A customer is a customer is a customer, right? No, there is the customer that asks 200 questions and buys your loss leader, returning it used and unresellable. There is the customer who comes in, asks can you ship 200 of your most profitable item? Oh, and can you autoship if they pay in advance for the next 5 years? Who would you prefer more of?
Visitor traffic is similar, not all traffic is the same value to your organization today or tomorrow. There are different types of traffic to look at when trying to create a successful site. There are different dimmensions of traffic – what type of traffic, what quality of traffic, what the cost it was to get the traffic and others. But lets just look at one dimension, where is the traffic coming from:
This is the traffic created by other sites referring / linking to your site, or your emails driving traffic to your site. This is great ‘free’ traffic. Referrals from other websites also supports your SEO traffic and rankings, because the search engines (SE) respect other sites sending traffic to your site. The more you are listed on other sites, the better your SE (search engine) ranking. The more related the sites, the better your SE ranking. For example a site about guns referring to your site on trees is not as helpful as a referral from a site about arboretums referring to your tree site.
A way to quantify your ranking is to look at your Page Rank (named after Google Founder Larry Page). There are a number of tools including add-ons to your browser that will automatically let you know your PR (Page Rank) on a 0-8 (higher is better) score. Here is one – http://www.prchecker.info/check_page_rank.php
SEO – Seach Engine Optimization or Natural Traffic
This is the traffic that comes from your site ranking well in the search engines, and the traffic coming from others looking for answers to their searches. The 1st key to creating this traffic is to create content that answers your visitors questions. The key here is to look at your site from the perspective of your visitors. What are they looking for? Not what do you want to tell them. You may shift the answers to be what you want to share, but 1st look at what would be the perfect answer to a visitor coming the site.
Of course, if you collect the most common questions you can create a FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions page or better yet section of pages (depending on your answers, it may be appropriate to have a single page for each question). The challenge is to come up with the best answer to meet everyone’s needs. But like all good communications, allow the reader to choose how much they want to read by putting the most important/simplest information first. DO NOT follow the mystery novel format and keep the best for the last.
SEM – Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing is when you pay to get traffic to your site. This can include a variety of different strategies such as:
Banner Ads on other sites – here you can pay per image shown (maybe or maybe not registered in the viewers mind), or per click thru to your site.
Email marketing like Constant Contact or iContact (a whole other post) to someone else’s email list (make sure you are not spamming) or to your own list.
Google AdWords (buying ads on the search engine)
Google AdSense (buying text ads on different websites) – this is an overlap of banner ads, but through the 600 pound gorilla Google that acts as the ad-man for you.
Ads on other search engines
This traffic can be very profitable or a total waste of money. The great part of this type of traffic is it is easier to test. Testing is a big part of what you need to do to be successful. Consider it the equivalent of practice in sports, music or dating. You don’t expect to get it perfect the 1st time, and you need to keep improving as your competition keeps getting better.
LMT – Local market traffic
Local market traffic is when visitors are looking for the types of businesses and solutions that used to be typically found in a yellow pages directory. They are usually the local businesses like restaurants, and cleaners. These are businesses that are not trying to market across the country, but only the local community. This traffic is in some ways easier to get, because there is less competition (only a few real estate agents in Downers Grove, compared to million in the whole country). You don’t have to rank higher than the real estate broker in Texas, if you are Wisconsin. But you need to have people looking for Wisconsin real estate. That is where focus is important. This also requires looking outside the ‘normal’ spots. Don’t try to rank high in ‘real estate’ on the search engine. Instead try to rank in ‘Bloomington real estate’ or even better ‘Bloomington vacation real estate’. But also look at other sites than the big 3 search engines. Look at local sites like the different yellow pages or Yelp.com.
What kind of traffic you want will determine what kind of strategies you should follow.
SEO is more on content.
SEM is more on converting the visitor. Of course you have to define what conversion is. It may be a sale. It may be a signup for a newsletter. It may be a request for a consultation and setting an appointment. Or it may be requesting a free report. You need to define what your conversion funnel is (most businesses have multiple conversions in the process of a lifetime of a customer.
LMT is about converting and getting them to call or use traditional business channels. That may be getting them to drive to your store. That may be getting them to call and set an appointment. It may still be just calling or emailing for a report or other trust building step.
Understand that just like traditional sales takes on average 7 touches to convert to a sale (after having built up enough trust), online channels can take multiple steps to build the trust required for your final conversion. Make sure you design your website presence to convey that.
The are many cliche’s that warn us there is no free lunch. But that does not mean we understand where the cost of those lunches really is. If we are used to paying the waiter, but the real cost is elsewhere it can be confusing.
The challenge is similar in technology, marketing and other areas that are changing rapidly. In the world of Free Blogs, the value and costs sometimes are hard to find. DRKent.Com had someone sell him a free blog that looked like a good value. It was bundled with other services, so it did not look like a scam. The creators of this blog generator may not have even known they were selling year old bananas, but they were. Here are my comments to Dr. Kent about what is happening with his free blog.
I would take down your blog ASAP or ALL links to DRKENT or any other site you want to rank well. This is a clone site as you mentioned that I did not know until your email –
Google penalizes links from this site, since it is the equivalent of spamming, since there are thousands of copies of the site. When I copy your 1st sentences into Google search it returns:
Results 1 – 100 of about 5,320 for “I can’t believe how much my low back hurts! I don’t know if I can go to work with it like this!” Does this sound familiar? (0.32 seconds)
Over time, Google learned that real content seldom has the same sentences as other sites. Even if they are quoting the president, there are enough other analysis or comments that make the page unique. But if it is the exact same words, then Google interprets all the sources as junk. Additionally, if those sites are junk, then all sites they recommend are junk. Basically if you hang around criminals, statistically you are a criminals. Of course that leaves an interesting situation for Police and the FBI, but there are a few dozen TV shows and hundreds of movies and books exploring that correlation. So if you have ‘cheap, duplicate content’ pointing at your site, then you probably don’t have quality content on your site. While Google cannot really read (understand what you are really intending to communicate), it can statistically analyze what you have shared. It knows that if your friends are bad, then there is a greater chance you are bad. Just like a background check by the FBI.
There are some penalties that are related to the idea of having the same content as another site—for example, if you’re scraping content (automatically copying the ‘good’ parts) from other sites and republishing it, or if you republish content without adding any additional value. These tactics are clearly outlined (and discouraged) in our Webmaster Guidelines:
Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
In the rare cases in which Google perceives that duplicate content may be shown with intent to manipulate our rankings and deceive our users, we’ll also make appropriate adjustments in the indexing and ranking of the sites involved. As a result, the ranking of the site may suffer, or the site might be removed entirely from the Google index, in which case it will no longer appear in search results.
I guess as a way to ‘prove’ that the process works, using the scientific method – test and see the results. It is not truly following the scientific method, but as an experiment it has greater value then just being a thought experiment so often used as truth on the Internet:
When I search for ‘back pain’, none of the 5,320 cloned blogs show up in the top 200 listings.
When I search for ‘lost work time’, none of the 5,320 blogs show up in the top 200 listings except for http://www.drlarrycimpermanblog.com/wp/2009/08/05/have-you-lost-work-time-because-of-your-back-pain/ who they changed his title tag and page name explicitly to include ‘lost work time’. It appears that he was the 1st one they did with the new format on August 5 out of about 70, so he got a higher listing. The other 5,320 including you – lose. Google will sometimes rank the 1st site it finds, and then count the rest as duplicates. So yes you can game the system, but it may be as much effort as just following the rules appropriately.
So the moral of the story is check to see if your free website is worth taking. It may even be costing you (extra calories or wasted time) in ways you do not even know. Typically to give something away free it needs to be lower quality. In the world of the Internet, quality is easier then ever to determine with just a few clicks by human or less effort by computers.
One of the best practices for website conversion also lines up (often) with better rankings on SRP (Search Results Page) – simple language, and good readability scores.
The issue is that once you get someone to your site it needs to be easy to read. There are exceptions, but how often are the buyers (of your product or ideas) really looking to work hard to understand what you have written? Of course Google is no genius either (although many that work there are). It is designed to look at your site as others without sophisticated degrees and high end language skills would look at your site. Of course, I am like many who like to slip into the shorthand of our vernacular and the jargon of each industry. But I do so at my own peril. And increasingly, at my own laziness. MS Word has had analysis of the reading level of your documents for at least a decade. But there are also online tools available as well. They are often for free, that are quick and easy to use.
Understand that the Wall Street Journal writes its content for 11th grade. Most novels are written at the 8th to 10th grade level (remember we had to read them in high school). However, take a look at most websites, they are written for graduate level. How many websites have you seen with humongous long words, utilizing complex sentence structures reminiscent of academic papers that put everyone to sleep (bad example intended)?
Here are a few based on a quick search (until I get back to finding the best in class):
In fact, the readability of a website is important enough that Google will allow you to control what sites you see in the results based on reading level in their advanced search options: http://www.google.com/advanced_search
Improved readability will also improve your site traffic in other ways – happier readers will recommend your site more often. Easy to read writing allows your content to be shared with a wider audience. Those that can understand more complex writing can still understand your simpler text, and those that don’t have 10 years of reading Shakespeare will also be included. It also makes it easier for all to read and digest quickly. Just because a lawyer can read complex writing in statutes does not mean he or she prefers to read tangled prose to learn about your ideas.
So simplify your writing and widen your audience.
If you don’t believe that readability can help your site, do a little test and then let me know the results in the comments section.
Sounds like a good fairy tale (Hansel and Gretel) … but isn’t that what Google is all about, helping the searcher tell a story?
As many of these posts speak about, what is good for the visitor in making a better experience to your site, is often good for the Google Spider – that robot computer that wanders the web and looks at websites to determine how to return results for our searches.
So part of making a better visitor experience is to have breadcrumbs as part of your website’s pages to make it easier for a visitor to know ‘where they are’ relatively speaking on your website. This also will improve your search engine ranking.
Breadcrumbs or breadcrumb trail is a navigation aid used in user interfaces. It gives users a way to keep track of their location within programs or documents. The term comes from the trail of breadcrumbs left by Hansel and Gretel in the popular fairytale.
These navigation aids are typically near the top of the page just below the ‘navigation bar’ that map out how you would ‘logically’ get from the home page to the current page in a very structured ‘top-down’ fashion.
Typical breadcrumbs look like this:
Home page > Section page > Subsection page
This may seem redundant since the navigation bar or the back button may also let you follow that same path if you came in from the home page and followed the top-down structure. But more and more, traffic analysis (using Google Analytics, WebTrends or others) show that visitors do not prefer to walk through your site in the same fashion as you design it. This lets them wander around and still facilitates them not getting ‘lost’ in the site.
These breadcrumbs also let Google know how to relate your pages to each other and what makes your site have some coherence. This helps it index well, because it can also define what the different mean by defining each link (not just ‘home’ but ‘main page for Evanston IL Handyman with 20 years experience’) by have a descriptive ‘crumb’ that has a clear ‘TITLE’ tag in the HREF line describing the links back to the ‘parent’ pages. For example:
<div id="breadcrumbTrail"><a href="/" title=”Schaumburg Books”>Home</a> > <a href="index.shtml" title=”Sell Books and make money”>Sell Books</a> > Inventory Solutions </div>
Use this layout ‘trick’ to take the opportunity to tell Google exactly what each page is about, and have your site rank higher for the description you want, not what the witch wants.
Unless of course you have the new AT&T iPhone with GPS, but that is another story.
Is your website reaching its full potential? If not let us help you out.
For 21 years we have been producing results – Traffic, Prospect Inquiries, Phone Calls to Your Office, and most importantly SALES for clients using the Internet – websites, and email.
Let us briefly discuss your vision and objectives to see if we can assist you. While our list of successes is long, one brief example might wet your appetite – we grew the Internet side of one retailer from 2 orders a month to $1 million a month in online orders using search engine optimization, and email marketing in just 13 months.
We have a variety of ideas on how to optimize your business’ site for more traffic. But traffic alone is a waste of bits. We will gear your traffic towards results and profit.
We can offer solutions that range from simple (a quick phone conversation, where I will gladly share for the high price of a smiling voice) to consultative (let us get together for a lunch and a small fee to let you pick my brain of 21 years of web marketing experience) to structured (there are a variety of models).
Your Goals and Your Objectives determine the approach we can take to best work with you. Some of the custom approaches that have increased profits for our clients in the past are:
Pay per visitor
Fee per Phone call,
Fee per Email
Fee per Form filled out
Percentage of sales
Flat fee for services
Mix and match of the above approaches
Custom Solution Specific to Your Business Situation and Needs.
Rather then point you to a fancy website with a lot of fluff, or a 20 page whitepaper, we ask you to call us and cut through the jargon and speak on your terms. The biggest reason, we are not sure what your true objective is, so we currently have no idea what solution makes sense for you. So we will ask you to trust us this far – call us at (312)554-5009. Let us have a no pressure conversation where we get to learn your needs, we will share some tips and ideas. Then let us see if we can work in partnership to let you meet your objectives.
Another reason we don’t have a fancy website, to be brutally honest; we would rather put the effort into marketing your business rather than our’s.