.Onym, 20 October 2010 - 10:08 PM.


#15 bwelford

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 08:42 AM

Yes, Yura, I'm very much with you. It's important to view the big picture because of the interactions and compromises you have to make in order to get the best synergy among all the functionalities.

Indeed I might go farther back or is it up and say this is all Marketing. That's as opposed to simple-minded Product Selling. Product Selling is entirely Product-directed. You figure out how to make the very best products as you perceive them that you can and then you figure out how to sell them.

Marketing on the other hand starts with the notion of a niche of customers with specific needs that you can satisfy with a product or service you will design to optimally meet that need. You also need to figure out how they will get to know you will have this solution for their needs. This is how you get your strategy clear.

Once strategy is clear, then you start working/operating. You'll certainly use the Internet heavily in what you're doing, given the enormous effectiveness and efficiency of that medium. However you may even use folks on the street carrying those 'sandwich boards' saying Eat at Joe's, if that's appropriate.



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