1. Always. Test. Everything.
It is impossible to create the perfect ad campaign or website on your first try. No matter how great your ideas are or how well you know your client base, it is simply not possible to create the best performing options right away. That is why I live by the motto Always Test Everything (ATE). This includes ad creative copy, overall messaging, keywords, buttons, colors, forms and traffic sources. For example, running a PPC campaign is a great way to test a promotional tagline quickly and efficiently. It is like your own infinite focus group. We were able to do this when deciding on the topic for this blog! We posted 6 different ads, each with a slightly different title, to find out which one would get the most traffic. After a day of testing and $100 spend, we had a clear winner. In the current economy discounts, deals and a sense of urgency are great things to test. Put a discount on your site even if your products are not normally discounted. You could even put a deadline on the discount and test to see if people are motivated to buy. These efforts may seem daunting, but if you start with testing just a few things at a time, you will be able to find out what works best for your website. Then, just keep on testing!
2. Tell The Right Story To The Right Person
I cannot stress enough how important it is to know your product and know the audience buying your product. You should deliver a message that your user will find relevant and interesting. Otherwise, you will loose their attention and they will continue onto the next site. You will also want to make your messaging consistent. From user query to PPC text ad to landing page headline, be sure that you are consistent. If someone searches for “digital music service”, your ad should say “digital music service” and your lading page should repeat that same message. This will reassure your visitor that they are being directed to exactly what they are looking for, the same is true if someone searches for “hp laptop coupon”. They should then be directed to a landing page that focuses on the specific coupon they were looking for. Another way to match advertising to a user is through Facebook. If someone from Los Angeles notes in their profile that they like sushi, you are able to target that user specifically with ads that say “Best Sushi Restaurants in Los Angeles”. The value of consistent messaging given to the right person at the right time is limitless.
3. Don’t Be Fooled By Google Broad Match
Google’s broad-match tool is very powerful, easy and also extremely scary. It is great for people who are looking to match thousands of queries to a single keyword but do not have the time to build out the entire campaign. Unfortunately, this leads to wasted spend when your keyword is matched to queries that are irrelevant. For example, you could sell high-end handbags and have the keyword “purse” in your campaign. Google’s broad-match will pair you with good keywords like “buy purse” and “coach purse”, but they will also pair your keyword with bad keywords like “luggage” and “lottery purse”. Take a look at our recent blog post to learn more about broad-match and how to avoid unnecessary spend.
4. Blogging & SEO
Setting up a blog on your website and actively blogging is one of the best things you can do to improve your organic rankings in the search engines. A general benchmark for being an active blogger is posting new entries 3-5x per week at 300 or more words. In addition to creating your own blog, you should also participate in the blogosphere. I recommend commenting and guest blogging and making sure to link back to your site whenever you do so. There are two important things to remember when linking to your site. The first is that you should always use the specific keywords you are trying to rank for. For example rather than “here” for a link’s anchor text, it should say something like “Online Shoe Store”. The second important thing to do is link to both your homepage as well as a page deeper in your site. Links to your homepage are great, but the search engines love a good deep link ratio that shows that people also find other pages within your site valuable. One last thing to keep in mind is that when you are blogging you should always try to be natural. Google will reward sites that are gradual with their organic efforts and in turn will penalize sites that grow too much too fast.
5. Usability Testing. Do It!
It might seem like a no-brainer to test your website to make sure it works, but not everybody does this to the extent it should be done. You should ask a friend, stranger or anyone to sit down and “do stuff” on your site. Make sure they are able to navigate the site easily and are able to find the products or services they are looking for. Things that may seem obvious to you could be challenging to a new user and you should consider changing them to make the site more user-friendly. We also recommend setting up tools like Crazyegg that can track user actions and show heat maps of your site. Crazyegg can tell you if users are trying to click on a picture on your site that does not link anywhere. If you see that enough people are doing this, you should change your site so that the picture links to the area you assume they are trying to get to. Similarly, people often click on text to get a more detailed explanation. You could expand the text if you find out this is the case so that people do not have to search through your site to learn more. Also, make sure your website is compatible in ALL browsers and ALL computer types. Even if Safari only has a 4% market-share, you do not want your site to simply not work for 4% of users; it would be a waste that can easily be avoided.
6. Forms, Funnels And Fun!
It is easy to get carried away with all of the different options available to make your website stand out and be innovative, yet be wary of going overboard. You should consider limiting your navigation so that people do not get lost on your website and can easily find the information they are looking for. In multiple tests we have found that landing pages that are created for lead generation only should not have a navigation that allows visitors to view things like “learn more about the company” or “review case studies”. If the page only includes a minimal amount of information and a form for them to fill out to learn more, then chances are your conversion rate will increase dramatically. A little trick I love is capturing the information from visitors who do not complete the entire form. What we do is place script to store the information entered each time the user tabs to the next field. That way if they abandon the form after a few fields we can still follow up. This led us to an astounding 20% boost in our ROI!
7. Analytics Is Your Friend
There are a lot of analytics packages available: Omniture, CoreMetrics, WebTrends, etc. When all is said and done, I stand behind and personally prefer the free service provided by Google Analytics (GA). The amount of data you can receive when GA is set up properly is daunting. The key is to go beyond the generic information provided on your main dashboard and delve into the more granular stats available. You need to know what information is important to your company and what to do with that information. In the past people focused on HITS (How Idiots Track Stuff), but it is more important to answer questions like “Where are people dropping off during the buying process?”. You should look at organic traffic versus PPC versus email, compare before-and-after by date range and create funnels to see where failures occur. When using GA, make sure you remember that context is everything. For example, what is good for one user might be terrible for another and making a change that increases bounce rate on your landing page might be a good thing if your overall conversion rate increased as well. My last big tip to start you off with GA is to set up goals. If you are not an e-commerce site you still want to attach a dollar value to any leads, downloads or other conversions on your site and goals allow you to do this!
8. Social Media & You!
Social Media Optimization (SMO) is the next wave in search marketing. Sites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook allow you to connect with your customers in a whole new way. If you haven’t already started Tweeting to your customers, you should. This will allow you to spread content and engage in a 2-way communication flow in a non-invasive manner. Big brands like Zappos are creating an online culture through social media outlets and in turn, are embracing both positive and negative feedback. On Wpromote’s twitter account we will share client successes, post video blogs, provide links to valuable articles and help followers connect with others in our industry. Another new development in this area is the ability to drive targeted users through ads on YouTube. For example, JCPenney has text ads overlaid on their sponsored and organic viral videos. This is a great branding opportunity and the results have been very positive. From big name brands to small businesses, SMO is a new form of search marketing that you should take advantage of.