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Archive for May, 2008

Between 15 to 30 billion web pages are online today (Pandia Search Engine News). This huge population is largely due to the wide variety of “site building” tools available on the market.

 

Today, anyone with access to the Internet can build a website. In a crowd like that, most websites come and go without anyone noticing. Building a website that has the potential to be successful is another story…

Most websites fail due to the following reasons:

  • Poor planning: Many companies set up a website without a clear idea of what they want to achieve, and in doing so achieve nothing. Like the old saying goes, “no one plans to fail, they fail to plan.” Before putting effort into developing a website, you should have a clear understanding of your goals, such as increasing company sales by a specific percentage, or developing a larger email marketing list.
  • Website designers don’t know anything about marketing or converting visitors into buyers. Remember, it doesn’t matter how pretty your website looks if it doesn’t achieve your desired goals.
  • Marketers don’t know anything about design. The web isn’t a marketing platform such as television or radio. Therefore, most traditional marketing efforts are often ineffective on the Internet. Marketers are finally starting to catch up to the fact that well done web design can significantly affect their bottom lines.
  • Poor website development and code problems. Most anyone can go out and purchase website design software at the local office supply store. However, building a site that’s structurally sound on the inside (the code you can’t see) and good looking on the outside isn’t an easy task. Not only is this problematic from a web development perspective, but search engines have a tendency not to rank poorly constructed websites very high in the natural search results, if they even index them at all.
  • Lack of effective promotion. Many sites are built in the hopes that someday traffic and sales will come…and they never do. Largely in part due to not taking serious steps in their search engine optimization and search engine marketing efforts. There’s a reason why the most successful companies hire professionals to do this work. If it was easy they wouldn’t need to do this.

Consider these points a basic compass to review your existing website or your website development ideas. Do you have a clear plan? Is your design and marketing in sync? Is your website code well built and free of critical errors? Are you effectively promoting your website? If you can answer 100% yes to all of these questions, you’re on the right track.

If not, you should find a professional that can help you get started in the right direction.


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Surprisingly a lot of people involved in ecommerce have heard of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising, but they aren’t really sure how they work or which is the best for promoting their website.

SEO refers to the natural search engine results which are free, opposed to PPC ads (sponsored results) which are charged on a per click basis. In other words, every time someone clicks on your PPC ad it costs you money, whereas natural search results cost nothing other than hiring an SEO professional to develop.

What are the benefits of SEO, other than being free?

It’s a proven fact that SEO provides a higher return on investment than PPC ads. Also, many studies confirm that 70% of all search engine traffic is generated by natural search and only 30% by pay-per-click (see InternetRetailer for more details). Although natural search engine rankings are free, you still have to hire a proven SEO professional to significantly improve your website’s visibility in the search engines. However, once this is achieved, traffic volumes to your website are far greater and much less expensive than PPC marketing alone.

What are the benefits of PPC if it isn’t as good as SEO?

The major benefit of PPC is that it produces immediate traffic to your website. Even with the best SEO strategy, it can take as long as 3 to 12 months to obtain a position on the first page of the natural search results, depending upon the competitiveness of your industry. Whereas PPC produces immediate traffic to your website.

How should SEO and PPC be used?

PPC should be used in the beginning of any online business to generate immediate traffic until they become established in the natural search results. However, it isn’t recommended to stop your PPC marketing campaigns once you’re successful in the natural search engine results since you would be eliminating 30% of your potential customers that still click on the PPC ads.

As for maximizing your overall traffic and growing your business online, you need to apply SEO and PPC together as your primary marketing mix, with the goal of driving more traffic to your website through your SEO efforts than your PPC campaigns. As a general rule the most successful businesses online use a combination of SEO and PPC together. For example, if you do a search on Google for “books” you’ll usually find Amazon.com listed in both the natural search results and the sponsored (PPC) results. You may want to think of this as the 70/30 rule. Again, 70% of search traffic is generated by natural search and 30% by pay-per-click, both of which are too large not to take advantage of.


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Choosing a search partner can be a very difficult decision. There are a lot of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) companies out there to choose from, and you want to find someone who deserves your trust. Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind when looking to invest in professional SEO and SEM services.

First of all, what are they promising? If they promise number one organic search results for all key words in all search engines; look for someone else. This is almost impossible without paid listings, or worse, unethical practices that could actually get your site banned from the search engines. Look for a company that is up front with these limitations, offering ‘top’ results, or ‘first page listings’ on top search engines.  

It is very important to find a company with a proven history of achieving results ethically. Make sure you select a company that understands the dynamics of the major search engines, and how to apply proper search engine optimization and search engine marketing techniques to your specific website. Expert experience and ethical practices will lead to excellent results.

You should also ask how long the company has been in business. It is often difficult to decipher how long an SEO or SEM company has been in business. As a general rule, the longer they’ve been in business, the more likely they understand search engines and website development well enough to produce significant results.

4 Reasons You Should Work with a Search Engine Optimization and Marketing Professional

1.    Constant Search Engine Updates. Major search engines are constantly updating their algorithms and search results placements, which make the process very time consuming to keep up. It is definitely a full time job.

 

2.    Commitment Required for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) Campaigns. SEO and PPC programs require consistent monitoring and adjusting in order to provide a significant return on investment. There is no one size-fits-all, or automated process, that can be applied from one site to another. An SEO professional will have a system in place for constant review and revision.

 

3.   Competition in Organic Search and PPC Results. With millions of web pages competing for top-ten placements in organic search results and Pay Per Click positioning, guesswork just isn’t enough. A seasoned SEO and SEM professional will is able to make comparisons, see competition coming, and make adjustments accordingly.

 

4.    Fresh Eyes Help to Increase Conversion Rates. It is common for anyone within an industry to see their own web content and offerings much differently than a potential customer. Therefore, it’s a great benefit to have a professional set of eyes making adjustments to your efforts to better turn your visitors into buyers.

 

Although there are a lot of resources available online to provide a general understanding of SEO and SEM practices, there is no substitute for proven experience. Results that could take you years to achieve on your own can be attained by an experienced SEO and SEM professional within a matter of days or weeks. Not only can you save yourself a lot of time, money, and stress by having a professional do the work for you, but you can also see a quicker return on your investment.


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A recent McKinsey Global Survey found the following facts about how businesses are using Web 2.0, which is continuing to grow at record rates. As a matter of fact, comScore shows that visitors to Web 2.0 sites have been growing at double and triple digit rates over the last year.

  • More than 75% of executives say they plan to maintain or increase their investments in Web 2.0 technologies that encourage user collaboration, such as peer-to-peer networking, social networking, and web services.
  • More than half said they’re pleased with previous Internet investments, though some regret not boosting their own capabilities to exploit technology sooner.
  • Retailers, who have been cautious investors in the past, are stepping up their pace. Big name companies including Dell, General Motors and hotel chain Marriott using social media to increase their sales while reducing their customer acquisition costs.
  • These executives also offered insights into how and why their companies are using Web 2.0 and where these technologies may offer a sustained competitive edge.

You can read the full article at mckinseyquarterly.com (requires registration)

 


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1.    Carefully categorize your products. Intuitive, organized categorization makes it much easier for visitors to find the product they’d like to buy.

 

2.    Always feature related product cross-sell items. Choose items that complement the product, are a great alternative to that product, or that may be a better solution for your visitor.

 

3.    Allow customers to provide product reviews on the items they purchase from you. This tactic is proven to significantly increase conversion rates, as consumer’s trust each other’s recommendations to a much higher degree than your sales pitch (eMarketer).

 

4.    Show scarcity of products with call to action statements such as “Subject to stock on hand”, “Limited quantity available”, etc.  Be honest.

 

5.    Keep the number of clicks needed to reach your conversion goal as few as possible. As mentioned in the previous post, the more clicks required, the less you will convert.


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One of the quickest ways to increase your websites conversion rates is to place a strong call to action above the fold of every web page. Online sales are driven just like traditional retail sales – you have to ask for the order to close the sale.

A compelling call to action should contain the following elements:

1.    Clearly stated actual action you want your site visitors to take

 

2.    Carefully chosen wording to encourage them to take the desired action

 

3.    Well designed format that’s visually appealing (font size, color selection, page placement, etc.)

Always craft your call to action based upon the benefit to your visitor. In other words, don’t just tell your visitors what to do. Tell them what’s in it for them. Use action words and eliminate distracting fluff.

Design your calls to action to immediately lead your visitors to the action you want them to take. Convert your visitor on the current page if possible, or at least within one click. Keep in mind that the more a visitor has to click to reach your desired point of conversion, the higher your abandonment rate will be.

Design all calls to action to be clearly visible. Calls to action that tastefully blend into the background will not convert as well as clear buttons or graphics. Make them stand out on your web pages and immediately catch your visitor’s eye.

Although you want your call to action to be tasteful, you cannot be shy. When designing your call to action, think bigger, brighter, and larger fonts that are easy to read. Also, make sure you provide enough white space around your call to action to ensure it stands apart from the rest of your web page design.

Take time to plan effective cross-sell items in relation to your calls to action. You always want to provide a variety optional paths to convert your visitors. Also, make sure that you are clearly offering other conversion tactics – prominently display your toll-free-number, or your ‘click to chat’ function.

Increasing conversion rates doesn’t happen overnight. However, if you continually test and refine your efforts you will make improvements. Make your call to action changes one step at a time, and watch your web analytics to make sure you’re heading in the right direction. Not only will your conversion rates increase, but your visitors will appreciate how easily they can get where they want to go.


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The online sales tax debate gets more and more interesting as major online retailers such Amazon.com and Overstock.com make their positions against the issue loud and clear (see Amazon Sues Over State Law on Collection of Sales Tax & Overstock.com Throws New York Affiliates Overboard to Avoid Sales Tax). Interestingly though, historical data and recent online activity suggests that the online sales tax issue is likely to have a minimal impact on ecommerce sales.

Large traditional retailers such as Sears, Circuit City, and Home Depot have been collecting sales taxes from online customers for years, which is why they have tended to take sides with states in efforts to create the same tax rules for all Internet merchants.

Kate Delhagen, a retail analyst for Forrester Research, says that, “’from the consumer’s standpoint, this is just not a big deal.” She has also stated that customers currently paying sales tax for online purchases seemed to care little about the incremental cost.  It is interesting to note that research done back in 2001 by Jupiter Media Metrix also found this to be largely the case.

Although many online retailers are worried about the burden of collecting and dispensing taxes on behalf of so many jurisdictions, web based sales tax software solutions such as Avalara make the process easier. These services connect the retailer’s shopping cart directly with a continuously updated database of correct sales tax rates, accurate to the very street number on the ship-to address.

Regardless of the challenges ahead, collecting destination based sales taxes on online sales is quickly becoming a reality. Now it’s just a matter of working though the initial challenges and getting back to business.


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