Delayed Gratification: The key to untold riches down the line

You have probably heard about the two most important metrics for the success of a website: traffic and conversions. No one will dispute that the more traffic you receive, and the better that traffic converts, the more sales/profits you are going to make. Entire professions are dedicated to driving traffic to your website and to improving your landing pages’ conversion rates. The general wisdom is that these two important fields need to be treated separately. But in this post I am going to explain why the two are more tightly related than they initially seem.

Going Back to the Source

Certainly you can do all sorts of things to your site to “improve” the likelihood that the visitor will stay around longer and perhaps take action eventually. But I think that too much effort and thought is put into driving traffic from as many sources and keywords as possible and in trying to optimize everything that can be optimized on a website. Yet little thought is put into something as obvious as trying to understand clearly what each visitor is expecting when they see your landing page.

Think about it. Visitors land on your website all the time, but the path of clicks they followed to get there, and their expectations once they arrive, are often completely different from visitor to visitor. One visitor may arrive after reading a favorable review of your services from a reputable blog site or online magazine. Another may arrive directly from your Google AdWords ad that promised a discount on purchases “today only.” This is what I call the visitor’s frame of mind. It is a very important concept for conversion: the source of your traffic preconditions your visitor to take (or not to take) action on your content.

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The SEO feasibility report: When SEO is a good idea and when it isn’t

This is a guest post by Paul Burani from Clicksharp Marketing, a very sharp search marketer I met in NY

In the search engine world, it’s easy to think in terms of black and white.  Some traffic you pay for, some you don’t.  There’s page one, and there’s everything else.  And of course we use the terms “black hat” and “white hat” SEO to differentiate the practices which push (or exceed) the limits of what is deemed acceptable by each search engine’s terms of service.

This view often creates a temptation to pursue Search Engine Optimization at all costs, when in fact it may be an ill-advised strategy.  What would lead a CEO, marketing manager, publisher or webmaster to make a dubious investment in SEO?  In many cases, this is based on the simplistic notion that clicks from Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising come at a significant price, whereas in organic search, they cost nothing.

The idea that SEO is free is patently false. Read more

The Slow Sale: Getting conversions from ads outside the search world

I’ve been spending a little bit of time lately out of the search marketing world and into the broader Internet marketing space. I signed up for every “guru’s” newsletter, accepted all the free offers and I even signed up for a few paid ones. There are a lot of scams out there, but there are also those genuinely interested in providing quality information.

What I’ve come away with, and I’ve certainly talked about this before, is that conversions depend a lot on the traffic source. This becomes especially true when we move our ads away from the search page and onto social media sites or other places where users are browsing, not searching. Most people will say that in order to increase conversion you need to tweak the landing page, change what you say, how you say it, update the artwork, the offer, or work on other countless variables. What they don’t tell you is that you can also improve your conversion rate without making any changes to your landing page at all. How? Well it all goes back to the traffic source, so keep reading… Read more

A Little Personality Goes a Long Way

If you read my last post on advanced keyword research, you probably thought that there was no way you could look deeper into your search visitors’ desires. Well, think again. I want to share a clever technique I’ve been using for several months now to drastically improve the conversion rates of some of my projects.

The technique I am going to present is useful for Pay-Per-Click (PPC) marketing like Google AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing. As you will see, you can later leverage the results for your SEO efforts. Read more

An Open Invitation: Conversions don't start on the landing page

invitation.jpgSome old friends found my blog and asked me a few novice questions personally. I realized that I have not talked much about traffic monetization strategies. There are excellent blogs out there that give solid advice on how to make money online. As has been my practice so far, I will not water what is already wet, but this is a topic that needs some attention. 

There is one fundamental thing I want my readers to understand. While there are many (often conflicting) opinions out there on the Web about making money—about what works and what won’t, what sells and what doesn't, which merchants or traffic sources are better—the only way to know for sure is to test it yourself.  

This has always been my way of doing things. Any new idea that comes to mind or that I learn from someone else, as long as it the basic logic test (“Does it make sense?”), I try it out. I love testing, so I am certain you won't be surprised to learn that I especially love split testing. Imagine how ecstatic I was when Google decided to release the Google Website Optimizer (GWO) for free to Adwords advertisers. Offermatica charges $10k dollars a month for a similar product. Why? Because split testing works! That is where the money is. Read more

Dynamic Keyword Insertion for Landing Pages

One critical aspect of highly successful search marketing campaigns is making sure searchers find what they are looking for. I posted this before.

To accomplish this, we first need to grab the visitors’ attention, get them to click through our pages, and ensure that the pages’ content matches the search.

Whether you are doing SEO or PPC, it is imperative that your ads (title and description if SEO) include the search terms.

Advanced PPC management platforms (such as Adwords) provide a very useful feature for this purpose: Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI). The purpose of this feature is to help the advertiser create dynamic ads that include the queried keywords in the ad copy, automatically.

DKI works by creating a place holder text (ie.: {Widgets}) where you want the keywords to be included. A typical ad that says: “Buy Widget” will say the same, no matter what the user is searching for. Now, using DKI, for the ad: “Buy {Widget}”, the text inside the brackets, and the brackets will be replaced with whatever the users types in the search box. If he or she types “blue widgets”, the ad will say “Buy Blue Widgets”, etc. This is very useful. DKI can be used to replace all the text in an ad (the title, text and landing page). Jennifer Slegg wrote an interesting article on using DKI for changing the URL of the landing page in the PPC ad.

The point is that the closer the ad is to the search query, the more likely the visitor is going to click on it. In addition to this, Google highlights the keywords if they match the query. This helps a lot too.

Now, what happens when the visitor gets to the landing page? Well, chances are that the page will not include the exact keywords the visitor used to conduct the search; especially, if you are doing PPC. In order to fix this, I use a very simple technique: Read more

Estimating visitor value

We love traffic.  We want as much traffic as possible.  It is really nice to see our traffic graphs jump really high.  With our PPC campaigns we pretty much obsess over our click-through rates.  We like to go after the keywords phrases that drive the most traffic.  Everybody is in love with Digg and Social Media.

All traffic is not equal, even search traffic coming from similar phrases.  What we really need is traffic that converts.  Visitors that take whatever action we expect them to take.  Buy an e-book, subscribe to our newsletter or download our software, etc.  We need traffic motivated to take action.

There is a big difference between running a site that get 10,000 visitors a day that makes $10,000 a month and one that gets 1,000 visitors a day that makes $20,000 a month. For the first, the visitor is worth 3 cents, and for the second is worth 66 cents — 22 times more. Read more

Segment visitors by intention with Google Analytics

As I mentioned before, understanding what visitors want and giving it to them is the key to a successful website. That is the big picture.

Now let me tell you how to actually measure this. My tool of choice for this is Google Analytics.

With Google’s Adwords Conversion Tracking you can define goal pages and track conversions that happen once visitors land on those pages. For example: thank you pages for signing up, downloading a white paper or for purchasing a camera.

Many e-commerce websites have a multi-step check out process. Once you hit the “buy” button you are taken to a page where you can select the quantity of the selected product and other variables. After this you are taken to a page where you input your shipping information. Later to another page for you to input your billing information. Followed by a confirmation page and finally to the thank you page. This is commonly known as the “conversion funnel”.

You can use funnels to identify and reduce drop-out rates throughout the conversion process. Google analytics provides tools to create such funnels and reports to measure them.

The main problem is that most people optimize their conversion process, but don’t measure and optimize their persuasion or pre-selling process as well.

Once a visitor clicks on the “buy” button, he or she is already set on buying the product, but the path to conversion starts way before that, it begins with the persuasion process. I explained that process on this post.

In short, visitors come to your site with a specific mindset (expecting something in particular and the keywords they type are the best clue to what that is). It is important they land in the right pages and that those pages induce them to move to the next step in the persuasion process.

Now let’s see how we can use Google Analytics to segment your visitors based on what they want. Read more

Visitors intentions and correct landing pages

One of the most often-overlooked aspects of search engine marketing is building sites and doing keyword research without first considering the importance of understanding the visitors and giving the right information they seek.

For a successful campaign, there needs to exist a website that is designed with a clear path that leads the visitor to conversion and a direct connection between what the visitor is searching for and what he or she finds on the landing page.

We can organize visitors’ searches by their intention in three main stages: generic or information search, navigational or brand search, and transactional or action search.

We need to have landing pages for each step and each page must have a call to action that tries to lead the visitor to the next step. Most marketers send the visitor to the home page or to the action page disregarding the stage of the mind of the visitor. This is one of the main reason the industry-wide conversion rates are so low.

For example, if we are selling a Dell Latitude D420 and we get a visitor looking for computers, we need to send him to a landing page that talks about the benefits of laptops over computers, with a call to action to take him to the laptops page.

Once there, we will try to persude him to research our particular model, and in the model page, we will try to take him to buy it.

If the user was searching for laptops, we need to send him to the laptops page directly, and if he is looking for our particular model, we will take him there and convince him that we have the best price.

Converting visitors into customers

One of the most frustrating experiences I have felt is seeing your site get lots of traffic and no conversions.

The reality is that from the start, your website needs to be built to convert.  You need to create pages that build trust and reduce doubt.  Ken Envoy calls this preselling.

We should not try to force our visitors to buy immediately.

I always try to look at my sites from the customer’s perspective.  I even ask friends to tell me why they wouldn’t buy what I offer and I modify the site to improve the odds of people buying.

A professional design, professional copy, and a fast responsive website helps, but ultimately there needs to be a reason for the visitor to buy from you and not from your competitor;  but more importantly to buy from you now, before he forgets about your site.

In the worst case you want to offer a newsletter or RSS subscription to maintain a line of communication that you can use later.