There are many many difficult lessons you will learn as you explore the search engine optimization world. Certainly, failing to bring traffic to your web site is frustrating. And perhaps, for any serious e-business, the lack of traffic can spell the end of your business if things don't turn around. I have blogged on the need to increase web site traffic (see also here for more about traffic) before and don't want to re-hash that. If you are looking for the 101 on site SEO stuff, you can also read an earlier post.

No, today I'm talking about a much more subtle problem that the beginner will not have experienced. In the early stages of SEO, the object is simply rank and traffic. You see it all the time. But if you could slow these folks down a little and talk about targeted web site traffic, there is a valuable conversation that needs to be had up-front. Most will not be ready to hear this and will run off to adjust their title tags and hire a link building team. Have fun.

For the few of you who are actually planners (usually the more successful business people) who are thinking this all through, let's talk. I've had great success building web sites that bring tons of traffic and rank on the target terms. Thus our SEO services business here at Semify. However, one thing that can happen if you are not careful is that your SEO campaign can be wildly successful and you don't see a return on your investment. Yes, not all traffic converts into sales. After all, you are only pursuing SEO as an alternative route to sales, right? So it makes sense to stop a bit an wonder if that traffic you are seeking will really convert.

That's the ugly truth under SEO. Everybody is running around saying "I need traffic" while they should be saying "I need targeted web site traffic that converts for my products or services." At least if they want to make money. This is the hard part. There are many keyword research tools out there that can guide you toward the terms that actually are searched on. This is a critical step 1, as you can't target terms that don't have any search volume. It takes people a while to accept this, but it is ultimately a numbers game. Once you understand that search marketing has no impact on demand for terms, and is simply chasing existing search demand, you are in good shape for initial keyword selection.

That's right, I said initial keyword selection. Because once you pick that juicy keyword term that has huge monthly search volume according to Google, you need to make sure those people will buy your product or service. The cheapest way to do this is to pilot the keyword phrase through pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, such as Adwords. Bottom line, pilot all possible SEO target keywords first via ppc / Adwords to make sure they convert.. Why do you need to do this? Because building an SEO campaign to get page 1 placement on these terms is likely to be expensive and take 6 months minimum. Before making that type of investment, you need to know if this is the targeted traffic that you need (i.e., will really convert into a sale). So run a pilot on each term with enough traffic to feel comfortable. Also run the Adwords campaign over a long enough time period to rule out any time of day / week / month trends. Put the appropriate tracking codes in so you can see specific conversion data. Then analyze this data very closely to build your business case for a full scale SEO assault on the best performing keyword phrases.

To recap:

1) Never start SEO before piloting your terms through Adwords PPC.

2) Analyze your Adwords PPC data closely and pick your winning terms for SEO.

3) Start your professional SEO campaign armed with your pilot data.

4) Sleep better at night knowing that your SEO dollars are pointed in the right direction and a great return on investment awaits you.

If you are not able to set up Adwords to track the data appropriately or lack the analysis skills to pick the keywords that will bring the targeted traffic, hire an SEO team that has experience with that type of analysis.