Everyone knows its great to have a website, but if all you do is build a website and take email, you have not kept up with the changes that will have a big impact on growing your business.
When I first started building websites in 1994, getting people to visit your website wasn’t hard as there wasn’t that many people online and everyone was just hopping from one site to another. We all thought it was cool, but the traffic was useless and the sites were really, REALLY ugly. Companies would put contact forms and feedback forms on their sites and thought it would bring business. But the smart companies started to figure out they could create email campaigns to drive targeted visitors that were more likely to buy something. Then the race really took off as young start-ups were suddenly taking on legacy brick and mortar Goliaths in their industries.
The days when you could simply outsource the building of a website and plopping it online in the hopes of being successful are gone. Young start-ups these days can no longer compete with the established companies without finding a really unique niche and exploiting it till a big fish decides its time to buy. It takes a dedicated marketing team and strategy to have any hope of breaking through the noise and clutter of competitors.
An online marketing strategy will be unique to each company. Of course these days an online marketing strategy can probably be considered THE marketing strategy for any company under 5,000 employees. There are a number of common elements that have to be addressed in an online marketing strategy, but using them will be unique to each company.
Here is a quick breakdown of components in a great online strategy.
- Social media. Unless you been hiding under a rock, you know you have to have a social media strategy that fully embraces peer to peer interaction with an online audience. Social media has been shown to drive up to 30% and more traffic to websites that are effectively using it. It’s not hard, just takes a lot of work.
- Email campaigns. A staple marketing tool for online marketing, it still ranks as one of the top marketing tools for reaching an audience.
- Content development. Having great content is at the core of your success online. Without it, a website is nothing more than fluff. Content is no longer text, but consists of infographics, white papers and ebooks, webinars, case studies and much more. These are assets the marketing and sales teams need in order to do their jobs effectively.
- Content Marketing. Once you have content, you have to have a strategy for getting it in the hands of your potential audience and enabling them to share it with others.
- Search Engine Ranking. Let’s face it, these days if you don’t rank well and can’t be found in search engines, your organizations may as well not exist. Ranking well is a combination of having great content and other sites linking to that content. Starting to see a pattern here?
- Search Engine Marketing. If you have a for profit business, unless everyone already wants your product, you need a budget for spending on pay per click. This can easily generate a large percentage of your leads if done well. But like any of these items, it has it’s own strategies and an entire industry built around it.
- Blogger & Media Relations. You need other people talking about you. There are millions of bloggers out there and probably several in your own company. You need to be able to leverage the traditional media outlets as well as the bloggers to talk about your organization. This feeds awareness as well as those extra links your site badly needs.
- Testing Strategy. In my almost 20 years of web development and marketing, I’ve often found most executives think their websites work great. But I’ve never found a website that couldn’t be significantly improved to drive more visitors and a greater number of leads simply by testing a wide variety of elements on their websites and online campaigns. Every organization must adopt a strategy of perpetual testing and change with their website in order to grow the business.
- Analytics. Every company needs to know what is going on with their website in terms of numbers. Otherwise, its impossible to make anything but an educated guess as to what’s actually going on if you’re going to make improvements. Learn how to understand web analytics, conversion analytics, and campaign stats to determine what is effective and what isn’t.
It’s rather daunting to consider just what it takes to really compete online. Companies that can do it will beat their less agile competition and develop a much greater understanding of their customers over time.
Can your website convert traffic into customers and fans? If your website isn’t converting at a minimum of 5-10% of your traffic into potential customers, then something is wrong.
1 in 10 website visitors should be filling out a form or taking some type of action on your website. If you think you don’t need forms or some type of conversion action on your website, then you are doing something wrong. I haven’t seen a business yet that doesn’t need forms for one reason or another.
Let’s look at a some simple strategies that a good website can follow to increase it’s conversion rate.
- Understand the visitor. You need to look at who is coming to your website. Not just the people you want to visit, but everyone. To understand your visiting audience, take a look at the sites they come from, what keywords they searched on, where they are geographically and what content they interact with. What you may find is that a large percentage are bouncing after a few seconds. This could mean you are doing a good job of driving the wrong traffic or that your website doesn’t match what people were expecting. Know who you want to visit your site and go after that audience.
- Funnel toward the conversion. Look at the traffic coming to your website to understand the paths that people take throu your site. Then make sure that your conversion action can easily be found and matches the content on that page, otherwise you will be asking them to take the wrong action and lower your chance to convert.
- Be worthy of a conversion. Is the asset you are providing behind the conversion useful to the visitor? Does it help them somehow in their daily life or job? Is it with the person giving up their personal information and increasing the amount of email they receive and a potential sales call if they give you their information?
- Provide what is promised. You only have one chance with most visitors filling out a form. Make it a great experience and give them what they gave up their privacy for. Don’t make your visitor jump through extra hurdles to get what they wanted.
- Be helpful. Always send a confirmation email that contains instructions and appropriate links to continue to do business with you. They were willing to give some info, go above and beyond by giving more than they asked for. Turn them into impressed fans right from the start.
If you follow these five simple strategies, then any website can convert at a much better rate and begin moving into more advanced conversion improving techniques.
In the spirit of top ten signs you might be a redneck, here are the top ten signs your website might be a vampire. Why did I choose a vampire? Well, it’s a site that “sucks” up everyone’s time unnecessarily, and vampire is a popular search term so I thought I would use it to drive pointless visitors to my site when I post this to Twitter! So…
- If anything is spinning or flashing “NEW” or “Buy Now”, your site might be a vampire.
- If your brother-in-law’s, cousin’s nephew developed your website, your website might be a vampire.
- If it takes more than a couple of hours for a customer to get a response from you because you’re too busy counting your followers on Twitter, your website might be a vampire.
- If you haven’t updated the site in at least two weeks because you think you have enough already, your website might be a vampire.
- If visitors keep looking for a Unlike button, your website might be a vampire.
- If you still use Arial or Veranda for everything everywhere, your website might be a vampire.
- If the 404 page is the most popular page on your site, your website might be a vampire.
- If you have any popups selling software to block popups that appear on your site, your website might be a vampire.
- If Google has more ads than your own content, your website might be a vampire.
- If your homepage takes longer to load than it took you to read this line, your website might be a vampire.
Hmmm, well, it appears that this site falls victim to a few of these. Whoops. Hope your site does better.
So I have a question. Is the web industry becoming a dinosaur even in the face of so many technology changes? I’m specifically talking about all those companies out there that build websites.
I can remember back when I started developing websites back in 1994 (gaahhh! 18 years ago) you could through the a rock out the window and hit a person who called themselves a “webmaster”. I have to admit, back then all you really had to do was know a little HTML and graphic design. People didn’t seem to care what it looked like (it was ugly) and any visitor was a good visitor. Of course we know a lot better now and this industry just exploded. If a company doesn’t have a website now, they may as well not exist.
But even though web development firms have kept up with technology and design, have they really kept up? For the first half of the last decade web firms regularly made fun of traditional agencies that they didn’t understand anything past developing print ads, that the ad agency model was dead. Well, they were right. Traditional agencies tried to transition to the web but they just didn’t understand how to use the Internet. More and more web companies were winning business from the agencies.
Unlike a lot of other industries, agencies did adapt before they were all gone. Those that were successful we’re able to combine their understanding of advertising, messaging and public relations into powerful marketing firms that have a secure hold on their market share. But the web shops out there are failing to recognize that the world has changed around them.
I regularly communicate with and research web firms. There are thousands of them still out there, but the vast majority focus on web design and development. Very few have embraced the fact that it isn’t about technology or just looking good. It’s about communication (content) and customer interaction. Oh sure, they all know that content is king, and they all have a social presence, but they are technologists with a limited understanding of marketing and driving business. Marketing agencies are able to easily outpace a web agency because they can hire talented designers and developers led by seasoned marketing professionals.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen several web shops able to make the transition to a web agency model and run circles around their tech only competitors. If the web shops are going to survive, if they are going to deliver real value, if you plan on hiring one, then they have to be able to deliver several services.
- Social media services: not just someone that knows what Twitter is but a team of people leveraging social media to drive customer interaction
- Content strategy: being able to create a content strategy before redoing a websit or a new site is critical for success. It’s your map to succeeding online.
- Market analysis: this is marketing 101. Know your customers, know their needs, know your competitors.
- Campaign strategy: a good agency knows how to run great online campaigns (email, ppc, banner, content sharing, social outreach) to drive conversions
- Analytics: not just bounce rates and page views, but understand How and why people came to the site, why they stay or don’t, and able to run a/b and multivariate testing to improve performance
- PPC services: this can be a full time job for any company depending on the size of your budget. Well run PPC can deliver a more leads than most businesses can handle. Do it bad and it’s a money pit.
- SEM services: search engine optimization is offered by a lot of web firms, but if they don’t offer content strategy, it’s pointless.
Here is the bottom line. If you use a web company to manage your website, if they don’t offer the above services, even if you don’t use those services, you need to strongly consider changing vendors. If you are a web firm and you don’t offer these services, it’s time to rethink how you do business or maybe it’s time to sell the business.
Odds are you’ve heard of Google+ but haven’t used it unless you are just in love with social media or technology in general. I’ll be honest, I’ve been very skeptical of it and have yet to really embrace it. Why would you or me want to be on yet another social network?
Well, as usual, Google has made it nearly impossible to ignore Google+. As I’ve talked about in a previous post about Google search personalization, Google is making their search results more personalized to your searching history. Nobody gets the same search results anymore if they use google regularly. They track what you do whether yo are logged in or not. A high percentage of people have gmail.com email accounts that they check on a regular basis. Many of these people never log out. Well, everything at google is tied together (gmail,calendar, docs, maps, news reader, etc) and now they are tied to google+. Soooo….?
Well, they have made +1 part of their ranking algorithms. When you +1 a site, you are giving your vote of confidence for that site. Additionally, anybody in your google+ circle tha toes a similar search will get an even higher weight in the algorithm to see the site you gave a +1 to. Basically, this means that websites that have more +1 will rank much higher and if you have a large number of people in your circles, like customers and possible customers, then they will get them at the top.
Google+ is growing very rapidly. Its not as large as Facebook, but because of their ties to search results, it is making it more and more important, one that organizations can not afford to ignore unfortunately.
Let’s take an example of a local business like a church. If some goes on google maps and searches for a church (common practice these days folks!) they will get a list of churches with pins on a map. Right now you see the name of the church, phone, website, a review and a review rating. Very soon, the +1 is going to show up next to that rating. People, for better or worse, trust these ratings and will trust the number of +1 as well. The number of +1 will also put you at the top of the list.
Another example would be if they did the same search on google itself. Google determines where the person that is searching geographically and provides local results to them for their search. Those churches with the larger number of +1 will have a significant advantage over those that don’t. The unfortunate part of this is that the big churches will win out oer the small churches. The ones that have embraced google+ early will win over those that start later.
Google is definitely building an empire that we are forced to be part of. Kind of a love/hate relationship. Anyway, in the spirit of this blog post I’ve added a +1 to each of my blog posts. If you have a Google+ account, I would love it if you clicked on it of course or joined the Meeklabs Google+ circle!!