Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Great Websites Aren’t Built, They’re Tested

Have you ever asked your web design company how they determine how to design your website?

How do they know where to put the contact form? What call-to-action will work best? Which headline will grab your visitors’ attention to generate a lead? Which graphic or video to utilize for best engagement? What about the wording they use in the menus?

Have you ever asked your mechanic to fix your car without him taking it for a test drive?

Me “testing out” my G35 at an autocross in Pittsburgh.

After all, he has decades of experience… He’s gone to school and had extensive training in fixing cars… That’s all he does all day long every day… So he should just KNOW what’s wrong with your car and be able to fix it, right?

Well that’s what a website design company is claiming if they design a website based on anything other than testing.

Tests on other, similar websites do have limited value, but, for a service-based business, every market is unique so testing in your market is what will ultimately determine if your website is sputtering along or passing people on the autobahn.

Testing is the only way to take your website “for a test drive” and learn both what does work and what doesn’t. Moreover if you want that car to keep running smoothly – or you want your website to keep generating leads – you need to maintain it.

Testing Builds Trust with Your Customers

According to Entrepreneur.com, the most trusted brand in the US is Amazon.com.

Not Coca-Cola or Nike or Procter & Gamble or Apple.

A company that is less than 2 decades old (it first hit the Internet in July 1995) has managed to build greater brand loyalty and trust than any other company.

Unlike many of the other top trusted brands, they managed to build trust with virtually no “traditional” marketing.

  1. Have you been inundated by their TV commercials? (they only have a few) Radio commercials?
  2. Did they send you a catalog with your last order?
  3. Direct-Mail postcard on your birthday?
  4. Is your inbox inundated with pithy  blogs from them?

What’s their secret?

Amazon.com is probably the most thoroughly tested website in the world.

Every button, every call to action, every step in the shopping cart, every suggestion and every screen you’ve seen on Amazon has been tested and re-tested and are again being tested as you read this. They never stop. They’re always learning.

What are they learning? What their customers want.

That was kind of anti-climactic, huh?

Amazon’s big secret to becoming the most trusted brand in the world is they watch what their customers do and respond.

Well in 1995 when they got started, they were cutting edge with this approach to business. So they sky-rocketed ahead of their competition and haven’t looked back.

Today online testing and optimization is no longer the expensive, unexplored area it was 15 years ago.

It now can be done for small businesses for as little as $399/month.

Internet testing designed to deliver exactly what your customer wants may be the most powerful way to increase your leads while strengthening your brand.

After all, it’s not about the internet or fancy websites…

It’s about YOUR customers.

So What is the Best Approach to Internet Marketing?

The simplest way to understand online lead generation is to break it into 3 pieces.

  1. Where are you getting Traffic?
  2. How are you Converting it to leads?
  3. How are you Following-up with visitors not-yet-ready-to-buy?

To get a better idea of what is involved at each of those steps here’s a breakdown:

  • For Traffic –
    • Search Engine Marketing services in the form of Google Adwords, Facebook Ads and other networks
    • Local Search Engine Optimization – focused on your local market based on what you learn from SEM
    • Online Directory Updates – their are dozens of online directories that can send high-value traffic to your website so it’s important that your contact information is up-to-date in all of them.
  • For Conversion –
    • Onsite testing and optimization to give your visitors more of what they want.
    • Online surveys to engage your visitors and provide a custom solution while learning more about their level of knowledge on your products.
    • Targeted landing pages related to online or offline marketing campaigns.
  • For Follow-up – Not all visitors are ready to buy today. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t be ready next month so are you going to be there?
    • Email marketing is the best way to stay in touch with your target market. As a matter of fact, 77% of consumers prefer retailers to communicate with them via email. Direct mail is second at 9%.
    • Google “stalker” Marketing – Google has the ability to show your ads all over the internet to people who have visited your website. You think that might keep you at the forefront of their mind when they see your ad online several times per day?

Integrating with Offline Marketing

You are not Amazon.com.

Your market is different. Your customer’s are different. Your level of service is different. Your competition are different.

Rarely will you be able to rely on your website alone to grow your business. You need other more traditional forms of marketing.

Integrating with those other forms of marketing is crucial because who can afford to spend marketing money unless they know it can work?

You need to take the lessons you can learn cheaply and efficiently online, and integrate those offline to improve the ROI of every marketing dollar you spend.

In other words, what works in a Google Ad will most likely work on a direct-mail postcard campaign.

Studies done by Marketing Sherpa have indicated that up to 67% of a website’s traffic can be driven by TV ads so all of your marketing needs to work together.

If your website is currently the result of a “mechanic” who claims to be able to look at your car and fix it for you without taking a test drive, now you know why you might not be getting the absolute best results.

If our approach to internet marketing sounds like it might just generate some better results, enter your contact information below and one of our dedicated internet marketing team members will help you with a full Online Marketing Analysis that encompasses the 3 steps mentioned above.

Our hourly rate is $120 and your in-depth analysis will take 1-2 hours. However, I’m really curious how many people find us through these blogs so if you fill out this form, we’ll perform your analysis and then take 20 minutes to review it with you for FREE.

To a better tested website, Bryan

Get Your Free Internet Marketing Analysis

How I learned to LOVE making mistakes and being wrong

At one point in my life I was a 21 year old male and it might be fair to say I was a bit, uh, cocky.

One of the reasons was because I had a blast racing the Formula racecar my college buddies and I built to do 0-60 MPH in 3.2 seconds and pull over 1 lateral G. (For the non-engineers, that means it took turns faster than a Z06 Corvette.)

It was about that time that a little software program taught me the power of being wrong.

You see, my responsibilities for our Formula SAE racecar as Engine Team Leader were to make sure our car was fast AND reliable. (Learning the reliable part was a humbling experience but a story for another day.)

Kettering University FSAE 2004 Dyno Run

Dyno run of Kettering's 2004 FSAE Car - I'm on the right in the backwards hat holding the laptop.

At the start I knew very little about engine design as my upperclassmen Chris, Tim, and Jason could fully attest. I bombarded them constantly with questions. I also raided our school library to find anything I could about engine operation.

My university made some very sophisticated software available to me to simulate how various changes to the engine would result in more or less power.

Based on the help of my more senior team members, and the books I’d been devouring, I now had enough basic theories about engine design that I could start plugging various design parameters into the software.

You see, the way the software worked was a bit tricky… You couldn’t just say, “Make me the most powerful 600cc engine possible,” and let the software spit out the answers.

You had to actually tell the software exactly which part of the engine to change. So, for instance, you might have to change the size of the exhaust to determine which diameter would result in the best performance. (FYI, bigger is not always better.)

Think of it this way… Right now you’re sitting at your computer. Let’s say it starts working slowly and web pages aren’t loading up real well. Well there’s no software out there that will just “fix” that problem.

It might be your web browser, the website’s servers, your internet connection, a virus, spyware, or another program running in the background and you have to try each one to see which is causing the problem. It might even be several problems at once.

That’s kind of how you design a car engine. You know you want it to go faster, you just have to figure out which areas to tweak to speed it up.

Ok, so I’d put in these various parameters for intake and exhaust design and then the software would test out one configuration and then report back to me how much power and torque that particular configuration would produce.

Over time I’d run hundreds and hundreds of different configurations to find the best combination.

And here’s the thing…

My idea of what should have produced the best combination of performance was often wrong.

Now as our Team Leader, Travis, used to say, “we’re engineers not scientists.” Which meant, we work in the real world not a perfectly controlled lab, so my computer simulations weren’t the final word – they were just the starting point.

To get the full picture, we actually had to get an engine, strap it onto a dynamometer (device used to measure engine power kind of like you use a scale to measure your weight), and build a test rig to test our simulated ideas in the real world.

You know what happened?

The real world taught me once again the beauty of being wrong. The dyno testing showed that some things that worked really well on the computer (like a large intake plenum) had serious limitations (like horrible throttle response) in the real world.

Ultimately the result of being wrong, admitting it, and then quickly moving forward was a phenomenal engine package.

Our primary race was an autocross-style road course for 30 laps that required even power delivery over a large RPM range.

At competition when we were on the dyno testing our car in front of the other teams, a bystander remarked, “that’s not a torque curve, that’s a torque plateau!

That was EXACTLY what we were looking for!

That appreciation for being wrong and getting better because of it, is exactly how my internet marketing business approaches website design.

  1. Strong Base theory with the Marketing RoadMap – Just like I had to know what parameters to put into the engine software, marketing requires an equally strong base on how people think and interact with websites, Google Ads, and search engines.
  2. Testing at every step in the marketing process – On the car engine we tweaked every item air touched from entering the engine till leaving the muffler. In internet marketing, we test and optimize every step from the words your target customer is typing into Google, to the ad we show them, to the page they land on, to the places they click on the landing page, to the contact form that generates the lead. Every place your prospect visits is monitored, tested, and improved.
  3. Real world feedback – The first month that we launch a new website is the absolute worst for performance. Why? Because at that point everything is theory. Some of it can be based on what has worked in the same industry in other parts of the country however no 2 markets are the same so what works in one city very often doesn’t work as well in another one. So we start with our best guess at what will work and then slowly but continuously improve. For your market we learn exactly what is important to website visitors by analyzing search terms, clicks, and online surveys.
  4. Mistake Loving – Maybe I’m not quite as arrogant as I may have been at 21, however we do know our process is the absolute best available. The way we know this is that we openly admit when we make mistakes. When we make a mistake, we analyze WHY our theory was wrong and then we improve your website or advertising the next time around. We even tell you what we learned so you can apply the same lessons into your offline marketing.

Maybe some advertisers, web designers, or internet marketers you’ve chatted with believe they just know what will work to convert your website visitors to customers.

Well don’t be too hard on them.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I used to think I knew what would work too.

Now I know better.

To your mistake-loving success, Bryan

P.S. If your business could use some help improving internet lead-generation and you appreciate our unique approach, contact us at Optimized-Marketing.com.

The Top 19 Myths of Internet Marketing for Small Businesses

Whether it’s SEM, SEO, or website design, there are a lot of Myths about internet marketing that just don’t hold up to testing so let’s tackle the top 19.

Keep in mind these myths are for service-based small businesses with the primary goal of generating leads. For e-commerce, current customer portals, forums, blogs and other types of websites the answers will be different.

  1. You need to be #1 on Google. In reality, the cost/click to be #1 for all pertinent keywords is generally not cost-effective. My recent blog on Adwords Marketing addresses this in detail.
  2. The goal of a website is to get people to spend time on it. For a service business the goal is to generate a lead and you have about 90 seconds to do that. Sites that get paid based on the ads they show have different goals and lots of time on site is one of them. But you’re not Facebook.
  3. You can save money by putting a phone number in your Google Ad. There’s plenty of proof that this a myth. Google only makes money when you CLICK on an ad so why would they let you put a phone number in an ad if that meant they were going to lose money? They wouldn’t because they test these things.[Edit: In June 2013 Google banned ads with phone numbers so, like all internet marketing, never stop testing. The results may change.]
  4. Google Adwords and SEM is easy. Of every topic I mention in this post, without reservation I would claim that GREAT Google Adwords marketing is the most complicated and time-consuming thing you can do. Not only do you have to choose keywords, you have 5 different types of keywords to work with and 4 different ad types. You have to choose where to market, who to market to, what sites to market on, what problem a customer typing in a certain keyword is actually trying to solve. Dr. Glenn Livingston did studies showing a person searching for “guinea pig”, “guinea pigs”, and “guinea pig care” are all looking for vastly different things and are at different levels in the buying cycle. Then of course you have to understand how to setup scientifically sound tests to actually determine what’s working and what’s not. That’s just the beginning…
  5. You need to invest in more traffic (SEO and SEM). For most websites you first need to invest in converting more visitors to leads. For instance, if your current website converts 3% and you bump that up to 4.5% that’s the equivalent of getting 50% more traffic at no extra cost. (Our best sites in 2013 were converting over 25% in their target market.)
  6. The best way to increase conversion is with a better offer. This could be true however our testing indicates that this is rarely the case. When we create a site with multiple calls-to-action such as “contact us”, “schedule an appointment” and “special offers” almost always the “special offers” gets the least traffic. Your site could perform differently, though.
  7. A video on your website will increase conversion. Generally this is true, however a company that helps people organize their closet space did tests on a lead-capture page with and without a video and found a 439% increase in conversion WITHOUT a video. Does this mean video is bad? Of course not. It just means that there are a lot of other factors to consider.
  8. I need to let my web designer know what to update. That’s like your accountant saying, “hey just let me know how much tax you have to pay this year and then I’ll fill out the forms.” Huh? Your web designer should be saying, “Hey Bob, we just found out that <this> performs better than <that> so add <this> to your next postcard campaign.
  9. You need to follow “best practices” to get the highest conversion. Bottom line is that there’s no such thing. I’ve used the exact same website in the exact same industry in multiple areas in the US and got vastly different results. Sure there are things you absolutely don’t want to do (like riddle your page with typos), but overall, you don’t know until you test.
  10. A great website is all about great content. If you are Wikipedia, of course this is true. If you’re Bob’s Plumbing, then a great website is about giving the customer what he wants; his plumbing fixed quickly and at a fair price. He doesn’t need a video and step-by-step tutorial about how you’re going to do it. Remember, you only have 90 seconds.
  11. A website is going to cost me a lot of money up-front. This is an idea I seriously disagree with. Since great websites can’t be built, they have to be tested, then what in the world are you paying for up-front? A designer’s guess at what your visitors might want to see? Is that really a good investment?
  12. What works in one market for an industry will work in another. In other words, buying a pre-made website for your business doesn’t guarantee the best performance. Every market is unique because you have different income levels, education levels and competition. This basically falls under the category of “best practices” in #9 and they don’t exist.
  13. My website will some day be “done.” If by done you mean it’s now done improving so we’ll leave it alone and watch it’s performance decrease, then I guess it can be done. Otherwise it’s about as done as regular maintenance on your service trucks. Stop servicing your trucks and they stop working. Same thing with your website.
  14. Testing and optimizing for a small business is just too costly. Our plans start at $399/month. That’s dirt cheap for the value you get.
  15. You’ll never be able to fully track or understand how your marketing generates leads. This is what I like to call the “we don’t want to be held accountable” sales pitch. The human mind is indeed a wonderfully complicated thing that we are just barely beginning to understand. However it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out more visitors prefer Graphic A over Graphic B so chances are pretty darn good we’ll get a better response with our offline marketing if we also go with Graphic A.
  16. My business needs to be on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Pinterest. It only needs to be on social media if your customers are there and you know how to engage them regularly and professionally. It’s not easy. If you think your business could benefit from social media hire a professional.
  17. The best way to increase online leads is to improve my website and get more traffic. If you’re like most small businesses the absolute best way to increase sales is to do effective email marketing. A survey by Marketing Sherpa of over 1600 marketers agree with me on this one and your prospects are begging you to communicate via email.
  18. My web designer should be able to understand what I’m saying. Do you have a well thought out Marketing System including a clear understanding of your target customer, her problems, and your solutions? Ok, then yes, he should get it. If not, make a Marketing RoadMap first.
  19. A website will grow your business faster than any other marketing. Of course this CAN be true. However all different types of marketing work and what works for your business in your market will require some testing and measuring. One study by Marketing Sherpa demonstrated that up to 67% of a website’s traffic can be driven from TV. A well laid out marketing plan, with your website at the core, is often your most powerful approach to lead generation as a service-based small business.

Am I missing any other common myths? If so, comment below or contact me.

To your internet marketing success, Bryan

P.S. If you are working with a website designer, print this out and use it as a cheat sheet when you interview him. Or just Contact Us for a comprehensive online marketing analysis.

Would you prefer 1 lead for $35 or 5 leads for $500? Your Google Adwords Strategy

If you watch what’s going on in the SEM and Google Adwords world you hear some interesting things… Like…

You need to be #1 on Google…Google Search Engine Optimization can be as fun as building legos

I can get you contacts for $34 per contact…

Our Click-Thru-Rate is 5%…

So what? What exactly does any of that mean to your business?

In online marketing, numbers like that can easily be manipulated, tweaked, and adjusted to basically make you hear what you want to hear… Gasp! I know. Shocking, isn’t it?

So how do you get down to the brass tacks and know which marketer is actually going to perform the best for your business? Well, you need a bit of an online plan and strategy for Google Adwords and SEM. You also need to understand a bit about how Google Adwords marketing, bidding, and prices work…

[Read more…]

Optimize your Small Business Website for SEO, SEM, and Google Places in 4 Easy Steps

As a small business owner or marketer, keeping up with all the changes in online marketing, SEO, SEM, PPC, and social media can be a daunting task. However if you focus on the most important parts, and hire an expert for the rest, it’s actually pretty straight-forward. Be wary of anyone who says we don’t know how SEO works or it’s just too complicated to explain.

Firstly, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is also referred to as Organic or Free search.   These organic search results show up in the center of the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP). In the graphic on the right, the SEO results are highlighted in blue.

The Paid ads (or Search Engine Marketing (SEM) results) are generally the top 3 on the SERP and the ads along the right-hand side of Google. In the example to the right, the Paid Ads are highlighted in red.

The third type of result is a Google Places listing which is Google’s own version of an online Yellow Pages directory. Those results are highlighted in yellow.

SEO is important to a small business for a few reasons:

  1. You don’t have to pay per click. Once you’ve optimized your site and got to the top of the search results, you can get a thousand clicks per day and you don’t have to pay a penny extra.
  2. Studies show only about 25% of people click on Paid Ads. Those numbers are even more skewed when you take into account the searchers level of education. Individuals with a Phd only click on paid ads 1-2% of the time so keep that in mind if your target market is highly educated.

For this article we’re going to focus primarily on local SEO. That means instead of someone typing in “plumbers” they’ll be searching for “plumbers in Pittsburgh.” In the screenshot above, I searched for “plumbers in pittsburgh.”

Google and other search engines are getting much better at determining the location of the web searcher and therefore assume that for a search like “plumber” you are looking for someone local and so will tailor the search results to provide you with local information. Nonetheless, the results page is still going to be much different with and without the city. Currently, about 20% of searches on Google are locally focused and that trend has been increasing over the last few years.

So here’s the 4-step process to search engine optimizing your small business’ website:

  1. Get in as many online directories as possible. This includes Google Places, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, Yellowpages.com, Manta.com and others. The more directories you are in, the better off you’ll be. Notice in the screenshot above that both organic results (highlighted in blue) are actually for online directories eLocalPlumbers.com and SuperPages.com. Make sure that each online directory has your correct website address! This is crucial to optimizing your website for search engines. Also, make sure that you take full advantage of the “Description” section of each directory listing focusing on the keyword terms that people looking for your product or service are most likely to use. For instance our plumber wouldn’t say, “Providing plumbing services in and around Pittsburgh for homes and businesses.” Instead he would say, “Bonded and Insured expert residential and commercial plumbers providing plumbing repairs, plumbing service, emergency plumbing, new home plumbing, hot water heater installation, and fixture replacement.” See how I used keywords throughout the description that someone might be searching for?
  2. Have other people link to your page. – Are you running radio or TV ads also? Have those TV and Radio stations put a link on their website to yours. Every link to your page from another page (with a few exceptions like Twitter) is seen by Google as a vote that your page is useful. The more “votes” you have the better Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines will treat your site and the higher it will be listed.
  3. Focus your page titles and web page text locally. If you’re a plumber in Pittsburgh, make sure all of your pages list out the cities you serve. Generally this can be done inconspicuously in the footer of a page. Just make sure the text is visible. It’s against Google’s policies to have “hidden text” that is, for instance, white text with a white background so the visitor can’t see it. If you are buying a “pre-made” website for your industry make sure that you have the ability to add information for your local market. Also weave the names of cities into the copy on your site. A great way to do that is with a list of testimonials that include the city and state of each person providing the testimonial.
  4. Fill-in the blanks with a strong SEM campaign. Since 20% of online searches are locally focused, that means that 80% are not. So don’t ignore those 80%. Target them with SEM which is also called Pay-Per-Click (PPC) or Paid Search. Notice in the screenshot above that without scrolling down the searcher will see 2 organic results, 2 Google Places results and 9 paid results! In other words, SEM is a significant part of your online marketing plan. One of the great benefits of SEM is that you can get tons of information on what terms are most popular in your local area and then use that information to better optimize your site in step #3 and your descriptions in step #1. My recommendation for this is to work with experts like my team.

In reality, to be a guru at online marketing is a lot more complicated than just 4 steps. However, like hiring a lawyer, accountant, or IT specialist, it’s beneficial to understand the basics even though you will most likely want to work with an expert in small business online lead generation.

Now that you understand these 4 points, you can work on optimizing your own web presence very quickly and cheaply with a few of the suggestions above. At the very least, you now know the right questions to ask and what answers to listen for when soliciting the help of an online marketing expert.

If you’re a small business owner or leader and have any questions, feel free to comment on this blog or contact me directly. This is a crucial area of your marketing plan where you are losing leads daily so don’t wait to address it!

To your Search Engine Optimization and Marketing success, Bryan

The most exciting, energizing work of an entrepreneur!

If my business coaching clients could claim I preach about something, tops on the list would be scheduling in at least 4 hours per week to work ON your business… What they sometimes forget is that I have my own businesses where I need to do the same thing.

Not unlike my clients however, sometimes more “important” things come up. When I do take the time to work ON instead of IN one of my businesses nothing is more energizing! Let me explain…

As a mechanical engineer I come from the world of, “put in your hours and get your paycheck.” It’s a fairly well established quid pro quo in the professional world. It’s the hallmark of a “job.” What makes owning a business different is that you have the ability to destroy that paradigm. As a matter of fact, the more you work ON your business the less you’ll have to work IN it. The key to this is one simple word – LEVERAGE.

Working ON your business is defined as the time you spend creating leverage in your business. Leverage is doing ever more with ever less and falls into 2 primary categories for business owners.

  1. Team Members
  2. Systems

Everything you can leverage in a business comes down to one of those 2 areas. Either you hire someone to do something so you don’t have to, or you create a procedure, script, or checklist to pass along knowledge so other people can use it. Software, and technology in general, would be a systematized solution.

Today I started an Auto-Responder Email Campaign that got me giddy with excitement about leveraging my business. If you’re not familiar with an auto-responder it’s simply a series of automated email responses to an inquiry. So if you go to a website and it says, “Enter your email address to learn how to make a guaranteed $1 million in the next 30 days”, most likely they’re putting you on an auto-responder. No one is personally responding to your request, even though the goal is to make you feel like it’s very personal. Reference my blog on conversational marketing.

The website owner wrote a series of emails days, weeks, or months ago that automatically market to you to build a relationship. The beauty of this is that you can build a direct, relevant, and personal relationship simultaneously with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people.

Mailchimp.com, Aweber.com, ConstantContact.com, or InfusionSoft.com automatically send those emails to potential clients at pre-scheduled intervals. The emails will discuss your products or services for which they requested more details. Like a great website will generate customers around the clock, this is all done while you sleep or lounge at the beach.

An auto-responder email campaign is just one simple example of a System that helps you leverage yourself however, can you see why this gets me so excited? While I’m out cruising around the country on my motorcycle, I’m automatically building relationships and creating future clients by walking them through my “sales process” in exactly the way I want to.

Now if you come from the online world of sales and marketing, this blog is laughably outdated. Auto-responders have been around for years after all. However, in the brick-and-mortar world of small business do you know how many businesses I’ve encountered that use auto-responders as part of their on or offline marketing? None. Sure, everyone has a website these days, but very few business owners know how to fully engage the power of the web. Do you?

Since the vast majority (probably over 95%) of people who visit your website leave without taking any action, think how much business you’re missing by not actively engaging visitors. With a well-written auto-responder campaign you become THE expert in the visitor’s mind and he stops shopping around. You become a trusted advisor and friend. It really is that powerful.

This is why working ON your business is so important. It’s regularly dedicating time to leverage your operations by replacing a Person or System with work you would otherwise have to do.

One last thought as you wipe the spittle from your lips because you’ve been frothing at the mouth with excitement… When determining what work in your business requires a human or systematize solution, the simple answer is EVERYTHING. That’s right, ideally the business shouldn’t be dependent on you, the owner, for anything. It should continue running smoothly with or without you.

Just remember, systematize the routine and humanize the exception.

To your vastly leveraged success, Bryan

P.S. Navigating the waters of auto-responders is not without its squalls so if you need some help getting started, shoot me an email.

Internet Marketing for Small Business – Google Adwords

Sorry for the delay in continuing our series on Internet Marketing for Small business however I’m back and ready to roll!

In my last 2 blogs we reviewed the 3 pieces of your small business’ online presence:

  1. Traffic
  2. Website
  3. Commitment

We then reviewed the 3 primary ways to get Traffic and of course reviewed videos explaining some basics of Viral Marketing and Search Engine Optimization for Small Business:

  1. Search Engines
  2. Online Ads
  3. Viral Marketing

This time around we’re going to take a closer look at online advertising and, in particular, Google Adwords so that if your website isn’t perfectly optimized it still pops up as the answer to searches by effective Google marketing.

Firstly, there are thousands of website to advertise on so why focus on Google? That answer is quite simple. Google is the internet search juggernaut. Over 80% of internet searches are performed on Google so why focus on the 20% when you can cover 80% in one fell swoop?

Secondly, this is not a tutorial on setting up a Google Adwords account and campaign. It’s very simple to do, however so if you’re looking for some hand-holding check out Google’s resources.

Finally, this post is about getting the best results out of your Google Adwords campaign. If you’re currently paying someone else to handle all of your Adwords marketing, I highly recommend you either take it over yourself or at the very least verify that they’re applying the principles I’m about to cover.

If at all possible, as a small business owner, leader, or manager you really should be handling your adwords campaigns yourself and here’s why:

  1. It’s not that hard to get started. As a matter of fact, in a lot of respects it’s probably a lot easier than most other forms of marketing. Have you ever tried to produce a TV commercial? Now that takes work!
  2. It’s the future. Let’s face it. Google is still growing and online marketing is here to stay. From my talks with marketers in TV, Radio, and Newspaper all of those mediums are in very difficult circumstances right now. Why? Because the marketing isn’t targeted. Broadcast or print advertising blankets thousands to millions of people of which a very small percentage “might” be interested in your product. Google Adwords allows you to only show your ads to people searching for your product (if you know what you’re doing). It’s much better bang for your buck!
  3. You’ll learn lessons that can be applied to all of your marketing. Things like: which promotions draw the most attention and which headline phrases elicit the best response. Heck, even which words people are using to find you. This information can then be carried over to your email marketing, direct marketing, broadcast marketing and everything else because then you’ll know which headline will give you the best response.

Though I do claim that Google Adwords marketing isn’t that hard to get started, it can be quite complex to become a top Google Adwords marketing expert. Lucky for you, your small business competitors aren’t even remotely savvy on Adwords, let alone master marketers, so all you need to know are the top most important pieces that I’m about to cover to set yourself apart.

So here are the most important parts to your Adwords campaign that you must implement:

  1. Split test
  2. Mimic the keywords in your ad
  3. Direct them to a page that answers their question
  4. Use broad-match, match phrase, match term, and negative keywords
  5. Track your results

That’s it. Five relatively simple pieces to becoming an Adwords guru. Let’s look at each in more detail.

Split-testing – This is the same thing in the online world as it is in the physical world. In the physical world of marketing this would be like creating 1 direct mail marketing letter with 2 different headlines and determining which one had a better response. With Adwords this means you setup 2 different ads at all times for each Ad Group. The 2 ads will alternate and after a few dozen people clicking on your ad, you’ll know which one generates a higher Click-Thru Rate (the number of people who click on your ad/the number of people who see your ad). A high click-thru rate is very important because the higher percentage of people who click on your ad the cheaper your marketing will be. Part of Google’s formula for determining your cost-per-click is to include your Click-Thru Rate. For instance if your ad has a click-thru rate of 1% and you pay $2/click, your competitor with a click-thru rate of .5% will have to pay $4/click. Google does this because they want to offer the most relevant content so the more people who like your ad the more relevant they consider your content. Your goal is not more impressions. It’s more clicks with less impressions.

Mimic the keywords in your ad – This simply means that your ad must answer the question to the search someone typed in. For instance, if you’re selling clothing for dogs, and you purchased a keyword for “Dog Sweaters”, your ad better have the words “Dog Sweaters” in it somewhere. If you also bought the keyword for “dog collars” you better show a completely different ad touting “dog collars”. In Google Adwords there is an organizational hierarchy that includes a few pieces:

  1. Your account
  2. Campaigns – for budget, language, and territory restrictions
  3. Ad Groups – primarily for grouping similar keywords
  4. Ads – to split-test 2 ads against each other

Your account can have multiple campaigns, campaigns can have multiple ad groups, and each ad group can have multiple ads. For each set of similar keywords, you’ll have a single Ad Group. For instance the following keywords may all be in one Ad Group: “dog collar”, “dog collars’, “decorative dog collars”, “fashionable dog collars”, “unique dog collars”. Keep in mind that Ad Groups will have 2 ads to split-test headlines, promotions, benefits, domain names, or features. You will then create another Ad Group for your keywords related to: “dog sweaters”, “dog sweater”, “pink dog sweaters”. Again, each group of similar keywords requires its own Ad Group with 2 ads competing for the highest click-thru rate.

Direct them to a page that answers their search – People search for answers so whatever you do, don’t direct your traffic to your home page. If they search for “dog sweaters” then send them to the page that talks about your high-quality dog sweaters. Don’t send them to your home page which they now have to take time to navigate to find more information on dog sweaters. In your hiearchy, this will be done at the Ad Groups level. Both ads that you’re split testing within an Ad Group should point to the same page on your website. If you need a different Ad Group to answer the customers’ search, you need a different landing page on your website.

Use broad-match, exact-match, exact-term and negative keywords – Your main reason for doing this is to only show your ads to people who are actually interested in what you have to offer. This will in turn drive down your cost-per-click and improve your click-thru rates. Let’s look at each one:

  1. Broad-Match – (simply type the keyword to make it broad-match) if anywhere in a search your words are found, your ad will be displayed. So, for instance, if someone searches for: why do people put stupid sweaters on their dogs? Your broad-match keyword for dog sweaters will display your ad. Now do you think the person who typed in that search is going to click on your ad or have any interest in your product??? Of course not. But he will drive your cost-per click up because he just saw your ad and didn’t click on it.
  2. Term-Match – (put brackets around your [keyword] to make it term-match) this means that your ad will ONLY be displayed when that exact search is typed in. If your term-match keyword is [dog sweaters], the only time someone will see your ad is if they type in dog sweaters exactly as you have it in the brackets. Generally you can get lower costs-per click and higher click-thru rates with these type of keywords because you can target your ad to answer a very specific question.
  3. Phrase-Match – (put quotes around your “keyword” to make it phrase-match) this means that your ad will be displayed in any search where your exact phrase is found. If your phrase-match keyword is “dog sweaters” then your ad would be displayed if someone searches for: sign a petition to ban dog sweaters. Again, not a likely customer for your business.
  4. Negative-Match – (put a negative sign before your -keyword to make it negative) This is where you can really optimize your campaign to target just the people interested in your products. In the examples above for broad-match and phrase-match if -ban and -stupid were negative keywords, your ad would not have been displayed. Now there are potentially millions of keywords that could be negative so how do you determine which ones to add to your group? You use the free keyword tool we talked about in my last blog to determine the most common phrases people are searching related to each of your keywords. Simply type your keyword dog sweaters into wordtracker’s search tool and add negative keywords to your Adwords campaign for every search that doesn’t sound like a likely customer. For instance the second most popular search including the term dog sweaters is dog sweaters pattern. If you don’t sell dog sweater patterns you’d add –pattern as a negative keyword.

Track your results – This is the easiest one because Google provides you with all of the reports and graphs that you need. For the most part you only need to look at your click-thru rates for each keyword, each ad group and each ad. You look at click-thru rate for:

  1. Each keyword to determine if your ad is catching the attention of people searching for that word.
  2. Each ad group to determine if that overall group of keywords is adequately being addressed by your ads or if you need to break up your keywords into smaller more specific Ad Groups.
  3. Each ad to determine which one had the higher click-thru rate in your split-test so you know which one to keep and which one to ditch for a better one.

Though learning and implementing all of these tactics in your Google Adwords campaign isn’t overly complex, it certainly takes some time and effort. After you’ve setup a few, you can easily go from nothing to a new account, campaign, half-dozen ad groups and dozen ads in half an hour. Make the effort to learn these rules and your business will improve.

To your Google Adwords success, Bryan

Internet Marketing for Small Business – Search Engine Optimization

In my last blog we first reviewed the 3 pieces of your small business’ online presence:

  1. Traffic
  2. Website
  3. Commitment

We then reviewed the 3 primary ways to get Traffic and of course reviewed a video explaining some basics of Viral Marketing for Small Business:

  1. Search Engines
  2. Online Ads
  3. Viral Marketing

This time around we’re going to take a closer look at search engines and, in particular, optimizing your website for search engines (search engine optimization) so that your website pops up as the answer to searches.

As with everything in life, there are dozens and dozens of things you can do to improve your business, cut expenses, increase profits, grow sales, and even optimize your website for a search engine. However, the 80/20 rule applies in this situation, just as in all the others, so we’ll just look at the top 4 things that will generate the most results.

  1. Title Tags – The title of your webpage that shows in the top left-hand title bar of your web browser.
  2. Keyword Density – The percent of times the keywords you’re optimizing for show in relation to all of the words on your page.
  3. Easily crawled and indexed – Using Google Webmaster Tools to make sure your site is indexed and crawled.
  4. Incoming Links – Google’s goal is to provide relevant content. So they theorize that the more people who link to your website, the better the content must be and so they give you better results on searches.

In the video I referenced:

Free Keyword Suggestion Tool on Wordtracker
Google Webmaster Tools
Merchant Circle
Google Local

To your search engine optimizing success, Bryan

Internet Marketing for Small Business – Viral Marketing

You have a small business, you don’t sell anything online, but you realize that whether you sell something directly online or not, most people are still searching the internet to learn about your business and what you have to offer.

Beyond that, you’ve heard a bit about Viral Marketing, Google Adwords, Facebook, Myspace, Digg, Twitter, Youtube, and have even heard that businesses are somehow doing free marketing with these online tools. But how can your small business benefit from this latest method for getting in contact with your customers?

As you know, I own a small business with the average ticket price for a sale in excess of a few thousand dollars. My business requires an onsite inspection and analysis of a prospect’s home prior to completing a transaction. So my business doesn’t allow for a direct internet sales approach at this point and quite frankly, that’s part of our Niche. We take the time to learn what you need because we’re the experts and you shouldn’t have to be.

So let’s break down how the internet can help small businesses by looking at the 3 pieces to an online presence.

  1. Traffic – You need to get people to your website.
  2. Website – This tells your story and prompts people to take the next step… Whatever that might be.
  3. Commitment – This is the next step. Whether it’s committing to buy a product, contacting your for more information, or to schedule an appointment, as is the goal with my business, this is the most important piece. Another smaller commitment would be to simply capture a name and email address to keep them up-to-date on products, services, news, and even specials.

Traffic

For this blog, we’re just going to focus on getting traffic to your website and there are basically 3 ways to do that:

  1. Organic Search – In other words people type in a search for a product and your business appears. This is often called SEO or Search Engine Optimization or Organic traffic. That simply means that your website is designed to answer the questions that people are asking. That brings up the question, so what are people asking? Well a great tool to use for optimizing your website to find out what are the most popular searches is located at freekeywords.wordtracker.com.
  2. Online Ads – This is where you have to pay someone else to drive traffic to your website. The most popular way to do this is SEM or Search Engine Marketing. Whether you’re doing Google Adwords, Facebook advertising or the Microsoft Network, you’re paying someone to bring more visitors to your site.
  3. Viral Marketing – This is your free marketing that has the power to expand itself. Well this can be a tricky one because there are so many ways and pieces to viral marketing these days… The video below will explain this key aspect to online marketing in a bit more detail

In my video I referenced the following tools:

Google Adwords – To buy keywords to market your website. This is paid traffic.

Twitter – Mircoblog (every post has to be 140 characters or less) to keep your followers up-to-date on the latest things going on at your business.

My Facebook Fan Page – Promote your business to all of your friends on Facebook… And all of their friends…

Youtube – Create your own videos to integrate with your content and to provide another way for people to find you online.

Digg – Submit a blog or article for people to “digg” if they like it to push up your blog or site’s popularity.

Reddit – Same concept as Digg above.

Shareit – Share your shareware software programs with the world.

Del.ico.us – Social bookmarking site that allows you to keep track of all of your bookmarks no matter what website your on. It also provides you lists of the most bookmarked sites to help users determine the best content.

Stumlbeupon – Helps you better navigate the web by you telling Stumbleupon what topics interest you and then others will “stumble” articles and blogs in those topics to provide the best content based on the number of “stumbles”.

To your internet marketing success, Bryan