Saturday, July 25, 2009

When It Comes to Paid Search, Don't be Number One!

We've been led to believe that being number one is what it's all about. But sometimes that isn't the best strategy... especially when we're talking about paid search rankings. Don't agree? Read on. Agree but not sure what else to do? Read on.

The number one ranking costs too much. Many marketers are bidding for the number one ranking for your favorite keywords. So what happens when there are lots of bidders and only one number one spot? You end up paying too much! Especially, when compared to the cost of numbers three, four, or five ranking.

You get lots of traffic but few conversions. There's no question that you'll get the most traffic. But, surprisingly, you'll get fewer conversions. The reason is simple: everyone clicks on the first position to figure out what they really should be clicking on. And you end up paying for every wasted click... making the number one ranking much less effective.

For popular keywords, the top ranking is just not available. For many popular keywords, especially those that define product categories (e.g., digital camera), you'll be competing against the marketing budget of a Fortune 500 company. You might as well consider these keywords unavailable since they are beyond costly!

So what should you do instead? Here are four things to consider:
  • Focus on rankings 2 to 5. You'll get lots of traffic plus generate truly valuable clicks. Why? Because, there's a better chance that people clicking on these rankings are researching a purchase or shopping around for the best buy. Did we mention that these positions cost a lot less than the number one spot.
  • Make it about profits. If you're not focused on the number one ranking... what should you focus on? Profits! Figure out how many clicks it takes to generate an order, and what your profit per order is. Then calculate your profit per click and compare against your cost per click. Just make your keyword strategy about maximizing profits... and everything else will start to become clear.
  • Test, test, and test. Test lots of keywords. Try targeting keywords for people who are in research mode, and some are shoppers. Also, test different offers and copy in your keyword ads. And try out both Google and Yahoo!... and maybe even a few smaller search engines. Test search versus contextual based ad placements. You get the idea!
  • Put more emphasis on your "natural" search ranking. Natural search is what the search engines were made for. So update your website to make sure your favorite keywords show up often. And have a good site map to make it easy for search engines "spiders" to access your site, and understand what you're all about. You'll improve your ranking and Web traffic... and you won't have to pay for a single click!
Good search practices will get you results. But as you can see, it's really not about being number one... instead, it's about getting the most bang for your search engine buck!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Forget Clicks... Start With Bounce Rate When Evaluating Your Online Advertising

When it comes to online advertising, Google and other "paid search" providers have us convinced that it's all about "clicks." How many clicks did your paid search program generate? Which ads generated the most clicks? What are you paying per click? You get the idea!

But wait a minute... just because someone clicked on your ad doesn't mean they'll buy your product or even give you a call. Far from it! As a matter of fact, many website visitors that result from your advertising efforts will never buy from you. Why? Because they leave your site within seconds of arriving (i.e., they bounce), which means they have no interest at all. So forget clicks... you need to first understand bounce rate when evaluating your online advertising performance.

Why is bounce rate more important than clicks? Because bounce rate is a good proxy for how many unqualified website visitors you're paying for. As a matter of fact, these visitors are so unqualified they don't even stick around long enough to find out what you're selling... let alone buy from you. But you're still paying for every click that sends them your way.

Here's some quick math to put it in costly perspective:

Let's assume you spend $1,000 with Google to send 1,000 visitors to your website. Let's also say that 60% of these visitors leave within ten seconds of arriving so your bounce rate is 60%. This means you paid Google $600 (60% of $1,000) for clicks so unqualified they barely lasted seconds on your site!

Now it's time for the obvious question: do you know the bounce rate of your advertising campaigns? It's easy to find out if you have web analytics set up for your site. Just look at your web analytics' dashboard and start paying attention to your "bounce rate" stats. And if you're not using web analytics then now's the time to start!

With that in mind, here are some guidelines for improving your bounce rate:
  • Track ad campaigns separately. Make sure you're evaluating the bounce rate for each ad campaign. That way you can quickly get your arms around which campaigns have the highest bounce rate (i.e., most unqualified visitors) and the lowest (i.e., most qualified visitors).
  • Stop poor performing ads. That new text ad may be generating a ton of clicks but what's the point if your bounce rate is 98%? This example may seem extreme but once you start focusing on bounce rate you'll see that (unfortunately) it's not. Simple solution: stop running ad campaigns with high bounce rates... or at least, rethink what you're doing.
  • Send visitors to custom landing pages. Maybe your homepage isn't the best place to send visitors once they've clicked on your ad banner. If you're running a promotional offer, you should instead send them to a "landing page" that's been customized for that offer. Who knows... you might discover that more of your clickers are qualified prospects after all.
  • Test, test, and test some more. As every good marketer knows, it's all about testing and optimizing. Now that you're focusing on bounce rate you should do the same! Test different types of ads, placements, keywords, landing pages... you name it. You'll soon find a good balance between what you're paying per click and lower bounce rates.
All sounds great right? But I bet you're still wondering what benchmark percentages to use to determine good vs. bad bounce rates. Ask the experts and they'll be quick to say, "It depends." But I never find that very helpful so I'll go out on a limb and offer a simple benchmark. Shoot for an average bounce rate of under 50% for your online advertising efforts.

Just keep in mind that we're talking about your ad campaigns. Bounce rates from visitors that type in your URL directly or that come from natural search should be much lower... but don't be surprised as they'll bounce too!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Creating Brand Awareness is Critical to Your Online Advertising Strategy

Brand advertising is only for big brands right? McDonald's, Coke, Apple... they pay for splashy ad banners on websites and billboards by the road side. Not to mention sexy TV ads. What about your online business? Guess what... you also need to invest in brand advertising. Surprised? Read on.

Spending all your advertising dollars on paid search (i.e., Google) to drive traffic to your website is crazy. Okay, maybe not crazy... but really, really expensive. That's why everyone tells you to search engine optimize (SEO) your website. That way your site will show up in "natural" search results when a prospect types in a keyword you care about. And that's huge since natural search clicks are free of charge!

But while most people click on sponsored listings based on ranking (that's why marketers splurge to get ranked number one), many will click on a natural search listing based on recognizing the brand. So brand awareness matters big time if you want to increase the likelihood that prospects will click on your search listing. This is especially true since research shows that people click on natural search listings more than 70% of the time!

Not convinced of the importance of brand awareness? Then let me say it another way: people are more likely to buy from a brand they've heard of.

Here are some ways to create brand awareness for your online business:

  • Issue press releases. Doesn't matter how big or small your company is. Let your prospects know when you have important news that they'll find compelling. And these days it's pretty easy and costs only $25 to $100 to issue a press release. Interested? Take a look at PR Newswire and 1888 Press Release to get started.
  • Run ad banner campaigns. Yes, buy ad banners! Banner advertising is a great way to generate brand awareness with your target prospects. And there are lots of ad networks and websites that cater to advertisers with limited marketing dollars to spend. For example, check out these ad networks: BuySellAds and AdBrite.
  • Publish content. Creating and publishing informative content is more important than ever in making prospects aware of you and your brand. So write articles, comment on blogs (create your own!), participate in online forums... and always mention your brand. Just be patient as it does take awhile. But before you know it you'll start to create brand awareness (and website traffic too!)
  • Leverage social media. There's a lot of buzz about Facebook, Twitter, YouTube... to name just a few social media sites. And whether or not you understand what these sites are all about... your business needs to participate. It really does. So invest the time to learn how social media can help you get the word out about your brand.

There's a lot to chew on here... so make sure and pace yourself. You don't need to do it all at once to start getting prospects to recognize your brand.

How about first doing a press release on that big customer you just landed? Meanwhile, get started running an ad banner campaign that really cements your brand in the mind of your target market. And get in the habit of commenting on blog sites you like to read. Then see who in your company (maybe you) likes to write and put them in charge of your website's blog. Next up is launching your website's Facebook page, Twitter account, and then some videos for YouTube.

As I said... there's a lot to do! The good news is that every step you take generates more brand awareness. Did I mention that prospects are more likely to buy from you if they're already familiar with your brand?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Think Like A Publisher. It's All About Your Website Content

It doesn't matter what type of online business you have... just remember it's all about the content. The text, pictures, and graphics of your website are responsible for informing, engaging, and prompting visitors to stick around and take the actions you care about... like signing up for a newsletter, giving you a call, or buying your products!

Once you realize how important your website content is then my next comment should be obvious: you're actually a publisher. That's right... a publisher. Why? Because publishers are always thinking about content and that's what you need to do too!

Here are some guidelines to help you think like a publisher:

  • Keep your target audience in mind. When writing your website copy, always use words and phrases that reflect how your prospects actually talk. When in doubt, just think about the conversations you have every day with people interested in your offerings and write like that. But please no "biz-speak"... you know, a formal tone with lots of big words that no one uses in real life. Unless your target audience really speaks that way.
  • Write content that is engaging and personal. Always write in the "active" voice. For example, the phrase: "you can" is more engaging than "enable you to". See what I mean? And write as if you're speaking to an actual person. Notice how I use the words "you" and "your" all the time? I could instead use "one" or "a person"... but that's so darn impersonal.
  • Update and add website content often. This keeps prospects coming back to see what's new and interesting. For example, you can update product pictures on your home page, add customer reviews and testimonials, provide tips and best practices, and even answer more frequently asked questions. Depending on your business, you should update and add content weekly or at least monthly.
  • Grammar and formatting are important too. Please, please, please... no grammar or spelling errors. And keep paragraphs short and easy to read with lots of bullet points when it makes sense. Remember, people don't like to read on the Internet... they browse and scan instead. Make it easy for them and they'll want to read more!
  • Do it yourself or have someone do it for you. There's no shame in needing help with your content. Maybe you're not a good writer or graphic designer. Why should you be? Just find someone that is for what you need help with. These days there are many talented people available and affordable too. Need copy writing help? Place an ad on,, or for starters.
Lots of good content (especially text) is also critical to keeping the search engines happy. And a happy search engine means prospects will find your business when searching the Internet.

The bottom line: when prospects and search engines like your content then a wonderful thing happens... you generate lots of business!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Your Local Online Advertising Options

Are you ready to market your local business on the Internet? Well then, the first thing you need to do is spend a lot of money creating a website... not! As a matter of fact, you don't even need a website to start. So put away that checkbook (for now) and let's instead take a look at your online advertising options...

Internet Yellow Pages. Yes, it's the online version of the tried and true yellow page directory. Simple enough to understand right? For example, check out,, and Each of these offers a free listing for your business and you can also pay for a more prominent listing... again, just like the regular yellow pages.

Online Directories. These sites make it easy for Internet users to search for a local business like yours. Yahoo! Local,, and InsiderPages are local directories you should consider. There may also be directories that just focus on your type of business. For example, if you own a restaurant then you probably want to be listed in UrbanSpoon. Many directories offer free business listings... and if you're willing to pay, your business can show up higher in search results!

City Guides. These websites are more about "what's great" and "what to do" in your local area... and user reviews and popularity are important factors in determining which businesses get the most attention. Citysearch and Yelp are good examples. And like the Internet yellow pages and online directories, you can get a business listing and promote your business in search results.

Paid Search. Of course you can always pay Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft to show up in their local search results. For example, if you're a dentist located in Chicago, it may make sense to buy a paid search ad for the keywords "dentists, Chicago" to drive local prospects to your website. Keep in mind that setting up, testing, and managing your paid search programs can be time consuming and complicated... so you may want to turn to firms like Yodle or ReachLocal to help out.

Online Newspapers. Don't forget your local newspaper! It attracts lots of online readers from your neighborhood. And just like the print version, you can buy ads in different sections like the news, sports, and entertainment pages of their site. But this may be a better option if you have your own website and a bit more of a marketing budget.

Local Websites. There are many other websites that cater specifically to your local market. For example, your city magazine probably has an online version. Plus there are local blogs that focus on community news, real estate, parenting, sports, and even nightlife. And some may be looking for advertisers just like you. The key is to find local websites that do a great job of reaching your target audience.

All good and helpful information right? But where do you start? Well... that depends.

What if you have no website or budget? At least get your free business listings with the Internet Yellow Pages, Online Directories, and City Guides. A business listing is like a one-page website showing your company name, address, phone number... and maybe more. That way the millions of people searching these sites can now find your business! And if you have some budget to spend then consider upgrading to a paid and more prominent listing (about $50 per month). You should also start testing some of the advertising programs these sites offer ($100 to $400 per month) to see what works best... to get the phones ringing!

What if you have a great website and $500 or more per month to spend marketing your business? Then, in addition to advertising in the Internet Yellow Pages, Online Directories, and City Guides, you should also be running local paid search ads. And if you're looking to spend over $1,500 monthly on advertising your local website (lucky you!)... definitely consider adding your online newspaper and local websites to the mix.

Btw... right now someone in your neighborhood is searching the Internet for a business like yours. Hurry up and get started... to make it easy for them to find you!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

You Should Do a Press Release

It's not like the good old days when a press release was only issued by a big company with quotes from way too serious executives. In today's web world, press releases can and should be an important part of your strategy to get the word out about your business... even if you're a one person start-up working from your kitchen table.

Of course, you need to be realistic. Your press release is probably not going to be "picked up" by CNN or USA Today. But many people will read it including potential customers. That's the power of the Internet. And who knows... a blogger that follows your industry could see it and comment. And the buzz begins... nothing wrong with dreaming!

In any case, issuing a press release is about creating content. And content is king. Why? Because content gives people something to talk about and helps you generate natural (free) search traffic... which is definitely a good thing.

With that said, here are some tips for writing your press release:
  • Make it news worthy. There's a lot of "noise" out there so you need to break through the clutter with news that's truly interesting, relevant, and compelling to your audience. And even better, if it's about something that solves a problem for them.
  • Tell a story. Sure it's news but write it like a story. Grab your reader's attention with a strong headline and an initial paragraph that tells the essence of your story line. Use the rest of the release to cover the basics of who, what, why, and when.
  • Use real life examples. Use quotes and examples from real people to bring your story to life. And adding "success stories" is a great way to show the benefits of using your service while making it easy for prospects to relate to your offering.
  • Stick to the facts. Hopefully your press release will be an attention getter. But if you want prospects to take you seriously, then don't write your release like an advertisement. This means stick to the facts and resist the temptation to over-embellish (no promo fluff please!)
  • Keep it lean and mean. Attention spans are short... especially on the web. So keep your press release concise, impactful, and action-oriented. Just like that last sentence!
Now the most important thing... always write with your audience in mind. Here's a good test: if you wouldn't want to read your press release then your prospects won't want to either.

At this point you're probably wondering what you should issue a press release about. Why not cover the launch of your new website or service? How about that important customer you just landed? Did a retail chain just decide to carry your product? Or maybe you're presenting at an industry conference or event? You get the idea!

And issuing a press release is not that costly. You can expect to pay $25 to $100 per release at quality services such as:,, and There are also free services available like:,, and that you can try out.

Keep in mind the free services tend to only show your press release on their site while paid services will also distribute to other websites plus make it easier to optimize your release for the search engines. So the extra cost may be worth it to you.

Are you ready to get started? Do a search for "press release samples" to find examples and templates to check out. Then pick one of the services... now go ahead and make some news!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Without Web Analytics Your Website is Flying Blind

You're ready to launch your website and have the world beat a path to your door. But how will you know if any visitors show up? Maybe you've been advertising your site but not getting many orders and wonder why. Or you just changed your homepage and aren't sure of the impact. What can you do in each of these situations?

Answer: use your web analytics software to gain insight into what's happening with your website. Simple enough... but wait... you're using web analytics for your website right? Okay, so maybe you aren't using web analytics software and don't even understand what it is or why it's important.

Let's first explain what web analytics is with a simple analogy. Think how hard it would be to drive a car if you had no dashboad. That's right. No speedometer, gas gauge, warning lights, etc. Sure you could still drive but... you get the idea!

So consider web analytics the dashboard for your website. And though the phrase "web analytics" sounds complicated it's really not. I mean it can be if you have a complex website with thousands of pages. But that's probably not the case here. Instead, just realize that web analytics represents a set of online reports (again, dashboard) which can help you understand the following:

  • How many visitors came to my site?
  • Where did these visitors come from?
  • How long did they stay?
  • What did they do while on my site?
This is important data if you want to get your arms around how your website is performing.

Now let's talk about where you can get web analytics for your site. If you do a search for "web analytics software" you'll discover there are lots of choices. We'll make it easy. Go with Google Analytics. It's not only first class web analytics software but it's also free of charge!

Having said that, you still need to get Google Analytics installed on your website. This is fairly easy if you're familiar with HTML. Otherwise, my advice is to have someone else do it for you. Usually the technical folks where you're hosting your site can help. Google itself also lists authorized vendors who can lend a hand. And expect to pay a couple hundred dollars to get it going but it can cost more to set up if you want all the bells and whistles the software has to offer.

In any case, you should be up and running (and reviewing charts) within a day or so. And once you start seeing the online reports... you'll wonder how your website lived without them!