You Now Have Web Site Traffic, Now What?
Six Steps to Ensure Success From Your Search Engine Marketing Efforts
Search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) continue to grow and these tactics have become a key component of any company's overall marketing initiatives. In fact, worldwide revenue from search engine marketing is expected to increase from $1.4 billion in 2002 to nearly $7 billion by 2007 and is the third-largest money-making online industry behind only eCommerce and advertising.
Studies have indicated that more than 70 percent of Web traffic arrives directly from search engine and as a result, more and more vendors are offering solutions to improve a company's search position. Every marketing executive knows the statistics - the top 10 search engines account for over 90 percent of all search traffic; 80 percent of search site visitors will not click past the first page of search results; 50 percent of search site visitors will click on the top 10 sites rather than scrolling further down a listing page. As a result, these marketing executives take great steps - and pay significant money - to make sure their sites are highly ranked.
However, while these same marketers have invested significant resources in SEM and SEO, they are losing potential profits from a site that is incapable of handling the traffic and more importantly, an inability to provide a "call to action" for visitors. While the emphasis has been on tactics to ensure strong placement in search engines, companies often fail at a key component of search engine marketing - what to do once the strong search results produce a flood of visitors to your site.
Thousands of users come to visit your Web site each day and they leave millions of impressions as they visit various pages. However, despite the volume of online traffic, very few companies truly know anything about these visitors. To get the most out of your online investment, it is important to answer the following questions regarding the visitors that access your site:
*Who are they?
*Do they know where they are?
*Do they know where to go from here?
*Do you know why they are there?
*Do you know what they want?
*How are you encouraging them to stay and how do you measure how successful each impression is?
By providing answers to these important questions, a marketer will being to develop an overall understanding of its online visitors and therefore, be able to better target them in an effort to produce a stronger ROI of online initiatives. In order to get the most out of your investments in search engine marketing, it is important to follow the following steps.
Step 1 - Identify the User
As visitors come to your site, it is vital to know what they want and why they are there. The SEM and SEO strategies have paid off and your potential prospect is reading through pages and pages of online content, but now what? Once a visitor is on your site, there is a small window of opportunity to gain as much information as possible. By utilizing the following steps, you will help you to identify who users are:
1. Analyze your Web logs. Look to see which search engines users are coming from and the words that brought them to you. Keep track of phrases you see often. It is important to understand how your users evolve.
2. Demonstrate search phrase reinforcement. As you begin to see patterns or trends, use them as a guide to map keyword-rich content to specific pages. This will improve relevance and increase length of their visit. The user is bombarded with your brand and product/service offerings only while you have them captive.
3. Demographic research. Build profiles of your users and prioritize them so that you know whom your content is speaking to and avoid ignoring certain audiences. Some neglected users include: partners, media, investors, analysts and prospective employees. It is important to note that existing customers and prospects are the main target, so focus on them first!
Step 2 - Lure the User
Once you have an understanding of who is visiting your site, it is important to provide the information they are looking to receive. The method in which you provide the information is almost as important as providing the information itself. It is important to provide the information in an easy-to-navigate method and create a first impression that establishes creditability for your Web site and the content it contains. In order to create that all important credibility, it is important to follow these key tactics:
1. Create a brand. Your site is going to be defined by the look and feel, not the actual content. Be sure your brand speaks for itself; don't try to become everything for everyone. One good qualified lead is better than five bad ones.
2. Improve the relevance for targeted search phrases. Be cautious, do it only if you have the content to support it-if you have the content your users will be willing to travel for it. Keep in mind if you fake them out with promises you can't keep, you are likely to lose them for good. If it feels like you are "keyword spiking" your current content, then you should take a step back and organize a content strategy. This strategy may well include: cross-linking opportunities, improved keyword density, consistent voice, calls to action and common sense!
Step 3 - Demonstrate to the User
Don't expect your visitors know how to navigate your Web site. Especially if they are coming from a search engine link, chances are the visitor is going to be unfamiliar with the site. A search engine can dump a user in any section of your site so it is important to make sure that there is a noticeable link to your site map, home page, etc. on all pages. It is also important to employ the following strategies on each of your site's pages so that no matter where the users land, they are easily able to navigate themselves through the site.
1. Make it clear - Tell the visitor what the site is and what information they should expect to find throughout the Web site.
2. Make it usable - Are you providing the right information? Your search engine visitors are there because your site came up at the top of the search engine list. When they click on that link to your Web site, you must be able to identify the content they are looking for in their first moments on the site.
3. Provide valuable content - Your content is what attracted the user to the web site and it should be what keeps them there. Don't fill your content with keywords just to be ranked high in the search engine rankings. If visitors cannot easily find the content that directed them to your site, they will quickly leave.
4. Define functional and practical navigation - Once a user has read the specific content they are looking for, it is important to provide a clear and consistent navigation that will enable them to move quickly and efficiently throughout the rest of your content.
Step 4 - Educate the User
Whether you are an online retailer, news source, small local business or Fortune 500 company, people are visiting Web sites to learning something. Content must not only provide them with information, but it must also provide an environment in which to learn. Is your content downloadable? Is the content developed in a way that makes reading online easier? It's easy to publish content up on the Web-the challenge is to engage the user and make your visitors feel comfortable and trust you.
A few easy ways to build trust and credibility include:
*Brand reinforcement, which extends the importance of your company's reputation.
*Consistent navigation, so users are comfortable with how easy it is to find information.
*Consistent and professional visual presentation.
*Add seals of approval (e.g.: symbols or text that reinforces credibility, safety, testimonials, etc.).
*Publish your management team so users feel they can connect with real people.
Step 5 - Convert the User
Depending on the Web site, converting the user could take on a number of definitions. From shopper to subscriber to weekly visitor, converting the user is a goal on any web site, but what steps do you take to convert the visitor into a prospect or customer?
The simplest method is to capture a small amount of information by giving the user an easy way to contact you. Whether through email, a short form, live chat or a phone number, users will be more willing to trade information about themselves for the additional information you are willing to provide. If you want more than a name and email address, you will need to provide a better offer such as whitepapers, support updates, product updates, evaluation copies or demonstrations. By providing these types of offers, users are more likely to provide detailed information in order to receive such information.
If you are still unable to convert the user, it's time to offer more in trade. By offering freebies such as trinkets, coupons, samples and other promotional items, the user will feel like they are getting something tangible for their personal information.
Step 6 - Evaluate the User
Once you have completed the first five steps, the final step in the process is to evaluate the user in an effort to understand how they utilized your Web site. The evaluation process can take on numerous aspects, such as a direct mail campaign, email campaign or other traditional marketing initiatives. There are numerous tactics to utilize, but whichever method you employ, your outreach to these potential customers must be done in a manner that respects their rights, but still provides the information they were seeking when they visited your site in the first place.
Once you evaluate your visitor, you will quickly understand whether they received the information they requested or if you must reevaluate your online presence. By constantly evaluating your visitors, you will not only be able to develop a site that handles the volume of visitors that your search engine marketing campaign creates, but you will more frequently be able to convert those visitors into paying customers.
In the complex search engine game, the importance of handling site traffic is just as - if not more - important then generating the traffic itself. By utilizing these tactics, you will achieve a distinct advantage over your competitors, most of whom are simply investing their resources into driving traffic, rather than turning those visitors into dollars.
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About the Author:
Thomas Obrey co-founded PixelMEDIA in 1994. As Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Obrey is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company, managing the development and professional services staff, and providing senior level strategy and consultation services to the company’s vast client base. PixelMEDIA provides strategy, design, and implementation services for Web, multimedia and IT initiatives. PixelMEDIA offers a complete range of strategic, creative, and technology services to leading companies including CIGNA Corporation, C-Port Motorola, CVS/pharmacy, Liberty Mutual, LogicaCMG, and Nokia.
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