April 10th, 2009 No Comments

Common questions about online marketing

We answer a lot of questions every week about online marketing. Those conversations usually start with something like: Why doesn’t my Web site show up in a Google search? Why do my competitors all rank above my Web site? Why don’t I get any leads from the Internet? The leads I get from the Internet are all spam e-mails so why should I waste time trying to get more?

These are not simple questions to answer and usually involve a combination of technical issues (design, coding), content and financial reality (limited marketing dollars). But you might be surprised at how much can be done with a relatively small budget, and some regular attention to updating your information.

A Web site is not a luxury these days – every one of your customers, and potential customers, is going to look at your Web site eventually and it will make an impression on them, for better or worse. Likewise, appearing in search engines when users go looking for your product/service is critical because that’s how most people find everything from pizza, to accountants, to auto parts these days. Ignoring your Web site is like sending your customers across the street to your competitor.

So, what to do?

Your competition might have a larger advertising budget, but the Internet is also a great equalizer, allowing smaller companies to provide better (online) service than a much larger competitor. More than most other advertising media, it isn’t how much you spend online, but how well you execute a plan. Here are the points we normally discuss during a free, introductory consultation:

  • It’s very easy to drive traffic to your Web site if you are willing to spend money. More $$$ = More visitors. But the goal is not simply getting more traffic to your site, unless your boss is impressed by any old chart with lines going up these days. You need to get more qualified traffic because those are the only people that might become paying customers. A local supermarket wouldn’t waste money mailing coupons to people 800 miles away, and you shouldn’t waste money online without targeting the right people.
  • Attracting the right visitor is only the first step in your online sales process. Once a person lands on your Web site they need to recognize that they arrived someplace useful, and they have to be engaged within seconds. If the page they land on (that might be any page on your site, not necessarily the home page) doesn’t look right, they’ll be gone. A term you might see is “bounce rate” which refers to the number of visitors that “bounce” out after viewing just one page – a high bounce rate is bad, especially with pay-per-click advertising because it might indicate that you are paying for a lot of the wrong visitors.
  • Before paying for ads/traffic you should do everything possible to make sure your Web site is ranked as well as possible in “organic” results. That’s the normal (free) search results, as opposed to paid advertising results. For example, all pages on your Web site should have unique titles and other “meta” tags, (Those are hidden descriptions and keywords used by some search engines to determine what the page is about.) All of your Web pages should be professionally written to be clear and easy to understand for people, but the copy also has to contain key words that Google will use to index the site. Writing keyword-rich copy on all pages will ensure the best possible organic search result.
  • Adding a blog to your site is a great way to improve your search engine ranking, but only if you can commit to posting something new at least a couple of times a month. It’s just embarrassing to have a blog, or something like a “Latest News” section where the last blog update or press release is two years old. If you can handle it, a blog is helpful for several reasons: a) it gives search engines new/more content to index, which could help your ranking; b) it gives people a reason to come back to check what’s new, whether they are current customers or not; and, c) it helps establish your credentials as an expert in your area.
  • You might be tempted by companies that will “guarantee” top ranking in Google search results, but don’t waste your money. You can’t buy your way to the top of Google’s search result, and if someone figured out a magic formula for that (which was possible in the old days) Google would immediately change their ranking algorithms, making you drop to the bottom shortly after you paid for that top position. Google is very serious about search engine spam and will completely remove you from their index if they don’t like what you are doing.
  • As you prepare new marketing campaigns (online or offline) make sure you have a system in place for monitoring the results and tracking the leads that come in. You really want to know the long term value of each lead and the overall ROI for each campaign. You can use something as simple as a spreadsheet, or a little more complicated like one of the free CRM systems available today. Zoho CRM is a nice easy sales management system, and it’s free for up to three users.
  • When you are ready to spend money for online ads make sure you have the time to monitor your progress very carefully, several times a day.  You will see patterns develop (number of visitors, bounce rate, conversion rates) very quickly and you need to react.  If the leads are all duds then make adjustments to the program immediately.  Don’t assume that spending more money will solve any problem with conversion rates, or lead quality.

If this gives you some ideas fill out our Contact Us form and include a link to your Web site. We’ll be happy to take a look and give you some feedback.

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