Today in web marketing or inbound marketing most of the conversation is around social media while much of the tactical emphasis is around search engine optimization (SEO). It seems that SEO is held as a secret weapon in gaining traffic and if we can only find out that hidden recipe, our traffic will explode. Today I am going to discuss why this isn’t true and why SEO should not be the main emphasis for driving traffic to your site.
There is no “secret sauce”
For a complete background on SEO for healthcare, you can read our previous article SEO for Healthcare Demystified where we reveal all the “secrets” behind SEO. What you will find is that there really are no secrets to SEO but instead only best practices to use regularly as you publish content and build relationships online. There will be no long lasting explosion of traffic from SEO but instead steady gains in traffic over time from a well planned out SEO campaign.
Why you don’t want tons of traffic from SEO
If we consider a site with 600 visitors per week and the majority of that traffic comes from SEO (> 50%), this site will be at a high risk of seeing a major disruption in traffic based on Google’s current mood or latest algorithm update. When you rely on Google for the majority of your traffic, you leave the health of your website completely in the hands of a 3rd party you have no control over. Our friends over at SEOmoz do a great job of tracking Google’s mood over time and tracking turbulence in the search results from the previous day. The fact is that rankings are constantly changing for the majority of keywords. We see this day in and day out in the reporting we do for our clients. We call it the Google shuffle as a sites rank increases by 5 one day only to drop by 7 next week and then increase by 10 the following week.
So how do you avoid the Google shuffle? You create a balanced approach to website traffic. Part of your inbound marketing strategy is generally to limit traffic from search to less than 30% of all site traffic. A traffic summary from one of our sites to the left shows a very nice balance of traffic.
Of course you want to increase the quantity of traffic you receive from search but in doing that you also want to ensure you grow your other channels proportionally so you are never left vulnerable to the latest search engine algorithm update. Basically we want to avoid having all our eggs in one traffic source basket.
This number largely represents your link building efforts and results from your online relationships. If the stats above were from your site, it would mean that 26% of traffic to your site site came from another website that has a link pointing to your site. This is generally a great method to drive traffic as it is usually consistent over time and the traffic is of a high quality because basically they have been referred to you.
Direct Visits means that people typed in the name of your website directly into the URL bar in their browser or they followed a bookmark in their browser. This number generally represents your branding efforts. If people can remember your website address enough to type it into the URL bar instead of searching for you on Google, you are doing something right in your branding.
This stat is the life blood of most websites and is also where most websites fail and nearly all websites could do better. Once you have gained that new visitor to your site, you want to keep them coming back again and again so you can build your brand with them and a relationship. Email is still the most effective method for bringing visitors back to a site when the email campaigns are setup to provide timely value instead of only noise. We love to talk about strategic email marketing and you can learn a lot more from some of our other posts on how to improve your efforts.
Here we see the net value of our SEO efforts. This particular site is relatively new and has a lot of growth potential for SEO traffic and that traffic will come in time. But what is more important is that this site already has a system in place for dealing with the traffic from organic search and turning that traffic into Marketing Qualified leads and Sales Qualified leads.
Social Media Visits
This number represents an aggregate total value of all visitors from social media sites. With a good social media strategy you will be able to drill down into this number further to see the distribution of social sites making up that 13% of traffic as well as which of those sites are seeing the most social sharing of your content.
The Final Word: New Patients don’t come from search
A final reason you want to have a balanced traffic profile on your site is because from the data we collect on our sites, we see that new patients do not come from organic search visits. Instead we collect new marketing qualified leads from organic search visits and these are groomed into patients over time through other Inbound Marketing strategies such as email and social media. It is rare that we see a visitor become a patient immediately after their first visit to a site from search. You can learn more about Marketing Qualified Leads and lead scoring in our whiteboard session on lead scoring.
In the end none of this is rocket science. Instead most of it is only common sense. But as we say, “you can’t improve on what you can’t measure.” You will never know if you have a balanced traffic profile if you don’t have a system in place to first measure these numbers. And just as important as measuring is having a system in place to regularly report on results and ways to improve.