by Jennifer Laycock

Every now and then I find myself on the phone with a potential client trying to talk them into putting our conversation on hold and giving my Search Engine Guide’s Associate Editor Stoney deGeyter a call. Why? Because they’re in a position where they need to focus on both search engine optimization and social media to build a successful site, but they only have the budget to do one at a time…and at this time, they need to put social media on hold and focus on search engine optimization.

As much as I enjoy working with companies to build sustainable social media strategies, the truth is my services are not always going to deliver the best bang for their buck. There are times when it simply makes more sense to focus on search engine optimization. In fact, making the right choice of where to start your marketing efforts can be essential to generating the additional revenue needed to invest in BOTH Social Media and SEO.

MP900442221.JPGIf you’re in the position of trying to figure out where to start, here are three key ways to decide search engine optimization is your best starting point. (On Thursday, we’ll take a look at when it’s best to begin with Social Media.)

Clue #1 When You Have an Established Web Site, but No Traffic

Let’s say you’ve been doing business online for several years. You have an established web site and you’ve been using it successfully to generate leads or drive sales. You have a nice amount of traffic and fairly good conversion rates. You’ve just reached a point where you’d like to increase business and your existing efforts aren’t cutting the mustard.

This is a good time to bring in a search engine optimization expert. A good SEO will be able to sort through your analytics and match what they find to solid keyword research in order to determine the most effective way to get your product in front of potential customers who may be looking for it. They can build off the foundation of age and credibility you’ve established to seek out new clients and get your site in front of more targeted searchers.

When this is the case, investing your money in search engine optimization to pick up the customers who are actually looking for (but failing to find) your product or services, makes the most sense.

Clue #2 When Your Product or Service has a Research Based Sales Process

There are some products people fall in love with at first sight. We call these “impulse buys.” There are other products that require a fairly lengthy research process before a purchase is made. These are the types of products that align perfectly with search engine optimization.

If you sell a product that costs more than $25 and that has competition from other similar products, you likely fall into the realm of research based sales. This means people will start with broad searches (i.e. portable dvd player), move on to information gathering purchases (i.e. best portable dvd player under $100) and finally search with a specific product in mind (Phillips PET741B/37.) For these types of products, it’s absolutely essential to make sure your site is properly optimized. If you’re not connecting with these customers at multiple points during the research process, you’re highly unlikely to connect with them when it comes time for them to buy.

Clue #3 When You Sell Something People Already Want

If you’re spending tons of money on offline advertising (billboards, radio, tv, print, etc…) but your site isn’t properly optimized, you’re making a huge mistake.  In fact, if you sell any product that’s already well established and popular, but you aren’t getting the type of traffic and sales you’d hoped for, it’s probably a good idea to focus on SEOing your web site before you do anything else.

A quick trip to a free keyword research tool can be very revealing when it comes to this clue. If legions of consumers are searching for the very thing you’re selling…search engine optimization should be your first stop in the world of online marketing. If it’s not, you’re simply leaving customers sitting on the table for your nearest competitor with a marketing budget to scoop up.

The Best Internet Marketing Campaigns are Integrated

In an ideal world, every company would have the budget to invest in a truly integrated online marketing campaign. They would be focusing on search engine optimization, analytics, paid search, social media and online reputation management. The teams for each of these specialties would be working in tandem to test, refine and launch the most effective campaigns possible.

Since this isn’t always possible, it’s important to focus your funds in the area that delivers the strongest and fastest reward. This will often enable a company to increase sales and profits enough to justify investing in the next item on their marketing list. Ideally, this cycle continues until you’ve got a strong marketing presence in all areas of the web. Until then, invest those first funds wisely.

Be sure and visit our small business news site.