The Conversion Chronicles, resources for improving your online conversion rates

When Keywords Don't Deliver


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If you’ve been working with keyword optimization for a while, you know there are times when some great keywords drive tons of traffic to your site, but the resulting conversion rate is terrible.

I have spent many an hour scratching my head, wondering how it is that I’m pulling in tons of visitors with a very relevant keyword or phrase, but just not getting the results I was hoping for.

After all, relevant keywords are meant to do the job. Right?

The keywords people use can be misleading...

Let me talk this through with an example.

Let’s say I’m tired to the bone and need to take a couple of weeks off. I just want to lie back in the sun,
feel the warmth of the sand, sip on some ridiculous tropical drink and relax.

As it happens, a neighbor just returned from Mexico and says the beaches are great. So I go to Google and type in “mexico beaches.”

I am delivered a lot of results. They all look much the same, so I click on the top one. What do I get? I get to see some vast, ugly warehouse of a hotel just south of Cancun.

I’m disappointed. So what went wrong? Google did its job. The people optimizing the pages for the hotel did a good job. But I didn’t get what I wanted.

We optimize for the brain, not for the heart.

And that’s a mistake.

Here’s what happens. When we optimize, we optimize for two audiences... search engine spiders and readers. If we do a good job, we write in a way that appeals to both audiences.

However, because we have the spiders to consider, we take a pretty left-brain approach. Spiders are very logical, and people can be logical too... so it seems to make sense.

But if you have anything to do with sales, you know that in most cases, people buy as much with their hearts as they do with their minds.

Even your prospect conspires against him or herself.

Let me take you back to my computer as I figure out what to type into the Google search box.

I typed in “mexico beaches.” But that’s not really what I wanted. If I had typed in a phrase that was true to what I wanted I would have typed, “I’m tired to the bone and want somewhere warm and sandy where I can lie down and relax.” Well, I just tried that and got zero results.

That’s not how search engines work and, as a user of search engines, I know that. So even though I have an emotional need to relax and drink that silly drink, when I use a search engine, I do some pre-filtering in my mind, because I have a sense of how search engines work. And I know I need to feed Google some specifics if I want anything close to a relevant result.

What is a search engine writer to do? I think there are a couple of things you can do.

First, create more landing pages.

Don’t drive “cancun hotels” ,“mexico beach hotels”, “mexico beaches” and “beach hotels” all to the same landing page.

Consider each keyword carefully. Understand that there could be a significant difference in the needs of a reader who types “mexico beaches” as opposed to “cancun hotels.”

As it happens, there are some beautiful, quiet beaches quite close to Cancun. You can still get that customer. But first, satisfy the need he or she actually has -- a place to re lax. Then sell him or her on the hotel room that is only a short bus or cab drive away.

Second, appeal to the heart.

People are not search engine spiders. They don’t follow logical paths. They don’t think, “Hmm, this page is very relevant to the keyword I just entered, and they did a good job of getting my attention by repeating my keyword in the page headline. No doubt about it, I’ll book a room in the delightful Kram-em-In Hotel right away.”

People don’t buy with their heads. They buy with their hearts. At least, that’s how it starts out. We see something, our heart says, “I want it!” And then we use our heads to persuade ourselves that it’s a good and reasonable idea.

Write like a good direct marketer.

Direct marketing copywriters understand the heart thing. At least, the good ones do.

So when you build that landing page for folks like me who type in “beach hotels,” don’t open the page with copy like:

Just minutes away from the Kram-em-In Hotel, this beach offers sailing, wind-surfing and scuba-diving from 9:30 to 4:30.
Save that for the spiders, and the "more details" section of the page.

If you want to appeal to my emotions, write something more like:

Imagine the hot sand between your toes, a cool breeze coming in off the sea, and the warmth of the tropical sun on your skin. Best of all, imagine leaving your watch and cell phone locked away in your hotel safe.

Does that sound a little soft and soppy to you? Maybe you are too much in cynical-marketer mode. That is precisely the kind of copy that makes people say, “Yes!”

First, you reach them in their hearts. Then you give them the information they need for their heads to agree.

Some concluding thoughts...

Optimizing the text on your site pages for the major search engines is a very demanding skill. Until now, a great deal of effort has gone into creating text that appeals to search engine spiders and results in high listing. And that’s a good thing.

However, I don’t think enough effort goes into understanding the human side of optimizing that text. And I believe that higher conversion rates will be achieved as soon as search engine writers understand how to write to the emotional needs of the reader, as well as the logical needs of the spiders.

To appeal to the readers as emotional beings, there are a couple of hurdles to get over.

First, you need to understand that searchers pre-filter their search terms. They don’t type in: “I’d like to earn some more money, maybe part-time from home, but I’m kind of scared and have no idea where to start.” They type in something more like, “home work opportunities.”

A skill we need to develop is to better understand how particular search phrases flag a deep emotional need in the searcher. When we understand more in that area, we will be able to create landing pages that better address those more emotional needs.

Second, search engine writers need to learn some lessons from good direct marketing copywriters. They need to understand that a huge component of any purchase decision is emotional, not rational. And yes, this applies to many business-to-business purchases as well.

Over the l ast two or three years a huge amount of progress has been made in understanding how to write optimized pages that get high listings in the major search engines.

Our next challenge is to increase our conversion rates by writing those pages in a way that recognizes and addresses the real needs of our readers.

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Nick UsborneAuthor: Nick Usborne, Copywriter

Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author, speaker and consultant. His consulting and speaking site can be found at Nick Usborne.com. His information sites for copywriters and freelance writers can be found at Excess Voice and www.freelancewritingsuccess.com respectively.