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A Website's Purpose
A clearly defined purpose for your website will answer hundreds of questions that may, or perhaps ought to be running through your head. This hub is designed specifically for those who want to rise above simple survival (& their business competition) to overcome and even thrive in our potentially treacherous and challenging economic environment. If you’re plagued with nagging questions, head to that section for answers: i.e.
How much of my advertising budget should be dedicated to Internet campaigns? (INTERNET COMPARISON TO OTHER MEDIA ADVERTISING), how important is our site’s visibility? (INTERNET RANK IMPORTANCE); what is a reasonable figure for optimization and maintenance? Should we invest in software, try to manage it internally or outsource? (GEOGRAPHICAL TARGETING & Software); how much information should my site include? (WHAT INFORMATION IS REQUIRED ON YOUR SITE); should our campaign be PPC/Organic - or both? Should I sign a contract if I outsource it? How do I know if my Marketing Manager/IT/SEO person is doing a good job? Is there a quick way to get more traffic in this economic slump? (HOSTING, DESIGNING, MAINTAINING, CAMPAIGN & PUBLICITY CHOICES- oh my!)
Let me guide you through some solid, current facts and suggestions you may not have thought of. Sometimes we're all a little too close to our trees to see the forest. In this economy, you might be tempted to think the whole blasted forest is on fire and run or wait it out - that's not the answer you need. I'm going to suggest you become a 'first responder'/firefighter - at least to make sure your own turf is ahead in the game. Once you're clear on your website's purpose and take the appropriate steps, you'll be well on your way to having the most effective powerful tool available today and thriving with others who see today's economy as an awesome opportunity!
Who am I to offer such guidance? My own purpose and forte for the better part of 30 years has been helping entrepreneurs/business owners with every aspect of getting their business up and running from marketing, training, laws affecting them to undeniable success. Keeping up with the market, I have worked extensively with the best, rated in the top ten worldwide for PPC mgmt & SEO.
No, I’m not an IT techy type person, nor is this article intended to be technically oriented. It's meant for you as either an existing or beginning business owner needing to cut to the chase and bottom-line logic. Am I bias? Yes because I’ve been listening, watching, reading and studying the figures to realize that for today’s business, your website may be your absolute best investment – it’s purpose your place to start!
Easy, fundamental, & foundational agreements to alleviate confusion: The SBA says: “the only sure-thing in starting your own business is that you will not get a loan without a complete business plan”, having and maintaining a successful website requires a similar, up to the minute plan: clarity of purpose; what effect/ROI you’re expecting; and paying attention to your competition wouldn’t hurt either.
Check your site - Google indexed pages
I'm sure we can all agree there's no point mantaining a lead generation site that huddles around page 35 of a search.
Equally, tagging or titling your site with your company’s name won't attract new customers. If a customer already knows, loves, and prefers doing business with you, they are not heading to Google. Your title and keywords need to catch them if they forgot about you or are checking your competition, or you want to stay ahead in the game with new customers.
Before the Internet became so huge, there was a 5 year study done for "brick and mortar" businesses. The percentage breakdown for new business, referrals etc is still important to note. The Internet seems to have replaced both the yellow pages & newspaper percentages (see next section) with home-based businesses/strip mall rules making signs close to redundant.
Most successful businesses I talk with daily say that over 80% of their business is now coming directly from the Internet. Naturally, this includes both the 49% new and 35% referral - it's so much easier for a happy customer to refer people to a website!
Percentage Breakdown: 5 year study (brick & mortar)
INTERNET COMPARISON TO OTHER MEDIA ADVERTISING
One of the largest media research studies report the current percentage of yellow page use is >1%. Successful direct mail campaigns have historically been substantially less than 3% and these days, most people simply toss flyers in the trash.
Compare the cost of an infomercial, seen by a wee tiny percentage watching that particular channel/ 200+, at that particular time (or the psychological receptiveness today to yet another bombardment of “BUY, BUY, BUY” in this commercial age) to the results you can achieve by securing visibility and accessible on the major highway of your targeted market.
Being there at the precise moment they want and need your product or service ought to pretty much answer “how important is your site”. Conversely, procrastination could guarantee the collapse of your business as we now see in the majority of deserted strip malls all around.
Many consider advertising an expense similar to a utility bill. When accurately managed, it isn’t money used up and simply written off – it ought to be the best investment your company makes.
Site-purpose: What are your short term & long term goals?
Is your site on the highway to success?
INTERNET RANK IMPORTANCE
If generating more business via one or a few static pages in cyberspace was ever a viable option, that concept is as extinct as dinosaurs. If you are just in it for the short term, quick cash and run be forewarned: there are many, already internet savvy, who look at a non-Google ranked site as an unreliable fraud to avoid.
We only have to consider our own searching habits to answer any questions of rank importance – do you ever look at page 3 or beyond? Penn State revealed some statistically astounding research: 83% of searchers trust the organically ranked listings more than sponsored links.
In addition, if you're thinking, “Ah, we’re doing fine – our PPC link is #1 or #2 for some mighty fine keywords”, consider how often the average “tire kicker” clicks on the first link only to ask a few questions. In general, being at 2.9 on the links has a much higher conversion rate. Can you afford a large staff to field industry questions or would it be more cost effective for them to be ready to buy and to be able to convert-your-traffic to customers?
Perhaps you are ‘old school’, thinking we can convert the tire kickers to sales. To you I ask, "When was the last time a receptionist or similar changed your mind or convinced you to hang on for 10 minutes until a sales rep could address your concerns?"
Do you only offer 1 or 2 products/services? How many does your competition/large corporations want to sell?
Site-purpose: What’s a realistic number of inquiries/customers you want & can manage? How many products/services can your site offer to broaden your potential market?
GEOGRAPHICAL TARGETING & Software
Internet analytic software is a science and art. If you’re still thinking you can only offer your services/travel in a 30 mile radius so there is no point advertising on the “worldwide web” – there is good and bad news.
Bad news: your competition may already be so firmly branded in your customers’ mind you’re facing a Mt Everest to modernize your awareness and catch up. Your competition looked at the statistics of our mobile society long ago and realized about 20% of the population will research their needed services prior even to moving. Your competition took no chances on losing the equivalent of 20/every 100th existing customer to keep their business in the black either.
Good news: there are no grey areas to accessing detailed analytics. You can instantly find out what words your targeted market uses; what time of day they’re searching; what locale would be most productive and convertible for you; how many are searching; how much will that cost you and the list goes on and on to almost every detail you could imagine.
More bad news: if anyone tries to make you believe that all you have to do is buy some cheap software or service to manage your campaigns – you’re setting yourself up for sponsored link (& organic ranking) DISASTER! The Internet is like a human, breathing, living changing animal. If it was static, Google wouldn’t have improved their own algorithms 400 times last year! Without continual human intervention to tweak and improve your ads and the effectiveness of your content, landing pages etc., the potential waste could be the same as a knife straight into the jugular of your budget!
Site-Purpose: who is your targeted market? How much do you have to invest? What ROI is expected?
WHAT INFORMATION IS REQUIRED ON YOUR SITE
Your website could be the absolute best salesperson you've ever had:
If you had a salesperson who never took a day off, worked 24/7 with your best targeted and qualified leads, how well trained would you want them to be? Would you want them to clearly communicate what you offer or would you pay them little and hope the leads were ignorant thinking you’re the only game in town? Would you arm them with information about your competition or invite them to leave and “be back” after doing their due diligence?
Would your best salesperson know when, where or how to re-direct prospects to additional and appropriate information? Would you let them just offer widget #7b or would they have every product/service to suit your prospect’s needs at their fingertips? Should that salesperson be aware of the integrity of your company or ready with testimonials from satisfied customers? In addition, if your customers were ready to buy, would your salesperson make it difficult for them to do that?
In this fast paced, changing society, the million dollar question is would you want your salesperson reciting the same old script as last week, month or year, or would you continually have new and updated information to satisfy the needs and offer the best shot at closing a deal?
Many of us are professional skeptics these days, which is healthy when you consider how many scams are out there. Statistically, it takes an average of seven “touches” before a person will trust you or your company enough to purchase. Even as a likeable person, if I came to you 7 times repeating the same information – you’d toss me out in a heartbeat – am I right or wrong?
Just as with your business plan, be as clear about your products/services, personnel, competition, assurances, company, updates etc. and particularly, your purpose = have a CALL TO ACTION. In my opinion …Covey’s coined phrase ‘lead at the “Speed of Trust” applies to your site as well – it is after all, your customers’ first impression – and may be their last if not professional, informative, navigable, and open enough.
HOSTING, DESIGNING, MAINTAINING, CAMPAIGN & PUBLICITY CHOICES- oh my!
How could I possibly lump so many important choices in one category? This dear friend is because if anyone even suggests to you that one price suits all, or one software package is the best and all that’s needed, or which campaign you should choose without knowing the
PURPOSE OF YOUR SITE; your company details; short & long term goals; realistic number of inquiries/customers you want & can manage; your targeted market; how much you have to invest; expected ROI; your call(s) to action – don’t just walk away - RUN!!!!
Until you are clear on all of these aspects, do not be scammed, or bamboozled into any single choice, person, or software package – you will almost assuredly be disappointed, frustrated, and a lot poorer if you do.
Look for the signs!
Or find an IT company with their finger on the pulse of the future
...one of the worlds largest providers of information technology services and solutions by creating a culture where people and details are never averaged into a process. Modis is in the business of deploying human intellectual capital
A few professionals can help you with all aspects - a one stop shop in other words. After working with many clients who had their:
- hosting with one company (thinking “BARGAIN” until it stopped functioning and realized customer service wasn’t included - although separating this aspect from your campaigns may add a little insurance if reputable)
- got someone else to design for them (who neither considered company’s needs/goals or hadn’t time to keep up with SEO necessities),
- had an inexpensive company manage their campaign only to have them go belly up leaving them with no clue or record of what was going on,
- or clients themselves spending almost full time trying to keep up with Google’s changes to the detriment of their own business
– I can recommend that the more areas a company is familiar with, the better off you’ll be.
- Domain Names, Web Hosting and SSL Certificates - Go Daddy
Register & transfer domains for less. Reliable hosting. Easy-to-use site builders. Affordable SSL certificates. eCommerce solutions. ICANN-accredited.
Therefore, not to leave you hanging or stuck in overwhelm, let me offer just a few basics, insights, and suggestions:
Web hosting: Contract – yes. You want your site up and running with a reputable company for a long time. Some companies include an hour or two of tech support and service every month to help you with administrative changes, new content, formatting of photos etc. This is important! If you do not have an onsite administrator, your site could be on the blink for months and if it was a good one to begin with, being down could drastically affect your bottom line! Take advantage of the couple of hours to learn the essentials – do not just ignore it until a problem comes up. In addition, updates are necessary. I have mentioned that a few times and why it is necessary (see further details: “SEO organic campaign”).
Purpose: consistent reliability; updatable content; technical support & service; training if necessary; availability of your needs which could be anything from new forms for newsletters/surveys and a database with accurate and instant leads sent or sales made, to the number of mailboxes you require – even as a sole proprietor!
PPC – Sponsored Link Campaigns
Contract – no. It takes a few weeks to properly analyze and get results oriented ROI. This however demands so much research and detail, you ought to give your professional team at least a few months to recoup this cost and show you what they can do. For example: To be efficient your budget needs to be appropriately spread out over a month’s time, or a quarter but don’t get locked into a contract for a year or two, especially without being kept in the know yourself!
If a company is doing a great job – they won’t need to lock you in - at least not for a year or two. The more they’re willing to educate you, the better. Any company handling this important part of your advertising strategy ought to have your best interest in mind, which essentially should be the greatest return for the least amount of money – this is simple business logic. If a company is paid by a percentage of your spend – can their true goal be to help you spend less? Look for a flat fee structured company whose priority is customer service and human intervention.
Remember, the marketplace is ever changing and fast – you must change with it and stay ahead of your competition. Another point of interest in this area is that the higher your conversion rate is, the greater the searcher experience as far as the engines are concerned and thus, it will improve your organic ranking to convert more customers. This answers the question of whether to Pay Per Click and/or organically – both will set you apart as the unequivocal leader in your industry.
Purpose: immediate exposure on page one for the keyword phrases that can make you the most money (and not necessarily position 1 with your budget depleted by noon and your targeted audience searching at 6:30 EST!)
SEO – organic ranking campaigns
Contract – no. Our team of experts for example, get 95% of our clients ranked on Google’s page one within 90 days or less and work continually to keep them anchored there. If you are considering or in a contract with a company, claiming organic ranking takes 6 months to a year – they may be behind the times.
There are 3 basic essential components to an SEO or SEM campaign:
1) KEI (Keyword Effectiveness Index) is the foundation. The keyword phrases that will bring you the greatest amount of money need to be analyzed in detail according to your targeted audience. Considering the light speed at which the Internet is growing while other avenues are dying, don’t lock yourself into limitations in this area. Some say 3 keywords or phrases are good enough – let me ask, can you afford to settle for “good enough” in this economy?
2) On Page SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – even as a small company, if your website isn’t optimized for the search engines – doom looms ahead because people can’t find you! About 98% of the sites we check are essentially ineffective for the simple reason that there are so many broken links or images without Alt tags- silly coding errors.
- Backlink - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Out of a Google pie, about 5/8 pieces placing value on your site are currently judged by the number of incoming links you have. They're considered "votes" or "endorsements" and must be natural or you can penalized as a 'bad neighborhood'
3) Strategic Inbound Linking
Google recently changed their algorithm placing the greatest value on a site according to how many incoming “votes or endorsements” it has from other links on the web. It's the same human nature tendency at shows. If no one is at a booth, we feel comfortable just passing it by. On the other hand, if we see a lot of people crowding around we HAVE TO go there to find out what’s so exciting! See “backlink” definition and other informative hubs on this subject.
The search engines – especially Google who pretty much own 80% of the market share – crave relevant, current, consistent, and linking content. Give them what they crave and voila – the whole town will be at knocking at your “booth”!
Press releases to announce new products/services and/or even a new optimized look for your site are a GREAT idea. One release can go out to 4,000 news related sites on the web, only one of which is AOL’s Money & Finance with a readership of 15 million! This equals abundant exposure!
Announcing your professionalism and services or products to the world is the quickest path to success!
Combines wonderful ideas for conversion
There are hundreds of additional aspects about marketing and the importance of the Internet. If you intend to “do-it-yourself” I suggest you grab Amazon’s new Kindle and in less than a minute, download all books having to do with the Internet that delve into ROI, SEO or both (see sidebar examples).
I believe the greatest advice in this economy is to not hide in obscurity hoping the economy will improve. Instead gather as much as you possibly can to invest in as outreaching a campaign or campaigns as you can, then while you run your business, let proven experts help you thrive above and beyond just your current website’s purpose toward assured long term success.
If you want to know about any particular area, I'd be more than happy to help - simply comment with a request.