Bad Profits and Seductive SEO

Business,SEO by on December 7, 2006 at 10:11 pm

Fred Reichheld, Author of “Loyalty Rules” & “The Ultimate Question”, warns about bad profits: those profits that result from actions that create unhappy customers. The classic example is consumer banking industry. An increasing share of their profits stem from the hidden fees that just piss off their customers. Obviously, this puts businesses in a bad position - they make money by creating unhappy customers, yet they need new customers to grow.

So, why am I linking bad profits and SEO? We’re getting a decent amount of search traffic on all of our deal pages. Our best performing page is a Blue Nile Deal page. Here’s the rub: the deal is expired. Users that find this page through search buy from blue nile, expecting that they’ll save money. They don’t, but we make money. Bad Profits.

SEO can seem like a silver bullet, and once you start making money from search traffic, the first question you ask is “how do I make more money from SEO”? The first answer is frequently “Create more pages”, without a careful understanding of whether the visitor’s experience was a good one or not. Creating more bad experiences does not equate to long term success.

We don’t want to kill the pages of expired deals (search traffic goes away, we don’t make money), but we certainly can’t let new users use expired deals (shitty experience, but we make money). We’re exploring ways to make changes to these pages to offer equivalent deals and to clearly indicate the deal as expired.

I’m still a little uncomfortable with this - the success of the approach entirely depends on how equivalent the deals are that we can offer. In some cases, they will truly be equivalent (like a save 10% offer). In other cases, they will be poor substitutes. I’m sure we’ll need to iterate.


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