Search engine vanity: out-and-out egotism or a valid online marketing strategy?


If you’re new to the world of online marketing, it’s fair to assume that sitting at the top of the natural search listings for the most competitive terms is the way to increase online revenues.

Unfortunately it’s often not that simple, and achieving pole position for a generic term might not be the best way to generate qualified online traffic and increase your web-based sales.

There is a crucial distinction to be made between the keywords that drive conversions/ revenue and those that we affectionately term “vanity keywords”. The latter might deliver volume but won’t necessarily generate the kind of sales or enquiries that you’d expect them to. But they will give you a sense of pride, have a negative impact on your competitors’ rankings and, perhaps most importantly, please all of your company’s directors.

Unashamed vanity or good business sense?

Online vanity seems to have gained impetus this year, and it became particularly noticeable when Facebook introduced free “vanity URLs” in June. Although no-one could get their hands on trademarked or protected names, everything else was available on a first-come, first-served basis and everyone was keen to claim the most desirable domain names possible.

Dominating the top spot on the SERPs (search engine results pages) is comparable to owning a sought-after Facebook URL. Both can compound a company’s authority and credibility, but success with vanity keywords can also be an invaluable means of demonstrating market dominance to potential customers, investors and key influencers (the media, for instance). It’s also a good “bragging tool” for dinner parties, of course.

But when it comes to marketing you can measure, search engine vanity alone will not cement the future of your business/website and your accompanying online marketing campaign. Your long-term strategy needs to be based on conversions, goal acquisitions and constant keyword refinement.

Conventional advice is to optimise around volume as an early strategy (typically the more generic, vanity terms) and then use conversion data for subsequent optimisation. Experience with a campaign will teach you that it’s not all about position one and page one – in the end, it’s about what makes you money. Conversions and volume are just as important as SERP positions.

So, by all means aim for the number one spot – but be sure of what you want to achieve. That way, you’ll not only be able to set the correct expectations within your organisation, but you will shape the way that your digital marketing agency reports on your campaign’s successes.

Be honest about what’s really important

Justifying agency fees and online marketing spend is an unavoidable part of most marketing managers’ day job, and the problem is that success is hugely subjective. This is why it is vital that agencies work with you in true partnership – not just as a peripheral supplier – to establish what you would consider to be a thriving campaign. Do you want success be measured by keyword positions, revenue generation, click-through rates, or different measures entirely?

If this joined-up approach sounds like it could be just what you’re looking for, talk to us today. We think that achieving eye-catching SERPs whilst generating measurable results can give you the best of both worlds.

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