Posts Tagged ‘online conversions’

In SEO or Online Marketing Little Things Mean A Lot

Monday, December 6th, 2010

This past weekend I was buzzing around the net, checking on some SEO work and reading up on the never-ending changes in SEO Land. The normal arguments were going on in chat rooms, blog posts and comments. How much does Google want to see “this”? Is a three page checkout process one page too many? How badly does a lack of mobile ready pages hurt the bottom line?

As I rambled around the inter webz, I noticed there were over 400 MILLION pages competing for the key term I was checking. Seems like just last week there were a bare 100,000. An article caught my eye about mobile users hitting some astronomical figure by 2013. And I tried to buy something at a site that frustrated me with it’s multi page checkout process to the point of hitting the “cancel this transaction” button.

What do all these things have in common? Today, more than ever before, little things mean a lot. Competition is fierce, only 10 sites (or less in some cases) make it to the first page of Google for a keyterm. That’s 10 out of 400 million!

If you do get a customer to your checkout, you’ve won them from brick and mortar stores, online giants like Amazon and thousands of competitors. And they might have come to you from a smart phone – many sites are seeing mobile use in their stats that hit 10% or more of their monthly traffic.

Back in the early days when making money online was like picking up gold nuggets on a beach, details didn’t really matter all that much. The net was new, and customers would put up with poor checkout pages. They even went 3, 4 or more pages deep in a search session! Today, every detail counts.

No matter how well optimized a site, or how user friendly your purchase funnel may be, check these details or your competition will pull ahead of you.

Check the spelling – not only of your copy, but the all important meta title and description. I’ve seen keyterms misspelled in these areas which is great if you’re after a particular misspelling, but most folks aren’t. I even saw a site with the owner’s name spelled incorrectly throughout the pages!

Alt tags on images – do they count? A little. But if you and your competitor have sites of equal value doesn’t it make sense to do everything YOU can to tip the scales in your favor? Including making good use of the tags most site designers ignore?

Keywords in file names. Another little thing that most site designers and developers ignore are the names they assign images and page files. Do these count? A little. But hey – little things mean a lot! And instead of a bland “contact.html” or “logo1.jpg” it’s not hard to use “mykeytag.html” or “keyterm1.jpg”.

Go through your own checkout process. Are you standing in the way of a sale? Are you asking too much info from your customer? Are you using a dreaded captcha on a secure checkout page? That’s overkill and I can guarantee you will lose customers if they can’t read it and enter it right the first time.

Is your checkout process returning the right icon on the browser bar? In other words is it on a secure page with a properly updated SSL certificate? Nothing will stop the hand on the wallet faster than an error message popping up during checkout that says “this site may not be secure”.

Do you give the customer a clear message that their order has been received and is being processed?

Speaking of pages, do you have a custom “page not found” page? Do you politely inform your customer that they have reached a non existent page and give them a link back to your main page or a category page?

Does your site search work? I mean does it REALLY work? Does it come up with alternate spellings of a term or make suggestions? Does it politely or humorously let the customer know that term is not present in your site? Or is it a bare “search term not found” sort of page?

These are all little things, minor details, often overlooked. But with as competitive as the market has become, these little things can be the difference between being found and making a sale, or languishing in the middle of the pack of pages that are your online market.

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Internet Marketing Lessons My Sales Manager Taught Me

Monday, November 15th, 2010

A long time ago in what seems like a distant galaxy, far before the world of the internet, I had a most amazing sales manager. We were selling the first PC’s – Apple was only a scant 14 months out of the garage. And yet what this guy taught me was probably the best training for successful  internet marketing I ever got.

Ralph was an inveterate people watcher and we used to stand outside the store on the busiest street corner in Cleveland. Yes, Cleveland really did have foot traffic once upon a time and was the home to an astonishing number of Fortune 500 companies.

As people hurried by on their way to their cubicles and glass enclosed office suites, Ralph kept up a running commentary on what job they held, what their likes and dislikes were, even what they enjoyed doing  in their off time. Being fond of fact not fiction, I challenged Ralph to prove that he was right with what I considered to be guesses.

We started a “customer survey” with just five questions – what is your job title, do you use computers in your office, how long have your held your current position, with what you know about computers do you like them, hate them or are you afraid of them, and what do you do most in your off time.

We gave away an Apple logo’d sticky note pad and pen to everyone taking the survey. Ralph was incredibly accurate. The answers he gave for an individual before they took our survey had at least 3 of the 5 questions pegged correctly.

After about a week of running our little impromptu sampling I asked Ralph two questions. How was he able to size people up so quickly and how were those answers applicable to sales?

Ralph’s reply was that to successfully sell anything to anyone you had to know as much about them as possible in as short a time as practical. He would ask  seemingly friendly “warm up” questions to determine their level of computer experience, how they felt about computers in general, what “tribe” they belonged to, and anything else he could to determine exactly how he would respond to the customer and close the sale.

He also turned himself into that customer. He was a huge man – 6′ 4 and well over 200 pounds. But he could become a timid accountant in a heartbeat. His entire demeanor would change from the self confident sales leader into a hesitant, quiet, cubicle dwelling number cruncher. The prospect became comfortable with this mirror image of himself and would express his inner fears and sales objections, allowing Ralph to gently put them aside and close the sale.

If the self made tool and die millionaire wandered in, Ralph’s voice would boom through the store as he shook hands firmly with that kindred spirit. It was a lesson in the art and craft of salesmanship that I will always treasure.

When I began my online marketing career, Ralph’s lessons came to mind. I found that my most successful websites and clients were the ones that spoke the language of the unseen customer. The copy struck the right chords, resonating with the right “tribe” and matching the benefits to their objections,  and closing the sale.

Online marketing and salesmanship is more challenging than in person sales. The prospect is unseen, no visual cues are evident. But if you have truly taken the time to research your niche and it’s denizens, you know who they are, where they hang out, what is important to them and what product features they are interested in. You speak their language and walk their walk. By doing this, you identify yourself as a member of their “tribe” and build trust.

Yes, you understand their need. Yes, you are able to stop the pain and solve their problem because you understand THEM. You need the right keyterms to attract them to your site – the words they use, not necessarily the ones with the highest search volume.

If your market is fragmented – use landing pages to appeal to each segment. Use the language of that market segment to attract and engage. The voice in your copy needs to speak only to that segment, and not try to be all things to all people.

To paraphrase Caddyshack “be one with the customer, become the customer” and you will set sales records just like Ralph did.

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Why SEO AND Social Media Marketing are an Investment

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

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.

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Internet Marketing By The Numbers

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

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.


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How Much Traffic Will I Get From My SEO Efforts?

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Just about every day I hear business owners talk about SEO efforts. And one of the first questions they tend to ask is “How Much Will My Traffic Increase?” There are two answers that should be given to these owners by a reputable SEO expert.

1. It depends

2. That measurement is not really relevant to your business

In the real world of Internet SEO Land we rarely give those answers or if we do, they aren’t worded quite that bluntly. Here’s the WHY behind those all important answers that you, as a business owner need to understand.

SEO is not a one size fits all. There are many details and strategies that go into an SEO campaign. There are 100 interlocking pieces that come into play, and that’s before the engines decide to change how they look at those efforts.

Here are just a few of the elements that need to be considered and assessed way before the first keyword report is even run:

How well constructed is your site? Is the page code clean, compliant with modern browser regs, and stripped to it’s bare necessity? Or is it bloated with useless comments, script calls, lengthy ways of handling menu buttons, with real content – spider food – not beginning until code line 1500?

Search engines like nice clean code with page content starting as soon as possible in the page source code. To be successful with your SEO you need to make life easy for the search spiders. Convoluted code makes their job harder, and guess what? There’s a bunch of sites within hailing distance that are easier to read. Spiders won’t spend forever on your site – if they can’t read it in their language quickly enough, they move on to a more welcome place.

Do you have a social marketing strategy with frequent Facebook and blog posts, daily Tweets, well described videos on video sharing sites, social group involvement and mentions in bookmarking sites? Google likes content. Google likes links. Google likes FRESH, updated content linked to your site from a variety of sources.

These links and posts can have a great bearing on your SEO efforts, as well as adding to your traffic. Target your keywords to your ideal customer

And finally – how much traffic is available? Yes there are millions of people searching for millions of things – but how many people are actually, realistically searching for what you sell? If 1000 people a day are searching for your blue wooly mammoth blankets, you can’t expect to get 10,000 visitors a day from your search efforts. And if you ARE getting that many visitors, that brings us to question number 2.

HOW much traffic you receive is not what you can take to the bank. How much traffic you CONVERT to sales is the most important metric to track. A search campaign that sends the wrong visitors to your site WILL boost traffic numbers, but it will also boost the number of visitors leaving your page very quickly – called the bounce rate. And those departing visitors won’t be adding money to your bottom line.

A successful SEO campaign is NOT about sending traffic. It is ALL about sending TARGETED traffic through your sales funnel. Once your ideal customer is defined, it is far easier to set a realistic traffic goal. And here’s a tip to discovering how well you’re doing in numbers that really count.

Watch your competitors. If you are on target – using the right keyterms for your target audience, your traffic numbers will be going up. In most cases, you will be taking visitors away from your competition, or getting to them before competing websites do.  Their traffic numbers will start going DOWN.

You can see their traffic numbers at Compete.com as well as your own numbers.

Keyword research is not the first step or the most important step in an SEO campaign. Targeting and reaching the right visitor is. And until that step has been accomplished and tested, answering “How much traffic…” is just crystal ball gazing using a totally fogged up glass sphere.

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The Internet Never Sleeps

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

The Internet never sleeps - it's always collecting and presenting more infoNew York City used to have a tagline – The City That Never Sleeps”. People knew that if you went to NY there was a different energy, an under current of excitement, a pulse that was fast, ever moving and overwhelming. I believe all cities have their own unseen energy, their own pulse and movement. So too does the Internet. And as internet marketers we get caught up in this maelstrom  of activity and movement and must either sink or swim with that current.

I often talk to business owners who are frustrated. They have hired a consultant or a company to improve their online presence and the project results never seem to match the expectations. These people walk away shaking their heads, thinking they were “fleeced”. In actual fact they probably weren’t. They were the victim of change.

It’s said that the amount of information on the internet doubles every 6 weeks. I’ve seen other numbers, but the time span doesn’t really matter. The internet is constantly growing and changing and there is an enormous amount of information to absorb and implement. Even if the net stopped right this minute, it would take several lifetimes to catch up on even a small portion of that information. This is mind boggling. This is game changing. This is why it’s very difficult to hire the right internet marketing or search optimization firm. They could be very knowledgeable – using last week’s best info. But by next week how much of that has changed?

I spend on average 30 hours a week in an almost futile attempt to keep up with my areas of interest. It’s a full time job in and of itself just so I can do my real full time job! And I could easily spend double that time and STILL miss a new technique or the beginning of a new delivery system or a new source of good traffic.

When I started online back in the late 90’s it was easy. No one really knew how things were supposed to be done so we improvised and made up our own ways of attracting customers, presenting products, getting traffic. It was a heady time much like wandering down a pristine white beach and picking up gold nuggets along the way. And then only picking up the ones that were easy to reach or were of a specific size and color. A lot of people made a LOT of money back then, they merely had to be on that beach. If they haven’t grown as the net has grown, they probably aren’t doing so well today.

In a little more than a decade things have changed dramatically. I can no longer run a successful online marketing campaign by myself. With all the areas of knowledge I have, with all the years I’ve spent “doing it all” – I no longer can do it all myself. A very painful admission I assure you!

Today I need a team.

I need a video wizard who is well versed in many different editing and special effects programs.

I need a marketing expert who has their finger on the pulse of social media – aware of the latest changes occurring almost daily on a wide variety of social sites.

I can’t even just drop into my favorite HTML editor – my constant companion of the past 12 years – and toss together a site. It doesn’t do HTML 5.0 and all new sites need to be done in that iteration of the language. It only surfaced a few scant months ago and already Bing and IE 9 are making headlines by giving it “favored” status.

No matter where I look, no matter what part of my marketing, advertising, site optimization, design or implementation, I need a specialist. Someone who concentrates on just one area of the internet and is constantly aware of the changes, of the new methods, the new technology, the new procedures.

But at the same time they need to have a solid grounding in the basics. Because oddly enough, no matter what area of online marketing you look at, the basics still haven’t changed. A solid foundation is needed to optimize a site. No matter how many new things Google has added, without that foundation, built with new tools and new methods to be sure, you will not weather the storm of new search algorithms.

Without knowing your customer, and their habits – even though those habits change every few months – you won’t be talking WITH your prospective customer, engaging them and working them into the sales funnel. “What’s in it for me?” has NOT changed. It’s still the driving force behind any type of sales page.

The path to that sale still hasn’t changed.

  1. Get the eyeballs, grab their attention.
  2. Get them to come to your site. Get that click!
  3. Convert them from a “looker” to a buyer.

Even though I mourn the passing of the “good old days” when I could do it all myself and didn’t need a bevy of experts to be successful, I take comfort in knowing that the basics, the rock solid foundation of each and every exchange of money hasn’t changed. The delivery will always evolve. The implementation will change with the rapid advancement of technology. But in the end – I’m still talking to another person on the other side of that keyboard. Or touch screen, or smart phone. And that will never change.

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