How Brick and Mortar Transfers to the Net

November 8th, 2010 by Kathy

Many business owners from the brick and mortar world come to the internet and feel that that it is alien territory, bearing no resemblance to anything they have handled in their previous brick and mortar world. Yet there are more similarities between online internet marketing and a store on Main Street than you might suppose.

Some business owners come to the online world thinking that like Jack, they have found a magic bean that will grow them an instant money tree. While in some rare cases this may happen, sales will grow over time online, just as they do on Main Street.

The net is not a replacement for a brick and mortar operation, at least not in the beginning. It is an enhancement. Old school brick and mortar techniques are still useful online.  The basics of marketing and advertising are still the same. The goal of attracting new customers and retaining and building old ones is still the goal of online marketing. The only difference is the marketing method.

Here are more similarities between the two:

Location. Your business location on Main Street is vital to foot traffic, your brand, your very presence in the area. Online your ranking – where you appear on the search page results is just as vital. Just like your brick and mortar location, your internet location needs to be easily found by the right target  audience. You would never open your storefront in a back alley. You never want your site to be relegated to the back pages of the search engines.

In the B&M world you can change your location by renting new space. You can’t do that online. You need to have a search engine expert help you rank on page one for the keyterms that your target audience is using to find your products – whether they’re trying to find you or a competitor selling the same or similar items.

Demographics. In the brick and mortar world, you chose your location based on research. You want to be close to your target audience. You don’t want to be miles away in a strip mall when the people buying your products and services are visiting the Mall of the Americas.

This demographic research needs to be done online, too. If you don’t  know who your target audience is, how can you sell to them? How will you write copy that will appeal to them? How will you know where they hang out? How will you know how to talk with them, how to engage them?

In the world of internet marketing, this research has an added element. Keyword research. Too often business owners (and even some search engine experts) look at only two factors – how many people are searching for that word and how many competitors are going after that word. This information is only one small part of  keyword research.  Using keywords that come from that research without digging deeper and finding the “right” keyterms is not going to result in good sales numbers.

If you’re selling ladies coats, and you insist on ranking for “coats” you will get more traffic. But you will also have a lower ROI due to the number of visitors who are NOT ladies and thus are not finding the product they are looking for. Don’t make the mistake of having “pet” keyword phrases. Let your market be your guide. They use their own pet terms to find you, and their language and terminology should be what you use to attract them.

Marketing. The same marketing you use in the brick and mortar world can be used in online marketing. Yellow Page adverts? List and/or advertise in the Yellow Pages online directories – there are about a dozen of them that reach world wide.

Weekly circulars? Set up an email campaign that is targeted to your buyers, your prospective clients or special interests.  Online coupons are just as effective as print coupons. An opt-in box on your site with a good giveaway can entice prospects to trade their email address for the special free offer to grow that mail list quickly.

Phone solicitation? Use social media – Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Squidoo like sites. Used wisely and well these social sites will bring the customer to you – rather than cold calling and phone hangup frustration.

TV ads? One word – YouTube. Video is even more powerful as an online marketing tool than a 30 second spot on a late night cable show. And in actual fact you can use Google TV ads to make your own ad for commercial TV.

The best way to create an effective internet marketing campaign and successfully bring your business online is to remember the lessons of brick and mortar marketing. They compliment online marketing, they don’t compete with it. As a successful brick and mortar business, you are one step ahead of competitors who only know the online world. Use that hard won knowledge to carve out your online niche.

Share

Web Design – Navigation Mistakes

November 5th, 2010 by Kathy

We’ve talked about several web design problems, but the one area that will affect your visitors and impact your sales the most is how they get around your site. Navigation – clear, easy-to-follow navigation needs to be built into every design. The rule is simple – tell your visitor exactly where they are going to go and then take them there.

1. Forgetting that your visitor doesn’t know your website as well as you do. What might be easy for you to find could be very difficult for someone coming to your site for the first time. If you force them to do things like mouse over a navigation link to see where it might take them, you’ll find them taking themselves to another site.

Don’t hide your links. Don’t make them look so much a part of the page that they stop looking like what they are – a map to the rest of your site.

2. Forgetting to check your navigation links. Once your visitor has found your links, they will expect that you are true to your word and when they click that link it will take them where you said they were going to go. If they wind up on a page for cat supplies when they think they are going to a page for dog supplies, you’ll lose the sale.

If they wind up on an ugly error page telling them the cat supply page doesn’t exist, they’ll probably leave and not come back.

No one will trust a site that can’t send them where they expect to go with hard earned dollars.

3. Forgetting the visitors need come first. Organizing your navigational links in the order that fits your needs and not theirs is a sure way to lose business. Think like a visitor – what would they likely want to see first? Then where would they want to go next?

Use a menu tree to group your navigation links into logical categories. But don’t make each branch too laden with twigs. In other words, don’t have a menu structure on the first page that is so full of links it becomes confusing. It’s ok to just have category links on the first page and then more links on that category page.

If you’re finding that your menu tree is running to three or more sub categories, your menu is too overwhelming.

Always remember to give the visitor a way home. While ruby slippers may not be appropriate, a “home” link on every page is a must.

4. Forgetting that not everyone is flash or java enabled. There are millions of cute little java or flash menu and navigation scriptlets out there. And it’s really tempting to grab some of them and use them on your site.

Before you do, be sure they are simple and leave a small footprint on your page.

Be sure they can be “externalized” so every page can call them in from the same place as needed.

Be sure they are not cluttering up the code on your page making the poor, overworked search spiders go through 200 lines of menu code to get to the good stuff.

And always remember that not everyone has Flash or JavaScript enabled on their browser. Nothing is worse than having your menu NOT work at all for some visitors.

Navigation must be able to answer these questions:

  • Where am I?
  • Where have I been?
  • Where can I go next?
  • Where’s the Home Page?
  • Where’s the Home Home Page? (This is NOT a typo!)

Navigation must be simple and consistent.

Have a category Home page if needed and have a Home Home page as well.

A good, clear road map of your site will lead to customer satisfaction, increased trust, and more sales.

Share

More Web Design Faux Pas

November 3rd, 2010 by Kathy

In the last post we looked at the three most common issues that afflict websites. Today let’s delve into some simple but deadly-if-ignored, design flaws.

1. Forgetting not all of your visitors have Superman laser vision. While the Man of Steel can read tiny, badly contrasting text, most of your visitors can’t. There was a time when orange text in a 6 point serif font on a black background was common. Today, you’re probably only going to find that on gaming enthusiast sites that have been built by use good contrast on your text so it can be read easilytwelve year olds.

However, a new villain in text readability has crept into the mix. Grey text on a white background. You really must be certain that the contrast and the type font and the type size are readable by ALL visitors, not just the ones with super powers. If your visitor can’t read your web content, how do you expect to solve the problem that brought them to your website to begin with?

This goes for graphics, too. I often see graphics that create a bad contrast problem for parts of the text even if some of the page is readable. When you place an image behind the text, be sure that text can still be easily read!

Solution: Have your 90 year old grandmother check out your site. If she can read it – you’re good to go. Seriously – check every page of your site and be sure it passes the contrast test. Use black text on light backgrounds, or white text on dark backgrounds. Use a sans serif font, and unless you’re making a page like a privacy policy that no one ever reads anyway, don’t go lower than 10 points on the font size.

2. Forgetting to get out of the way of a sale. The golden rule of internet marketing is “Don’t do anything that gets in the way of the sale.” And yet I see this rule broken over and over again.

When I”m ready to buy, I want to buy NOW. I don’t want to go through a confusing or convoluted checkout process. I want to see ONE page, with a summary of what I’m purchasing, and all the details I need to enter to complete that purchase. I’ll sit still for two pages – but if you start hitting three or more, I’m outta there! As are most customers.

And boy howdy you better make sure all the links in that checkout process work! Every page, every process, every form field you throw in between the beginning and the end of the checkout process adds to the potential of a lost sale.

Solution: Use a one page checkout system whenever possible. Keep the information you’re asking the customer to fill in to a minimum. Start asking survey questions at checkout and you’ve lost the sale. Use a cart system that saves customer info so they can come back later and complete the process if they need to leave the page. CONFIRM THE SALE. Even if you send an email confirmation – and you should – have a “Thank You For Your Order” page to let them know you have successfully recorded their info and the sale. Showing a review of the order is a nice touch, but do SOMETHING to let them know you have the order.

3. Forgetting that text is text. Are you writing words? Use text. Are you displaying pictures? Use images. With the advent of CSS, designers can do almost ANYTHING with text. Images are pictures. Text is text.

Text is read by search spiders, images that say things with text are not. Image text is harder to correct. Image text adds to the size of the page as it loads. Image text is often hard to read. Use it sparingly – if at all.

Solution: Use CSS to add spiffy effects to text when needed. Save images for pictures.

4. Forgetting that not everyone loves Flash. This is probably my own number one pet peeve on the net. Flash intros are slick – and some of them are jaw dropping in design and function. But if I have already seen it once, do NOT make me watch it every time I come to your site. And don’t force me to watch it before I can get to the content.

The problem with Flash is that it can enhance a site or it can make it painful to visit. Poorly designed Flash elements get in the way of good user experience. Add to that issue the fact that not everyone is surfing on a fiber optic network or some <gasp> may not have Flash installed, or some may be using a Mac or a browser that may not support Flash.

Solution: Have an opt out button on your intro. Let me watch it if I want to or skip it if I don’t. Look at every Flash element on your site very carefully and answer question “Does this add a valuable customer experience?” for each one. If the answer is anything but a resounding YES, find another solution. Have a non Flash version of your site for your visitors to choose if they can’t or don’t want to have the Flash experience.

Tomorrow we’ll go over the last of the web design mistakes on our list, starting with the all important site navigation.

Share

How To Avoid the Three Biggest Mistakes in Website Design

November 1st, 2010 by Kathy

Ever since the long ago days when I taught budding webmasters the rudiments of web design I have been fascinated by the number of ways a website could be presented to the public. Your online presence can be a showcase for your products, inducing a visitor to purchase your goods and services, or it could become an instant turnoff.

Here are some of the most common mistakes I see in web design in the online marketing world.

1. Forgetting there are more browsers than just Internet Explorer. Microsoft in it’s infinite wisdom has always believed that their products are superior to anyone else’s in computerdom. And to reinforce that belief, they try to be sure those products do not follow the same standards every one does.

IE does not handle web sites the same way as other browsers do. As a web designer I’ve gotten used to dropping pieces of code into pages that basically say “Figure out what browser the visitor is using and if it’s IE – do this, this and this so that visitor can actually see and use my page”.

While it has gotten better, IE will still occasionally be the ONLY browser that will work with some sites. How bad is this? Look at your server stats or Google Analytics. There will be stats and graphs detailing who is using what when viewing your site. Notice how many of your visitors are using something OTHER than IE as a browser? Do you want to lose all those visitors because your site can’t be seen correctly (or sometimes at all!) if they are using Safari, or Firefox or Google Chrome?

Solutions: TEST your site – every single page, every single form including checkout pages in IE, Safari and FireFox at the very least. Add Google Chrome, Opera, and Netscape if you want to be certain 99.9% of your visitors can see and use your website.

2. Forgetting why people are coming to your site. I can’t begin to count all the websites I’ve looked at that forgot this vital point. Your visitors don’t care about you. Honest. They are at your site for one or more of these 4 reasons:

  1. They want/need information
  2. They want/need to make a purchase / donation.
  3. They want/need to be entertained.
  4. They want/need to be part of a community.

Your web site needs to solve their problems. It doesn’t exist  just as an additionalSolve visitor problems instead of talking about youmarketing channel. It’s not there just to promote brand awareness or increase sales. It has one primary purpose and everything else is secondary. Your web site needs to exist to solve one of the four problems above.

Solution: Make a list of the pages on your site – leaving out product pages if you have more than a handful of products. Next to each page, enter the number from the above list if that page solves that problem. If you can’t put one of those numbers next to a page – rethink why that page exists and correct it.

Also count how many times the word “I” or your name appears on a page. Then compare that number to the number of times your product or service name appears. Here’s a tool that will quickly handle that chore. Keyword Density Tool

Your website isn’t about you. At least it shouldn’t be unless you’re a Hollywood star or a major sports figure. It should be all about your potential customer and how you have exactly what they need to solve their problem and ease their pain. If your name or “I” appears far more often than your solution to a visitor’s problem, you need to rewrite that page copy.

3. Forgetting that your visitor doesn’t know what your site and company are all about. We have a four second rule in site design. We have four seconds to clearly let a visitor know what the site is all about. That’s half the time of the average “bounce” – how long it takes a visitor to leave your page and move on to the next site. In short – you have 8 seconds to grab that visitor and bring them deeper into your site.

Your tagline under your logo and the first sentence or two of the home page copy needs to give a visitor a CLEAR idea of what you are all about. Your page title also comes into this mix. Many browsers show that title on the address bar.

Have someone who is unfamiliar with your site take a quick look at the first page. If you can – time them and see how long it takes before they can  answer the question “What do we sell/do/service/answer?”

Solution: Make sure you have a GOOD, unique title for each of your pages. Use a tagline under your logo that actually describes what you do. “Big Hands of Hope – It’s all about compassion” tells me NOTHING about you other than you are probably a charity of some sort. “Big Hands of Hope – Saving Africa’s Children” may not be great copy, but it at least gives me a fairly good idea of what I will be reading on this site.

Tomorrow we’ll be back with a few more design tips that will help you make the most of your internet doorway.

Share

Achieving Viral Content

October 28th, 2010 by Kathy

In the last episode of “SEO Land” we discussed the true meaning of the phrase “viral content” and why it was important to have visitors talking to others about your site. Just as an aside here, did you know that women speak to almost 20 more people a day, on average, than men do? Seems to me that if you had a group of women passing your link around you could have instant virality.

The big question is – how do you create viral content? It’s not that difficult and you don’t have to drag a bunch of cute, cuddly animals onto your website. Remember we want to get the content talked about, not necessarily get 1 million YouTube views. While a cat playing the piano is a sure hit, it probably has nothing to do with your business unless you’re a piano tuner.

Number one – create a blog. A blog is a wonderful thing. It serves many purposes, both in SEO Land and as a source of viral content. If you think you can’t write, you’re probably wrong. You should be able to put your thoughts, feelings, tricks and tips into some semblance of written order. You don’t have to post every day, and your posts don’t have to be lengthy.

They do have to connect with the reader and be more than a “puff” piece or a restatement of company policy. There’s a reason people don’t read T&C’s or Privacy statements – they’re boring. They’re pretty much all the same. You won’t see them on Facebook or being re-Tweeted. Unless you ARE  Facebook and you’ve changed privacy controls for the third time in a month and stirred up a firestorm yet again.

That brings us to one of the most overlooked elements of viral content – controversy. No matter what industry you are in, there are controversial issues surrounding it. Nothing gets passed around as quickly as content links that address industry headlines. My dad always told me to stay out of discussions about religion and politics, and in the world of social media and blogging, that holds true, too. But a well reasoned post about industry events is always a good way to be noticed and “passed around”.

Whether it’s your blog or your website, have something useful. Tips, how to’s, widgets, a good collection of useful links – these are all ways to get your site frequent repeat visitors. Did you know that the phrase “how do I” is used more often in search than any other?

If your site has the answer to “How do I…?” your url will get passed around and bookmarked more than your competitors. I have a special bookmark section that answers my most frequent questions. Things like conversion calculators – how many feet make 15 meters? BMI calculators – how tall do I have to be to support the weight I’ve gained sitting in this computer chair?  Financial calculators, a cool site that lists all the codecs for video encoding, another one that gives  a short description of CSS tags, and many more.

If you can answer the “How” or “What” or “Why” questions for your industry, do it! Set up a reference area on your site, or blog about it. Keep it simple – an ordered list of how to do something step by step. Or what to do for XYZ. Become a one stop shop for YOUR industry and your site and it’s content will become viral.

We can’t mention viral content without talking video. And with video the same points apply. Don’t just do a “look at how wonderful my product or service is” video. SHOW people how to use it! Tell viewers how to do something and they will watch.

If you can come up with a creative way of using your product – do it. The single most watched product videos are the “Will It Blend?” series from Blendtec. They are irreverent,  silly, hilarious at times and have been featured on every major news site on the net.

Think bloopers. Is there something that shouldn’t be done with your product? If it won’t create a safety hazard – do it! With the camera rolling. When you make people laugh, they remember you. They feel warm and fuzzy. And then they open their wallets. Because they feel a connection with you, when you have ENGAGED them.

These are just a few ideas to get your viral content ball rolling. Look at your industry and start thinking about how YOU can stand out from the crowd. What YOU can do for your customer above and beyond what your competition is doing. And pretty soon you will be saying “They like me! They REALLY like me!” as those talkative women begin telling the 28 people they converse with every day about your company, your site, and your content.

Share

SEO and Viral Content

October 26th, 2010 by Kathy

Have you ever looked at a video on YouTube and seen views over 1 million, or even over 2 or 3 million? If you’re a red blooded marketing person you probably drooled as your eyes turned glassy dreaming about that many visitors.

You will hear internet marketers promoting software or programs or techniques that will give you viral content. But you will NEVER see numbers even close to 10,000 by using any of these “tricks”.  You see, these techniques forget a very important fact about content.  The content has to be something someone actually wants to watch/read/listen to.

One of the masters of the viral content game is OK Go.  Their latest video features a choreographed dance with dogs. More than 6.5 million people have watched it on YouTube.

According to Ok Go’s lead singer Damian Kulash, “Content succeeds online,” he said, “because it brings people joy, it makes them smile — it’s interesting enough to be passed along to friends and family members. That’s no stunt,” he said, “it’s just a matter of making something that’s genuine and interesting.”

There’s no amount of savvy or gaming the system that is going to make people like things that are not likable.

We can expand that last statement  (which completely explains why all those programs and techniques won’t work) to read “There’s no amount of savvy or gaming the system that is going to make people like things that are not likable or useful.

Here’s the thing about the net – it’s built around people. Long ago the page rank of a site was an indicator of how many other sites found the content likable and useful. But guess what? Things have changed. Now actual real people “like” content and share it with friends, colleagues, and family. Social has overtaken the net and people, not sites, determine who has the best content. (Which is why page rank doesn’t matter nearly as much as it once did.)

Take a good hard look at your content. Does it talk about you? How great and good and wonderful you are? Be objective – is that content anyone wants to spread to their circle of people? Probably not, unless you have one of those foot long gold statues that are given out at awards ceremonies in Hollywood.

What is your content doing for your visitors? Is it educating them? Is it answering questions for them? Is it making their lives easier? Is it entertaining them?

Are you providing a place for lively discussion of ideas on your Facebook page, your blog, or your forum? Have you built into your site or your social media efforts an engine that will allow more and more content to be built up over time? A repository of useful information in your field?

Or is your site like the millions of others on the net –

  • page one – welcome to my site
  • pages two through 1000 – here are my great products with a one line description and a fuzzy, out of focus product image
  • page three – all about me
  • page four – contact me

This yawner formula is certain to make you a part of the thundering herd of similar sites and prevent you from ever “going viral”.

You see what works on YouTube – the basics – entertain, impart USEFUL knowledge, provide LIKABLE content, works with search engines as well as with people. The more likable content you have, the more the engines will visit and the higher you will climb in the rankings, bringing more and more visitors to your site. Those visitors are asked a ton of questions every single day that begin with “Where do I find…”

This is what viral truly means. When the answer to that question is YOUR site, and YOUR URL gets passed around in FaceBook, Twitter, eMail, and Smart Phone conversations – you’ve GONE VIRAL.

Your site will never achieve the Holy Grail of Viralizm unless you have that likable content in place.

How do you create likable content? Stay tuned and tomorrow I’ll go into the nuts and bolts of how to create that likable content.

Share

Search Engine Marketing = Location, Location, Location

October 20th, 2010 by Kathy

Realtors have always stressed the importance of location and property sales. Google seems to have paid rapt attention to these lessons. In an effort to further personalize the search experience, local returns are now taking even more precedence over other search results.

In a change implemented early this week, Google has at last added a location setting that makes my geeky SEO expert’s heart sing. They have added a setting in the left sidebar that allows me to change my detected location.

Why does this make me happy? You see, if I’m looking for a Chinese takeout around the corner, I like Google showing me a neat little map of my neighborhood and a synopsis of the local joints. If I’m trying to research keywords or find a client’s rankings, localization tends to backfire. If they’re located in Canada, I had to jump through a few online hoops to get relevant results that weren’t centered in the heartland of the US.

Based on where your computer is plugged into the net changes SEO results dramatically, even if geo-targeting is not important to your business. There are two areas of concern that you, as a site owner, need to be aware of.

Let’s look at the Chinese takeout example first. If you sell takeout boxes for Chinese food, you could be shoved far down the results page due to localization. You may have checked your rankings this morning to find that your hard won page one position has dropped to page two or worse!

Not every keyterm will return local results. You may have to revisit your SEO efforts and research some new terms that won’t be butting heads with local results to continue to attract your desired audience.

You may also hear your SEO experts celebrating a new page one ranking, while you’re looking at results that still show you in position 24. Their location may not have the local competition that your location is experiencing.

From Google’s standpoint localization means returning more relevant results. Google’s thinking that Wiki articles on the history of Chinese food is probably secondary to local restaurants is correct. But for those of us who make our living from the engines, this thinking adds another layer of complexity to our optimization efforts and raises the stakes in the game of Search Engine Marketing.

The second area of concern is WHAT is shown for those local results. Again, using my Chinese takeout experiment, the number ranked eatery began with a customer review. And it was NOT a good review! By this time I was truly in the mood for Chinese food and believe me I skipped right over the result that began with “There was NOTHING about my experience that was good and I would never recommend…”

WHY did this review show front and center? This poor site owner had never optimized his Google Places listing. Nor had he gone even further and checked out the other directories that appear in those results and made sure he had a proper profile setup in those.

You will never make 100%  of your customers happy. And it’s a fact of life that an unhappy customer will be more likely to write a bad review than a happy customer. Trying to remove bad reviews is a bad practice. But you can mitigate those bad reviews. You can answer them in a calm, respectful manner, apologizing for any errors or omissions. How you answer a bad review carries weight with other potential customers. No one expects that all reviews will be glowing. As netizens we’ve all seen our share of the impossible-to-please review writer.

If there are ten glowing reviews, two so-so reviews and one review trashing the service, that one bad review won’t carry much, if any, weight with a prospect.  But if that one review is a part of your first page description – ah then that’s totally different!

What can you do? Do your homework. Optimize your Google Places listing. Find the other directories and all reviews of your company. Institute a campaign to get MORE reviews. Fresh reviews will drive that older bad one down the list.

Last, but not least, listen. If you are getting similar reviews that point to a problem – handle that problem. Acknowledge it, fix it, and then reply to the reviews letting your current and prospective customers know that you ARE listening to them and you ARE taking appropriate action.

As Martha Stewart would say – “Localization and reviews are a GOOOOD thing” and adding a local setting to the sidebar is a great move from Google.

Share

Why SEO AND Social Media Marketing are an Investment

October 19th, 2010 by Kathy

Are you one of the companies who feels you don’t really need to spend any money on SEO or Social Media Marketing? I know times are tough. I know money is tight. And I know that many companies are tightening the budget. Search Engine Marketing isn’t free. Neither is Social Media Marketing. And cutting corners or even eliminating online marketing efforts completely can look attractive. But money invested in your online marketing can be the best investment you ever make for the health of your bottom line.

Let’s look at SEO first. Do you know what percentage of your visitors are finding your site from organic search? If not take a look at your Google Analytics. If those aren’t available, take a look at your raw server stats. If those are unavailable hop over to Alexa.com and look at their numbers.

Is it 60%? 10% ? 85% ? If it’s above 50% – will you be able to replace that many of your leads and prospective customers without spending any money in any other channel? Can you afford to lose those visitors? The net is a competitive arena, and if you don’t continue a link building campaign, if you don’t continue to create and distribute quality content, you will lose your organic traffic.

Maybe you’ve heard that Social Media is where it’s at. So you might consider pulling your money from the Search Marketing campaign and throwing it all into Social Media marketing. You’ll get some Social traffic, but without a properly optimized site it’s like pouring water into a leaky bucket.

Maybe you think that you can pull ether one or both inhouse. After all the mail room guy says he knows all about Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. And he probably does – as a user of those services. But will he know how to set up the profiles in a way that gets them found by the right audience? Will he know how to conduct the conversations that will get users interested enough to visit your site?

Social Media has two important areas. Setup is the most important. If your setup is not done well, you’ll be building on a shaky foundation laid in quicksand. Social Media is a conversion layer NOT a sales channel. You CAN NOT SELL DIRECTLY to friends and visitors on your Social Media channels.

Social Media is like a good ShamWow infomercial. It introduces your and your company and products to prospective buyers. You have to get them interested and then make them want to buy, and then convince them to buy from you.

With SEO they are ALREADY interested, you just have to move them to your site and show them what they want.

Tapping someone to run a Social Media campaign who knows how to use Social Media, not how to market Social Media is like taking your receptionist who knows how to use MS Office and having her pitch your new operating system software to the folks in Redmond.

If you are thinking about cutting back on your SEO or Social Media efforts, or doing one without the other, remember – you’re playing in the big leagues. The day is long gone when you could throw up a site and get visitors and sales almost by default. You’re competing against brands and companies who command armies of experts.

But the really cool thing about the net is that you can STILL level that playing field and you can go head to head against the giants AND WIN if your experts are good at building foundations, engaging in the right conversations, and making your site appeal to your prospects.

Holding back on your online marketing investments can prevent you from building up the momentum you need to overcome your competition. Holding back on your online marketing investments means you won’t see your conversions increase even if your traffic doubles. Holding back on your online marketing efforts means you will lose market share and stop growing. And in the online world, if you stop growing, in time you’ll just be another web site languishing at the bottom of those 5 million pages that aren’t in the first 100 search results for your products and services.

Share

Social Marketing and SEO

October 15th, 2010 by Kathy

Site owners who have come onboard for the wild Social Media Marketing ride probably don’t see the common tie between Social Marketing and SEO. Oh sure, Facebook backlinks to your site help drive traffic and rankings, but there is something much more important that ties all of the social world to SEO land.

The underlying rule in Social is exactly the same as the number one rule in good search optimization results. You have to give before you get back.

Those business entities building out their social profiles so they can push their products have hit a ten foot thick brick wall. Quite simply – pushing product on Twitter and Facebook isn’t a good strategy. In fact it can have some negative results – quickly.

The response from consumers in these channels is as clsoe to instant as you can get online. Consumers are giving the same response in SEO land, but it’s more muted and registers only as a fast click OFF your site, to be seen and noticed only in the “bounce rate”.

In the land of blue birds, you’re more likely to get a pithy one liner “u r lame dude”, or in theFaceBook universe “Go peddle your stuff somewhere else. This isn’t the place for it.”

The idea behind Social Marketing efforts is to ENGAGE the consumer. To give them good content in exchange for their “like” or friendship. Just like it’s older brother – SEO – content matters. Quality content. Engaging content. Content with some value.

The best links in search come from sites that find your content useful, interesting, and valuable. They NATURALLY want to link to you because of your content, not because of your sales message.  Becoming an “authority” site, trusted by Google only happens when you are trusted by surfers and other sites.  Authority sites with good, NATURAL linking strategies are rewarded with higher rankings.

Friends and followers talk to each other about you

In the land of electronic water cooler discussions, your engaging content is rewarded by “friends”. Friends talk to others in their circle and recommend the good, warn about the bad and trash the ugly.

When you were in grade school you probably found out that you couldn’t buy friends. Or at least if you could, it wouldn’t work for long. You ran out of money, or the other kids complained to an authority figure, or your “friends” took your money and then turned their back anyway.

You can buy links. You can buy “friends” on Twitter and Facebook and even YouTube. But it won’t work for long. Get caught by Google or the social giants and you could get a virtual size 15 boot in the posterior. No sit down with the principal and a cry for leniency here on the net.

You have to give before you get. You have to have good content, or a good offer. “Friend me and I’ll give you x amount of days on a subscription. Friend me and I’ll give you this super cool whiz bang product.” That’s as close to buying friends as you can get.

But think about this. About a year ago Ashton  Kutcher threw down the gauntlet to CNN and said he could hit 1 million followers on Twitter before they could. And he did it. In the Social Media scene, being a part of a movement, a part of a group, a part of a cause if you will, yields the really big numbers.

Ashton Kutcher and CNN ENGAGED their audience. They bypassed greed, and the other deadly sins and went straight to the mind. Irreverent, funny, silly, maybe even stupid, but it WAS engaging! And CNN now has more than that first million followers and I am certain that they haven’t limited their engagement to fluff Tweets and updates on their Farmville progress!

They have leveraged those followers and friends into an audience that visits their site and consumes even more content.

Social Media AND SEO marketing efforts need to ENGAGE before the visitor, friend or follower can be LEVERAGED into a customer. Keep that in mind and you may just find Social Marketing is YOUR new best friend.

Share

Internet Marketing By The Numbers

October 13th, 2010 by Kathy

I am a stats junky. I have gotten my addiction to statistics as they involve internet marketing under control to the point that I no longer run desktop tickers with traffic numbers. I have to admit I still sneak off a few times a day to check Google Analytics, an SEO ranking report or two, and sometimes peek a glance at a beautiful PPC campaign graph.

You don’t have to share my love of stats to keep your finger on the pulse of your online marketing efforts. And if you aren’t into the crisp, clean truthiness (thank you Stephen Colbert) of stats, don’t worry. Watching just two numbers will give you a good overview of your campaigns.

For all my love of stats there are only two numbers that I really keep my eye on. The first is the number at the end of the month that represents what went into my bank account.  I don’t care how many programs there are that will track everything related to sales and internet marketing efforts, at the end of the day the only number that matters is the bank account balance. Traffic might improve that number. A better call to action, professional copy, better site navigation, a one click checkout – all of these can contribute to better conversions and a higher bank balance.

But the one tried and true, absolute best way to know if my internet marketing efforts, my search optimization, and my conversion programs are working is the increase in money I can deposit from one month to the next.

The second number I look at is the cost of acquiring those sales. Your accountant probably calls this Cost of Acquisition.  There are several ways of acquiring a customer and each one has it’s own cost.

You’ve probably heard of PPC or Pay Per Click advertising. Here’s how the process works.

You research and choose the keywords that will bring your perfect prospect to your website. You write a three line text advertisement or have a banner or video or some other rich media ad made for you. Then you bid on those keywords to place your ad. Bid high enough and it will be seen on the first page of every search for the keyword phrase that ad targets.

If you use Google, you will often be looking at $5 or more to achieve that good ad spot. The more competition you have for your keyphrase, the higher the PPC cost. So if your ad cost $5 per click, and it took 50 clicks to produce one sale, your TRUE cost of acquisition for PPC is $50. You have to  count the cost of kissing the frogs who clicked but didn’t buy. If your “ad spend” is higher than your sales numbers, you need to go back to the drawing board and revamp your PPC campaign.

Another way of acquiring a new customer is CPA – or Cost Per Action. You place your ad on other sites, or pay other people – affiliates – to send you customers. To put your ad into a CPA network is similar to a PPC campaign but the customer must take action. Fill out a form, enter an application, place a phone call – some sort of prospect action needs to occur before payment is made. The cost for this action is often a percentage of the product price. CPA cost of acquisition can range from 3% to 75% of each sale depending on the product. If this number is higher than the cost of making your products and keeping your doors open, you need to lower your CPA percentage.

With the advent of social sites, you can do a campaign that rewards things such as “likes” on Facebook. The cost to acquire a “like” is currently running between $1-$5.  This is NOT a sale, but a potential customer via the friend network of social sites. Since you don’t know when or if these new found friends will purchase, this cost of acquisition can be difficult to measure against sales.

Last, but certainly not least is organic traffic. Organic search traffic is NOT free. It takes time to research the keywords, set up and implement the linking strategy, the right source code changes, the compelling copy. But in the overall scheme of things, organic traffic can be the best “bang for your buck”.

Let’s say a site redesign with a top notch copy writer and SEO expert involved in every step costs $5,000. In six months time you get 50,000 visitors and a conversion rate of 40%.  your cost of acquisition works out to $4. If your product or service sells at even $5 – you’ve made a very tidy $95,000 profit!

So there you have it – your bank balance and the Cost of Acquisition are the stats that can quickly tell you the effectiveness of your online marketing strategy.


Share