It’s a problem I see all too often…
Marketers learn about SEO tactics and actually do a good job applying them.
Before they know it, their site’s traffic has risen to 3,000 visits a month, then to 10,000, then to 20,000. Along with growing their traffic numbers, these marketers also build up their email lists from this traffic.
They’re excited because they’ve read many stories of entrepreneurs making 5 figures a month from email lists of just a few thousand.
And then, they launch a product and get horrendous conversion rates.
It doesn’t make sense to them—after all, they did everything right, didn’t they? Why isn’t their targeted traffic interested in their products?
If you’ve ever been in this situation, I know you understand the pain and frustration it causes.
If you haven’t, I don’t want you to have to go through it.
In this post, I’ll help you understand why it happens and how to use SEO more effectively to prevent this sad scenario from ever happening to you.
Does this sound familiar?
In that very general overview of SEO work, there was one crucial mistake. If you avoid it, you’ll drastically increase your chances of creating a sustainable business.
Here is the mistake, put simply:
You’ve built up a good size audience, but it’s not a cohesive audience. In other words, the people in your audience are too dissimilar to each other.
This can be a hard concept to understand at first, but once you do, it will become eye-opening.
You may have tried to monetize with Adsense, or a similar advertising platform, and got decent results. Therefore, your search traffic is indeed high quality.
But Adsense is smart; they serve different ads to different people, based on collected data.
They know that the experienced marketer isn’t looking for introductory SEO videos that the beginner marketer is interested in.
Because of this, it doesn’t matter much which kind of SEO traffic you’re getting when you’re monetizing with Adsense.
Has the light bulb gone off yet? All businesses start somewhere, and the majority have only a few products at the most.
If you’re still trying to find your first big SEO success, you might have only one product.
If you’ve been amassing search traffic from any keywords you can, you’ll end up with a highly mixed audience.
Let’s go through an example. Say you’re a soccer blogger, and you managed to rank #1 for these keyword phrases:
- “How to get better at soccer”
- “Soccer betting”
- “Watch soccer online”
All of the above phrases have the word “soccer” in them, so they must be relevant to you as a soccer blogger.
But your business focuses on selling soccer training programs to help players get better.
Although they care about soccer in general, the people searching for betting information or wanting to watch professional matches couldn’t care less about playing themselves (for the most part).
You will get a good response from the part of your email list that signed up through the first article, but that’s it.
I hope it’s becoming clear now:
Your search engine traffic must attract people interested not only in your niche but also in the product you’re selling.
Sometimes you’ll have 3 distinct groups of people. But if you’re ranking for many keywords, you may have several, which makes your results even more dismal.
As you can see, the root problem is in you mindlessly trying to rank for any vaguely-related to your niche keyword.
Traffic is a vanity number at that point because when it comes to your actual business, the traffic you are getting is not targeted, nor is it high quality.
Stop approaching SEO backwards
If you’ve ever fallen into this trap, it’s not your fault, but it’s an important thing to learn from.
Most SEOs approach things backwards. They obsess about the raw traffic numbers, expecting to learn about conversion later—not realizing they’re shooting themselves in the foot.
They spend all their time reading about and applying SEO tactics, without fully understanding their purpose or why they work.
And it culminates in the sort of disaster I’ve walked you through.
So, let’s start with the fundamentals:
Search engines (SEO) are a marketing channel.
The entire purpose of getting the traffic from search engines is to try to move it into your funnel and through it.
Marketing channels feed leads into the top of that diagram.
Once you’ve put your potential customers on an email list, you can usually consider them leads and keep trying to move them down the funnel.
What you should do is reverse-engineer your funnel.
Start at the bottom, and work out a path that a customer could take from the top of the funnel to reach the bottom. If customers can come from search engines, figure out the “right” keywords that would bring them.
For our soccer example, there’s almost no chance that a customer for a training program would come from the keyword phrase “how to bet on soccer.”
By taking this approach, you eliminate the entire problem of an irrelevant audience that won’t make it past the first stage in your funnel.
Who are the types of people in your niche? Some niches are more dangerous than others. For some, there are dozens of different types of people who might be searching for vaguely related terms. For others, there might be only 2 or 3 types.
Obviously, the fewer types of people there are, the less potential for disaster there is.
It’s a good exercise to quickly try to identify the different types of people in your market.
Let’s continue with our example. There are 7 types of people that could search for things related to soccer:
- Players (adults and kids) looking to improve
- Parents of players
- People looking to understand the basics of a new hobby
- Referees trying to study the game
- Fans (who like to watch the game)
That’s 7 types right off the top.
But you could divide those even further.
You could divide players by their mastery level: beginner, intermediate, and expert players will all be looking for different things.
Gamblers could be divided into casual and serious.
Parents could be divided into those who just want to know how to introduce their child to soccer and those who want to help their child get a scholarship playing soccer.
Your product likely appeals to one or two of these sub-types of people, which is why it’s very important to understand whom you’re trying to attract through search engines.
Once you’ve done all this, identify the types of people who would be interested in any products you already have or are going to have in the near future. Be as specific as possible.
It’s time to evaluate your content
Your next step is to take a hard look at your current content.
Create a list of all the content you’ve published that has the potential to drive search traffic.
Even better, go to Google Analytics, and export your content from the “behavior” section, sorted by the amount of organic traffic it drove (add a filter for “search traffic”):
On your spreadsheet, add a column beside the title or URL. Go through your pieces of content, one by one, and label each with the type(s) of people who would be most interested in that post.
At the same time, highlight rows, let’s say in green, where content fits the type of people interested in your product (from the step before). A quick glance at the end will tell you where you stand.
Can you salvage any non-targeted content? Hopefully, you’ll have a lot of green, but you might not. You might find that most content is probably read by people who won’t make it through your sales funnel.
Should you delete that content or leave it alone?
You could do either, but that would be a real shame if that content is already generating traffic.
Instead, let me suggest a few other courses of action:
- Add extra internal links – By adding internal links to pages that are targeted, you can leverage the authority that you’ve built on these non-targeted pages.
- Monetize differently – Stop adding visitors to these pages to your main email list. Either add them to a separate list and pitch them different products (use affiliate products if you don’t have a relevant one), or use advertising.
While your focus should be on the green content you just identified, that doesn’t mean you still can’t derive some benefit from your work in the past.
Fix your future SEO by pruning your keyword list
You can’t completely fix past mistakes, but you can ensure that you don’t make them again in the future.
You likely have a large list of keywords that you created from keyword research that you thought were good to target.
It’s time to revisit those.
While all those keywords that you identified before are probably good keywords to target for certain businesses, not all of them are good for your business.
Instead of wasting your time creating and promoting content that attracts the wrong types of audience in your niche, you’ll spend it on highly relevant, targeted traffic.
Just like we did before, go through each keyword one by one, and identify the type(s) of people who would search for it.
- “How to bet on soccer” would be searched by “gamblers.”
- “How to get better at soccer” would be searched by “players looking to improve.”
I highly suggest focusing on the single main product you’re trying to sell. Then, in the future, you can identify products you could create to target these other segments of your niche.
For now, identify the 1 or 2 types of people who will buy your product—the ones you want going in the top of your sales funnel.
Remove (or hide) all keywords that don’t attract those people.
You will be left with a much smaller list of keywords in most cases. However, any search traffic that you get from these keywords is almost certain to be highly valuable.
You’re not limited to SEO
I understand the hesitation to limit the amount of search traffic you can get.
There’s a certain level of security in knowing you are getting tens of thousands of search visitors per month and that there are always more keywords to target.
But here’s the thing: if you want to succeed, you need to forget about vanity numbers, such as traffic, and look at the quality of traffic—and conversions—instead.
Which would you rather have?
- 10,000 search visitors, 500 of them targeted or
- 1,000 search visitors, all of them targeted
The second site will perform better every single time, even with a tenth of the traffic of the first site.
What about the second fear? You might legitimately run out, or run low, on keywords to target (other than very long tail ones).
That’s when you put your marketing understanding to the test.
If you truly understand that SEO is just one marketing channel, you know that there are many other marketing channels out there.
Now that you know the type of people you’re looking for, you can find them on social media sites, question sites, blogs, and many other online platforms.
Here are a final few resources that will introduce you to these other channels; just always keep in mind the end goal of your funnel:
- Stop Guessing: Here’s a Social Media Strategy That Works
- 5 Spectacular Traffic Sources That’ll Help You Move Beyond Google
- How to Leverage Q&A Sites to Generate Traffic
- How to Use Social Media to Drive Traffic for B2B Companies
This is one of the most important concepts that knowledgeable marketers need to understand. Traffic from SEO itself is not the goal. The goal is to have traffic that actually converts into customers.
Don’t waste your time creating and promoting content that doesn’t attract the right type of readers to your site.
Instead, make sure you’re focusing on driving search engine traffic that is interested in your products—I just showed you how.
If you need help understanding a particular concept from this post, leave me a comment below, and I’ll try to clear things up.
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