Google calls it AdWords, Microsoft calls it Bing Ads, and Yahoo calls it Yahoo Search Ads. These are all online marketing programs where you can buy Pay-Per-Click ads (PPC). Fundamentally they all operate the same way: You bid on a keyword or phrase. When that keyword is searched, your sponsored ad shows up in the search engine results page (SERP). If someone clicks on the link within your ad, you pay the bid price. It’s a form of paid lead generation.
Google is the market share leader in this industry so I suggest you start with AdWords if you want to try it out. There are two types of ads you can create in AdWords - a search campaign and a display campaign.
With a search campaign, your sponsored ad appears at the top or on the side of the Google SERP. You basically buy your keywords by bidding on your ad position within the SERP and you can set a daily budget to cap the cost. Depending on your budget limitations, your ad position might be on the third page of the SERP instead of the first page.
It’s important keep in mind you don’t want just any traffic to your site, but what you really want is your target customer to click on your ad so they don’t depart from your website after just a few seconds. In other words, you can buy sponsored ads, but you still need to come up with a marketing plan in terms of strategizing about the messaging you put in your ad, as well as the content you have on the page people land on when they click on your ad. Your messaging will help drive quality leads to your site over quantity.
You can also enhance your ad performance using Google AdWords Extensions. Extensions will allow your campaign to be more visible in order to increase your Click-Through-Rate (CTR) by offering additions to your ad like a “CALL” button, or site links to specific pages, or a map to your location.
You can also set parameters to reach a more targeted audience. You can choose in which regions your ad should run, the time of day your ad should appear, or whether or not to target only mobile device users.
The key to succeed, however, is the strategy behind your campaigns. Whatever the program and tools you choose to promote your business, your content, your message is the key to your online marketing success and lead generation.
I suggest you come up with a few different campaigns with unique ads, landing pages, and differing parameters. Let them compete with each other and see which one gets more activity from the search audience. Set a budget for each campaign so you don’t lose control of the costs associated, and see what happens. You won’t know until you try!
We tech people love to abbreviate terms and words, making them more mysterious and complicated than they are. The same is true for online marketing, and many things web related.
Let’s review some industry acronyms and what they stand for:
SEM - Search Engine Marketing
Search Engine Marketing is the process of marketing your website via search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. It can include getting visitors to land on your site via paid or organic strategies.
SEO - Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization is one of the marketing methods in which you optimize your website to rank higher in the search engines for specific keywords or key terms. This doesn’t include the paid “sponsored ads” that appear at the top, bottom or right side column in a search engine. Optimizing your site can include adding quality, keyword-rich content, updating URLs, Meta tags and descriptions, and linking strategies from websites with relevant content.
PPC (CPC & CPA…etc.) - Pay-Per-Click
Pay-Per-Click is the method of marketing where you bid on a keyword in order to have your sponsored ad appear in the search engine when that keyword is searched. Sometimes it will show as display ad on other popular websites as well. The most commonly used platform for PPC is Google AdWords. CPC means Cost-Per-Click, related to the actual cost you incur when someone clicks on your ad after searching a particular keyword in your PPC campaign. On the other hand, CPA stands for Cost-Per-Action, and it refers to the costs you incur from an action a web visitor takes on your site such as a purchase, sign up or inquiry.
CTR - Click Through Rate
When someone clicks on your ad, the action of the click is counted against the number of views (people who saw the ad but didn’t click), and that results into a Click Through Rate. It measures the efficiency of the ad, sponsored links, or simply a link in your homepage or in your newsletter.
SERP - Search Engine Result Page
SERP sounds more technical than it is. It simply means Search Engine Result Page and it refers to the page displayed by the search engine for a particular search term. The point of SEM, paid or not, is to get a higher rank in the SERP when a keyword related to your site is searched.
The idea of online marketing can seem overwhelming when you’re just starting out. You’ve got various search engines and their respective pay-per-click programs to learn about. You can join several social media sites to gain followers and promote your business. You have to learn about content marketing, blogging, and understand new buzz words like “boosting” and “optimization.” This wealth of information can send your brain into overdrive, so how do you get started?
One way is to hire a professional marketing agency, but that can be expensive. For those of you who would rather do it yourself, here are some free online tools available to you:
Pay-per-click can seem confusing at first, but Google offers user-friendly tools to get you started, including tutorials to help get you up and running. Google’s AdWords Editor and Keyword Planner are free tools that help you plan and manage your ad campaigns. You can try out a few campaigns, adjusting ads and bids to see what works and what doesn’t, and grow from there. You set the budget and you are in control of your spend.
On Google, you can search keywords that are relevant to your business and get a good snapshot of how your competitors are advertising online. You can do this right now and it’s free! Search Engine Tag Analyzers are also handy – you can plug in your competitors’ URL and see what keywords they’re focusing on in their content and Meta descriptions. You can also look up free Search Engine Results Page (or SERP) analysis tools and learn how to optimize your website to show up higher in search results.
Having lots of good, keyword-rich content on your website is important for search engine optimization (SEO) which is why having a blog linked to your website is critical. You can even find Blog Topic Generators that are free, but again, going back to the basics by searching your relevant keywords in Google may provide the best source of content ideas. Just be sure you don’t plagiarize word for word what your competitors are posting, or you could get penalized with a lower ranking on the search engines. Google doesn’t like to see duplicate content.
Google Analytics is a free statistics tool. You will need to embed a special tag into your website’s html, but when you do, Google will show you how many visitors came to your site, from where, and how they behaved (i.e. what they clicked on). Alexa.com is another source to show your site’s ranking and other metrics, which essentially gives you an idea of your site’s “value” according to search engines.
In the end, learning these tools and utilizing them will give you the ability to compete in the online space. You just have to give it a try, analyze, and be flexible to adjust your marketing strategies as needed.
So you don’t have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on a Super Bowl ad. And you can’t afford to hire the expensive marketing firm. That’s okay! You can still build a great customer base on a budget. The first thing to do is define your target audience so you can determine the best way to reach them thru: 1) inventory targeting and 2) user targeting.
Inventory Targeting vs. User Targeting
Inventory targeting means purchasing ads that get placed on websites that offer a specific type of content or are visited frequently by individuals within a particular demographic. For example, placing an ad for a sports car on a golf news website would be considered inventory targeting.
User targeting serves ads to individuals who exhibit a particular behavior or interest in something based on their past web searches. For example, placing a car ad via Google AdWords in front of someone who visited a car dealership’s website would be considered user targeting.
How it Works
With technology today, you can be as specific as you possible when determining your target audience. Before purchasing an ad, you can specify things like:
- Age group
- Place of residence
- Marital status
- Household configurations
- Location or region
It works because of things like web browser cookies, free email accounts, and even smartphones, which track our online behaviors (unnerving to some), giving ad targeting programs like AdWords all the information it needs to know which ads people might respond to and click on.
Keep Adjusting till you get it Right
When you’re specifying your target audience using the above criteria, you do not want to get too granular at the risk of limiting yourself from other possible ad placement opportunities. Try different campaigns with different messages and target audience rules to see what works best. I like to run three campaigns at a time, compare them for a couple of weeks, drop the least performing campaign, and try another campaign with each campaign running for a different target audience.
It is important to keep analyzing and assessing the performance of each campaign, the ad message, or the page your customers land on. Be flexible and change often, little by little. If none of them work, try a bold move and re-target again.
E-commerce sales are steadily rising.
E-commerce retail sales for Q2 2016 totaled $97.3 billion, an increase of 4.5% from the previous quarter, according to the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce. And that growth has been pretty steady. Some of the specific numbers about online sales vs. offline sales may vary, but the bottom line is that more and more people are getting connected and purchasing online.
How does your business succeed in a competitive online marketplace?
There are 300 million domain names registered and some sites suggest there are 25 million e-commerce sites in the world! Which is why it’s so important to consider a few basics when starting your online business:
Choose the Platform
How do you want to sell your product or service online? For tangible items you can opt to sell them in marketplaces like Amazon.com or Buy.com: think of it like having your own shelf of products in a large store where other merchants also sell their products. Or, you can “open your own store” by building an e-commerce site with a domain name of your choosing. Both have pros and cons. Selling in a marketplace will lower your initial costs and get your products available fast, but the running costs may be higher. Owning your own site will require an initial investment of time and money, but you have more potential to expand to build your brand and expand your business over time.
Determine Consistent Messaging
Regardless of the platform your products are on, you need to be able to describe your product in such a way that makes customers want to buy from you. And how you advertise your products should be consistent across your brand; consistency is key. After all, content is king and good descriptions should be in place for each and every product you sell.
Prepare Quality Photos
First impressions are everything. The average customer will glance at a product for about 7 seconds before deciding if they will stay and learn more or move on to the next thing. The quality of the product photos generally aid in that decision. That’s why it’s particularly important to invest in professional photos of your products, especially since these days people often do web searches for products by images. Make sure they want to click on your image which leads them back to your product page.
Plan the Logistics
Once your products are online, how are you going to handle packaging, shipping and ensuring the customer has a good experience from start to finish? People read reviews about products before they buy and oftentimes, it has something to do with the experience of ordering from the company, or how they handled any issues or complaints. Selling is one thing, but quality customer service is essential to success. Do not be afraid of negative reviews and comments – think of it as an opportunity to show how well your business operates and use feedback to become a reputable online vendor.
Start a Buzz
Happy customers are often the best source of referrals. When you communicate with customers after their purchases, ask for their reviews. Google+ is one review site, but there are many others depending on your products. Social media sites, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, can also help you generate the buzz you need to get your products out there in the market.
We’ve covered creating an effective landing page that includes a call to action. A call to action can be used to solicit responses to an online form which captures information for new sales leads.
How can you use an online form to help capture new lead information? Here are some things to consider when creating an effective online form.
1) What you ask
While you may want as much information as possible, people do not have patience for long forms that ask for more information than they are willing to give, so you are going to need to keep your requests simple. Keep in mind that the form information is only the very first step in getting to know the visitor and more opportunities to interact with them and develop a relationship with them to encourage them to patronize your business. If you ask for too much information up front, you will get none at all from people that won’t fill out an over-long form.
2) Types of form fields
There are several different types of form fields you can choose from when constructing your online form, however, you should still keep it simple and avoid too many multiple choice fields with check boxes, pull down menus and radio buttons. Radio buttons can be an easy choice when you want to force a respondent to choose a single option from an array of choices. Pull down menus can help you use slightly longer descriptions for available options while conserving visual space. Keep text fields to a minimum and don’t make all fields required.
3) Form placement
If the form is simply asking for one or two fields, you might consider placing it on every page of your site. An email newsletter sign up form, for example, might only ask for an email address and could be included in an element that appears on every page.
4) Privacy statement
Make sure you have a privacy statement included on your website. People are wary of submitting their information if they think you are going to sell it or use it for a purpose other than what you’re disclosing on the form. Make the privacy statement easily accessible in case a visitor wishes to review your policy before sending you their information.
5) Submission buttons
While you do need a way for a user to send you their information when they are finished filling out your form, you don’t need to call the button that does the job a “Submit” button. You can relate the text displayed on the button to the action the form represents. For example, if you want a user to register for a free trial, you could use “Try Now” as your button text, or if you are asking them to subscribe to your email newsletter, you could use “Subscribe Now” to encourage them to do just that.
The first impression you make is everything, right? This is true not only for meeting new people but also for the first time you see a retail storefront, office or website. Different people have different opinions of what makes a “good” or “nice” first impression, depending on their personal preferences. This is also true of the look and feel of your website, but there are some fundamental elements that you must consider when designing your site.
1) Create an eye-catching headline
You have 30 seconds or less to catch a new visitor’s—a potential customer’s—attention. Make the most of this chance with a great headline to help form a good first impression of your site.
2) Flesh out your headline with a sentence or two in the secondary headline
Explain who you are in a brief message below your main headline, but make sure the text is still visible at first glance.
3) Include a clear call to action
Once you have hooked your visitor with your headline and subtext, it’s important to stir them to take action on your site. Make it easy by placing a call to action in a place that stands out and is easy to reach. Whether you’re encouraging the visitor to subscribe to a newsletter, call for more information or begin a free trial, do not miss out on persuading them to do so by placing your call to action in a stand out place on your landing page.
4) Don’t overwhelm visitors with too much information
Visitors need to know who you are and what you do, but they don’t need to know everything about your business in the first few minutes. You will get more opportunities to serve them more information as they move to other pages throughout your website. Remember that the purpose of your landing age is to convey enough information to hold their attention in less than 30 seconds.
Colors and tone of voice, messaging and font styles are all elements you can alter to bolster the first impression you want to give new visitors. Make choices that reflect how you define who you are as a business and that are in sync with your brand message.
Often, business owners express concerns over the risk of receiving negative reviews and the work inherent in maintaining and monitoring social media accounts. While it is true that social media requires attention, it is important that your customers’ opinions are heard not only by you, but also by potential future customers and visitors to your social media and website. Even negative comments and reviews can be useful, if you honestly try to figure out the reasons behind them and work to improve the situation that generated the negative response. Being genuine and thoughtful in your response to negative feedback and remedying the situation can help create a more positive impression than no response to a negative review.
You cannot ignore reviews left by your customers. Most consumers today research companies they plan to do business with, and reading online reviews and checking ratings are key factors in their decision making process. Many consumers also give more weight to recent reviews, with reviews left within the previous month carrying more weight than older ones.
Hiding from your reviews and not actively soliciting feedback from your customers because you fear negative responses means you are also losing out on positive reviews and potential businesses that could be swayed by them. Face the fact that there is no business that will always have 100% positive reviews, and when you have a positive experience with a customer transaction, ask the to leave you a review.
There are lots of places online where you can gather reviews, but the important ones you want to use are Google, Facebook and portal sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp, which cater to service-oriented businesses.
On average, most people read at least 1-3 reviews of the business of a business they are researching. Take the time to ask your customers to review your business, review the responses that are left and address any negative ones. Consumers are smart enough to suss out legitimate reviews and evaluate how you respond to any negative feedback to form an impression of your business that will inform their decision as to whether or not to do business with your company.
Don’t be afraid of online reviews, and take advantage of your happy customers to grow your positive review count. Referrals from happy customers are also one of the best sources of new business, so don’t forget to ask happy customers to send anyone they know with similar needs your way.
“Zero moment of truth”, a phrase defined by Google, is analogous to “first moment of truth”, a term used at Proctor & Gamble. Both refer to the idea that when a shopper first stands in front of a wall of products, marketers have 3-7 seconds to convince a shopper to choose their product and make a purchase by appealing to their senses, values and emotions. The moment of truth is seeing how much of an impression a brand or product can make, and the product is tested to see if it is chosen by the consumer.
In the past, news articles, magazine ads, TV and radio spots drove our emotional relationship to a product. Along with the emotional connection, shoppers would see products and make a connection when they chose a specific one. Encountering the product in a store was part of the decision making process that contributed to their emotional connection to the product.
The introduction of the internet into our daily lives has changed how we connect to products and brands. Today, when you are in front of a product shelf, you often already have already done research to decide exactly which product to choose. The initial 3-7 seconds of being in front of the products doesn’t apply as much when the customers have already put themselves in front of the product through reviews and other information they’ve sought out online.
Potential customers can easily shop for products with different price points, compare services and warranties and any other information they might require. Most commodities are the same no matter where you purchase them, so the difference becomes the various commerce sites and their fulfillment, customer service, after care and reviews posted by previous customers.
How can you make your site or service stand out? It depends on what you’re offering on your E-commerce site. Keep in mind that consumers are intelligent and empowered with the tools available to them online. Just as you would do with offline customers, be genuine and don’t neglect those who can be swayed by the zero moment of truth.
It’s important to stay abreast of where technology is moving, even when not quite ready to adapt to new practices or technologies as they emerge. It’s especially important for businesses, as it will not only affect the way we conduct business in the future, but also changing customer expectations.
Digital wallets are an emerging technology to be aware of. Although it is still very new and hasn’t been adopted by a large segment of the population yet, it will be widespread in the next few years.
What is the point of a digital wallet when you already carry a credit card?
Many digital payment systems use Near Field Communication (NFC), a relatively new technology that allows devices to use very short range (about 2-4”) wireless communication using a magnetic field to connect. NFC was developed by Philips and Sony as a standard for devices to establish a peer-to-peer network to exchange data.
Mobile devices such as iPhones and Android phones can use NFC in conjunction with other measures such as fingerprint scans to conduct transactions with extra security measures. Once you’ve registered a credit card with your device, you can make payments using just your phone and leave your physical credit card at home.
Merchants that have recently upgraded their credit card terminals with chip readers would need to update those machines to accept payments via NFC to conduct transactions with consumers using digital wallets instead of credit cards.
PayPal and other such payment processors are another form of digital wallet technology, though it does not require a mobile device to complete a transaction. Using PayPal, a store could accept payment after a customer enters their credentials and authorize the password without the merchant ever having access to the credit account information.
The bottom line is that we all need to keep a finger on the pulse of the technology world and be aware of new developments in order to be prepared at such time as it becomes necessary to adopt new technology in order to conduct business transactions online or off.
- If you are a bloguru member, please login.
- If you are not a bloguru member, you may request a free account here: