search engine optimization click-through rate chart

Yesterday, while doing analysis for one of our larger SEO clients, we came across what you see above. My apologies for blurring out the keywords, but showing them would compromise both our client’s identity and potentially the value of the work we do for them.

Take a look at line three. Over the course of a month, 3,000 inquiries were made on what happens to be the client’s company name. As you can see, their web site was ranked by Google, on average, at just over position #2 for search engine optimization purposes on that name. Fully two-thirds of all people who searched for their name both found and clicked through to their web site. That’s the good news.

The bad news, which doesn’t show up in this report, is that half of all the people who searched for their name and then clicked to their web site left the web site in less than ten seconds.

Or maybe that isn’t such bad news.

I rarely encounter such a perfect example of the relationship between perception and reality. Our initial reaction on seeing this was that there must be something about the web site itself that was so heinous it could chase away even people who had actively sought to arrive there. Think about it: you have a distinctive name describing who you are and what you do, someone searches on it (obviously looking for you), finds you, and runs away immediately. How else, on a site where the average visit is over two minutes and the average number of pages viewed by a visitor is well above two, is that possible?

We were nervous. We’d never seen such incongruous behavior in web users before, and were thinking that our client would believe he was paying for a lot of useless traffic. And then we looked a little closer at the web site and realized that our client’s phone number was clearly visible on the home page.

We asked our client whether he’d noticed a spike in phone calls from new people since we started handling his Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing. His answer? “Way More Than a Spike!”.

Yep, Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing did that.

We handle everything for this particular client. We do his SEO, which is what gets him traffic on the left side of Google’s results, and we also manage his SEM, which gets him rankings on the right side of the page. It can get confusing, since the tricks that work for effective Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing campaigns overlap plenty, but still differ, as does the logic behind what works, how much it costs, and who’s getting paid—and for what. So when we noticed the incongruity I just mentioned, it threw me down an arc of the whole perception/reality curve that I wasn’t familiar—or comfortable—with.

And that’s the point.

My perception—and perhaps I’m too much of a perfectionist—was that my client might see lots of traffic of questionable value and be unhappy. On the other hand, the client’s perception (and therefore the only reality that matters) was to recognize the value of the useful clicks he was receiving, and also to believe something akin to “the only bad press is no press“; i.e., the traffic he was receiving, even if it hadn’t led to a bunch of phone calls, was useful simply by virtue of being traffic. And this was how he felt before I pointed out that his telephone call growth was attributable to our SEO services!

Yes, I wish everyone was that easy to deal with. No, I don’t expect it, and neither should you.

What you should expect—and of course, provide in return—is enough transparency for your clients to know what you’re doing for them, and hopefully conclude that “you have their back”. It’s the reason we show our SEO Philosophy and The SEO Results we get.

Perception is the only reality that matters. That’s what business change—and even search engine optimization—is all about. Wanna talk about it? Search for me here.

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