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Why Visitors From Search Engines Don't Buy..And What You Can Do About It

By Lisa Lake
Posted Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Are you a believer? For years experts have told us you can't do better than get your site listed high on search engines. Get in the top five listings and you will pull thousands of visitors, they say.

Naturally, thousands of visitors should produce at least hundreds of sales. Or, even on a bad day, you should get a few sales.

But search engines rarely deliver what we expect. In this article I tell you why and show you simple ways to fix the problem.

Strike one: Let me give you a recent example from my own experience. I got one of my sites listed high on Yahoo, the number one search engine. Friends told me you can expect a giant flood of visitors. Yup, if you consider twenty hits a week a flood, I guess I was all wet.

Strike two: Next, I decided to purchase a high ranking on some of the top pay-per-click search engines. The bid rates were low on and my site had no problem ranking number one for several popular keywords my customers use most.

Yikes! The hits poured in. I got 400 visitors a day. That's not the thousands of visitors larger sites get daily, but 400 people searching for a site like mine should contain at least a few buying customers.

Not so. After several weeks of being the welcome mat for NetFlip's hordes, my site didn't sell a single thing. Could be a case of lackluster copy or a bad product. But an identical offer using the exact same copy was selling like gangbusters on my other site.

Strike three: Ok, so the smaller pay-per-click sites just don't deliver PAYING customers. Maybe they're all folks trying to earn a penny to two by surfing from one site to the next, I don't know.

I figured if you want the BIG results you have to get on the BIG search engines. GoTo has a deal where if you get in the top three listings on their site, you'll be listed at the top of the page on such major search engines at AltaVista and HotBot.

By hook or crook, that kind of listing is as good as it gets. Expensive, but probably good. The plan produced a steady trickle of visitors. Once in a while one buys.

The problem.
Here's what I firmly believe is the problem with search engine traffic. People search for a site like yours and get a list of 10, 20, or 200 links. Even if they click to your site and like it, the visitor knows there are dozens more waiting for them back on the search engine page.

It's like going to the giant Mall Of The Americas and finding everyone of the hundreds of stores sells the same thing, only some have more items, or more selection, or cheaper prices.

This involves a principle well known to the people who produce commercials for politicians. If your politician is the only one on TV tonight, a lot of voters are going to believe what he says. But if there is another politician on TV saying the exact opposite of what your politician is saying, nobody is going to believe either one of them. The opposing views cancel each other out.

On search engines, the opposing sites cancel each other out (one of the reasons a lot of people get frustrated using them and, according to a recent New York Times report, fewer and fewer people are turning to search engines.)

The solution.
Recognize the limitations of search engines. You'll attract a lot more BUYING customers from the articles you write and send out, from the print or TV ad you run, the ezine ad you place, or from the good word-of-mouth former customers send around the Internet.

In these situations, you are reaching people who may not know of other sites like yours. They find your site, figure you are just what they have been looking for, and buy. They struggle with the cognitive dissonance (remember that term from Psychology class?) of having too many choices.

You also don't want to give up completely on search engines. Figure that when a person finds your site, they aren't nearly ready to buy. For that, you have to give them more time. You must be there again and again to remind them about your expertise in the field and the great deals you offer.

Do this with your own email list. Do everything possible to get the search engine visitor to put her email address in your subscribe form so she can receive your clever tips or product updates on a regular basis.

If you've been advertising your business in a variety of ways for many years, you have already discovered I'm not reinventing the wheel here. Once we get past all the new visitors a fresh advertising method can bring, we start to focus on the QUALITIY of those visitors.

Recognize the true quality of search engine traffic, then plan to groom, convert, and train those visitors to be buying customers.

About the Author
Lisa Lake has created a list of top promotional methods on her ( Lisa also writes ad copy that sells for DrNunley's ( Reach her at or 801-328-9006.


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