SEO: When Being Optimized Can Hurt
It's a marketing dream come true: A potential customer, looking for what you have to offer, types a few words into her favorite search engine and voila! She is led directly to your website where she can go from "prospect" to "customer."
The best part is, it didn't cost you anything (except time and elbow grease) to get to the top of her results. Unless, of course you paid for someone else's time and elbow grease. Even so, you've got a sale and your customer got what she was looking for. Sounds like the classic win-win situation.
So, what's not to love about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Plenty ? if your efforts stop there. Because getting your site to the top of the search result heap is only half the battle. Leave the other half un-fought, and you're actually doing yourself more harm than good.
Lets not forget that the ultimate goal of this whole exercise is to eventually make sales. And last I checked, search engine spiders weren't spending a whole lot of money.
When an actual human being gets to your site and sees a page designed for a robot she feels a bit used. Kind of like being pitched to by the used car salesman in the polyester suit. She reads copy that, rather than telling her how she might benefit from what you have to offer, repeats variations of her search term over and over. This tells her you don't care about her, you only want her money. She clicks away and searches some more.
This hurts you in at least three ways:
1. You lose the sale. So you don't make any money.
2. She still visited, as did everyone else sucked in by your high placement. Depending on your hosting arrangement, you could be paying for more traffic. So you may actually lose money.
3. Most importantly, your prospect now has a negative impression of you. Even if you clean up your act she's less likely to ever click on your link again. It's called negative branding and, you guessed it: It causes you to lose money.
It also has the potential of hurting you even more in the future, as search engine spiders are getting smarter every day. Not only do they eventually catch on if you mindlessly repeat phrases to trick them, they also notice if searchers are always coming back to the results in a hurry because you weren't what they were looking for. If that is the case, they won't continue to recommend you so highly.
It takes more time and more effort to develop content that is both human and spider friendly. But not doing so can actually do you more harm than good.
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