Stop Focusing on Rankings, Start Focusing on Conversions

If you work in online marketing, no doubt you and your colleagues have been frustrated by Google’s constant changes to its algorithm. Google surely keeps us on our toes, but it’s not doing anything that hasn’t been done for over 300 years in media and publishing. They’re just looking out for their users…or, I should say, their customers.

When a city newspaper’s circulation drops, advertisers disappear, revenue slows—what’s there to do? Repackage the newspaper’s look, cut some staff members, and focus on more relevant news coverage and feature stories. Become more local. Trade and consumer magazines, industry newsletters, anything regularly published that needs to hold an audience to survive—they all experience the same problems. Broadcast and cable TV have the same issues: If a network airs poorly written and produced programming or programming of no interest, viewership shrinks, people find other means of entertainment, advertisers run the other direction and actors go unemployed. The movie industry…yep, you guessed it. If movie producers don’t deliver what audiences want to watch, popcorn sales go into the gutter, on-demand takes a dive, theaters close their doors and movie stars look for off-Broadway gigs.

The power of great content vs. caring about what Google is doing

Online marketers are getting a clearer view every day. Conversion, via great content (or contributions) to an industry or product channel, is the game. If you’re still stuck on rankings and traffic for traffic’s sake, you might want to reconsider your future in the industry.

It certainly doesn’t hurt when Google says your site is a rankings leader. But really now, does that even matter when you think about it? Conversions matter. Big time traffic and top rankings with no conversions? Reminds me of local and regional advertising awards back in the day. The winners were judged based on elements like great copy, layout, and production–not whether the campaign moved the sales needle for a client.

Face the facts—conversion is king, and conversion occurs because relevant content connects with prospects looking for solutions. When your content doesn’t connect, it fails, regardless of traffic and rankings. So, what’s the answer? Creating great content is not easy. If it were, everyone could do it. It’s part science and part art, and it can lean either way at any time. It takes discipline, creativity, knowing an industry and a product, learning about a target audience or customer base, and structure. Even with outstanding skills and all the information resources, not all content gains traction. That’s why testing can be a savior.

Content’s (not quite) 20 questions

Value propositions are a must. Hard as they are to be on target, you have to know your product’s value prop. What’s unique about your product? Something your competitors can’t say, won’t say or don’t know how to say. Customers and potential customers have to identify with and “get” what the benefit of your product is to them. Otherwise, you don’t have a remote chance of earning their trust or their business.

Do you use a call-to-action in your content? Is it effective? What makes it effective? Is your content in the reader’s crosshairs? Is it promoted where your target audience lives online? Or is it buried and tough to find (below the fold) on your site and promoted on tremendously irrelevant blogs or other media?

Do you and your agency work tirelessly to develop a cohesive, on-target, comprehensive copy platform (like a creative brief or a scope document)? If not, how are your creative types on target with the content they write? How can your search media networkers truly understand where your content belongs?

How about that S.W.O.T. analysis? Is it accurate? Do your marketing folks truly care or understand how critical this information is? Do they care about how it can unearth tremendous opportunities for content/conversions success?

Content for the sake of content is not king. When it’s done well–no, when it’s done RIGHT–packaged for easy consumption, concentrated on topics your target audience wants and really needs, differentiates you from your competitors, and lands where your target audience is living, you have a prayer.

Think about it: we don’t have to own a publication, TV or cable network, billboards, radio stations or any other medium. We have the Internet—and that gives us access to everyone. And, like it or not, rankings and traffic, while important, are not the future. Content that connects and converts is.

To be successful, keep your customers’ and prospects’ wants and needs in mind. Be honest with them. Build a relationship with them. Provide them with information that will solve a problem or quench a thirst. And boom—we all win.