Peanut butter and jelly, but no bread. Jordan and Pippen, but no hoop. Apple, but no Steve Jobs.
You get the idea.
Search engine optimization is critical to the success of online lead generation. However, SEO alone isn't going to get the job done, at least not efficiently. Working with companies on their SEO strategies has always necessitated going beyond "getting found." With pay-per-click campaigns and even well optimized websites visitors can end up on a site with no direction about where to go or what to do and ultimately end up leaving without engaging.
Companies that have the greatest opportunity to succeed have developed their website with their buyer profiles in mind. Buyer profiles are representative of "typical" visitors, their habits, demographics, and needs. Let's look at an example:
A plumbing company might have a buyer profile labeled "backups and clogs." These buyers have unforeseen, possibly emergency problems in their homes or business. They always need immediate service and the average bill is under $200. Examples of problems include toilets or sinks not draining correctly.
Both organic (not paid) and pay-per-click will get a prospective buyer to their site, but how does this company convert the visitor into a paying customer? Here are three effective tips that help turn visitors into leads:
- Landing Pages - landing pages are places that these buyers would go to address their specific needs. In the example above, this company would create a separate page specifically addressing clogs and backups. They would provide a little bit of information on their experience and quick response with examples of the types of problems that qualify. Right away, the visitor is being visually "hand-held" and led through the process of conversion. More information on the value of landing pages in lead generation.
- Offer - This company knows that this type of customer needs immediate assistance. Perhaps they offer a guarantee of 2 hours from the time the call is placed to arrival on site. Now a visitor is in the right place and feels that her problem can be solved quickly. What's left?
- Call-to-Action - This is where the site tells the visitor what to do next. "Click here to set your appointment and receive $25 off of your visit." The visitor clicks, fills out a short form (inlcuding email) to set the appointment and receives a coupon code via email immediately after submission.
Done correctly, landing pages, value offers and calls-to-action can turn a well optimized website into one that generates customers. Isn't that what the goal is?
As Hurricane Irene was making her way up the coast, I came across this interesting story on one of my favorite blogs. It seems that a Best Buy in Howell, NJ was selling bottled water at immorally high prices while the community the store served was under a hurricane warning. Photo Below.
Before I get to the point of this article, I should point out that I cannot confirm that this is a genuine photo, that it happened in Howell, NJ (or even in a Best Buy) or that this even happened at all. However, the collateral damage is very real and will have an impact on Best Buy.
As we know, perception is reality. And by a single popular blog posting this (I'm not helping), it will begin to make the rounds prompting some type of response from the company, regardless of whether or not it actually happened. Here is a link to the original blog post. (Warning - most comments contain profanity.)
At the time of this writing there were over 250 posts most overwhelmingly negative, if not venomous toward Best Buy. Some comments digressed into complaints about other unpopular policies of the company. All-in-all, not a good day at Best Buy.
I write this article not to pile on the story, rather to demonstrate how empowered customers have become in communicating with the general public to drive or withhold revenue based on the actions of the company, real or not. Best Buy has a PR issue at hand and will have to dedicate expensive resources to generate goodwill, especially in the affected communities.
If there is any takeaway here, aside from the viral nature of such a negative story, it is that PR, social media, and the Internet all play a critical role in the success or failure of businesses of any size. More importantly, when lives and the well-being of people are at stake, companies would be well served to show some loyalty to the communities that keep them in business. That type of PR is priceless.
You might be surprised at the answer.
Google Trends (http://www.trends.google.com) is a free service on Google that enables you to enter up to six keywords and determine which of them are the most searched relative to the others. The search criteria can be country or region specific, assuming enough data exists to create the metric.
Why is this important?
A few years ago, I was working with a client that provides caregiver services. We naturally assumed that the keyword that would be prevalent would be "Atlanta Caregiver" as well as a couple of others. We worked tirelessly to ensure that these keywords were inserted into the pages so that we would index prominently on Google. Success! We were (and still are) number one for this keyword.
However, Google Trends alerted us to the fact that the "Atlanta Home Care" keyword indexed over six times higher than "Atlanta Caregiver." While we were correct, we weren't optimized. This information enabled us to change our strategy, ads, etc. to ensure that we came up stronger in the search results for that keyword. See the results below:
Google Trends for Websites
Trends also allows a user to enter several URLs to detemine information about search behavior for those sites. An example is below:
As you look at the websites for the top three cable news channels, you will see not only how they stack up but also other sites that have been visited by their viewers, as well as other search terms. This data can help significantly when developing a profile of the viewer and where your ad dollars will be most effective. See below:
If you have a Google Adwords campaign running or simply trying to ensure that you get the exposure you deserve on Google, consider looking at Google Trends. You might be very surprised.
Recently, I was introduced to a study by Hiscox, a direct insurance agency, who polled 304 small business owner (1-249 employees) earlier this year about their social media opinions and usage. While the results were not surprising, they did indicate a general lack of understanding about the role of social media and business growth. Results below (link to article)
What becomes painfully evident is that small business owners fail to understand WHY social media is critical to long-term success of a company. If you think of this in two ways, tactically and strategically, it is easier to understand the results of the poll and why less than half use social media for business purposes.
Let's use tactical to describe the executable part of social media (blog, Facebook, Twitter interactions such as entries and time spent reading or forwarding.) I would theorize that this is the extent of the involvement that most business owners associate with social media and also how they determine whether or not to invest their time in it.
If you consider that direct response from social media may not be overt or timely, then it is logical to downgrade the importance of these channels when investing time or money in them. After all, who has a great deal of time to continually update your Facebook page, Tweet about your business or worse, compose a blog article? Week after week and see few results? C'mon.
Given that the executable part of social media requires time (and lots of it), let's focus on the strategic part of it and uncover why social media is worth all of the effort.
Strategic social media is analagous to working out or exercising. A great deal of effort is spent with a mostly long-term goal in mind.
A large part of marketing your business today is dependent on being found online. Unlike the days of A-AARDVARK Insurance company listed 1st in the phone book, customers rely on the Internet to provide information about prospective purchases. Search engines don't return results alphabetically. Instead, they index their results based on dozens of criteria designed to give the person who made the query the most relevant result possible. Among the factors that determine how a page or site is ranked include but aren't limited to the following:
- Unique, relevant content
- Number external inbound links
- Quality of external inbound links
- How current the site content
The unique, relevant content should be read as "blog." A blog provides two of the four components listed above notably unique, relevant content and site currency. By blogging, small businesses have a fantastic opportunity to discuss (not tell) about problems that they can solve and the methods they might use to do so. I used the term "discuss" because their visitors can contribute and help the blog grow. In most cases, each article results in another indexable page on the site as well as relevant, fresh content.
Additionally, a blog can begin to have more relevance that the main part of the website considering that it has the propensity to contain information about specific issues and results versus the generalities contained on the site pages. For example, a plumber could describe on his blog how to install a water heater. A common plumbing issue, this page may begin to attract inbound links and develop search engine prominence more so than any of the main pages on the site.
But it doesn't stop there. According to Gartner (July 2010), 74% of consumers rely on social media to guide purchases. Social media has become the online water cooler where all topics are discussed and more importantly, shared. That same plumber who blogged about installing water heaters can also provide online discounts or incentives that can be shared online. And unlike advertising which is perishable, those that engage in social media have multiple opportunities to reach their customers through activity feeds which appear in their social media channels.
Is social media a better investment than traditional advertising?
Over the long haul, absolutely. As mentioned above, advertising can be perishable and although there exist instances where traditional advertising is a better decision, it is nearly always more expensive. Technology has enabled consumers to filter out most forms of traditional advertising. If you use an iPod, GPS, DVR, satellite/online radio or have access to the Internet, chances are that you are actively using technology to filter out advertising.
Using online resources, consumers seek out what they want to purchase at the time of their choosing and depend on opinion, facts, reviews as well as pricing information that are found via websites and social media channels. In order to reach these customers, small businesses have to be where they are and positioned to convert them. Therefore, traditional advertising is becoming very expensive to convert while small businesses that have developed their online presence to attract and engage their customers is relatively inexpensive dollar-wise but labor-intensive.
What about Pay-Per-Click Advertising?
PPC advertising, like any form of advertising is perishable, though PPC does an admirable job of positioning a small business to reach and convert customers in buy-mode. But where does it end? Some businesses can spend over $50 a click on their PPC campaigns without any guarantee that the customer is even searching for their product or service. PPC will generate results but can be costly, especially over time. Organic clicks are free, all the time.
Small business owners wear many hats, including marketing. And since many have more time than money, social media as part of a larger, long-term effort to develop the prominence of their websites, will find that organic search will provide a increasingly larger percentage of their business while decreasing the cost to attract new customers.
David Bacon is a Certified Inbound Marketing Specialist in Atlanta.
I recently had a conversation with a Financial Analyst for an investment firm - a local branch of one of the big boys - about social media and how their company was using it in the course of business. He shook his head and proceeded to explain that due to the risk of liability involved in discussing their business, their employees were prohibited from posting on social media accounts. While the marketing department could make rather watered down statements in relation to company activities, not much else was available.
This makes sense. Sometimes social media can be a bit too social. But what a missed opportunity! Consider that clients and prospects alike already discuss these topics and may want to have an outlet to reach out to an expert.
Last week, LinkedIn became a public company. Using their own applications, they were able to disseminate investor information through their network in a way that did not expose them to undue risk. LinkedIn decided to take the relevant investor information and post it to their SlideShare modules (essentially online PowerPoint decks.)
It's isn't that LinkedIn did anything extraordinary but they have shown that a company's website shouldn't be the end-all/see-all of finance/investment information. While the website is safe, controlled and relatively predictable, using the LinkedIn network and the slideshare module reaches an audience that can interact with the information without risk of liability. It creates opportunities to showcase information to a larger audience and develop a following.
Twitter is also being used to generate buzz about company earnings. Using Twitter to broadcast an earnings call is becoming more common. Shareholders are advised of a specific Twitter hastag and receive real time updates during the course of the meeting. Again, the information being broadcast is sanctioned and interactive without the overreaching fear that the company is primed for a lawsuit.
I am not suggesting that everything that hits social media is risk-free. However, I am saying that by creating an avenue by which stockholders or clients can follow in real time or via LinkedIn, financial firms create opportunities to promote their brand, interact with current and prospective clients and drive business much more so than reliance on their own site.
Isn't that what social media is all about?
Washington Post Article: