Why Conversion Optimization will help your Business Grow

Conversion Optimization For Business Growth

When you’re looking at your business’ website statistics, the first thing you’re probably interested in is the amount of traffic you’re getting.  How many hits?  How many repeat visitors?  How many minutes are they spending on the site?  You check these stats because you want to know what’s successful and what needs work.

 

Your site’s conversion rate is even more important than the number of hits it receives.  “Conversion rate” refers to the percentage of visitors who take some sort of action while visiting your site (for example, ordering a product, signing up for a newsletter, or downloading a program).  Your website could receive a million page views, but if no visitors purchase your product, there’s something wrong.

“Conversion optimization” or “conversion rate optimization” (CRO) is the process of improving the ratio of visitors who take some sort of action on your site to those that merely view it.  Your goal is to “convert” viewers into participants.

 

How can you find out your site’s current conversion rate?  Pull up your stats and divide your total number of conversions by the number of site visitors.  If your site has had 1000 visitors, and 10 of those visitors have taken the sort of action you want them to, then your conversion rate is 1%.

 

How do I improve my conversion rate? 

So, here’s the question of the hour:  How do I improve my conversion rate?  It’s not a simple answer because the solution differs depending on all kinds of factors, such as the source of your traffic, your target viewer demographic, the action you are trying to get them to take – but here are a few basic areas to examine:

 

1 – Call to action. Is the next step visible and quickly understandable to the viewer?

Call To action Graphic

2 – Proof. Do your customers have a reason to trust you?  Sure, you’re telling them it will benefit them to make that purchase, but they’ll be more likely to bite if you include testimonials from previous customers.
3 – Clarity. Can your users quickly find what they’re looking for?  Is it intuitive?  Study elements of other web pages to see where they usually occur.  A “Log In/Sign Up” button is usually located in the upper right corner of the page.  The business’ contact information should be at the bottom of every page.  How many clicks does it take for the user to reach their goal?
4 – Aesthetics. This should be obvious, but too often it’s the reason a potential client leaves the site before doing anything.  They google what they’re looking for; a link to your site is the first result; they click it, and there’s something wrong.  It doesn’t even have to be a glaring problem, like red text on a red background.  Elements like the colors you use, the placement of the CTA and other important aspects of the page can affect how that page converts.

It could be something as minor as a header bar someone coded incorrectly, which is now too short for the content, so a few words are off.  That’s all it takes to destroy someone’s trust and quickly go back to the search to check out your competitor.  If your site doesn’t look clean and competent, you won’t get conversion results regardless of how high your search engine rankings are.

 

This is just an introduction to conversion rate optimization: what it is, why your business needs it, and a few things the process involves.  The next step is to dive a little deeper into the process: You can learn from a tutorial, download a conversion optimization program to give you relevant statistics, or even find a specialist to provide guidance for your individual case!  The journey will be different for everyone, so get creative and enjoy it!

Nick Rojas applies his entrepreneurial experience as a business consultant for startups. He marries hands on expertise with a passion for marketing, sales, and financial growth strategies to help business owners achieve new heights. Follow Nick on twitter @nickarojas

How Much Should I Spend For SEO?

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How much does SEO cost?  That's the first question that comes to mind for people considering hiring for an SEO campaign.

The problem is that when you start searching online or start calling SEO agencies, pricing is all over the map.  A company in India will quote you $150 a month and promise you the moon while an SEO agency might quote you 2K a month with no promises of SEO glory. So how do you make sense of it and know who has the potential to deliver a lot of SEO value for your business and who is just full of crap?

The term, “SEO”, or search engine optimization is a loosely used term.  Wed designers claim to do SEO on your website when they are designing it, social media experts will claim they are doing SEO for you when they work on your  social media campaigns, even online directories like the Yellow Pages will sell their listing to businesses as an “SEO solution”.

Are all of these offerings actually SEO?  Partially, but not really.  The search engines use hundreds of different factors in determining how a given page will rank in the search results, so only focusing on a few of these factors will likely return poor to mediocre SEO results if other factors the search engines use are not being considered.

So today we are going to discuss what SEO really is, how pricing works (at least for me), and what you should know when looking to hire for an SEO campaign.

What is SEO?

SEO is when you work on optimizing your website or web pages in the hopes to rank them high in the search engines results when someone searches for a given search term.

So how do you do this?  In a nutshell, SEO is 3 things.  I like to call it “TLC”, which is a simple explanation.

Technical – The technical part of SEO is having clean code on your website so the search engines can find things easily and your website loads nice and fast.  It is also optimizing meta data on your site (information usually only the search engines tend use) like you Title Tags, ALT Tags for images and structured data markup language.  You probably don't know what most of this stuff is, but a good SEO does and will optimize them according to the SEO strategy that has been set.Links – When another website links to your website, the search engines look at this as referral or trust signal.  The more quality the site linking to you, the more credibility

Links – When another website links to your website, the search engines look at this as referral or trust signal.  The more quality the site linking to you, the more credible your website becomes in the eyes of the search engines.  Links to your website is the #1 single biggest ranking signal the search engines use.  It is also the single hardest SEO activity to do well, which is why many people selling SEO services disregard it completely.  Links can be from blogs, the media, social media, local organizations, etc.

Content – Your written content, your blog, service and category pages, will most likely make up the bulk of your content.  But content is also video, images, PDF documents, etc.  The more content you create for your website, the more opportunities you have to rank in the search engines.  A good SEO person or agency will have a good understanding of what type of content needs to be created as part of your SEO strategy.

So the way I usually explain “TLC” is like this.  A good piece of content will give that page an opportunity to rank in the search engines.  Links will help boost that page towards the top of the search engine results and the technical aspects will make it easy for the search engines to find and index your content as well as giving your web page a boost in the rankings if you have optimized your page with proper meta data and structured data markup formatting.

And what brings all of this together is having an SEO that has experience, knows how to do research and can formulate a proper SEO strategy for your business.  Otherwise, you may spend all of your time and resources barking up the wrong tree, which happens quite often and why many people feel that SEO does not work.

How SEO is Priced

SEO can be priced in a few different ways.

Monthly Retainer – You pay a set fee each month for an SEO agency to deliver agreed upon work each month.  It usually encompasses a range of SEO activities that you have agreed upon to be delivered each month as part of your SEO strategy.  This is usually how most comprehensive SEO campaigns are priced since an SEO campaigns will likely last at least several months and involve lots of different kinds of work.  You may not start with this payment structure right away, but reserve it once you trust your SEO agency and are ready for a longer SEO campaign.

Hourly – I hate metering my time, I find it ruins the client relationship when they are always watching the clock and I am always having to keep track of time.  You find this less and less as an SEO pricing model, but some still use it, especially when it comes to SEO consulting projects.  You may choose hourly if you are brining someone in for a specific purpose and you have an idea of how long it will take to complete.

Project Based – This is when you have a specific SEO project with a start and stop date in mind already.  The price would be based on the entire project, start to finish.  Maybe you just opened a new location and need someone get it some local SEO visibility, you may agree to a customized  3-month SEO project for a set price and specific deliverables.

Contract Services – This is where an SEO agency offers a set list of deliverables for a fixed price.  An SEO agency might offer a Website Auditor Competition Analysis report, for a fixed price.  Usually these offerings are smaller parts of what would make up an SEO campaign, not a full SEO campaign.

How SEO Pricing is Determined

I can't speak for other SEO agencies, but in general, this is how I price my SEO services.

The first thing you have to understand is that you are buying time and expertise.  SEO is time-consuming, technical and tedious.  It also requires good strategy as it is easy to waste a lot of time and money if you are focusing on the wrong things.

These things are taken into consideration when it comes to pricing SEO.

Your Market – Are you looking to compete worldwide, an entire country or just a region/city?  Is it a major city like New York or Toronto or a smaller one?  There will be big differences in competition and the work involved depending on what market you are looking to compete in.

Your Goals – What are you looking to improve?  Specific products or service offerings or are you looking to improve everything?  You may have 10 different services you want to rank #1 for but only have a budget to optimize 1-2 of them.  SEO involves optimizing individual pages on your site, not just your website as a whole.  So when you say you need SEO, you have to think in more specific in terms than your website as a whole.  An ecommerce store might focus on certain product categories or a law firm may focus on specific legal services they offer.

Your Competition and Your Website – How well are your competitors doing from an SEO perspective?  If they have been optimizing their websites for several years and you are just starting out, it will require a much larger budget than if you were all starting out brand new.  Think of it like a race.  If your competitors started a marathon and are running a 10-minute mile and you start 2 hours after them, how long will it take to catch up to them if you are running a 10-minute mile as well?  Or worse, a 12-minute mile?  Exactly.  So if your competitors have been doing SEO for 2 years now and spend 3K a month with a quality SEO agency, your 1K budget may not get you very far.  You may have to scale down your ambitions so that 1K a month can get you results.

Your Industry – Some industries are much more competitive than others.  If you are in the finance or legal industries, competition is fierce and you will usually have to pay top dollar for quality results.  Everything is in relation to your competitors and how your website stacks up against them.  Some industries spend lots of money on SEO in general, while others may not.

Pricing Examples

These are just some examples based on previous projects and speaking to business owners who pay for SEO services.

Plumbers – A plumber in Toronto might pay 3-4K a month for local SEO while a plumber in Columbia, SC might only pay 1K a month because the city is much smaller and with less competition.

Mortgage Brokerage – A national mortgage brokerage might pay 12-20K a month for SEO services for a nationwide campaign while a local mortgage broker in Boise, ID might pay 2K a month for that city.

Physical Therapy Clinic  – In NYC, you may be paying 2-3K a month for SEO services but 1-1.5K a month in a smaller city like Providence, RI.

These are just some examples, but you can see that industry and the size of your market play a role in costs.  SEO agencies also have different pricing structures, so you may have to get a few quotes to get an idea on pricing, just be sure the deliverables are similar.

Some Questions to Ask

What exactly do you plan to deliver as part of the SEO campaign and can you show me examples of your work?

This will give you idea of what type of work they will be delivering and give you a chance to ask questions you may not have thought of. Ask to see an example of a monthly report if possible.  Will they be doing link building?  Will they be creating content for your site or will you?  Will they be fixing the technical issues on your site?  Find out exactly what they will be doing as part of their SEO services.

Who will be working on my SEO campaign?

While they may not be able to tell you the exact person who will be handling your account, you should get an idea of how they structure their SEO operations and will give you an idea if entry level hires (and sometimes interns) will be working on your account, or more seasoned SEO veterans.  This usually has to due with the size of the SEO agency you hire as well as your budget.  A small monthly budget with a larger agency usually means you will be stuck working with a new hire that knows little more about SEO than you do.

What will communications and reporting be like?

Will you receive a monthly report with little insight or will there be monthly or quarterly phone calls to discuss strategy?  Communication is a big issue and one of the main reasons people become dissatisfied with their SEO agency.  If you are having trouble with communications before you sign on, it may not get any better after.

What will success look like?

You should agree on what metrics will be used to determine the success of the SEO campaign.  It might be organic traffic growth, keyword rankings, or a combination of user metrics and rankings.  Just have an idea so you can monitor progress.

Things To Keep In Mind

Seo takes time.  It is not like paying for advertising, you most likely will not see immediate results, but when the results do come, they will be long lasting.  If you decide to invest in SEO, you need to commit for a minimum of 6 months, but 12-24 months realistically.  SEO is a long term strategy that can bring long-term results.

SEO is not cheap.  You pay a pretty penny for good SEO because it can return some serious ROI once it gets going.  The cheapest option is almost never the best option.  If you are planning on spending $200 a month on SEO, do yourself a favor and spend that $200 on a fancy date with your spouse or loved one, you'll get a much better ROI on your money than paying for garbage SEO services.

SEO is not a mystery.  It's not rocket science, but it is doing a lot of little things right on a consistent basis.  Make sure whoever you work with isn't a one trick SEO pony that only does social media or only writes content, these are components of SEO, but it is not SEO.

 

Still have questions about SEO?  Contact me here.

Crush Your Competition by Exploiting the Arbitrage in Your Industry

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Marketing Arbitrage

Are the businesses in your industry using all marketing options available to them to their full potential?

The answer is no.  And in many industries, the answer is, “not even close”.

If you take the time to study your industry and your competitors, you will find that there are numerous examples of marketing arbitrage ready for you to exploit.

What is Arbitrage?

Arbitrage is a term traditionally used with financial instruments like commodities and stocks.  There are sometimes differences in the price someone is willing to pay for a financial instrument and what people are selling them for. Arbitrage is the exploiting of this middle price area where you simultaneously buy and sell that financial instrument and make a profit off of the price difference between the two.

You use arbitrage all the time.  A simple example is going to a garage sale where you see an antique table selling for $10.  You know it is worth more, so you buy it and then resell that table on Ebay for $50.  You took advantage of the arbitrage in what the table was selling for and what it was actually worth.  In this case you made a cool $40 because you were able to spot the arbitrage where no one else was.

If you are in a service industry like mortgage brokers, real estate agents, cleaning companies, you probably know of several companies offering to sell leads to you for a price.  These companies are already taking advantage of the marketing arbitrage in your industry.  In this case, they know they can get a lead at a certian price and then sell it to you for a much higher price.

So now that you understand what arbitrage is, do you see how this can be applied to marketing?

Marketing Arbitrage

Marketing legend, Jay Abraham, was the one who introduced me to the concept of looking for marketing arbitrage opportunities.

I'm primarily an internet marketer, that is what I sell and where I spend most of my time.  But I also own another business where we spend plenty of time and money on traditional marketing so finding marketing arbitrage opportunities is not just for online marketing.

You can find marketing arbitrage opportunities in many areas, like where businesses are marketing, how they package/position their product or bringing ideas from another industry into yours.

Finding the  Arbitrage in Your Industry

In some industries, marketing arbitrage is easy to spot.  Many traditional industries are still stuck in the stone age,  thinking that a Yellow Pages ad or a roadside billboard places you in on the cutting edge of marketing.

Lawyers, especially older firms, are an example of an industry still living in the past.  I personally know of two lawyers who have been paying for Yellow Pages ads for over 25 years just because that is what they have always done.  Neither of them have a website.  Yes, no website.

Car dealers still spend the vast majority of their advertising budget on billboards and newspaper ads.  They still go with the outdated  motto of, “people are coming through the door and buying cars so it must be working”.  What a waste of money and what an opportunity for the car dealer down the street who is ready to venture into new marketing territory and to think differently from their dinosaur peers.

On the flip side, you have many internet first companies spending 100% of their resources with online marketing, which is why you are seeing some internet companies starting to use more traditional methods of advertising, they are looking for areas of opportunity in their industry that are not being exploited.

While many of the arbitrage opportunities we are speaking about revolve around marketing, you can find opportunities in the actual product/service, technology and how you deliver your product/service.

If you want to spot the opportunities, then you need to study what your industry and competitors are doing to market themselves.  Search online, subscribe to competitor newsletters, buy the local papers and look through the ads.  Buy their products, call their companies, let their sales reps give their pitch to you (or a friend) You need to know what your competitors are doing (or not doing) before you can find the arbitrage and exploit it.

Some questions to ask.

  • Where are they spending their time and marketing dollars?
  • Who are the innovators in my industry and what are they doing differently?
  • Who really impresses you with their marketing?
  • What was the last big change or innovation in your industry?
  • Are the businesses in your industry marketing the same way they did 10 years ago?

What you will usually find is that there are a handful of first movers who are always on the front line of news things, some do it very well and some are still trying to figure it out.  The majority of your competitors though are still stuck in the status quo, going along with everyone else like a school of guppies.

Some industries innovate faster than others, but many are just waiting for someone to come along and turn the industry upside down.  In your case, you don't have to turn your entire industry upside down (unless you want to), just your local market.

Examples

Diamond Candles

Candle making is thousands of years old.  It's an industry, for the most part, that has been left unchanged aside from new scents and candle shapes.  Unless you sell bulk, it doesn't really make sense to sell online since anyone can go their neighborhood box or dollar store and buy a candle.

Diamond Candles came in and turned the candle industry on its head.  And they did it with no budget, no prior experience in candle making and no connections in the candle industry.  I believe last year, they had revenues of over 20 million dollars selling candles online and they have only been in business a few years.

So what did they do differently?  

They looked at a complacent industry and looked for ways to bring innovation to it.  They used the classic “combining” creativity technique and brought together two industries.  Candles and jewelry.  Every candle has a ring inside it, with some of them having a diamond ring inside it.  So when you purchase a candle from them, you get the suspense of waiting to see if there is a diamond ring waiting at the end of your candle.  People have gone nuts of this concept and has spawned dozens of copycats and variations on this concept to the candle industry.

If you want to learn more about the creative technique of “Combining” along with dozens of other creativity exercises, read the book, “Thinkertoys”, by Michael Michalko.  It is the best book I have found on creativity.

Uber

The Taxi and Limousine Commission has left the taxi industry virtually unchanged in 50 years.  They still use the same radios, pricing system and equipment they have always used, despite numerous opportunities to bring innovation into their industry.

Along comes Uber, who said, “people getting frustrated not being able to hail a cab, yet there are thousands of people driving around in their cars who would love to make some extra money”.

So what did they do differently?

They combined technology and an untapped workforce to democratize the taxi industry, allowing just about anyone to make some extra money whenever they feel like it.  They also made a lot of enemies and pissed a lot of people off along the way, but like it or not, that's how you innovate.

Is your industry underutilizing technology or other resources that you can exploit?  I bet if you do an hour of brainstorming you will find at least one gold nugget on your list of ideas.

Similar to Uber, Airbnb has disrupted the hotel industry and has turned anyone with a rental property or a spare bedroom into a hotelier.

Some Arbitrage Ideas For You

There are hundreds of opportunities waiting for you, but below are some ideas and examples to get you started.

Online Marketing

I have a client who uses Google Adwords for their Pay Per Click marketing.  Problem is that virtually all of their competitors are on Google Adwords, with a single click costing over $20.  But when it comes to Facebook Ads, there is only one other competitor on there, leaving the entire platform wide open for us to dominate it and at a fraction of the cost of Google Adwords.

Look for online marketing opportunities in your industry that your competitors are ignoring or don't really understand.  This could be SEO, paid advertising or email marketing, the point is to look for the gaps and opportunities you can leverage.

Sales

Are your competitors only using outbound sales practices like cold calling, door knocking, email marketing?  If they are not using inbound marketing strategies then that is a golden opportunity for you to leverage your expertise to become the thought leader in your industry.  Think of Dr. Sears for pediatrics or Seth Godin for marketing.

On the flip side, if everyone is focusing on creating content and waiting for the leads to come to them, go out and initiate some outbound sales practices and account based marketing for your business.  The key is, if the norm in your industry is to do “X”, then go and try “Y”.

Product/Service Innovation

If you offer a service, look at productizing some of your offerings.  If you have a product or service, think about how you can bring a product or idea from another industry and apply it to yours, just like Diamond Candles did.

Create value propositions that will make your competitors too scared to match.  An unconditional money back guarantee is something most businesses are afraid to offer, but can increase sales by 10x.  The truth is, and why most retailers like Amazon offer them, is that the rate of return is minuscule compared to the increased revenue they get by doing something others are afraid to do.

If you want to listen to how it's done from an expert, click here to listen to Tony Robbins interview Jay Abraham.

If the standard warranty for you industry is 1 year, make yours 5.  You've seen this in the auto industry over the last few years where standard 3-year warranties have become 10-year bumper to bumper warranties.

If people come to your business, then go to their homes.  If your product comes in a certain size, offer more sizes.  Use healthier ingredients in your products or just offer more of it at the same price as your competitors.  Start a generous loyalty program or awesome value adds with every purchase.  The thing is to look at what your competition is not doing, or doing poorly, and leverage it to your advantage.

Partnerships

Make strategic partnerships in your community.  Other businesses, non-profits and local government are all ways to stand out from your competitors.  Most of your competitors probably don't have the time to do this kind of business development, but strategic partnerships can not only grow your business, they can also give you leverage in your community that your competitors can't easily copy.

Find the arbitrage opportunities in your industry

Now that you know what arbitrage is, examples of how other companies used it and some ideas to get you started, where is the arbitrage in your industry and how will you take advantage of it?

The Business Owners Guide To Local SEO

 

According to a recent study by BIA/Kelsey, nearly all consumers (97 percent) now go online when researching products or services in their local area.

The question is if they search for what you sell, will they find you?

You can't be in the running if you aren't in the race.  And the local SEO market is a pretty big race.

With the advent of Google My Business (formerly Google Places) and the introduction of the local SERPS (Search Engine Results Page), Google has made a move to local in a big way.  Why did they do this?  Because they realized that most searches conducted online have a local intent, meaning people are looking for something close to their geographic area.  It makes sense, if you're searching for “Pizza” and you live in Charlotte, what good would a pizza joint in Denver do for you?

 

So how does local SEO benefit local business owners?

In a big way.  In the past, you were competing with a very large pool of competitors, whether they were located down the street, or across the country from you.  Now, if a search occurs that has local intent such as “Cupcakes in Charlotte”, or “Cupcake shops near me”, Google will not only try and localize the results for the searcher, they will display a listing of Google My Business pages along with an area map. Not only that but with location technology, especially on mobile, even if you search for “Cupcake Shops”, Google will assume you mean cupcake shops near you and will return local search results for your area.

Your free Google Plus Business page has effectively leapfrogged ahead of dozens of businesses, some of which have spent quite a bit of time and money trying to climb the search engine rankings.

This levels the playing field with you, the small business with a small budget, versus big business, with very deep pockets and resources.  Is your business taking advantage of this?

If you're ready to put in some time and effort to improve your search rankings in your local market, below are some of the most important things to get you started in the right direction.  While this isn't a complete list, if you do these things, and do them well, you should be able to see some marked improvement in your rankings.

While this isn't a complete list, if you do these things, and do them well, you should be able to see some marked improvement in your rankings.

 

Optimize Your Website

Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP)

There are some simple things you can do to your website that can have a big impact in how the search engines view your site.  If you're a local business, you want to make it clear that you're a local business.  You do this by including your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) prominently on your website.  This is not only beneficial to your visitors, it helps the search engines determine your geographic location and the local market your serve.  In addition to placing your NAP on your contact page, consider placing it in the footer area of your website so it appears on all of your pages.

Website Title

What's the title of your website?  You can see the title of a site quickly by looking at the browser tab on which the website is opened.  Most of the time, people will use the name of their business.  While this is ok, what's really effective is when you name the title of your website to what you actually sell, or what service you provide.  Adding your city or town name in the title is also very effective in “localizing” your website.

If you're a gluten-free bake shop in Charlotte, instead of making the title of your website, “Annie's Bake Shop Inc”, consider naming it, “Gluten Free bakery in Charlotte”.  You can add your business name at the end if you like, “Gluten Free Cupcakes Atlanta | Your Business Name”

Homepage Title Tag Example Local SEO

Create Localized Content

Create content on your website that is localized to your area.  It will send clear signals to the search engines that your site is about a particular area and it will also be more relevant to your readers.  For example, if you were a real estate agent, instead of blogging about generic real estate tips, talk about:

  • The best neighborhoods in your area for families, singles, retired people, etc
  • New construction projects in your area
  • Interview local businesses and government officials for your blog

Create a theme on your site around what your business does and what area it serves.  Become a local resource for your industry, people will respond better when the content is personalized to their specific area.

 

Google My Business and Bing Places Pages

Creating your local business pages on Google My Business and Bing Places will give you an additional web property other than your website to rank in the local search engine results.  For local results, the local listing (also knows as the map listing) sits above the organic search listings.

Why not have one horse in the race when you can have two?  Better yet, as you can see in the example below of one of my clients, they are listed 3 times in the search results (Google Adwords is the one at the top) in the search results for almost every search term important to their business.

Make sure these listings are filled out 100% completely with accurate information and that your business category is correct.

Local SEO Listing Example

Customer Reviews

Customer reviews play a big role in local SEO, both from a search engine standpoint and from a customer standpoint.  Almost everyone checks out reviews before buying a product or service these days.

Google has it's own review system that is shown in the local search results.  You will see the 5-star rating system under a business (the 5-star system does not become active until you have at least 5 reviews) and Google also pulls in reviews from third party sites.  The 3rd party review sites that Google uses depends on your location and industry.

Examples of Local SEO Google 5 Star Rating System

Here is a good article explaining how to find good review sites for your business.

 

Citations

Citations are mentions of your business across the web.  These mentions may or may not be active links back to your website.  The reason Google makes citations a factor in local search is that they realize that Joe's Pizza may be the best pizza in the city, but Joe is not very good at SEO or link building.  So they include citations, or mentions, of Joe's Pizza as a ranking factor.

Citations are broken down into two categories, structured and unstructured citations.

Structured Citations

These are citations where the information or organized in a set format.  Your business listing on Yelp or the Yellow Pages is an example of a structured citation.  Great sources of structured citations are online directories that service your city or industry as well as review sites like Yelp, Angie's List, and Foursquare.

Unstructured Citations

These are mentions of your business in an unorganized format.  Think of a local newspaper or blog mentioning your business in an article or on social media where people are talking about your business.  Getting interviewed by the local media, getting a lot of social media attention, and guest posting on other blogs are all great sources of unstructured citations.

When you are getting citations for you business, it is very important to keep your Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) consistent across the web.  The NAP you have on your website should be the same anytime you create a new citation.  If you website has your as “Joes Pizza”, don't start creating citations that refer to you as “Joes Famous Pizza”, “Joes Pizzeria”, “Joes Pizza LLC”, all of these variations causes confusion with the search engines (and people trying o find you) and can lead to you missing out on the credit for those citations.

 

Links To Your Website

In traditional SEO, links play a huge part in how your rank in the search engine results (SERPS).  While not as critical in local SEO, they still play a role.

Many links will come naturally as you get citations for your business, but there are other great local sources for you to find links for your website.  Many local associations and businesses will gladly add you to their site if you help them as well.

  • Sponsor a local sports team or youth league
  • Join the Chamber of Commerce or other local civic associations
  • Sponsor a contest for a local blogger
  • Other local businesses
  • Host a contest and let the media/bloggers know about it
  • Trade associations and suppliers

As you can see, even if you know nothing about link building, if you get yourself out there it's not that hard to get some links back to your website.

 

It's Not Rocket Science

As you can see, doing local SEO isn't a big mystery.  Yes, it's tedious and you need to be organized and methodical in how you approach it, but it's within the reach of every business owner.  So go out there and start getting some local rankings and watch what some good local SEO can do for your business.

How To Develop a Digital Marketing Strategy For Your Business

 

Do you have a digital marketing strategy in place for your business or are you still trying to figure out how to make this whole online marketing thing work?

A digital marketing strategy is more than being active on social media or running Facebook ads, it's about creating a layered and comprehensive online marketing strategy suited for your business that is aligned with your business goals.

Do you ever feel like you're spinning your wheels online?  Do you try one online tactic (because an “expert” said you had to do it) after another with little results?  Do you have a game plan?

Most businesses run their online marketing campaigns in silos.  They run a Facebook ad campaign here, send out a newsletter there, and have someone write some blog articles hoping that will “SEO” them to the top of the search engines.

Wrong.

While you may find some success with each of these tactics, these are just that, tactics.  All of your marketing should have a purpose along with a predefined outcome.  All of your different marketing strategies should be working in unison with each other to create that layered, comprehensive digital marketing strategy that will generate regular leads for your business.

Digital Marketing Strategy Map

Developing a Digital Marketing Strategy

A digital marketing strategy is when you have a clear picture of what your goals are, who your audience is and how you are going to reach them.

It's a layered approach where you use several different online mediums to reach your ideal customer.  It's knowing what messaging you should use for each medium and understanding where each of these potential customers are in the buying cycle.

It's understanding what value you need to offer potential customers at all stages of the buying cycle to keep them interested, engaged and eventually, ready to become your customer.

A proper digital marketing strategy will keep the top, middle and bottom of your sales funnel so full that your sales team will fall in love with you.

Who is your audience?

The first thing you need to be clear on is who your audience is.  You may have several different types of customers and will need to create profiles for each of them.  This is important because knowing who your potential customers are will determine what mediums you will use to reach them, which we will discuss below.

How will you reach them?

Once you know who you are targeting you will need to determine to best place to reach them.  Are they on Facebook?  Do they use Pinterest?  Are they actively searching online for a product/service like yours?  Asking and answering these types of questions will help you determine where you should be spending your time and money.

There are so many opportunities to reach your audience online it's scary.  Social Media alone offers dozens of different platforms and advertising options.  You want to take a layered approach so you can reach your audience across different channels as well as reaching them at different stages of the buying cycle.

Putting Together a Digital Marketing Strategy

The options listed below all have a single thing in common, your website.  When it comes to the online space, your website is the only property you fully own.  It's where you can create the perfect environment to convert interested visitors into customers.  Pretty much all of the channels below will involve sending people back to your website, where you will have landing pages setup that have specific messages and offers for each of your different customer types.

A great digital marketing strategy will draw traffic from a wide variety of sources.  It will use a mix of Search Engine Optimization, paid advertising and email marketing that will draw generate leads in all stages of your sales funnel.

A typical sales funnel will look something like this:

Digital Marketing Strategy Sales Funnel

SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will provide you with some of the best ROI out of all your marketing strategies, if well executed.  The reason  most businesses don't go this route is that it can take several months of work before you start to see returns on your investment.  And most businesses have been burned in the past by some company making “first page of Google” promises that they couldn't deliver on, leaving people sour on the idea of doing SEO.

The best thing about SEO is if you target the right search terms and can get good rankings for them, it will deliver traffic and leads month after month, long after you have paid for the initial work.

A good SEO strategy can cover all part so your sales funnel.  You can target people just starting the buying journey with Q&A questions and product reviews, as well as end of funnel people who are looking for specific products/models to buy.

Local SEO

Local SEO, is similar to traditional SEO, it concentrates on a specific geographic area and places a focus not only on your website's organic rankings, but also on 3rd party sites as well to drive leads.  Google My Business, Bing Places, online review sites and directories are examples of 3rd party websites where you can optimize you presence and generate traffic for your website.

A solid SEO/Local SEO strategy can typically get you listed twice on the first page of Google, one for your local listing (AKA the map listing), as well as your traditional organic search ranking.

Social Media

Social media has become a core marketing strategy for many businesses though most have yet to figure out how to generate paying customers with it.  Social media has two components, the organic use of social media and the paid advertising opportunities.

Using social media organically to grow your following to generate leads is still an option, though the platforms like Facebook are making it harder and harder for businesses to grow organically.  It can also be time-consuming as you typically need to keep a constant presence in order to gain traction and visibility.  Organic growth is still viable, but some paid advertising layered on top is what usually what makes it work for most businesses.

Paid advertising on social media is probably where the biggest opportunities lie, especially with Facebook.  The types of targeting available with Facebook Ads is unmatched on any other platform.  LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter all have their own advertising options as well and has made social media an awesome place to spend your advertising dollars where you can reach highly targeted audiences.

Pay Per Click Advertising

Google Adwords is the king of pay per click advertising, where you only pay when someone clicks on your ad.  Facebook also offers pay per click advertising and is quickly becoming a favorite among advertisers.  With pay per click advertising, you can serve ads to individuals based on what they search for (typically how Google Adwords serves them) as well as demographic, behavior and interest targeting (how Facebook targeting works).  It's basically the opposite of traditional advertising where you send a single message to a mass of people, hoping someone might be interested.  With pay per click advertising, you can create specific messaging and offers based on the type of user you are targeting or what they typed into the search engines.

Pay per click advertising works great alongside an SEO strategy as it allows you to “fill in the gaps” where you are not getting organic rankings for certain search terms.  Google has also been giving paid ads more and more visibility in the search results, at the expense of organic search listing.

Remarketing

Remarketing is when the ad platform you are using (Facebook, Google Adwords, etc) drops a tracking cookie on someone device when they visit your website.  With this tracking cookie in place, you can now advertise to them after they leave your website. In the case of Facebook, you can now serve ads to them on Facebook and partner sites of theirs.  With Google Adwords, you can advertise to them on thousands of Google partner sites.

In the case of Facebook, you can now serve ads to them on Facebook and partner sites of theirs.  With Google Adwords, you can advertise to them on thousands of Google partner sites, giving advertisers a very wide reach in serving remarketing ads.  Ads can be in the form of image banners, text ads, video ads and various Facebook ads and post types for Facebook remarketing.

Remarketing will reach a smaller audience, only people who have visited your website, but typically returns a high ROI compared to other advertising options.  Remarketing works great for products/services where people are comparison shopping or where the sale is more complex and requires a longer sales cycle.

Display and Video Advertising

Google Display Network (part of Google Adwords) is the biggest platform for image banner and video marketing and has thousands of partner sites where you can serve ads based on demographics, interests, and behaviors.  Facebook is also becoming a great pace for video advertising.

Think of display banners as tiny billboards, except you have the ability t show your ads to highly relevant people instead of anyone and everyone, like a typical roadside billboard.  While not as targeted as Pay Per Click advertising, it can give you a wide reach with a targeted audience.  Think of it as the middle ground  between pay per click ads and traditional mass advertising.

Mobile Marketing

More people search the internet now from their phones rather than a computer.  The crazy part is that many businesses do not have a mobile-friendly website, let alone doing any sort of mobile-specific advertising.  Yes, by not having a mobile strategy in place, you are immediately giving up on half the people on the internet.

If you're a local business or a brand with multiple store locations, mobile is a goldmine for marketing, especially with Local SEO and in the advertising space.

Imagine have a storefront and serving ads to people as they walk down your street.  Yes, you can do that with Facebook proximity ads.  Someone is driving home from work and needs to order a pizza from the car, a mobile Call Only ad with Google Adwords or a high ranking local listing is perfect for getting in front of them at just the right time.

If you do not have a mobile friendly website, that is where you probably need to start if you want to develop a mobile marketing strategy.

Email Marketing

Most online retailers, when asked what is the one marketing channel that delivers the best ROI for them, will answer email marketing.  Building an email list can be one of the most profitable things you can do for your business.  Where else can you communicate with thousands of customers and potential customers at will for $25-$75 bucks a month using email marketing software?

Many people abandoned email marketing as social media gained prominence, despite that fact that study after study concludes that email marketing returns a far higher ROI than social media.  Go figure.

 

Getting started with a digital marketing strategy

Do you need to do everything above in order to create a great online marketing strategy?  No, you don't.  What you want to do is select the right marketing mix in order to reach you audience through different mediums and across marketing channels.

Creating a layered marketing approach with a purpose will ensure that you reach the right audience, at the right time and with the right message.

5 Easy Things Every Business Can Do To Increase Conversions On Their Website

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Having trouble getting website visitors to convert into leads for your business?

Join the club.

The majority of small business websites do a terrible job at creating a compelling website experience where people become engaged and will want to take action.

Most of the time they simply don't ask people to take action or they fail to make it clear what actions people are supposed to take.

Here's a test for you.  When someone visits your website, if you could have them take any one action on your website, what would it be?  Now look at your website, is that action crystal clear to people that visit your website?  Is your website set up to move people towards that conversion action?

If not, then you need to think about the end result you're looking for people to take on your site and start creating your website experience to support it.

Below are five relatively easy, but powerful changes you can make on your website to start turning it into a lead generating machine for your business.

Create a Powerful Value Proposition

A value proposition is a statement telling visitors what value you can bring them if they do business with you.  When people land on your website, the first thing (the only thing actually) they want to know is, how is this business going to help me and make my life better?

Value Porposition Example

A value proposition is not a catchy headline or a self-gratifying statement ( we are #1 in sales), it is a value based message, letting people know what they stand to gain if they decide to do business with you.  It can be a combination of your headline, supporting statement and value based bullet points letting people know all of the value your are ready to give them.

Evernote Value Proposition Example

You can read more about value propositions and how to create them here.

You can read this for help on writing a great value proposition.

Make an Offer They Can't Refuse

The easiest way to create more conversions is to make an offer where people are thinking, “Hell, Yeah!”  Create an irresistible offer where the benefits far outway the costs of choosing your business over any other.  How do you do this?

  • Make it very clear the end result the customer will receive
  • Take away the risk of this type of purchase
  • Make the benefits far outway the risks of choosing you
  • Make it a no brainer

 

Examples Great Offer

So what are some things you can offer?

  • No questions asked, money back guarantee or a double your money back.
  • Lifetime warranty, or warranty far longer than your competitors
  • Extended free trial period
  • A value-add that has a large perceived value to a customer but low cost to you
  • Get a second product or service free with purchase
  • Free training or free resource access with purchase

These are just some examples, but you get the point.

Ebay Money Back Guarantee

Look at what your competitors are offering and then make an offer that puts them to shame.  Afraid to offer a money back guarantee or rock solid warranty?  If you deliver what you promise, the vast majority of people will never take you up on your offers, but will feel comforted knowing they are there when they make the purchase.  Even if you do have a few people that want a refund or call you on your warranty, the increase in business you get by putting yourself out there will far outway the occasional person who wants a refund.

And if you do have a lot of people wanting refunds or requesting multiple warranty calls?  Then stop what you are doing and go fix your business because it's broken.

Want to learn how to create irresistible offers?  Learn from the best.  You can also read more about creating irresistible offers here.

Place a Contact Form and Call To Action Right On The Homepage

Turn your homepage into a conversion-centric landing page.  Too many business websites bury their contact form in a single place, their Contact Us page.  Why are you making it so hard for people to contact you?  Make it easy for people to contact you by placing contact forms throughout your website, along with strong calls to action.

Example Small Business With Call To Action

And if you can't place the form on your homepage, then at least have a call to action and a button that will direct people to your contact page or to take some sort of action that will move them closer to contacting you.

The two easiest places to add a contact form is right on your homepage as well as all of your secondary pages, which usually has some sort of sidebar waiting for you to add some value to it.

Example Website With Contact Form on Sidebar

One mistake many website owners make is to assume everyone is starting their visit on the home page.  If you have a lot of pages on your site, especially if you have a blog, then many visitors will be starting on a page other than your homepage.  So what do you need to do?  Look at every page on your website and make sure each page has everything people need to know about your business and an easy way to contact you.  Essentially, every page on your website is a landing page.

Add Testimonials and Social Proof

If people are coming to your website from an ad or an organic search, chances are they do not know you or your business.  They don't about your high level of integrity or the awards you have won over the years, you need to let them know that it is safe for them to trust you.  How do you do this?  By adding trust and credibility elements to your website such as:

  • Customer reviews and testimonials
  • Links to 3rd party review sites
  • Trade associations you belong to
  • Industry awards you have won in the past
  • Media outlets that have interviewed you

 

Landing Page with Customer Reviews

Let people know that is safe for them to trust you.  Most of the time businesses bury their testimonials on a dedicated testimonial page…..that is not very effective because you are assuming every visitor to your website will visit that page.  If you look at your Google Analytics, you will see that is not the case.  Best practice is to spread out your testimonials, customer reviews, awards, etc across you entire site, especially important pages like the homepage and your service pages.

Man Packs Landing Page Example

Learn more about the power of social proof here.

Get Clear With Your Copywriting

Copywriting.  While the design and images on your website will get people's attention, it's the words on the page that will turn them into leads.  Don't be wishy-washy with your copy.  Good copywriting for a business website should be clear, specific and value based, so the reader knows exactly what benefits and outcomes they will be getting by doing business with you.

Your website should talk about 3 things:

  • The features of your product/service (size, ease of use, technical details, etc)
  • The benefits people will receive by using it (how using it will help them)
  • The outcomes people will have by using it (How their life will be improved by using it)

Unfortunately, most businesses never get past the features, which is the weakest part of the value chain here.  People want to know the benefits they will receive, and more importantly, the outcomes.

Here's an example using an Apple iPod Touch.

Features

  • Comes in 5 colors
  • 8 megapixel camera
  • 32 megabytes of storage

Benefits

  • Bring you entire music library with you wherever you go
  • Take stunning pictures while on vacation
  • Enjoy hi-definition stereo sound for a full music experience

Outcomes

  • Capture precious family moments anytime the moment strikes
  • Relax while listening to your favorite music in hi-definition, you'll feel like you're at the concert
  • Create customized playlists, to push you through that last grueling mile on training day

If you want to create powerful words on your site that will engage readers, focus on the benefits and outcomes your product/service can offer.

You can read more about creating great copy for your website here.

Start getting more conversions on your website

If you do the above 5 things for your website, you will be ahead of 99% of all other business websites on the internet.  Think about that, not just your competitors, but all business websites.  Start a plan today to start turning your website into the lead generating machine you always dreamed it would be.

10 Reasons Online Marketing Is Smarter Than Traditional Marketing

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Online Marketing Outperforms Traditional Marketing

Is traditional marketing dead?  Sort of.

There will always be a place for traditional marketing such as direct mailers, newspaper ads, etc……but using traditional marketing as your only source of marketing is as dead as the companies that continue to stubbornly refuse to embrace the internet.

It's like being alive in 1925 and still thinking automobiles are just a fad.

Proves ROI for Your Marketing Dollars

Online marketing, especially when using Marketing Automation, will let you track a user from the moment they click on a specific marketing campaign you are running……..all the way until they become a paying customer.  Sometimes this will all happen in a matter of minutes, other times it will happen in a matter of months.  It gives you a clear picture of how your online marketing campaigns are impacting your revenue.

When you run a television commercial or a radio spot, how do you prove ROI?  If you're like most business owners, you hope for an uptick in business following the ad campaign and attribute any additional business to that campaign.  If you have a direct marketing mindset, you may include channel specific offer codes, which will give you, at least something you can track

But what if you have an extended sales cycle?  How do you trace a sale today back to a specific television ad you ran 6 months ago?  You can't.   With online marketing, you can.

71% of companies planned to increase their digital marketing budgets this year – Webbiquity (2015)

Better Matches Consumer Behavior

Traditional marketing is also known as interruption marketing.  Just when somebody is very engaged in an activity, like reading an article or watching a TV show, you “interrupt” them with your ad, which they often find non-relevant and annoying.  Consumers today are very savvy, they do not want to me marketed to, they want you to be there when they are ready to see what you have to offer.

Seth Godin Death of Traditional Marketing

Well run online marketing campaigns place your business in front of a consumer at the moment they show interest in what you have to offer.  They are the most engaged at this time and offers you the perfect opportunity to introduce them to your brand and the value you can bring to them.

Online marketing allows you to reach consumers when they show signs of buying and the most open to your marketing messages.

Adults 50 years old and above represent the Web's largest constituency, comprising one-third of the total 195.3 million Internet users in the U.S. – Abobe CMO 2014

More Cost Effective

Two things make online marketing very cost effective compared to traditional marketing.

Search Engine Optimization.  90+% of consumers do research online before making a purchase.  Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a marketing method where you get your website ranked high in the search engine results.  Once you get your rankings, you do not have to pay each time someone clicks and visits your website.  A quality SEO campaign can produce tens of thousands of visitors each month to your website for free.  It's like paying for a television commercial once and then having it run free of charge for the next 3 years.

Targeted Marketing.  Would you rather pay for a magazine ad based (and priced) on it reaching 50K people, but only 100 of them may be interested in what you have to offer, or would you rather just pay to market to those 100 interested people?  That's the difference in spending $300 on a targeted online ad campaign vs paying thousands of dollars for a mass advertising campaign that reaches the same amount of interested people.

SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate. – Search Engine Journal

Deep Segmentation

With mass advertising, you create a single marketing message for everyone.  Not really an effective strategy.  People buy your products for different reasons, online marketing allows you to create different marketing messaging for each of your different customer segments.  Why highlight how cost effective you are to your wealthier customer segment who are more interested in your higher end features?

Online marketing allows you, all the way down to a one on one level, to communicate with your customers with the benefits they find most valuable.  This type of marketing segmentation creates more relevant marketing communications and higher conversion rates.

60% of all Internet activity in the US originates from mobile devices and about half of total Internet Traffic flows through mobile apps. – CMOcouncil.org

Real Time Results

A good marketing strategy isn't something you create once, it's something that is continually improved upon over time.  Online marketing allows you to see the results of your campaign in real-time, allowing you to make changes on the fly based on the data coming in. If you see something working very well, you can double down on your winner and drop your losers without having to wait until your entire ad budget is gone.

With mass advertising, television ads and direct mailers, you have to try and get it right the first time as there are no changes once production starts.  Online marketing allows you to be nimble, making changes as you go so everything isn't riding on getting it right the first time.

72% of marketers think branded content is more effective than advertising in a magazine; 69% say it is superior to direct mail and PR. – NewsCred (2014)

Campaign Testing and Optimization

One fo the greatest benefits of online marketing is having access to a wealth of data, helping you make smarter marketing decisions.  Testing your marketing campaigns, using multiple variables, can help you determine the right message that resonates with your potential customers.

Split testing, also known as A/B testing, allows you to test different headlines, offers and designs to see which ones consumers are responding to (and which ones are turning into revenue).  These side by side, real-time comparisons allows you to make decisions faster and save you from wasting money on poor performing ads.  The nice part is that they are run simultaneously, on the same audience, so there is little bias in the results.   It would be like running two newspaper ads side by side at the same time to see which one people respond better to and dropping the poorer performing one without having to pay for it.

Content marketing in 2015 generates 3 times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing, but costs 62% less – Hubspot

Wider Reach

Most traditional advertising options are local or regional in nature, unless you are a major brand and can pay for nationwide coverage.  So you have to pick and choose your markets. With online advertising, you can segment locations all the way from the entire country (or planet), down to a specific neighborhood in a city. You can choose specific cities across the country or even specific neighborhoods in each city.

This slicing and dicing of where you want to advertise allows you to advertise only in the areas that will give you the most bang for your buck, without the waste.  It's like being able to choose only the cable channels you want to watch, instead of paying for a bundle with hundreds of useless cable channels.

Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. – The Annuitas Group

Better Targeting Options

With traditional advertising, you will usually get vague, generic demographic data like gender, age and income information from the media outlets selling these ads.  While it gives you a general idea of who is reading or watching, it doesn't necessarily give you detailed information or signs of interest or buying intent.

Two things you can do with online advertising that you can't do with traditional advertising:

  • You can run Pay Per Click ads, where you only pay whens someone searches for what you are offering and then clicks on your ad, which leads them to your website.  This is advertising based on buyer intent (I want to buy), which is what the entire Amazon.com platform is built on, people searching to buy stuff.
  • You can create highly targeted ad campaigns based on demographics, interests and behaviors. Facebook is the king fo this so I will use them as an example.  With Facebook, I can run a specific ad campaign (I'm a motorcycle dealer) that targets males aged 40-55, that live in Charlotte, NC that are belong to one or more motorcycle member groups and have purchased a motorcycle in the last 3 years.  I can actually dial down a lot tighter than in this example, but you get my point.

 97 percent of consumers go online to research products and services locally – BIA/Kelsey

More Interactive With Consumers

People want to engage with the companies and brands they love, not read one-way marketing messages.  Online marketing allows consumers to engage with brands in a way traditional marketing cannot do.  You can speak to your customers directly via social media or answer questions from potential customers. You can offer visitors to your website free downloadable guides or free tools they can use to help them make smarter buying decisions.

Traditional Marketing Image

The ways you can engage your customers and potential customers are endless and gives you the opportunity to deliver value to people on an individual level. This type of personalized experiences is what consumers love and what they are coming to expect from all of the companies they do business with.

 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance.  – MarketingSherpa

It's the Present and the Future

The internet is here, online marketing is here.  It's only going to become more so in the future as people move more and more from paper and scheduled viewing to bytes and on-demand viewing.  You be hard pressed to find anyone with a traditional Yellow Pages book in their home (under 75) just as you ar finding less and less people subscribing to cable television.

People want to read, watch and buy when they want and how they want.  The internet is the only medium that lets companies reach these people when they indicate they are interested.

37% of B2B marketers are using marketing automation to generate leads

So, is traditional marketing dead?

No, it's not dead, it actually can play a very important role as part of a bigger marketing strategy that uses online marketing as its cornerstone.

The most important thing is to understand where consumer behavior is heading, which is online,  and to make sure your company's marketing strategy is evolving along with the times and that your marketing dollars aren't destined for the recycling bin.

A Guide To Marketing Automation for Small Business

Do you ever wish you could know, besides a “gut feeling”, that your marketing efforts are working? Are you failing to connect the dots between your marketing campaigns and company revenue? You're not alone. 

Trying to track revenue all the way back to the lead source is very difficult, even for businesses that pay close attention to their analytics. Somewhere along the way you lose the connection from lead source to sale. This may be because the final sale happens offline or the difficulty in tracking anonymous website visitors (like Google Analytics) and connecting them to a specific sale.Marketing Automation is a software solution that allows you to identify your website visitors and track them throughout their buying journey, from click to sale. It allows you to deliver valuable information to a prospect at the exact time they are looking for it.Here will discuss what Marketing Automation is and how it can benefit your business.

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing Automation is one of those terms that most business people recognize but are not sure what it really means or how it works. Kind of like SEO.Marketing automation is software that allows businesses to create lead generating and lead nurturing campaigns using an end to end software system with email marketing being the backbone of the system. It's the exact opposite of regular email marketing, where you send newsletters and emails out to your entire list. It allows you to create specific and timely communications with your prospects on an individual level.Marketing Automation is great for products/services where there is an extended salescycle as well as more complex sales, where people need more information before making a decision. Think of financial services, home renovation projects, legal services, etc as examples where it is not an easy buying decision. IT also works very well with e-commerce and where you need to manage and nurture a large number of leads.In order to understand the customer journey from click to sale, businesses will “bolt together” multiple software systems to try and track this journey. Typical setups will look like:

  • Website Analytics software
  • Email Marketing software with drip campaign features
  • Conversion Optimization software (A/B testing)
  • Sales Tracking software
  • CRM software

All of this software is stitched together to create lead nurturing programs and to track the journey of a customer from the time they click to your site to the time they become a paying customer. The only problem is that most of this software will not communicate with each other and leaves you, the business owner, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together to make sense of it all.Here is an intro video from our Marketing Automation partner, SharpSpring.Marketing Automation is a single solution that you can use to generate leads, run lead nurturing programs, and track the journey of a customer from the moment they first land on your website to the moment they become a paying customer. It's very hard to get that kind of closed loop reporting using several different software solutions.Marketing Automation is predicated on communicating with your leads and customers, so in order to get the most out of Marketing Automation, you will need to be able to create content that you can share via your communications with your leads.

Sharpspring_Marketing_Automation_Features

Common Features of Marketing Automation Software

Why would you use Marketing Automation?

(there is an example of how Marketing Automation can be used further down in the article)4 main reasons

  • Generate more leads
  • Convert them to revenue
  • Prove marketing ROI
  • Single software solution

Generate more leads – Lead capture forms setup on landing pages will allow you to turn anonymous web visitors into real live people you can track throughout the sales funnel. Lead generation campaigns can be created that will track visitors all the way from click to sale. Some Marketing Automation solutions will use IP tracking, crossed with business databases, to identify anonymous web visitors and determine what company that web visitor is from.Convert them to revenue – By identifying and tracking a lead during their buying journey, you will know what product/services each lead is interested in, how active they are on your website, and when to pass hot leads off to your sales team. Marketing Automation allows you to reach out to them when they are most likely to buy and with the right message.Prove marketing ROI – Marketing Automation allows you to track the entire sales process from end to end, showing you which marketing campaigns are working and which ones are not.Single software solution – Instead of stitching together several software solutions to try and track your marketing campaigns, Marketing Automation allows you to seamlessly track your lead generation efforts and see the ROI from each of your campaigns in real time.Marketing Automation Sales Funnel Graphic

The Benefits of Using Marketing Automation

Make smarter marketing decisions – You can track the ROI of each marketing campaign you run, which will allow you to make smarter marketing decisions in the future.Save time and manpower – Marketing Automation allows you to run extended lead nurturing campaigns, perform customer follow-ups, and monitor your contact list's website activity to alert your sales team of clear buying signals. This saves you dozens of hours each month on lead nurturing activities, saving your involvement to critical times when your lead is indicating they are ready to buy.Work all parts of your sales funnel – Most businesses only focus on the bottom of the sales funnel, people ready to buy right now. The problem is that by focusing only on this part of the funnel, you are ignoring the other 80-90% of people are are interested, but just not ready to buy yet. Marketing Automation will allow you to create lead nurturing campaigns to target people not ready to buy (middle and top of funnel) and keep them engaged with your business until they are ready to move forward.Supercharge your CRM – Integrating Marketing Automation with your CRM allows you to see how your marketing efforts (Marketing Automation) are translating into sales (CRM). Your marketing and sales software can merge data, allowing you to see full ROI from click to sale and pull comprehensive marketing/sales reports for your business.

Advanced Reporting With Marketing Automation

Advanced Reporting With Marketing Automation

Here's an example of how Marketing Automation works

You decide to run a Facebook Ad campaign to generate new leads for your mortgage broker business. You decide you will offer people a free guide, “10 Things You Need To Do First Before Applying For a Mortgage”. The idea is to get people into a lead nurturing program first as most people will respond better to valuable information they need rather than your sales pitch to apply for a mortgage. While some people may be ready to buy right away, most will need more information and will need some time to make their decision.You set up the Facebook Ad campaign in your Marketing Automation software and use a special trackable link that will let the software track people that click that link in your Facebook Ad.You set up a special landing page for your offer and use a special contact form that will allow the Marketing Automation software to pull the lead data into its system.Jane Doe, who is looking for a mortgage, fills out the form to get her free guide as she wants to make sure she is not missing anything before she makes a mortgage decision. She is now entered into your lead nurturing campaign where she will receive your free guide as well as a series of 5 emails over 30 days where you offer information she would deem valuable as she decides on a mortgage provider.The software was even able to find her LinkedIn and Facebook social media profiles, giving you a wealth of information about this lead. During this time, Jane Doe gets to know more about your company and more importantly, starts to trust you.3 weeks after Jane Doe filled out the initial lead gen form, the marketing automation detects she comes back to your website (via email #3 of the 5 email sequence she was on) and reads two articles on your blog related to first-time homebuyers. You have a trigger for this setup in your Marketing Automation system that will place a person on your first-time homebuyers email list if they read 2 or more articles in this category. Once on this list, Jane Doe receives an email with an ebook explaining the mortgage process for first-time homebuyers. She downloads the ebook and takes you up on your call to action at the end of the ebook to contact you to learn more about the programs you offer.After a few back and forth phone conversations, Jane Doe is ready to move forward as your customer.6 weeks later the mortgage application is approved and is funded. Closed deal!So how did Marketing Automation help?

  • You were able to track Jane Doe from the time she clicked on your Facebook Ad until the time the deal was closed, giving you proven ROI for your marketing efforts
  • You were able to track Jane's activity on your website as well as what she did with the emails you sent her, allowing you to send timely and personalized messages to her.
  • You knew it was email #3 that peaked her interest and brought her back to the website
  • You were able to take a lead, who was not ready to buy, and create a fully automated lead nurturing campaign lasting 30 days that eventually turned into a customer
  • The Marketing Automation software did the heavy lifting with automated lead nurturing communications, allowing you to get involved only when Jane was ready to buy
  • During the entire lead nurturing process, you were able to track a real person (name and all), instead of an anonymous user. The Marketing Automation was even able to pull in Jane's social media profiles so you could learn more about her
  • You can now track the commission you earned back to the original Facebook Ad that Jane Doe first clicked on. You can high five yourself knowing the $100 you spent on Facebooks Ads resulted in several thousand dollars in commissions.
Email Marketing Using Marketing Automation

Advanced Email Marketing with Marketing Automation

Common myths about Marketing Automation

#1 Marketing Automation is too expensive for a small businessWhile some Marketing Automation solutions can cost several thousand dollars a month to run, there are now dozens of solutions available, many catering to the small business market. Typical starting costs usually range anywhere from $200-$3,000 a month, depending on the solution you choose. Most Marketing Automation companies charge a base fee each month and then costs scale depending on the number of contacts you have in your database, volume of email you send out each month or the feature set you are looking for.There is usually some sort of onboarding fee as well to cover training and client support for the first several weeks as there is a learning curve involved to use it and initial support and training will be intensive. Fees typically range anywhere from $500-$2500, depending on the solution you choose.

68% of top-performing small businesses are using marketing automation – Gleanster Research

Small business solutions will tend to be on the lower end in terms of cost. If you choose a solution that will cost $500-$1,000 a month, you will need to determine the incremental increase in sales you will need to cover the cost of the solution. If you sell a product/service with a higher price tag, then you may only need a single sale each month to cover the cost of Marketing Automation software.#2 Implementing Marketing Automation will require more staffingWhile the startup period with a new Marketing Automation solution will require quite a bit of time and learning, once you are passed that startup period it should relieve your workload, not increase it.

90% of top-performing small businesses that use marketing automation report they did not increase headcount after investing in marketing automation. – Gleanster Research

Marketing Automation should help streamline your current lead nurturing and sales processes, which will give your current team valuable time savings.#3 Marketing Automation is too time-consumingYes, it is time-consuming, especially in the beginning. But once you have passed the learning curve on how to use it, the time-saving opportunities are endless. Database management, follow up emails, email list segmentation, lead nurturing, these are all things that can take up a lot of your time every month and can automated with Marketing Automation software.Most small businesses that use Marketing Automation start with a few small lead generation/nurturing campaigns that don't require much time but can lead to significant increases in lead generation. The nice thing with Marketing Automation is that you can scale it out over time based on your available resources.#4 Marketing Automation isn't useful for small businessIf you do marketing to generate leads for your business and you have customers, then yes, Marketing Automation can be very useful for your business. Marketing Automation can help you streamline your marketing/sales processes and help you prove ROI, any sized business can benefit from that. The question comes down to commitment to investing in a process like this and the pros and cons of implementing it for your business.

Tips when searching for a Marketing Automation solution

There are many options available when it comes to choosing a Marketing Automation solution. You'll have to do some research, read reviews and even demo a few in order to decide which solution is best for your business. Here are a few common questions to ask when conducting your research.Costs – How do they price? Don't just look at the base monthly cost, most Marketing Automation solutions scale their pricing according your contact list size and/or the volume of the emails you send out. Some base it on the number of visitors you get to your site each month. See how each solution charges and use your current (and future) list size as well as email volume to determine your costs. Some solutions are inexpensive to start but can get very expensive as your database grows.Ease of Use – Look at user reviews to see how easy it is to use the software. One of the biggest complaints, and reasons people stop using it, is that it is very confusing to use. This is why doing a demo with several solutions will give you an idea of how easy or difficult it will be to use.Features – Some Marketing Automation solutions provide every feature under the sun, while others give just the basics. Figure out what your needs and goals will be with the software and choose a solution that offers the features you need for your business.Support – This is a big one as you will need to contact support from time to time to ask questions and to get support help. Look at user reviews as well as satisfaction surveys to see how well a company supports its customers. If you get stuck or something breaks, you want to make sure you won't have to spend an entire afternoon on hold to get a question answered. Is Marketing Automation right for you?Marketing Automation has the ability to transform a business and its marketing strategy. It can proveROI and helps you make better overall marketing decisions. It can also be frustrating to use if you don't commit to it and take the time to learn how to use it effectively.Take your time, read lots of reviews and see what current customers are saying about their Marketing Automation solution. Have a question about Marketing Automation and how it benefit your business? Contact me here to learn more.

How To Do B2B Online Marketing The Right Way

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BtoB online marketing is much different than BtoC marketing.  While online marketing today allows you to reach a broad (but still targeted) audience at a cost effective price, BtoB marketing still takes targeted prospecting in order to reach your ideal audience.  While most online ad platforms like Google Adwords and Facebook advertising offer a wide range of targeting options, they still don't offer the account/company specific targeting that most effective BtoB marketing campaigns need.

While most online ad platforms like Google Adwords and Facebook advertising offer a wide range of targeting options, they still don't offer the account/company specific targeting that most effective BtoB marketing campaigns need.

In order to be really successful at BtoB online marketing, you can't just rely on your usual online marketing strategies, which are mostly consumer focused.

 

Why not?  Here are a few reasons:

Search Engine Optimization is predicated on a user proactively performing a search query for your product or service in order for your website to show up in the search engine results.  Many (if not most) companies and decision makers are not actively scouring the internet looking for solutions to their problems.

Most online advertising platforms use demographic and behavioral information when it comes to targeting options for your ads.  The key thing here is that the targeting is aimed at individual users, not companies.  And even with highly targeting lists, with the exception of LinkedIn Ads, you still have no idea what company someone works for.

 

So what do you do?

When it comes to BtoB online marketing, you have to be proactive and methodical in your marketing.  Fortunately, online advertising today offers a bunch of options when it comes creating highly targeted marketing campaigns.  But you still have to do some legwork, which we will talk about below.

The key to online BtoB marketing is to know exactly who your prospects are and to build highly targeted online advertising campaigns to turn cold leads into warm ones.  A successful campaign should build awareness, interest, and soften up your prospects so your sales team can go in a step ahead of your competition.

Just 34% of B2B organizations say they touch leads with lead nurturing on a monthly basis. (B2B Marketing Insider)

Enterprise level organizations and sales teams may call this Account Based Marketing, where you market on a one on one level.  This method offers some additional online targeting methods to soften those cold leads up before the sales team moves in.

Below are the steps you can take to build a highly effective online marketing campaign that will make your sales team love you.

1 – Understand who your ideal customer is

If you don't have a clear understanding of who your ideal customer is, then none of this will work as you will be running highly targeted marketing campaigns at a vague audience.

Before you start you should know what industry you want to target, company size, demographics and any other criteria you will use to narrow down who your ideal customer would be.

Examining the profiles of your best accounts, feedback surveys and market analysis, are all things you should be doing before you ever start an online marketing campaign.

Know who you want to target.

 

2 – Build targeted prospect lists

Now that you know the exact type of client you want, you can start building your prospect list.  Maybe your sales team already have a few lists they have built, if not, start a new one. This is the area where BtoB and BtoC marketing diverge.  With BtoC marketing, you can rely mostly on ad platform targeting tools to build your list, with BtoB marketing, you will be building mostly by hand.

There are several tools you can use to help with your list building (see below), but it is largely a manual process as you will need to pick through companies trying to find the ones that match your criteria.

The size of the list really depends on your industry, your goals and the resources you have in place.  I think a 50 or 100 company list is a good place to start as it will force you to build a highly targeted list.  If you have the resources though, feel free to big larger lists,  but make sure you have enough resources on hand for the follow-up stage of this process.

When you are building your list, you may find multiple people's information for a single company, I like to add anyone who may be relevant as you never know who the influencers are in a company and I'd rather warm up several people with targeted advertising than just one.

 

Here are some prospect building tools you can use that will do most of the heavy lifting for you.

Zoominfo – They have a highly trusted database and their List Builder product is great for building highly targeted email lists.

Data.com –  Formerly JigSaw, now owned by Salesforce, this product delivers highly accurate business data and makes targeted prospecting a breeze.  Great option if you already use Salesforce as it has tight integration with its CRM and is cheaper for its CRM users.

Aeroleads – They have a Chrome extension you can use to build targeted email and phone lists and you search the LinkedIn, Google, CrunchBase, just to name a few.

LinkedIn – LinkedIn is the best social platform for BtoB prospecting and their Sales Navigator tool is tops when it comes to mining the treasure trove of data inside LinkedIn for advanced list building.  Sales Navigator will make list building a breeze.

 

3 – Soften your list up with targeted advertising

Now that you have a highly targeted prospect list, you will then create an online advertising campaign to get in front of your list so you can start building awareness and interest for you company.

While sales teams do steps 1 and 2 as part of their prospecting, it is this step where we part ways with sales, at least for the time being.  Normally, with list in hand, the sales team would start their outreach, either by email, phone or in person.  What we will do  is soften the list up first with targeted advertising before we get to the outreach stage.  It's like in the military where you call in air support before you begin your land invasion, you want to soften your target up before you move in.

83% of B2B marketers use content marketing for lead generation. ~ Content Marketing Institute

This advertising campaign will run for a few weeks, giving your prospects time to see your messages.  Some may take action on your ads, turning your previously cold lead into a very warm one for your sales team.

Best practice for an ad campaign?  Offer something useful that your prospective client may be interested in.  One that I find that works well is a case study that solves a problem the prospects on your list might have.  White papers, ebooks, etc all work as well, just remember the more specific you can tailor it to your list, the more likely they will be interested and engage with you.

BtoB Online Marketing Statistics - Social Platforms 2016

So where do we advertise?

Facebook Custom Audiences – With Facebook Custom Audiences, you can upload your prospect list and Facebook will match your information (email, phone #, etc) against their database and identify Facebook users on your list.  From my experience, match rates can range from 30-80%, depending on the type of list you have.   Once your list is created, you can then start creating ads.

 

Here is a good article on Facebook advertising to give you some ideas on incredible targeting options they offer, even for BtoB companies.

Facebook Remarketing – If you're not running Facebook Remarketing, I would set it up.  Once you begin the next stage of doing outreach, it will allow you to market to people (if they visit your website to learn more about you) who you were not able to target initially with your advertising campaign.

*Read more about remarketing here.

LinkedIn Ads – You cannot import your own email lists into LinkedIn for the purpose of advertising (you can add that list to your contacts and then import to your LinkedIn account and then connect with them personally) and you will need an audience size of at least 1,000 people in order to run an ad campaign.  The good thing is that you can target by company name, so you should have no problem getting most of your list into an ad campaign.  You will most likely have to expand your audience a bit to reach your 1,000 minimum, but I'm sure you can add additional criteria and still have a very targeted audience to advertise to.

Twitter Tailored Audiences – Twitter Tailored Audiences allows you to upload an email list to build a targeted ad campaign on Twitter.  You can also use a list of Twitter handles to target.  While email matches have been found to be quite low, around 10-25% match rate from what I've seen, you can still reach part of your list using Twitter Ads.

 

Google Display Network – I was originally going to include Google Customer Match as an option until I read they expressly state you can only use data that has been acquired firsthand  such as previous customers, newsletter signups, etc.  While it's still possible to do, it's against their ToS.  While you can't use your prospect list, you can still do some targeted advertising with the Google Display Network.  While this is a broader approach than the rest of the options above, I still like it as an alternative.

Only 20% of CMOs leverage social networks to engage with customers. ~IBM Survey

Using the Google Display Network, you can geo-target by exact physical address, with a minimum of 1Kilometer radius around that address.  So if you have a prospect's company address, you can run a campaign targeting their location and further refine by demographics, behaviors and interests in order to limit who will see your ads.  The nice thing with this method is that you can potentially target everyone at the company with banner ads, video or text based ads.

 

Use all of the above in combination for best results

The idea of the ad campaigns is to generate awareness and interest in your company, softening them up for the next stage, which is outreach.  You want to bring them back to your website where they can engage with your content and learn more about your business.  You can decide if you want to gate content behind a contact form or not, but remember you already have their information and will be reaching out to thems

You can decide if you want to gate content behind a contact form or not, but remember you already have their information and will be reaching out to them shortly, so not really a need to gate anything. When you might want to gate the content is when you are using marketing automation software and want to see the exact people who are coming back to the site with the list you are targeting.  This is very powerful information as you now know the hot ones on your list to target first.  It went from you targeting them to them coming to you and asking for help, sweet!

While you most likely won't reach everyone on your list, if you use all of the above methods, you should be able to get in front of most of the people on your list at least a few times before outreach begins.

4 – Start your outreach

Now that you have softened them up, start your outreach.  Email or phone, however you do it.  Hopefully, they will have some awareness of you and they are no longer 100% cold.  Same thing as your content, don't go right into your sales pitch, offer something valuable to them first like a step by step how you solved a problem that they most likely have.

Give them value to chew on and then follow up again.  Now you have softened them up twice before you got to your sales pitch and have hopefully generated enough interest to get a meeting and their valuable time to work your magic.

I like to include links in my emails that bring readers back to the website to read relevant content. Why?  Once they visit the website, besides consuming the content that they are interested in, they are now on a remarketing list so we can further market to them via Google Adwords, Facebook or even Twitter via their remarketing ad options.

 

Now work your sales funnel

So once the above steps are completed, you can follow whatever sales funnel strategy you already have in place to turn these prospects into clients.

Does this take time?  Yes.  Does it work better than just cold calling a prospect list you purchased?  Yes!.  Most companies will never have the time or discipline to do something like this, it's much to easier to just buy lists and Robo-call the hell out of people, hoping to grab that o.0001% of people who might have a slight interest in this sort of backward BtoB selling.

I told you BtoB marketing (quality BtoB marketing) is much different than your traditional BtoC online marketing strategies.  The problem is that most businesses try to apply BtoC marketing strategies to their BtoB marketing and get lackluster results.

5 Website Metrics That Matter For Your Business

Important Website Metrics For Business

Are you tracking what's happening on your website?  If you own a business and you don't know what's happening on your website, a big fat shame on you.

Your physical location may only see a few hundred people a month walking through its doors, but your website may be getting several thousand visitors a month.  Don't you think it's important to know what's happening with such a large pool of potential customers?

Online marketing is the most transparent form of marketing available today.  Your ability to track your ROI, in terms of time and money, is a departure from traditional advertising where you had to “pay and pray”.  But it only works if you take the time to actually use what's available to you.

Do you have analytics tracking software installed?

It's easy to setup analytics tracking software on your website, all you need to do is set up a free account with Google and have your web developer insert a small piece of tracking code to your website.  While there are many analytics tracking programs available, none of them offer the robustness and price point (free) that Google Analytics offers.  So if you don't have Google Analytics installed yet, read this article to learn how.

I have analytics installed, now what?

Now that you have analytics tracking installed on your website, you can now track about 10,000 different metrics.  Wait, what?  Yes, you can now track everything that happens on your website, from what city a visitor came from, if they have been to your website before, to how much time they spent on each page of your website.

You now have a wealth of information at the tip of your fingers…..that's meaningless to you. This is where most business owners get scared off with a case of information overload.  There is so much data, they get paralyzed and lost in the sea of information in front of them.

The first thing you need to do is to figure out what handful of metrics are important to your business.

The difference between metrics and KPI's

Don't confuse the two.

A metric is simply a number you track.  For your website, that may be how many visitors you get every month or how many page views you get each month.  Metrics form the cornerstone of how you will measure performance for your website and your business.

A KPI (Key Performance Indicator) is also a metric, but it's a metric that is super important for your business.  It's a metric that moves your bottom line.  It's a metric that helps you understand how you are performing against your business objectives.  An example of a KPI (in relation to your website) may be how many people contacted you for a consultation through your online contact form.  This would be a KPI for your business if one of your objectives was to generate 25+ leads a month through your website.

Business Objectives: Metrics -> KPI's -> Goals

What metrics are important for my website?

Since I don't know your business, I don't know what KPI's are important to your business.  But what we will discuss here are what metrics you can track on your website that can do two things:

1- Give you indications of the effectiveness of you website

2- Give you information you can take action on

Number 1 is useless without number 2.  If you can't (or won't) take action on your analytics, you may as well not track them at all.

Below are 5 metrics you should be tracking on your website, usually on a monthly basis.  The important thing is to understand each metric, and understand what things you can do to move the numbers in them.

Goals

Setting up goals in Google Analytics is the heart of any online strategy.  Technically it's not a metric itself, but a way to track metrics that matter to your business.  Google Analytics allows you to set up goals for a number of different metrics.  If you sell a product online, you may set up a goal for when someone completes an online purchase.  You may set up a goal to track how many people complete your contact form or download an e-book you offer.  You may set a goal for people that visit a specific page on your site or if they spend a certain amount of time on a page.

Setting up goals for your site is kind of like having KPI's for your business.  Actually some of the goals you set up may be a KPI for your business, like online sales or email subscribers.  Your job here is to determine what metrics are important for your business and create “Goals”  so you can track your effectiveness.

Creating goals in google analytics

The great thing about setting up goals through Google Analytics is that you not only see how well you are hitting your goals, you can reverse engineer the entire process and see where the people are coming from in the first place.  You may find that your most engaged visitors are coming from some obscure local directory that you've long forgotten about.  You may be able to directly tie a large % of online sales directly to a single social media platform.  Information that is invaluable to your business.

SEE: How to set up goals in Google Analytics

Bounce Rate

The bounce rate is the % of people who came to your website and left, only visiting one page.  If you have a high bounce rate on your website, it could indicate a lack of interest/engagement on the part of your visitors.  It could also indicate you're attracting the wrong audience.  A high bounce isn't always bad, your contact page may have a high bounce rate, but if people are filling in the contact form before leaving your site, that's a good thing.

Bounce rate in Google Analytics

If you consistently have a high bounce rate, there are a few things you should do:

  • Find what pages are producing a high bounce rate, especially your important pages like your homepage, about, sales, etc
  • Examine the pages to try and understand why people are leaving. Poor design? Poor copy writing? Missing call to action?
  • Make small changes to that page each month or create an entirely different page and “Split Test” it against your old page.  Google Analytics lets you do Split Testing testing for free, though you may need an experienced web marketer to help with that.

Analyzing, testing, and improving on an ongoing basis is how you turn a poorly performing website into a lead generating machine.

Visitor Flow

The visitor flow is the path that people take when they are on your website.  You may envision your customers taking a path like this:

Homepage -> Feature Page -> Service Page -> Sales Page

Where in reality many people take a path similar to this:

Blog Article -> Home Page -> About Us Page -> Blog Article -> Service Page -> Sales Page

They may never even make it to any sort of sales page (or other action page on your site), maybe they visited your About Us page, that is unfortunate at best, and decided to look look for a different business.

Google analytics visitor flow

By looking at the visitor flow on your website, you can see not only the path of pages people are taking on your site, but where they are jumping ship.  Here is what you can do:

  • Look at your visitor flow over a period of time. If you have a regular flow of traffic, checking each month is good.  For a site with less traffic, look over a period of 3-6 months to look for patterns in visitor behavior.
  • Look to see what pages your visitors are starting on your site (landing page) and where people are leaving (exit pages)
  • Examine the pages along this path and see where the weak links are, and work on improving them.
  • If there are pages that you feel are important for visitors to see, and they aren't seeing them, look for ways to give these pages more prominence on your site and inject them into the visitor flow.

For more on understanding Visitor Flow, check out this article.

Referrers

These are 3rd party websites and social media platforms that are driving traffic to your website.  Facebook, Twitter, other blogs, are examples of Referrers to your website.  I had a client who was a real estate agent.  He spent about 20 hours a month on Facebook, connecting with people and promoting her business.  He also spent about 2 hours a month doing the same thing on LinkedIn.  The anlaytics showed that not only did LinkedIn drive more total traffic to his website, the visitors from LinkedIn spent 3x's the time on the website than his Facebook fans did.  He has since adjusted her time allocation  between the two platforms.  This is a perfect example of how anlaytics can help you make better business decisions.

Referal traffic in Google Analytics

If you advertise on another website, spend time (and money) on social media platforms, it's a good idea to see how well each one is performing. Things you should look at:

  • How many visitors did each referrer send?
  • How much time did they spend on the site? What pages did they visit?
  • Did they take action on the site? Are they converting? Contact form, download, clicked through a link, etc
  • What resources do I dedicate to this referrer in terms of time and money?  Is the payoff worth it?

For this, I wouldn't make a decision based on a single month of data, look at it over a period of time so you have enough data to make an informed decision.  It may also not be the platform, but the way you are using it.  Maybe you need to test a different approach instead of abandoning it altogether.

Check out this article for more on analyzing Referral Traffic in Google Analytics.

Organic Search Traffic

Organic search traffic is how many people found you through a search, specifically through a Google search when using Google Analytics.  Why is this metric important?  It can give you valuable insights into the minds of your customers, as well as reveal opportunities for you to improve your website.

Google Analytics organic search traffic

Organic search traffic is typically broken down into 2 categories, branded search terms and unbranded search terms.

Branded search terms – These are search terms where people type in your business, or a variation of it, in order to find your website.  If you're Janet's Cupcakes, they may type in something like “janets cupcakes on main street” in order to find your website.  This audience of people already knows you exist, they may be current or potential customers.  Having a lot of branded search terms is an indicator of brand awareness in your market.  These visitors are usually already engaged with your business and are more likely to convert than non-branded searchers.

Non-Branded search terms – People that use non-branded search terms, such as “cupcake shops in Charlotte”, do not know you exist and are trying to “discover” you, hence why we sometimes call them discovery search terms.  Non-branded search traffic is at the core of why you want to do Search Engine Optimization, you're introducing your business to a new market that never knew you existed.

When looking at this part of your analytics, you want to look at your mix of branded vs non-branded terms.  In the report, you can see many (not all due to privacy reasons with Google) of the actual search terms people used in order to find your website.  This gives you valuable insights into the mind of your customer.  You can see what they are thinking when they are trying to find a business like yours.

What can you do with this information?

  • If you see search patterns or terms used that aren't incorporated on your website, you can re-examine your copy to better reflect the language of your customers
  • You can track the growth of your organic traffic, an indicator of a good SEO strategy.
  • You can create specific blog articles or pages dedicated to a specific search term people are using. Your directly answering their questions on your website (SEO 101).
  • Look at what search terms garner the most engagement on your website and create more content to attract that type of visitor
  • Examine the search terms to discover new ideas for your business.  You may not be offering (supply) what people are looking for (demand).

Check out this article from Google for more information about analyzing organic traffic to your site.

Location/City

For a local business, unless you have an e-commerce site and ship to a large area, you typically do business in a geographically defined area.  If this is the case and your business is in Denver, would it do you a lot of good if you get tons of traffic from people in Canada?  It looks good on paper, but useless to you as a business.

Google Analytics location by city

Google Analytics allows you to view your traffic according to Country and/or City.  This allows you to see if the people coming to your website are in your business trade area.  If you're in a metro area, like Denver, you will also be able to see suburbs/cities in and around the area, such as Aurora, Parker, or Lafayette.

How can you use this information for your business?

  • Examine the “City” tab to see how much traffic is coming from your trade area.
  • If you find that this is a smaller segment of your visitors than you would like, consider creating additional content that has a local theme to it.  The search engines do a fairly good job identifying location specific content from generic content.
  • Are there specific areas where there is a lot of activity?  You may discover a certain suburb is a hotbed for traffic for your business.  This can help in making offline marketing decisions as well.
  • Examine what your geographic target audience is doing on your website.  What pages do they frequent, is there certain content that they are drawn to?  If so, give them more of what they want.

It's not easy

Reading analytics is easy.  Understanding the data is hard.  Implementing improvements based on the data is harder still.  But the good thing is that it's available to you, and if you're willing to put in the time, the payoff can be a big one for your business.  Stick with a handful of metrics, understand them, and be ready to make improvements based on them.