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Conversion Rates Are Dropping

John Doherty —  February 10, 2011

Well, today was an interesting day in my SEO world. After an eye appointment this morning (unrelated to SEO, obviously, though it did make seeing my screen a bit harder), I went into work and started firing off linkbuilding emails that were ready to go out.

So far, so good (except I still had trouble seeing my screen).

Then I get an email from my boss, saying traffic had dropped, as had conversions on our site. I then dive into Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools to try to figure out what’s going on. I find that traffic is aboutthe same overall, but many of our major keywords are not bringing in the traffic they were last month. Mostly, though, the issue is that our site is not converting the traffic like it used to.

So we’re learning some lessons now. We made some changes last week that may need to be rolled back, or at least A/B tested to see what is going on.

Sometimes when you have made a lot of changes recently, it is impossible to pinpoint what caused the drop or rise. Maybe we need to implement slower and do some testing beforehand, and not just throw the changes out there. This is hard in a small company where everyone’s voice and opinion counts as much as the next person.

Has anyone out there had this happen? Had you restricted some pages to tighten the conversion funnel? What was the root cause?

Attention: This post is Part 2 of a two-part blog. If you have not read Part 1, please read it here: Top SEO Tips For Beginners – Part 1.

Tip 6: Use tools that are available to you.

Some SEO firms have launched useful tools to help you succeed in your all-around SEO duties, from linkbuilding to optimizing your website so that you get your maximum ROI (return on investment) for your efforts.

First, get your company or client to pay for an SEOmoz (@seomoz) subscription. Their tools are invaluable to a serious linkbuilder. Open Site Explorer (OSE) is quite useful when learn a new niche and to find your competitors’ backlinks.

Ontolo has also launched a series of tools to help the everyday SEO, and I have found them especially useful as a beginner. Ontolo’s Google search generator, called Link Query Builder V2 (come on Garrett and Ben, a better name please!), is based on keywords. This tool provides you with many high-level Google searches to help you find quality prospective link opportunities. Also, Ontolo’s lead SEO, Garrett French (@garrettfrench) is always willing to help with Ontolo questions.

Finally, the almighty Google (GOOG) provides a number of easy-to-use tools. They include:
– Reader – Subscribe to the RSS feeds of useful sites (insert article here). Set the feed to pull into your Google Reader so that the new information published on these sites is pulled into one place. I begin every workday by reading articles published overnight so that I can use the information during my workday.
– Analytics – Use Google Analytics to track your visitors and locations, keywords, and content. It is also possible to track eCommerce once you have learned the basics. I recommend taking a course if you do not have any prior experience using Analytics.
– Docs – The SEO team that I work on would not be able to function well without Docs. We use Docs for tracking links and link prospects, editing collaboratively, and identifying new ways to build links and improve our site. I personally use Docs to scrape websites for potential links and to write new blog posts.

Tip 7: Learn to use Microsoft Excel

SEOs use Microsoft Excel multiple times every day for linkbuilding and website tracking purposes. I use it to keep track of keywords for specific pages on our website, as well as scrubbing exports of backlinks in order to make them actionable for SEO purposes.

If you are unfamiliar with Excel when you start as an SEO, I would recommend either taking a class or finding someone in your company who is an Excel afficionado who is also willing to teach you and answer your questions.

Tip 8: Learn to write a well-crafted, focused email.

SEO is marketing. In order to succeed, you must know how to tell people what they want to hear, when they want to hear it. Whether dealing with a skeptical client, a stubborn boss, or the webmaster of that PR6 site yoy’re trying to finagle a link from, you need to know how to write for people. Be direct, flatter (but not too much), and be honest. Don’t give away all your tricks, but be willing to be a likable human when dealing with your contact.

Tip 9: Be careful of “paralysis by analysis”

This goes back to Tip 3 (DOUBLE CHECK #). Be careful that you do not spend too much time reading and learning instead of practicing what you are learning. A fine balance exists between keeping up with the latest news and trends (which is all too easy with Social Media) and implementing what you have learned. Plus, if you implement what you have learned and make new discoveries, you will benefit the whole world of SEO when/if you decide to publish your findings.

Tip 10: Build a website from the beginning.

If you are a new SEO, I would recommend developing a website of your own from scratch, if you have never done so before. Building a website from the beginning will allow you to implement your new SEO knowledge into your design. You will also have a better understanding and appreciation for how websites are built, and therefore you will be able to better optimize the sites you are working on for search engines. Also, if you have your own sites that you are able to easily implement changes to, you will have hands-on learning experiences at your fingertips. You will have a website that you can change and experiment with, which will increase your SEO knowledge and skill.

Leave A Comment!

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think of my suggestions, what I missed, and what you’ve learned as an SEO.

Every day, new people enter the world of SEO. These may be former web developers, graphic designers, PR professionals, or former software support technicians. The unfortunate reality of beginning SEO is that there are few good mentors available in-person for these young SEOs, and the work involves so many facets of the Internet that it is impossible to be taught them all by a mentor.

With this in mind, I want to bring to you my top recommendations for beginner SEOs. Why should you listen to me? I’ve been in SEO full-time for about 4 months now, yet I’ve been around the fringes of SEO and, unbeknownst to me until recently, doing some SEO work for the past 3 years. I am a trained web developer and worked in software for a while, but I also developed a website around a book publishing company based in Europe where I started to hone my skills as an SEO. I consider myself a beginner still, so these recommendations come from my recent experience of entering the full-time SEO world.

Tip 1: Find a mentor

I cannot emphasize enough the necessity of finding a mentor who will teach you as much as they can, who will answer your questions every time, who lets you learn and make mistakes, and who is also a learner themselves. When I jumped in on a startup book publishing company in Switzerland, my mentor did not have a ton of publishing knowledge, but he had a lot of business knowledge from his long career, and he had the desire to teach me and listen to my ideas.

To be honest, I still do not have ONE SEO mentor, but I do consider many of the best-known to be mentors to me, because they write in-depth and well-researched articles.

Tip 2: Get involved on Twitter

One of the great aspects of the SEO world is that almost everyone is involved in discussions on Twitter. Everyone from Rand Fishkin (@SEOmoz and @randfish) to Wil Reynolds (@wilreynolds) and the Critchlow brothers (@willcritchlow and @tomcritchlow) takes the time to post interesting links for everyone’s benefit. If they speak, you should listen.

Also, begin to engage in the conversations. Ask questions and be a likable professional. Be willing to learn, challenge when appropriate or necessqry, and post interesting articles you find as well.


The SEO world is constantly changing, so if you want to keep up with the changes and shifts in technology, you should read as many of these as possible, if applicable to you. I say applicable because there is simply too much information for it to all be applicable to you, anf if you read everything you probably will never do any actual work!

I will also reiterate the advice that I read earlier, about learning the basics before attempting high-level SEO tactics. You have to crawl before you can walk. I recommend reading SEOmoz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO to begin, then as many of the articles as possible about basic linkbuilding and internal site issues. Many can be found on SEOmoz.org.

Tip 4: Ask Questions

If you’re just starting in SEO, and especially if you do not have previous web development experience, you will have a lot of questions. Ask them.

Use the people around you, your co-Twitterers (see Tip 2), and forums (see Tip 5).

Tip 5: Get involved in forums

The SEO world contains many forums where you can ask your questions and receive relatively prompt and in-depth responses. I especially recommend SearchEngineWatch (Twitter: @sewatch) to get started. SEOmoz also has a good discussions area.

Remember: at the beginning it is OK to just ask questions, but after a while you should start answering questions to which you know the answers and have implemented. Don’t just regurgitate what the “experts” have said, but also do not be afraid to give an honest answer. After all, forums are for discussion!

This is the end of Part 1. To continue, please flip the tape over and continue on the other side.

Only kidding. Tune in for Part 2 tomorrow.

Today at work I began to have an epiphany. Does that sentence even make sense? I’m not really sure. Anyways, a coworker and I were talking about our projects going on outside of our “normal” SEO jobs. He is putting together a website for local music venues, where he hopes to eventually drive enough traffic to start having advertisers, and ultimately to add about $1,000 a month to his income.

I of course have a few projects on the side, which I would also like to eventually see some additional income from. Right now, the ROI IS TERRIBLE! The drive right now is ownership, the ability to truly groom a project into what you want it to be.

I also recently came into contact with a British man who works for himself in the UK, because he realized that working for himself was the only way to keep up with the SEO industry in his country. Now, I do not believe that is the case in the United States, becuase if it was, there would not be many SEO agencies.

The point stands, however, that when you work for someone, you have to pander to their demands and expectations, at least to a certain extent. After all, they hired you for a reason, right? You have to be willing to work towards their demands as well, however.

Maybe this is why being an entrepreneur is so appealing to me, and one day, after some years working as an SEO both in-house and hopefully for an agency one day, I can strike out on my own.

This wasn’t necessarily a huge epiphany, but I did realize how much I enjoy working for myself. And please do not get me wrong, I do enjoy my current job quite a bit and I can take ownership of a lot of projects.

What are your thoughts on entrepreneurship?

An Introduction

John Doherty —  February 2, 2011

As this is my first post on Wordpress, I guess I should introduce myself. My name is John. This is my website.

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