Winning SEO, losing customers

At first, I couldn’t figure out why Randy, the remodeler on the other end of my phone, sounded so depressed.

Remodelers all over the country are being fleeced by slick Web development and SEO companies, and they don’t even know it. But, as they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” so allow me to help you take a peek below the surface so you can detect — and avoid — some of the most common Internet marketing mistakes.

Mistake: Wooing Google, not humans. Everyone knows that your site has to be optimized so Google will find it and rank it high in the search results. But, most SEO companies focus so much attention on Google that they forget humans are the ones who actually, you know, buy stuff. As a result, they unnaturally stuff keywords into the content of the website, to the extent they kill your chances of enticing real humans to read it.

Here’s the main headline from Randy’s site: “Home Windows Installed By Experts In Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, Danbury, and Throughout Connecticut and Eastern New York.” Would this ever be the first thing you say when you meet a prospect in person? Of course not. It’s stupid. When people read this kind of Google-chasing drivel on the first page they see, they immediately click away to find something that answers their real question, which is, “Why should I pick this company instead of all the others?”

Mistake: Luring customers like women at a bar. Imagine some moron trying this pickup line in a bar: “Hey baby, my apartment’s around the corner. Wanna see it?” It would never work in a million years. And trust me, you wouldn’t want any part of the woman who took that rancid bait. So why are the “Web experts” so determined to litter your website with all kinds of pickup lines such as, “Get A Price,” “Visit Our Showroom,” “View Our Special Offers,” “Download Our Brochure,” and “Sign Up For Our Newsletter”?

Randy’s website is cluttered with exactly six of these kinds of offers, including two that say “Get A Price” on the top half of the home page. The pseudo-gurus’ logic is simple: Give people a form to fill out; then when they do, pounce and sell. You have to trust me on this one: “Bait and pounce” is not a good way to sell in 2014.

Why on earth would somebody want to give you their precious contact information before they have a clue who you are, what you’re all about, how you’re different and/or better, or what they can expect when doing business with you? Why would they do that? For the most part, they wouldn’t. Hence, zero leads, Randy.

If your website actually takes the time to explain all those things such as how and why you’re different and better, then people draw a natural conclusion that they should call you — assuming your reasons are compelling — because they will trust you. There’s no manipulation needed. No “bait.” And for Pete’s sake, no pouncing. Yes, it’s OK to have a “Get A Price” button or form on your website; just don’t make these kinds of offers the first things people see when they find your site. Trust me it’s a huge turn-off.

In summary, just say no to search nerds, and yes to marketers. There are literally thousands of Web and search gurus out there, and most of them are run by nerds (i.e., technical people), not marketing people. Nerds tend to measure success by standards that are shortsighted, wrong and very costly to you. Websites should be designed and written with the goal of converting lookers into buyers — not just looking pretty. Search strategies should be focused on generating high-quality leads, not just ranking high on Google.

In the end, remember that Internet marketing is still just marketing. The goal is to persuade people to buy from you. And if your website fails to persuade, you lose. QR