SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the practice of increasing traffic to your web site for specific search terms.  Defining search terms is the primary element involved in an SEO strategy.  Another key element for SEO is great content.  Today's search engines emphasize well-written, authoritative, content over everything else.  Sure, you might be able to game the system for a while, but only great content will keep you at the top of the search results.

A double-edged sword.
However, being successful at SEO can sometimes be a double-edged sword. Let's examine a hypothetical company that installs and services furnaces and air conditioners.  The owner of the company is great at what he does and also likes to keep his web site updated.  On the site he places video and textual tutorials for duct cleaning, furnace and air conditioner maintenance and other related subjects useful for a homeowner.  The site also prominently features contact information, both via telephone and social media and includes a map of the service area of the company and other interactive tools.

The web site he maintains is quite popular and, because of his authoritative and highly regarded content, the site even outranks the furnace manufacturers themselves.  For example, people searching for 'furnace making knocking noise' frequently end up at his site rather than the manufacturer.  In addition, the company receives numerous phone calls per week for furnace problems, even from people well outside the service area.  The end result is that the company spends resources answering calls and other contacts with no possibility of revenue.

Can you be too good at SEO?
How can this be solved?  Ultimately, the question is:  Can you be too good at SEO?  The answer is yes, you can be too good at SEO.  If your business is not tied to driving traffic to your site, i.e. generating money through ad clicks, then SEO can cost  money through incorrectly targeted traffic; people that arrive at the site looking for something other than what the company can offer them.

Solutions are not easy.
A microsite for tutorials and content that's not directly related to sales is an option.  However, doing so will cut the main site's ranking.  Another option is to make a better differentiation between tutorial and other content and the actual sales/service aspects of the company; essentially make it more difficult for a tutorial reader to contact you.

A key point when considering a strategy that makes it more difficult to contact your company is that people don't read, they click.  No amount of disclaimers like "Our service area is limited to central Colorado only" will help.  If someone can click to call or click a contact form, they'll do so.

An interesting option that's become a reality over the last several years is presenting different content based on location.  With this strategy, visitors arriving at your site from your primary service area see content that's relevant to them (whatever they searched for) and also see easy ways to contact your company.  Visitors arriving from outside of your market still see the relevant content with less of an emphasis on direct contact.  In this way, you're still serving the great, authoritative content, but unnecessary contact points are reduced.

Five tips for SEO success.
Ultimately, we all want potential customers who are ready to buy, customers who generate revenue.  When considering SEO and how it relates to your site, remember these five items:

  1. Choose your keywords carefully
  2.  Create great content
  3.  Use valid, semantic HTML
  4.  Use analytics everywhere you can to find out how people reach your site *and* what they do on the site.
  5.  Consider geolocation options if your strategy and revenue will benefit.

Topics: Design & Development, Search Engine Optimization, SEO, Strategy, Web Traffic

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Steve is a technology architect who's written about programming, security, network and system administration, operating systems, and other topics for several industry publications. He speaks at conferences and user groups and has served as an editor for a popular technology magazine. Learn more about Steve at: