Are You Paying Attention?

Everybody is so busy. We have to – or at least we feel like we have to – multi-task throughout the day. But does it really work? This morning I realized that my fruit shake wasn’t going to keep me going until lunch time so while I was out and about I swung through McDonald’s drive thru.

First I heard a voice that was so soft I couldn’t hear what was said. I asked her to repeat what she said. She was ready for my order! So I ordered the breakfast meal I wanted and asked for coffee for the drink. A few seconds later she asked for my order. A bit confused I ordered again. She repeated my order and asked if that was all. I said yes. Then she asked what I wanted to drink with my meal. At that point I realized that she was not paying attention to me at all. She was so busy taking money from the customers in line ahead of me that she had no idea where I was in the ordering process. I pulled out of line and moved on.

Arriving at Starbucks I had to get out of my car but the staff inside were friendly and polite and they only paid attention to one customer at a time. I was struck by the difference as I ordered only once and got what I ordered.

So how does that apply to a web site? Too often web sites try to be all things to all people. In fact, it is not infrequent that a client or potential client will tell me, with a straight face, that their target market is everybody or at least every business.

If everybody is your target then you’re like the lady at McDonalds that is so busy taking money from customers that she couldn’t really pay attention to me as I ordered. She couldn’t figure out where to focus.

Take a look at your web site today. Think about it not as a business owner but as a potential customer. Are you paying attention? Is it clear what the next step is? Or in an effort to be all things to all people are you paying attention to no one?
 

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Web Site Design Fundamentals

Would you build the foundation for your house and then begin to ponder what rooms you should put in the house and where the walls should go?

Of course not.

Yet when it comes to building a web site this is precisely the model that most businesses follow. First they build the site and they begin to think about Internet marketing. “What should we try to accomplish?” “Should we do a search campaign?” “What should the call to action be on this page?” All of these questions are best answered BEFORE you design your site.

You don’t want to have brick walls if you’re planning on stucco. Before you start you need to determine what your goals are for your site. These can be marketing goals – “We want to generate 25 new leads a month through the site” or they can be customer-relationship goals “We want customers to be able to download their portfolio without needing to call us” or a myriad of others. The important thing is to understand the goals as you begin to design the site.
Recently I met with a business owner who thought she had nearly completed her complex membership site. She wanted my help with “the last little piece” of managing the logins. What she had, in fact, was very much like the old western movie sets. Walk down main street and you think you’re really in the old west. Then you open a door to look inside and instead you just see the desert stretching off into the distance.

Empty Desert
Facade – What’s behind your web site?

She had cobbled together a few pieces that really looked enticing but there was no backend to manage the processes that she wanted. While that is an extreme case of not having a firm foundation, we see again and again how the design and development of a site do not support the goals of the site owner.

Once you have your goals established, you can then envision how they will be attained through the site and this will lead to a site that actually helps your business grow.

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Eliminate Orphans

Some of you will think this is some sort of Dickensian entreaty to eliminate “the surplus population”. But it isn’t.

I’m talking about orphaned web pages.  A web page gets orphaned in much the same way a human does. It’s parent dies or goes away.

Let me give an anecdote to explain both how it happens and why its bad. I recently met a very well known financial advisor in the Denver area. We arranged to meet at one of my favorite restaurants for some adult beverages.  I got the time wrong and showed up a half an hour early.

So I googled his name so I could give him a call. The first page that came up was from his web site. So, having a few minutes, I started clicking around and thought to myself “This guy needs our service – his web site is WAAAY out of date.”

Once he arrived, I showed him the page and he said “That’s from our old site.” When I clicked on the Home link I could see the new site but all of the old site was still out there and still active. All of these pages were orphaned. They weren’t really supposed to be there.

The obvious solution to this problem is to delete the pages. Right?

Ahh, you were paying attention, good for you. The number 1 Google Ranking for his name was the orphaned page. Delete that and you lose visibility.

There are two steps that should be taken to make sure you get rid of orphaned pages but don’t lose the Search Engine Optimization power that page or those pages have attained.

  1. Create a 301 redirect so that links to the old page will be forwarded to the new page or the appropriate replacement for the old page. There are different ways to implement a 301 redirect. The best way is to edit the .htaccess file but many web control panels will let you accomplish this through a control panel.
  2. Then it is safe to delete the old page.

In case it’s still not clear, let me give you one more example. We recently redesigned the West Chamber Serving Jefferson County web site. Before the redesign there was a Google link to the Youth Leadership Jefferson County that was http://www.westchamber.org/lead-yljc.asp. After the redesign, that page no longer exists but if you try to visit that page, you end up at http://www.westchamber.org/lead-yljc-asp/ which is the correct link.

I just discovered an orphan on our own web site today. That now has a proper 301 redirect so folks don’t get lost or confused. Need help with this? Give us a call at 303 268-2245.

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Internet Marketing Through Web Site Design

Lots of folks start their web design with a logo and maybe some colors. Then they add some copy that seems appropriate and figure out how to navigate through the site and they’re done with the design.

After they’ve finished, they’re ready for Internet marketing – maybe they’ll add a search engine optimization campaign or a paid search campaign (like Google AdWords). The more internet savvy ones will even develop a social media marketing campaign.

But the design and the marketing aren’t planned out together.

That’s a mistake.

Build your web site on a firm foundation

You have to start with a firm foundation. What better foundation for a web site design that your marketing goals? Start with the result in mind and you’ll build a solid site that not only complements your business but actually drives it forward.

Three Questions to consider as you build your foundation:

  1. What is the main call to action throughout the site?
  2. How do the various pages flow or drive the visitor towards the call to action?
  3. How can I forget about the features and focus on the benefits  (which is what the customer really wants anyway)?
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Recovering From Poor Internet Marketing

I have a friend who lies paralyzed in a hospital bed. A short while back he was involved in an accident and he will never walk again. I stopped by to visit him today. He was sedated but the good news is he has a tracheotomy. That never before sounded like a good thing but for him it is allowing him to breathe without having a tube shoved down his throat. It keeps other bacteria from following that tube right down into his lungs, and it is, the doctors believe, a step towards getting him to breathe on his own again. In short, for my friend, having a hole in his throat is a step towards recovery.

What does that have to do with Internet marketing? Last week I spoke with a client who is running his own AdWords campaign and is quite frustrated because “every time I turn it on it costs me $530 every two weeks” but he’s not getting a return on his investment.

Here’s what I told him he should do:

  1. Have us do an audit of his AdWords campaign. Since he’s not an expert and since he has a business to run, he doesn’t know all the ins and outs of a paid search campaign such as how to set it up for long tail search or whether it actually makes sense to have a different campaign for each city he’d like to get business from.
  2. Have us do a local search campaign for his business. With the tools provided through Google Local Business Center and Bing Local Search, as well as sites like Yelp, CitySearch, BrightKite,  and Gowalla, there are many things a geographically based company can capitalize on. But it has to be done well and consistently.

While he’s still thinking it over, I’d like to tell you why he should choose one or the both of these.  Until now he’s been paralyzed with the urge to stop throwing money away. By choosing either or both of these solutions he’ll be taking a step towards recovery.

And yes we would appreciate your thoughts and prayers for my friend has he faces a long road to recovery ahead but he is making steps, small though they may seem, towards getting better.

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Why Internet Marketing Works

While I’ve never been much of a numbers guy, I’m amazed about how easy Internet Marketing is because absolutely everything can be measured. So your goal is to figure out what to measure and then measure it.

And the beauty of it is that small changes can reap LARGE effects. Let’s say that you have a paid search campaign. You want people to rent a tuxedo from your store instead of your competitors. You can set up a paid search campaign – such as Google AdWords – to drive traffic to you site. At Google you identify when your ad will appear based on search words. So you say I want the ad to appear when people search for “prom”, “wedding”, “tux”, or “tuxedo”. Easy enough.

Not let’s say you start running this campaign and you find that for every 100 clicks (and you pay for every click) you get three tuxedo rentals. To make this a profitable venture for you, you determine that you need at least 5 rentals for every 100 clicks but you’d much prefer 10 or more.

Now that you have the traffic coming, you need to look at why more folks aren’t converting. With some of the nifty tools Google provides, you can do split testing. So you look at your landing page (the one you direct folks to from Google) and decide to keep the existing page as one version of the test. Then you make a small change – perhaps a differently worded call to action – and set that page as the second version of the test.

Next you turn on the test and then as people click through to your site, you can calculate which call to action is getting more business. Once you’ve got enough data to determine which is better, eliminate the underperformer and use the better one. If you change your conversion rate from 1% of visitors converting to customers to 2%, you’ve doubled your business. Pretty good ROI!

Repetitive Unproductive Practice

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

But don’t stop there.  Like my shampoo bottle says, “Lather, Rinse, Repeat.” If you’ve found that one call to action gets more conversions, what if there is yet another that will triple your conversions? Build another page to test. And often its not the call to action. It could be the image you use or the attention getting headline or the copy leading up to the call to action.

Since you can measure each step of the process, you can measure your ROI at every step and set yourself apart from your competition.

And that is just with Paid Search. The same holds true with Organic Search and even Social Media Marketing.

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Building Better Web Sites

We often have people come to us looking for a web site and they start off with, “Here’s the content and here’s the logo.” That would be like starting off your home construction with interior design and where the furniture is going to be.

To design a good web site, you need to start with a good foundation. What is your goal? Be SPECIFIC. Being specific means going much deeper than “I want more business.” Being specific means thinking about how many new customers you’d like / can handle each week or month or quarter. Being specific means thinking about how your web site goals fit in with your overall marketing goals.

By being specific in your goal setting, you can then begin to build your foundation. If your specific goal is to get 15 calls a week via your web site (which you will then turn at least one into a customer) then you can look at your site plans and answer the very specific question, “What am I doing to entice or encourage the visitor to give me a call?”

There are many many ways to accomplish this but with that question in mind, you can begin to craft the site or a particular page in such a way that you’re helping the visitor to reach the conclusion that they should indeed give you a call. And don’t forget the obvious. The same week we put our phone number in the banner of our site, I closed a deal where the customer expressed thanks that we were so easy to get in touch with by having the number at the top.

But having your number at the top of the page is NOT a call to action. A call to action would be much more like “Have a pressing tax question? Call one of our advisors for a free 15 minute consultation” or “Call to schedule your consultation and we’ll give you a free _______ when you come in.” The blank could be a blender, USB drive, book, domain name or any other appropriate gift for your business.

So even if you’re not a web designer, you can still build a better web site.

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Finding the Right Web Design Firm

There are lots of places on the Internet you can go to get a web site designed for less than $100. You get what you pay for however. There are also web sites that will help you with Search Engine Optimization for only $25 or some such nonsense. Again you get what you pay for which in this case can actually be counterproductive to your site. Finally there are some excellent graphic designers out there that learn how to convert their work into html and declare themselves to be web designers. For a modest sum, they will build you a web site. Be very careful in this case also.

There are three main elements to web design that you need to make sure you’ve got covered:

1)      Good design
Building a good web site means that it needs to be designed to fit YOUR needs. The problem with most do-it-yourself template sites is that you have to customize your needs to  the template rather than having the design customized to your needs. Your site should be visually engaging and should be customized to help you get your message across to your customers.

2)      Search Engine Friendliness
We won’t lie to you. SEO is very competitive and can get quite expensive. But a key part of web design is an architecture that is friendly to search engines. Some key elements to include in the design: using key words in file names and in image tags; naming sub-directories well; and the obvious – using keywords in the written content – but then also placing that written content in the best place on the page. None of these are included in your super-cheap online SEO services but more importantly, many web designers don’t use or understand these principles.

3)      Functionality
I’ve seen some really beautiful web sites but have had no clue what the next step is. Often graphic designers that hang up their web design shingle are the culprits. They design visually engaging graphics that don’t point the user to the next step. A term often used with web sites is “intuitive”. An intuitive web site is one where the user can easily figure out (without having to do any “figuring”) what to do. Navigation, for example, isn’t hidden or difficult to figure out – instead the menu items are clearly menu items and you can click on them to move to the next page.

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