|OMIX WHITE PAPER|
OMIX has been building Web sites since 1994, even before search engines existed. In those early days, most Web site marketing was based on the theory, "Build it and they will come". When there were only a handful of sites on the World Wide Web, visitors would come simply because there were few if any Web sites with similar offerings. But by about 2000, once millions of sites had been built, the dot-coms realized that the Web was over-crowded with sites that could not pull in enough visitors, not to mention paying customers. As long as the money held out, dot-coms turned to traditional forms of advertising like television and magazines to find new site visitors, but when investors decided that the dot-coms were burning cash too fast, the expensive advertising campaigns soon disappeared for all but the richest companies.
Today, companies that are trying to make money through their Web sites are figuring out new ways to drive paying customers to their sites and are finding they can do so quite inexpensively. Since 2000, many companies have turned to OMIX for suggestions on how to accomplish this very thing. This whitepaper was created with the intention of compiling the most effective methods that OMIX uses to bolster Web site marketing. We hope you will find these tools useful for marketing your Web site.
From a high level, successful Web site marketing campaigns integrate the following concepts:
UNDERSTAND YOUR CUSTOMERS
Profile Your Customer – Write a detailed profile of the site visitor your site marketing campaign aims to target. If you really have two different types of visitors, then come up with two profiles. Try to keep it to no more than two profiles by creating a profile that is broad enough to combine several different user patterns (i.e., a hurried business person may have a high speed Internet connection at work, but a slower connection at home, where he or she might be more inclined to make a purchase; this type of user could be viewed as a visitor that will likely make a purchase from a computer with a slower Internet connection). Give the person a fictitious name and make sure your Web team understands the profiled people (called "personas"). The whole tone of the Web site should speak to these personas, which represent your target audience. Your site will have to guide these audience members toward the response you want from them. Profiling should be performed repeatedly and often, to keep abreast of the evolution of your visitors and customers.
Unique Offering – Why do your customers buy from you and not your competition? What is your unique selling proposition? Your unique selling proposition should be reflected throughout your site.
Leveraging Statistics about Your Customer – Recent studies indicate that over 50% of North American Web users are women. Women also comprise over 68% of frequent buyers (at least one purchase a week) on the Web. Bear in mind also that the number of Web users outside of North America is growing rapidly every day. Remember that your targeted customer probably responds differently to a given site than do Web professionals or your coworkers, friends and family. Your site must appeal to your targeted customer in order to be successful, so don’t waste precious time and energy trying to please everyone.
HOW VISITORS WILL FIND YOUR SITE
As mentioned in the overview, this whitepaper will focus on using search engines as a tool in driving new visitors to your site. In order to make Search Engines an effective tool in your marketing strategy, here are some concepts you should understand about them:
Why Search Engines? – Although advertising, personal networking, and public relations all help to raise awareness about your site, studies have shown that an average 90% of new visitors will be directed to a site based on search engine results.
Affiliate Programs and Affinity Strategy – The 2nd most likely way (but a distant 2nd) to drive new visitors to your site is by using Affinity Strategy, whereby you appeal to your partners' audience. One example of Affinity Strategy is an Affiliate Program, where a partner site features promotions and links to your site. Generally, in exchange for click-through's generated by the link/banner hosting site, the beneficiary company pays a "commission" fee to the host site. You can outsource your Affiliate Program administration or you can build and maintain your own, probably smaller-scale, Affiliate Program. You can research your options regarding Affiliate Programs at www.affiliatemarketing.co.uk or at www.wilsonweb.com/ebooks/affilisoft.htm
Search Engine vs. Affinity Strategy – If you have a niche product or service (i.e., left-handed boomerangs), then you’ll likely experience great results via search engines. If you have a product that draws broad interest (i.e., e-commerce systems), then an affinity strategy might produce more results than optimum search engine placement. The biggest benefit that Affinity Strategy offers is that you will probably spend a lot less time tuning your site for Search Engine Optimization, but in turn, you will probably spend a lot more time on Affiliate Program administration and a lot more money on commissions (as well as Affiliate Program administration). Search Engine 101 – Search engines are those wonderful sites that let you type in search terms to find a site that best matches your terms. OMIX finds that the top engines for supplying new visitors to www.OMIX.com are Google, Yahoo, and MSN. The top search engines according to industry reports are Google, Yahoo, MSN, Altavista, AOL, Lycos and Overture (not necessarily in that order). Other popular ones are LookSmart, Hotbot, AlltheWeb, OpenDirectory, dmoz, and DirectHit. Though directories like Yahoo should not be mistaken for search engines, they too can be used to drive potential customers to your site, so for our purposes we will include them in this category. When OMIX considers enhancing a site for search engines it considers the following:
Listing With Search Engines – In the early days of the Web, listing with a search engine meant simply filling out a free online registration form. Now that they've grown so popular (and the library of information that search engines reference has grown so robust) you must consider the following:
Learn More About Search Engines - You'll probably need to do more research on search engines in order to take full advantage of their offerings. You can learn about them at www.searchenginewatch.com, www.payforclicksearchengines.com, www.rankwrite.com, www.rankright.com, www.subia-search-engine-optimization.com/ or www.traffick.com)
Importance of Picking a Good URL – Securing a good URL is important, but it's not necessary to waste much time or money securing the perfect one, since most customers will not remember the URL for non-national brand companies. Here are a few rules of thumb for how to pick effective URL's:
HOW NOT TO LOSE PROSPECTIVE CUSTOMERS
Most Wanted Response – Before you figure out how not to lose your visitor, you must know what you want your visitor to do. For relatively inexpensive products, your most wanted response might be for the visitor to place an order on line. For more expensive products, like OMIX services, the most wanted response might be for the visitor to request a newsletter subscription or make contact with the sales department. It's wise to track the most wanted response with a conversion rate. The conversion rate is equal to the amount of most wanted responses divided by the number of visitors. Desirable conversion rates are generally between 0.25% and 5%, and the bigger, the better. A higher conversion rate attests to the effectiveness your site in obtaining the most wanted response from a visitor. Both quantities (number of visitors and most wanted responses) should be tracked relentlessly in order to avoid losing potential customers in the future. Furthermore, tracking these numbers will help you to determine the effectiveness of your efforts to increase the number of visitors (by way of search engine placement tactics) as well as the effectiveness of your efforts to improve the conversion rate itself. You can experiment by tracking one week's conversion rate, then making a change and tracking the next week's conversion rate. Obviously, if the conversion rate improves, the adjustment you made has helped your site become more successful at obtaining the most wanted response.
Order Pipeline – If your site is an e-commerce system, streamline the checkout process as much as possible. If the checkout process includes steps that allow the customer the time or opportunity to think twice about the purchase, the likelihood of the sale being finalized decreases. Require only the minimum information you need to process their credit card (first and last name, billing and shipping addresses, credit card number and expiration date). Try also to provide a 1-800 phone number and a fax order form so that visitors can order products in whichever manner is most convenient to them. Most modern visitors have faith in Internet security, so don't get hung up trying to offer alternative ordering processes (like checks, money orders, or phone in orders) for those afraid to use their credit cards online. Contact Form or Newsletter Subscriptions – For more expensive products that can't be sold online, a contact form or newsletter subscription is probably the first step in obtaining a lead (your most wanted response). Keep the form as short as possible, again requiring only the minimum information necessary, so that you don't turn away your potential customer. If there is optional information that you would like to capture, you might consider making that request on a separate screen that the user does not view until they have submitted the critical information. Promise to use their email address only for sending the requested newsletter or information and also promise to remove their email address from the subscription if they request for you to do so. You might also consider a pop-up thank you screen for when visitors submit their email addresses. You will probably need to sell the free subscription pretty hard since most people are wary of spam and reluctant to give out their email addresses or read any email that isn't on the critical path to getting through their daily lives. Make sure that your newsletter has a unique selling proposition so that people will want to read each issue. Tell them what they want to hear, not what you want to tell them. Post back issues on your site; this will help attract search engines and new subscribers as well. You may experiment with a pop-up subscription ad, but be sure to set a cookie so that the ad does not annoy returning visitors. If the pop-up ad does not attract additional subscribers, remove it. Newsletters are getting more and more HTML-oriented, which may cause problems for some email applications. To see examples of good HTML newsletters you may want to check out: http://www.zdnet.com/anchordesk/ or http://www.wilsonweb.com/webmarket/
Keep Your Site Fast – Make sure your hosting company has the computers and bandwidth to support the optimal speed of your site. Don't overwhelm the site with a plethora of useless graphics, animations or special features; they will make your site too slow for modem users to enjoy. It's better to err on the side of speediness, which will make the site load extremely fast for users with better Internet connections.
Dead-end Pages – If you need to provide additional information that does not lead to your most wanted response, place it in a dead-end page. This page should look like any other page on your site (although you may want to remove the left navigation bar), and it should only have next and previous buttons at the bottom. This helps to ensure that the visitor can easily navigate from the dead-end page (or pages) to the path that leads to your most wanted response.
Newsletters – It's crucial to the success of your business to encourage a relationship with each and every visitor. Most Web surfers will visit a site only once and it's not likely they will call you for information they cannot obtain on your site. If your site can convince them to sign up for a newsletter, you have the opportunity to make multiple impressions on what would otherwise be a one-time-only visitor. Also, the number of people that may read your newsletter can be many times greater than the number of people that visit your site in the same timeframe.
Email Uses – Email can be used to engage your audience in several ways in addition to sending out your newsletter. You can use email for the following purposes:
Email List Building – Opt in strategies are best, and email addresses can be gained from customer orders, your old customer lists, direct marketing and convincing your site visitors to give you their email addresses. RealmCrossing.com built its email list for $100 by offering a free drawing for submitting an email address and completing a marketing survey. Your site should help you gather email addresses by offering prizes or a newsletter.
QUALITY OF YOUR SITE: CONTENT & DESIGN
Home Page – Your home page should clearly define the problem that you solve, the solution you offer and how you have provided that solution in the past to your multitude of satisfied customers. Paint a mental picture of why your service is great, and make a bold headline statement. For example, an industrial-strength cabinet maker might claim, "We found the biggest, fattest guy we could and had him jump up and down on our cabinets, so that we could guarantee that they would stand up to your use." Start every page with a problem statement.
Services – Presenting services can be pretty dull to visitors. A good way to keep it interesting is by describing each of say 5 services you offer on one page.If you're concerned that you will not have enough detail, you can define each service you offer in one compressed headline and link it to more detailed information. The services you offer should also include your business approach. For example, the steps one would take to begin working with OMIX are as follows: (1.) Talk to an OMIX sales engineer, (2.) Phone consultation with an experienced OMIX senior engineer, (3.) Requirements survey, (4.) OMIX delivers a proposal with price estimates based on your budgetary demands.
Client List – Advertise the clients for whom you have worked. You may also wish to group clients either by industry (i.e., Financial Services, Retail) or even by the nature of the work you performed for them (i.e., E-Commerce Systems, Content Management Systems); if you list common problems along with solutions that you provided for Clients A, B and C, readers will likely identify themselves with such Clients, and they will read about solutions that are relevant to their own specific needs and gain trust in your ability to provide them with a similarly excellent solution.
Case Studies – Case studies that are written in story format are most persuasive. Make sure to highlight a few of the challenges in each case and how your company managed to overcome the hurdles and provide an excellent solution.
Testimonials – Customer and partner testimonials should be sprinkled liberally throughout your site. Ideally, each testimonial should headline a bold statement and include the name, company, and position of the person making the statement and if necessary, a link to read the full testimony. Also, be sure to reiterate case-specific testimonials in the Case Studies section as added proof that your clients are happy to have worked with you.
Contact Us – In this section, you’ll want to give the visitor an idea of what they can expect to gain by contacting you. Answer the following questions briefly in this area: what your company will do in response to the client's inquiry, to whom will the client speak, and what the client should know about the company's process. If possible, avoid using a form or fill-in fields the visitor may be reluctant to complete. In addition, it is a good idea to list your company's name, address, fax and telephone number on every page of the site.
FAQ's – Frequently Asked Questions can be a good way to answer most questions, but if your company offers more expensive services or products, you might not want to list prices so that they call you. However, many Web marketers feel it is useful to list your prices in order to attract customers of the right budget, who could be turned off at the idea of having to call a bunch of sales people to get pricing during their initial investigation.
Articles – If a visitor has taken the time to browse your site, you can be sure that this visitor wants to know how and what you think. Use articles to further educate your prospective customers and convince them that you share like principles. Drive traffic to these articles via your newsletter and callouts on your site.
Who Needs Us? – This might be a good page to have, but it may also be limiting. Site visitors can usually infer to whom your products or services apply by reading your client list or researching your services. However, if neither of these pages is particularly compelling, well established, or easy to understand for non-industry experts, you may want to include a Who Needs Us page that spells it all out for them.
Content Considerations – Include:
Recommended Writing Style – It really is the copy that sells a Web site. Your writing style should include:
User Interface Design Considerations – Include:
HELPING YOUR CUSTOMERS BUY
Nurturing Prospects – Think of site visitors as fruit on a tree at various stages of ripeness. The riper they get, the more likely they are to become customers. You can help each piece of fruit reach ripeness. Each site visitor is a piece of fruit that can be nurtured along toward ripeness, and once you devise a marketing plan, you'll know precisely how to nurture your prospective customers. Like many others, OMIX uses newsletters to accomplish this. Other materials are good too, like whitepapers, tapes/CDs, and videos. To see this concept in action, sign up for a newsletter at www.wadecook.com (warning: you will probably end up at one of their investment seminars) or at y2marketing.com (and you may buy their marketing services). They really are good; try to emulate them as much as possible.
Unique Selling Proposition – Never, ever stop emphasizing the uniqueness of your unique selling proposition. What makes you different, better, or stand out in any way? If you owned a fruit stand at the Farmer's Market, you'd probably want to teach people how to recognize the tastiest, ripest fruit, whether it was by the color of the fruit or the sound it makes when a person taps on it. You'd also want to tell them how to recognize rotten fruit. In this same way, teach your visitors how to recognize the shams that your competition might try to pull on them. Teach them why you create your products the way that you do, and why they’ll be smarter and better off if they buy from you rather than your competition. Build a bulletproof case just like a lawyer would.
Call to Action – Give site visitors a reason to take action now. There are so many ways to do this on a site, most of which we've mentioned before: strategically placing Next (most wanted response) Page links in concluding sentences, including contact information on each page of the site, referral emails to win contests, etc. Just make sure that your "Calls to Action" are placed strategically so that they appeal to the right audience, meaning the "riper" fruit on your prospect tree, so to speak. Otherwise, to less "ripe" fruit it may appear that you're going in for the hard sell, which may be a turn-off to them.
E-Commerce – Here are several things you will want to consider if you're planning to include E-Commerce functionality on your site:
MEASURE RESULTS & REVISE
Survey Customers – Ask your current customers how they found you, if they used a search engine, and if so, which engine and search terms did they use. While you're at it, ask them what they are not getting from other vendors in your business, which is likely the reason they chose to work with you. You might also ask them if there's any additions they would like to see on your site. If you don't think your clients will want to take the time to complete a marketing survey, you can run a raffle or give them something in exchange for completing the survey.
Tracking Software – WebTrends is OMIX's favorite site tracking software. For $50, you can buy Position Gold and use it to check site performance and visitor statistics. Once weekly, run a report to check out how your site is stacking up against your competitors' sites. You can use this report to track visitors' behavior on your site and measure the effectiveness of each page on your site. The report will tell you which search engines your visitors used to find you and which search terms they used, as well as where your site is in terms of search engine result placement. It's vital that you learn from your competitors; find out what their sites are doing differently and analyze whether or not it makes sense for you to emulate them. You should spend at least one hour per week analyzing results and tuning your site based on findings.