Search engine sales, or SES, is the conversion process of taking organic search traffic that has been captured and nurtured and turning it into engaged customers. In essence, you are converting traffic and leads into customers and profit.
Search Engine Sales focuses on harvesting and converting all of the viewers that have engaged with your brand through organic search. These viewers have showed up to your optimized website, and many have turned into engaged leads that have interacted multiple times with your content. But without a sales component, these viewers and leads don’t turn into customers.
SES uses a variety of tactics to convert viewers and leads into real money, while completing the three step SEO → SEM → SES process
Conversion rate optimization, or CRO, is not a new topic. The challenge with CRO has always been that it is typically performed on an un-optimized website to non-targeted visitors. Efforts spent on conversion rate optimization on an un-optimized website slow the site down and kill the user experience. In the end, brands optimize to the wrong target audience, which can end up doing more harm than good.
But, following the SEO phase, the website is optimized and ready for CRO efforts. The SEM phase ensures that the brand’s target audience is being targeted, and that the right message is being communicated to them. This is where CRO is best implemented – where it can have maximum impact.
Conversion rate optimization at the SES level gives the target audience a variety of different ways to buy, evaluating each independently and holistically. Techniques include:
A search engine sales approach to CRO actually looks more like RRO: revenue rate optimization. This can only be done at the SES stage though, after a website has been optimized for organic search and the brand is using the correct message to its target audience.
The sales funnel is typically used to describe two different processes interchangeably, both of which are misused at the SES stage:
Both of these tactics can work well, but neither represent an truly optimized sales funnel. The best sales funnel really is a hybrid of both, with additional components added in.
Connecting the marketing and sales process together in an optimized funnel that leads to customers and revenue is truly the realization of the SEO to SEM to SES lifecycle.
At that point, the sales funnel focuses on optimizing the conversion process. With a significantly higher number of leads to work with, and an incredible amount of data from each, sales funnels can be optimized for individual sales paths. The result is higher value, stickier customers.
The marketing word has been abuzz about retargeting for over a decade, and why wouldn’t it. Retargeting allows a brand to stay in front of traffic that came to its website and then bounced without converting into a sale or lead. History has shown that this is one of the hottest lead types, and nowadays brands spend billions of dollars every year to retarget their visitors on advertising platforms like Facebook and Google.
At its core, retargeting is based on inbound traffic to your website. The more visitors you have, the better your retargeting (and the cheaper it is). An optimized website from the SEO phase brings in a substantially larger number of visitors, which allows retargeting efforts in the SES stage to be both cheaper and more successful.
Retargeting works best when part of a greater strategy, which is what the SES stage unlocks.
Many brands make the mistake of skipping straight to SES, instead of starting with SEO. This often looks like one of these scenarios:
Putting the cart before the horse can have adverse short and long term impacts on your revenue and brand. Utilizing both SEO and SES in the correct order fixes this.
An un-optimized website generates very little organic traffic on its own, and much of the traffic it does generate might not be the correct target audience. Trying to sell to this pool of visitors is problematic, and typically has extremely low conversion rates.
For starters, with such a low number of visitors, your efforts do not have much impact on the revenue of the organization. Even the best sales tactics and conversion techniques can’t generate a high volume of sales from a little to no traffic.
By starting with optimization at the SEO stage, the sales process has plenty of traffic to sell to. And, that traffic is optimized for the brand’s target audience, making it highly convertible.
For many brands, the SEO → SEM → SES process just seems too long, so they skip straight to selling to cold traffic that they buy through ads on social media and search. Not only are conversion rates extremely low, but it is a costly approach to sales that is fraught with risk and can actually damage your brand long term.
Let’s start with the basics – no one goes to Facebook to buy your product. They go to engage with the friends and community, and they are interrupted by an ad. This interuptive style of marketing produces a lead that is un-engaged and cold. Some will convert, and time can be spent optimizing this process. But it’s a game of fine margins, because you are dealing with cold, un-engaged leads from the outset.
Algorithm changes and rising ad costs make this strategy risky while simultaneously increasingly expensive. The frenetic and unpredictable cancelling of ad accounts that Facebook is known for makes this strategy extremely risky for a business to rely on as its primary source of revenue.
Instead, a brand can take control of its traffic source by starting with optimization. SEO generates organic traffic that is interested in the brand’s product, and is sustainable to grow on.
It can be so tempting to bypass the SEM stage, and move into the SES stage. At this critical point, there is typically a sharp increase in organic traffic to the website, and all the data is pointing to increased growth. The numbers suggest that revenue will follow this traffic, so why bother with the SEM phase?
This is a bit like showing up to a lake recently stocked with fish, and wondering why you didn’t catch anything. Albeit, you forgot your fishing pole, and had the wrong bait anyways, but you still ask the question: why didn’t the fish just jump into the boat?
In actuality, you can get the fish to just jump into the boat, but that is the role of the SEM stage.
All of that hard earned organic traffic comes to your website in a variety of different points on the customer lifecycle journey. The vast majority of traffic will show up at the Top of the Funnel, which means they are still in the inquisitive stage. Trying to sell to them will have an extremely low conversion rate (if you even get any conversions at all)!
The SEM process is essential because it turns that inquisitive viewer into an engaged lead that understands what your brand stands for and what problem your product solves. Without this process, there just aren’t enough prospects visiting your website to make the math work out.
As you’ve probably already learned, prospects aren’t exactly eager to open their wallets. A small percentage convert easily, but then a brand has to turn to discounts, promotions, and other short term solutions to create more customers. All of this damages the brand, hurts retention and referrals, and seriously impacts the bottom line.
The SEM process tests, hones, and refines the brand’s message. This process creates leads that fit more into the target audience of the brand, along with creating a lead that is highly qualified.
This process allows a brand to move away from discount marketing and into value marketing, allowing the sales process to convert at a higher rate and in a sustainable manner. Oh, and did we mention that profits are a lot higher.