The online space is changing constantly and every day there is a new product, platform or idea being created to attract and distract business owners. Whilst writing this article there could be a new product being launched that renders this article out of date and so rather than look at the shiny new things available online this article will focus on the fundamentals of online success for a small business owner.
- Clear Project Aims – What do you want to achieve online? Are you looking for brand awareness, direct sales, lead generation or is your web site simply a supporting act for your more traditional offline activity? Setting out clearly defined goals will lead to the second key area for online activity which is keyword selection.
- Keyword Selection – Once you have identified your project aims you can set about the task of creating a keyword map. The aim here is to identify keywords or phrases that people who are searching, browsing or even fumbling their way online would use to find you. An example of this might be “Cheap Car Insurance” might be a phrase suitable for generating direct sales whereas “Insurance Companies” might be more brand awareness. Google’s own keyword tool is a really useful free offering for identifying good phrases with regular search volumes.
- Traffic – Once you have created a keyword map you need to identify the best place to generate traffic. Search engines like Google are usually the best place to start but are you looking for a Pay per Click campaign through the likes of Google Adwords? This is quick and easy to achieve but very often far too expensive for most small to medium sized businesses. Are you looking for organic traffic from the natural listings? This typically needs a good Small business SEO specialist to help but tends to deliver more quality and sustainable traffic. Could social media be more suited to your product i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in or the host of social bookmarking sites like Delicious or Digg? What about the power of video which is becoming ever more important online and traffic can be gained from the video streaming platforms like You Tube, Daily Motion or Metacafe and also direct from the first page of Google.
- Traffic Quality – One key factor when deciding where to get your traffic is the quality and quantity you need. There is a fine line between quality and volume – too much attention to the quality and you may not generate enough visitors to convert, too much attention to volume and you may waste lots of money generating leads that do not convert or you cannot cope with. Concentrate on your highest profit margin phrases first and build from there.
- Traffic Behaviour – Once you get visitors to your web site they need to stay in the first instance, get to where they need to be quickly and efficiently and once there convert into a lead or sale. If you have a high bounce rate it could be that people are searching for one thing and arriving at a page that says something different. If someone is searching for “red shoes” make sure they arrive at the page within your site that sells red shoes not a page that sells “green track suits” or your home page that talks about your business in general. If someone is searching for ‘sports wear” by all means send them to your home page or a category page that says Sports Wear. Can the user navigate the site easily without needing a crash course in code writing!! Is your site clunky or slow to load if so change it customers will get board, it is a fact that searchers are spending less time on each page they visit and bounce rates as a whole are increasing indicating that today’s searcher is less prepared to dig for what they want and are looking for it to be served to them quickly.
- Traffic Conversion – Once visitors are on your site and have been able to navigate or have landed on the correct page you need mechanisms to help them convert. If you have a shopping cart this is straight forward you want them to buy something however if they don’t what next? How can you grab their details so that you can market to them again? It is essential to have multiple reasons for a searcher to leave their details and often less is more here. Rather than giving away every piece of information at your disposal reduce it slightly and get the searcher to ask for it. Give them a snippet of a newsletter or white paper and get them to ask fro the rest (this way you generate a lead), show them a video and ask them do they want more? (another way to generate a lead). Early stage researchers may only want to leave an email address in order to receive a newsletter perhaps whereas a searcher who is ready to buy might leave lots of information to receive full product specifications or a price list?
- Traffic Retention – Most small business owners have one chance to convert traffic into leads or sales and that is usually the first time a potential customer visits the site. Many blue chips and larger web site real estate work really hard to create a web site that is appealing enough for visitors to return therefore giving them multiple opportunities to convert traffic to sales. Small business owners however usually do not have the time, resource or subject matter to create a site that engages visitors over and over again with the possible exception of e-commerce sites. This doesn’t mean that small business owners shouldn’t try by introducing videos, industry news updates, company news updates, blog posts, twitter posts, weekly offers or even competitions in order to give visitors a reason to return.
- Traffic Profiling – Most businesses will now have some kind of traffic analysis software (often Google Analytics) however few small businesses are conversant with all there functions. With Google analytics for example it is possible to set up targets and goals to track the performance of traffic throughout the site. Traffic profiling takes this a stage further by separating traffic and leads into predetermined categories from early stage researchers to general enquirers and the holy grail of hot leads who are ready to buy now.
- Lead Management – Once a lead has been captured it is essential that business owners can store and manage these leads effectively. This ranges from creating categories for leads, compiling a history, prospect system to manage calls and recalls and some kind of filtering system to facilitate target marketing and re-marketing. Even if your site is an e-commerce site it is proven that less than 5% of people who visit your site for the first time will buy something and so it is essential to have a lead management programme to facilitate the other 95%
- Re-Marketing – It has long been proven in the world of offline marketing that it takes between 5-7 contacts on average to turn a prospect into a top quality lead or sale and this is no different online. On average small to medium sized business owners tend to contact their prospects only 2-3 times and many only make one contact. This is one major area where a small business owner can truly maximise their ROI when it comes to online marketing by having the capacity to simply and regularly contact their prospect base.
By creating a structured holistic marketing plan covering all ten sections business owners will undoubtedly generate maximum return for their online marketing activity and spend particularly when embarking on
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