Does SEO really work?

does seo work?

There I was, sitting in a bar not too far up the road from my studio, being given the third degree.

My client, a referral from a business acquaintance, wasn’t sold on the benefits of SEO. He wanted to know how it worked, what it does, and the million-dollar question, if it would work for him.

I could have told him that yes it would. I’d gotten myself to #1 on Google for Melbourne copywriter (now sitting at #2), and was confident in my abilities to do the same for others.

But I don’t so easily try to sell people on the benefits of SEO these days.


It doesn’t always work.

And if someone tries to sell you SEO as the Chateau Lafite of digital marketing, they’re drunk on a $2000 bottle of wine.

Because if I’m being sincere, both SEO and conversion rate optimisation should be your priority.

Use SEO to swoop in and whisk your website to #1 on Google, and conversion rate optimisation (CRO) to actually, well, convert that traffic.

CRO copywriting is creating content with a focus on getting website visitors through the sales funnel using language that’s emotive, powerful and goal-oriented. And more importantly, content that’s useful.

And more importantly, content that’s useful.

And when you use the two together, that’s when you create meaningful content that attracts traffic, and converts it into customers and clients.


SEO copy + CRO copy = <3

Let’s say you have a website and you’re writing your copy, or you’ve hired another copywriter to do it for you. Hi there.

You want to focus on keyword-rich copy, ensuring all of your meta data is full of phrases that match an extensive spread sheet you’ve compiled.

Your copywriter has other plans in mind, involving puns and alliteration and creating a relevant and resonant tone-of-voice.

So what do you do? How do you find a middle line, where you create both content that gets traffic, and content that gets clicks?

Firstly, you need to understand three things: the benefits of SEO, how SEO works, and the benefits of conversion rate optimisation copywriting.


The benefits of SEO

On-page SEO is a relatively low-cost form of digital marketing. When you start getting higher rankings – you want to aim for the top 3 search results – you get more website traffic.

Below is an example of results I achieved for a client over a period of 6-months of content marketing. 

google-analytics-dashboard-example-of-does seo work
google-analytics-dashboard-example-of-does seo work

Most of that traffic came from Google.

By targeting keywords for each blog post and committing to a year of content marketing, I was able to more than double his traffic for a very niche audience of first homebuyers in Sydney.


When SEO doesn’t work

SEO is not an art; it’s an inexact science. Although Google is getting increasingly smarter and more intuitive by the day, you can’t rely on a machine to deliver perfect results each and every time.

For example, how often do you find precisely what you’re after when you’re on Google.

Let’s look at the search result below for the term “how to get high”.

In the image below, you can see that I’m directed to a number of instructional videos that will ensure I reach a state of euphoria.

And then a link to a copywriting webinar.

wtf google seo

WTF Google? WTF.

Who knows why Google decided I wanted to mix my copywriting education with a good old smoke sesh. I surely don’t. I checked these links out, and there was no mention of illegal substances.

That there is an example of the imperfect science of SEO.

But let’s say you are getting traffic to your website. You’re climbed your way to the first page of Google, and that traffic’s not converting?

That’s when SEO isn’t working either.

SEO isn’t just about ranking. It’s about providing useful, quality, on-page content. If people are landing on your website and then bouncing instantly, Google will pick up on this, and this will further decrease your rankings.


Other reasons why SEO might not work

  • You’re not using SEO best practices, like writing for readability or optimising your website design for userability. Beautiful, easy-to-use websites have people sticking and clicking longer, and Google records the time they spend on your website. There are a number of ranking factors involved in SEO, well beyond keywords.
  • You’re stuffing your pages with keywords. Keywords that aren’t grammatically correct, and don’t provide a pleasurable reading experience. Keywords are often abbreviated sentences, which often don’t make sense beyond Google’s search bar.
  • You’re not demonstrating that you empathise with your reader’s needs by providing them with useful content.
  • You’re making pages without original content, ripping off other people’s blog posts.
  • You don’t have user engagement top of mind. You’re not linking to other blog posts, giving them an option to subscribe to your blog or email marketing newsletter, or get in touch with you.


How to use CRO copywriting with your SEO copywriting

Like I mentioned above, CRO copywriting and SEO copywriting should work in tandem to boost your website traffic, and gain you more engaged readers that will genuinely listen intently to what you have to say (or write, for this purpose).

Conversion rate copywriting and SEO copywriting are both a science, not an art. On top of being creative and using emotional language to boost conversions, you also need to be looking at the data, testing, and then reiterating to get any value out of your copywriting.

Here’s how it’s done:

Focus on empathising with your audience’s needs

This goes beyond matching your keywords to their search terms, and involves market research and persona creation. When you truly understand what your audience wants, that’s when you can begin to create content for them.

For example, Moz, who create amazing SEO tools, use their blog as a way to generate leads. They provide most of their best content for free, optimising for conversions by truly empathising with their audience’s needs. They don’t just provide software, they educate on all things SEO and social.

Same goes with Hillary Rushford of Dean Street Society. This New York stylist creates highly emotive content that doesn’t just speak about fashion as a way to dress well every day, but as a way to express yourself and feel confident.


Nurture before you nudge

It’s unlikely that a prospective is going to buy from you straight off the bat, unless you’re a big brand like Apple. That’s why you need to nurture your leads with content, capturing emails that further their journey within the sales funnel. Focus on building authority, creating a connection, and then converting. Every blog post should have the aim to get people to hop on your subscriber list, either via an opt-in or via a straight-up subscription.

It might seem as though I’m flogging an old dead horse when I say that adding value and contextually relevant content should be the dual aims of your business. In fact, as a woman who has many other female readers, I feel like that point might not be doing anything for gender equality. We’re so often told to give and give without a focus on revenue, and we're still well behind earning as much as our male colleagues.

But truly, only when someone can see your value and the benefit you offer will you actually be able to retain and sustain lifetime customers and clients.

Use your empathy, offer a good experience, and nudge, don’t push.

I'm Camilla Peffer, and I'm a Melbourne copywriter who creates engaging, results-driven content for fashion and lifestyle brands. From website copywriting, to fashion copywriting, content strategies and SEO audits, I've created clicks and conversions for the likes of Sportsgirl, Seed Heritage and Politix. Want to work together? Reach out! I'd love to hear about your next project.