Don’t Just Focus on the Tip of the SEO Iceberg


icebergOne of the SEO companies used to have a photo of an iceberg on their homepage. I love the analogy of an iceberg when it comes to search engine optimization. A recent conversation we had with a client regarding their return on their Search Engine Optimization budget held some concerns that they were only getting a handful of unique visitors in the last year for the keyword phrase we were targeting, promoting and tracking.

The keyword is quite unique and I don’t have permission to share it…. but in reviewing their analytics, they were only getting a handful of visits… for that exact keyword. However, there were approximately 200 visits per month for keyword-related searches before we worked on optimization. After a successful SEO program that took them to #1, that grew to over 1,000 visits per month. The keyword by itself was only resulting in a handful of visits before and dozens after. The client was only measuring the exact term and not all the relevant, related traffic.

There were 266 related keyword terms that the client was getting traffic on prior to the program. That grew to 1,141 related keyword phrases that they were getting traffic on post promotion and optimization. Those 1,141 related keyword searches resulted in over 20,000 new visitors to the site. When you calculate the return on that investment, it’s quite a win. Those terms are known as long-tail keywords, and there’s sometimes more customers, money and opportunity there than fighting it out with the competition on high-volume keywords.

The bottom line is that SEO is not like buying a keyword with PPC. Organic search has the opportunity to grow your traffic through an entire network of related keyword phrases. This is critical in your search engine strategy. If all your focus is on the tip of the iceberg, you’re not paying attention to the higher volumes of traffic that related search terms are bringing you.

Another strategy where this is an issue is local search. DK New Media recently performed an SEO audit on a service-based company that operated nationally. Their promotion, their content, their site hierarchy – their entire SEO strategy – only targeted general service-based terms without any geography.

The competitors are eating their lunch – getting a hundred times the traffic because the competitors intelligently targeted geography as aggressively as the service topic. When this company was working with their SEO consultant, geography didn’t even come up in the conversation because the search volumes weren’t significant. The SEO professional focused on the tip of the iceberg… and missed the 90%+ of smaller, geographic keyword searches.

The company is in trouble… they have a lot of ground to try to make up if they hope to be a leader in service-related searches. The fact is that local search is the primary term when searching for regional services. You’re not going to search for “car wash” on Google… you’re going to search for your neighborhood or city in addition to “car wash”. There may not be high volumes of searches for “Albuquerque car wash”… but add up every city in the United States with a car wash and that’s a HUGE number.

It’s okay to direct a strategy on the tip of the iceberg, measure it, monitor it, and optimize for it. However, don’t forget that you’re only working with the tip!

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