Search Matters™

Five Mistakes Many CEOs Make

We hear them more than we’d like to think. These are five misconceptions CEOs often have regarding their website or some cases, even the very notion of having a website. Do any of these sound like you? 

Misconception #1
People can find us on the web. Just type our name in Google.

It’s not unusual to assume that everyone who really matters to your business knows who you are. After decades of building a successful business, it’s easy to get comfortable and lose your objectivity. You might think hey, if they don’t know who we are, they’re probably not a good prospect. Truth is, however, that there are often lots of good prospects who don’t know who you are. Maybe they’ve heard your name once or twice, but your company isn’t the first one that comes to their mind when thinking about your industry.

Or how often have you run into someone you know (someone that you think knows your company well) only to find out they chose another firm because of that firm’s “specialty”. Completely flabbergasted, you tell them it’s one of your strongest areas of expertise. They had no idea. And you lost an almost “automatic” sale.

According to a recent study of 1500 businesses, for 64 percent of people considering a business purchase, a search engine is the first destination when hopping on the web—even if they already have an idea of potential providers of the product or service being sought. Why? Because they want to see who else is out there. Sure they may already have some idea of whom they want to talk to, but they want to find out what they don’t know, who else they should be considering—and they find out who the players are (at least those who appear to be) in minutes using a search engine.

When does search occur? For most, very early in the evaluation process, usually when they have little starting information (46%) and when they are trying to form comparisons (30%)—often before they ever talk to anybody on the outside, before you even know they’re in the market to purchase. Regardless of the lead-time until the actual business purchase or the dollar amount of the business purchase, a search engine is the first place two-thirds of businesspeople go.

Which search results are most important? Sixty-two percent of business people considering a business purchase scan the organic search results first, while only 18 percent scan sponsored listings first (the paid placements on the top and right-hand side of the page). Seventy percent of businesspeople considering a business purchase actually click an organic search result first. What’s the second link they click? For nearly 75 percent, the second click is also an organic search result.

Which organic links do people click? Fifty-one percent of business people considering a business purchase click the top-ranking organic search result; 24 percent click the second-highest ranking result, 10 percent click the third ranking result. After that, it’s all downhill. Most people won’t even bother going past the first page or two.

The bottom line? Search engines play a huge role in the evaluation of potential business purchases. If you don’t rank high in the search engine results and they don’t know or don’t remember you, it will probably stay that way. Your rank can put more money in the bank.

Misconception #2
I don’t care where we rank in the search engines.

You don’t care if you rank poorly in the search engine results? Most people don’t even know they can dramatically influence where their site shows up in search engine results. However, savvy competitors do. If a competitor of yours shows up in the top ten search results for a key search term related to your product or service and you’re at number 84, they look like they have the experts, the ones who really know what they’re doing. Obviously, this must be a key focus of theirs. And you? Undoubtedly, this must not be your focus. Perhaps it’s something you dabble in.

Sure, you can pay money to guarantee a sponsored link on the side or top of the page in the search engine results, entering a bidding war with rival companies for top position, but everyone knows you can buy an ad—all you need is money. Just like a good editorial article about your firm in the right magazine is interpreted to be much more credible than an ad in the same magazine, high-ranking organic search engine results (non-paid links) are like good PR. The search results are the editorial, and the sponsored links are, well, the ads. If you rank high in Google’s search results—say you’re #2 for your search term—Google is, in effect, endorsing you. That brings a lot of credibility. And business.

Where you rank in the search results can speak volumes. Searchers, rightly or wrongly, expect industry and market leaders to be the ones that show up at the top of search engine results. Sadly sometimes there is little correlation. However, you can use this to your advantage. If you’re not the industry or market leader, high search engine rankings can create the perception that you are. Those with high search engine rankings also receive several times more website visits, which represent sales leads and new business opportunities—enough of which, in time, may help you become the actual leader in the field.

Misconception #3
My I.T. people have it covered.

Search engine optimization has little to nothing to do with IT. IT professionals are brilliant at making things run more efficiently, using databases to dynamically create web content, structuring things to run using asp, creating smart naming conventions for files and file structures, etc. All of these things have their use and proper place. Problem is, robots and dynamically created web pages don’t mix. Robots—which search engines use to index sites for their search results—don’t index most dynamically created content. Therefore, those pages typically won’t show up in search engine results. And efficient file management often uses obscure naming conventions or abbreviated file names that mean nothing to search engines (when done right, file names and structures can actually increase search engine result rankings).

One doesn’t need to know programming and network systems to optimize for search engines. Search engine optimization requires a good keyword strategy; smart, strategically written copy; and knowledge of what to do and what not to do—and the person actually building the files can create a highly optimized site using standard web building software. Firewalls, server configuration, and network issues are where you want IT people to focus.

Misconception #4
We don’t need to be there. We don’t sell anything over the web.

To the contrary, you sell everything you have over the web. You sell your name, your brand, your company, your competitive advantages, and the reasons to buy from you. The once held notion that a website is just a consumer e-commerce tool is a myth. A strong corporate website helps position a business-to-business company as a market leader. A strong online presence adds legitimacy and credibility. Your prospects are online. And so is just about every formidable competitor. That’s why not only an online presence, but a dominant one through optimization, is becoming essential.

Misconception#5
We don’t need a website. We already know who our prospects are.

For some business-to-business companies who’s prospect lists are comprised of a few dozen prospects regionally or perhaps a couple hundred worldwide, it may not seem like a website is a necessary marketing tool at all. You know who they are. Most know who you are. But don’t forget. They also know who your competitors are. And you don’t always know when your prospects start considering a purchase.

So while your investment in advertising in trade publications, direct mail, and other media do a wonderful job positioning your brand and raising awareness for your company, timing is everything. There’s no guarantee you’ll be top of mind or that prospects will have adequate information regarding your company when they first start considering a purchase. By the time you hear they’re in the market, they’re often already too far down the road with someone else.

If your site ranks high in the search results for the terms your prospects enter when using Google, you’ll be there when they start the buying process. Remember, nearly two-thirds considering a business purchase look online first and almost half are looking at websites before anyone outside ever knows they’re looking.

If some of these misconceptions sound like you, it’s time to give your website another thought. The web can be a rich source of sales leads. Think of a highly-optimized, persuasive website as a salesperson that works 24 hours a day, seven days a week—a salesperson that arrives at your prospects’ door the moment they start considering a purchase. What’s that worth to you?

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