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Holly Buchanan Increases Conversion during the King Conversion Conference- Part I of II

Web Sites that Sell Conference

For those of you who were fortunate enough to attend eBizITPA’s King Conversion: Web Sites that Sell conference a few weeks ago, on Thursday, April 17th, you can join me in attesting to the genuinely quality content presented by Holly Buchanan, Senior Persuasion Architect at Future Now Inc, based in New York City.

For those who were unable to attend, you missed out on an extraordinary event with a captivating, experienced speaker presenting effective information to help improve your website’s performance and your overall conversion rate.

Holly BuchananHolly focused on both B2B and B2C companies, providing simple suggestions for improvement of the overall effectiveness of the companies’ websites. In fact, many exhibitors at the event were so impressed with Holly’s presentations, that they were online updating their sites with these simple solutions live, as Holly suggested them.

Although it would not be possible to serve you with all of the same information presented to the conference attendees, we would like to provide you with some of the insight shared at this conference on how to increase your web site effectiveness. This is the first post of a two part series to provide you with this valuable information.

The conference began with the discussion of the current state of the online buying and selling process, as Holly pointed out that only 26% of consumers report satisfaction with a web shopping experience, and 97% of website visitors fall out of the sales funnel, resulting in lost sales.

The First Step: Know Your Visitors

The first aspect to consider when attempting to draw in visitors to your site, is to make it relevant. What questions do the visitors have that they need answered? Did they arrive at your site through search engines? What key terms were used to arrive at your site? All this and more data should be measured and analyzed to find out everything possible about your website visitors, and to improve their overall satisfaction with the functionality and effectiveness of the site.

Don’t Make Me Think!

Once you have found out exactly what your potential customers find relevant, you should apply it to improve the relevancy of your site- place the information individuals are looking for in an easy to find location on your site. If visitors don’t find what they are looking for, potential leads could be gone within one to three clicks.

You can not make your visitors think. If they have to dig through your site for something they’re looking for, they will most likely click the back button and search elsewhere. Every page of the site should take your visitor to another page of the site.

The About Us page is often a dead end. Ensure that it invites visitors to visit other pages of the site, subscribe to a mailing list, or take some step toward the ultimate goal of the visit.

Define an End Goal

You should design your site so that the visitor knows exactly where they should look, exactly where they should click, and what the call to action, or ultimate goal of the company, is. This ultimate goal of the company should be defined, and ranges from an online order, to the act of searching for a local location of the company or store. The goal depends on the nature of the company and its products and/or services.

Also, there should be intermediary goals, or points of conversion between the time when the visitor arrives at the site, and the ultimate goal. These intermediary goals will help guide your customer through your site, and further towards your ultimate goal.

Persuasion

Once the site has addressed and taken steps towards achieving the overall goals, you must persuade the invididual to take the desired action, and make it easy for them to do this. This means that the check out process must be as easy and effective as possible. Any opt-in forms should be short and painless. And errors should be non-existent. Anything that will increase frustration could drive individuals to give up and leave a process only partially completed.

Take a few minutes or even an hour to walk through these and similar processes to make sure they are as smooth and painless as possible for your visitors. This act alone could resolve small issues, increasing your conversion with little effort.

Online copy can also play a very prominent role in persuading your visitors to continue using the site. Copy should be organized into chunky, browsable sections. The majority of website visitors are “browsers;” they scan the web pages before deciding to read them in full. Smaller paragraph sizes will allow your readers to find the keywords they find most relevant more quickly, encouraging them to read on.

Four Types of Buyers

A very valuable, if not the most valuable, part of the presentation was the explanation of the four different personalities of the buyers. These include the Humanistic, Methodical, Competitive, and Spontaneous individuals. There are certain methods that would be most effective in capturing the attention, and potential business, of each of these individuals, all within the same paragraph.

Stay tuned for the second post of this two part series to discover the tactics that will allow you to address each of these personalities’ concerns within one or two paragraphs, as well as some suggestions for improving your web site effectiveness and conversion rates with a few simple changes.

Did You Attend? Share Your Experience

If you attended the King Conversion Conference on April 17th, we invite you to share your experience with the event in the comments section below.

Read Part II of this two part series.

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Your Web site as a sales and marketing channel…

Today’s savvy online users expect to go to the Internet and get something accomplished. They expect your Web site to help them fulfill their mission. If your site does not provide the information they need or they have to think too hard they will move on to a competitor’s site that will have what they need.

 

A Web site is an electronic form of your business marketing channel. Do you know how to build a dialog with a customer through a Web site, how to qualify them as a lead or convert them to a sale?  How about if what you sell is more complex, like a course or a custom made component?  I can confidently do a good job helping people pinpoint their needs and help them make purchase decision when I am on the phone or face to face.  I have plenty of consulting experience doing it that way. It is a mix of asking the right questions, good listening skills and then aligning what you have with their specific needs or goals.

 

But what are the activities that make a product or service desirable to a visitor through a Web site, where it’s open to the world 24/7.  How do you really begin a sales or persuasive dialog with visitors to your Web site? 

 

I can share from our experiences with our Web site at eBizITPA. Between our web specialist, marketing manager and program managers we have been experimenting and trying to determine what information do our customers need to make an informed decision and how do we influence them to take action.  For the IT Kickstart program we have documents they are able to access and download to apply for IT Kickstart.  This is the type of self service that gives visitors access any time when it is convenient for them.  But are we providing enough information for them to evaluate the program and answer their questions and concerns? Probably not because we still receive phone calls asking about how the program works.

 

We also continuously try to improve our messaging about our professional development programs like classes and seminars so that our visitors can understand how they will benefit from participating. Ultimately try to persuade them to register.  But we struggle with questions such as how much information do they need, how do they want to receive the information and can they locate it in an intuitive fashion? Just recently one of our email recipients responded to a promotional conference email saying the message was pretty generic and do we have some more detail on what is going to be covered. 

 

Holly Buchanan podcastWe recently posted an interview on the conference Web site with the featured speaker Holly Buchanan, a conversion expert in online marketing and persuasion architecture. In the interview Holly gives a sneak peak on her presentation called Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results, listen as she teases us with a few good nuggets you will be able to immediately take away. We learned using multimedia mediums such as, podcasts and videos can help our visitors better comprehend and understand our offerings. However, was there a clear pathway to the information? Well, clearly not for this fella.

 

The conference will have an afternoon session that will be an interactive web assessment where Holly agreed to review several sites on a first come first serve basis. We submitted the Center’s Web site and the Conference microsite in hopes that Holly will give us feedback on how we can improve our customer’s experience, improve responses to our messages and meet our marketing objectives.

 

We’re tough and we can take whatever Holly tells us because in the end we know she only wants to help us succeed.  Hope to see you there!

 

Quick resource:

Future Now has a fun and very telling instrument called the Customer Focus Calculator aptly called the WeWe. Use it to check if your site mostly talks about your customer and their needs or are you talking mostly about your business. Use it and you will see immediately.

 

Holly Buchanan is a Senior Persuasion Architect at Future Now Inc. Future Now is a digital marketing optimization company based in New York.

Experiencing Podcasting With Advice From “Podcast Solutions: The Complete Guide to Podcasting”

There’s so much talk about podcasting now-a-days.  And it’s easy to see why…businesses and industry leaders can use podcasts to reach out to their audiences, in a format that can be listened to whenever & wherever it’s convenient.  And with RSS feeds, the messages you can’t wait to send out to your audience can be downloaded onto their computer automatically.  Now, that’s a way to shout out to your target market.

Even though podcasts have been around for years, there are many of us that are just getting started.  When first asked to create a few podcasts for eBizITPA, I thought, ‘Sure…how hard can it be?  After all, it’s just recorded audio.’  Then I was given a book titled ‘Podcast Solutions: The Complete Guide to Podcasting.  “If it’s just recorded audio, how is it possible the book is over two hundred pages?” I thought to myself. 

Well, it turns out a podcast is not just audio…a podcast is on-the-go audio that must attract and engage listeners.  In order to do so, you have to know how to create a great sounding podcast – from creating interesting content to producing crisp, clear sounds. 

The ‘Podcast Solutions: The Complete Guide to Podcasting’ book was written by Michael W. Geoghegan & Dan Klass.  Michael is executive producer of Grape Radio, a show about wine that placed in the top ten out of over 4000 available podcast shows in less than 8 weeks time.   Dan produces the weekly ‘Old Wave Radio,’ a retro-80’s music show and The Bitterest Pill, a comedy/talk show, which has been featured on NBC, NPR, USAToday.com and the Christian Science Monitor. 

Their book provides detailed information on every topic of podcasting including pre-planning the recording, figuring out what equipment and software to purchase, finalizing the podcast and making money with it.  Michael and Dan have a writing style that’s simple to understand, lighthearted and at times amusing.      They offer valuable insight into equipment that will more than likely meet your needs and fit your budget.  They cover the types of equipment needed, from microphones and mixers to editing software and hosting solutions… and they’re not about endorsing certain products.  They cover equipment from many different vendors in all price ranges.  In fact, many of the software solutions they recommend are either open-source (free) or low-cost. 

But, first things first…you can’t do anything without preplanning.  So…when beginning our new venture in podcasting, we first determined what exactly we wanted to do in our podcasts.  We knew that we wanted to interview industry leaders that would be presenting at our seminars & conferences and conduct phone interview recordings.  Therefore we’d need equipment to record on-location and phone interviews.

Equipment to record phone calls can range in price anywhere from $25.00 to over $500.00.  The difference lies in how in-depth in the creation process you want to get and how much editing you want to do.  As an old colleague always stated, “It’s better to start off small and add to it later.”  So we’ve decided to start with a low-cost phone patch, a phone to computer recording device that cost around $30.00.  It’s one of the least expensive pieces of telephone recording equipment out there and, for now, it’ll do what we need it to. Plus, it’s better to start somewhere than to put off doing it because you can’t afford the equipment you’d really like.  We plan to record our first phone interview this week so keep an eye out for our first podcast – which so happens, will cover ‘Blogging…Who, What & Why.’

For portable recording, Mike and Dan suggest stand-alone digital recorders.  It may be cumbersome to carry a lap top and microphone around at an event and a stand-alone digital recorder has less chance of system failure during a recording, like a computer does, because they are designed solely for the purpose of recording.  We found the Samson Zoom H4 to have just the right specifications.  The Zoom H4 is portable…only 3 inches wide and about 5 inches tall so it’s easy to carry around at conferences or seminars.  Plus, to cover all bases, it has two XLR microphone inputs as well as two built-in mics at the top. 

As far as audio editing software, we took Michael and Dan’s advice on downloading the open-source software, Audacity.  To date, it seems to do everything we need it to…it has multiple tracks which is necessary if you plan to add music to your podcast, it’s easy to use, it was FREE… and it hasn’t crashed our computer thus far…so for now, we’re happy.

In the next few months, we will be producing podcasts for the eMarketing Learning Center and eBizITPA, so keep an eye out for them.  I plan to include you in our experiences by updating this blog entry in April to tell you about any crossroads or opportunities we’ve encountered with equipment, interviews and editing, as well as the most important factors I’ve learned in my first few months of producing and editing podcasts.

If you’re thinking about getting into podcasting, pick up the book, “Podcast Solutions:  Your Guide to Podcasting” by Michael W. Geoghegan & Dan Klass.  It will make your podcasting experience much sweeter!  If you have any questions, send me a shout!

Are you a podcaster?  Do you have any reference or equipment recommendations?  Let us know… we’re listening!

Discover Paid Search from A to Q

eBizITPA hosted a conference on December 6, 2007, entitled “SEM II: Join the Evolution.” The event was a great success, providing its attendees with some first rate information on the basics of search engine marketing, both paid and natural, as well as the steps that need to be taken in order to get started.

The conference kicked off with Neal Rabogliatti’s presentation on SEO, which was discussed in further detail in a prior post, The Next Step in SEO Presentations.

After a short break, Justin Seibert of Direct Online Marketing spoke on paid search marketing in his presentation, Get Found Fast! Learn Paid Search Marketing from A to Q. Seibert delivered an informative and dynamic presentation, incorporating some introductory information with more advanced, instructional information meant to assist individuals in creating a paid search campaign.

Paid ads are those that companies purchase, using paid search marketing programs such as Google Adwords and Yahoo! Search Marketing. They are usually listed at the very top and right hand sides of organic search results, although their location differs from search engine to search engine. Seibert continued by explaining how purchasing paid search ads on Google, Yahoo!, or other search engines differ. As of October 2007, Google owned 58.5% of the market share, followed by Yahoo! at 22.9%. Seibert noted that, although Microsoft search engines only had 9.7% of searchers, they are growing steadily, and should not be ignored.

The benefits of paid search are many, including:

  • immediate results, instead of waiting 2-6 months for search engines to crawl and index your site.
  • budget control: allows you to set a certain monthly spending, and then stops placing your ads once your monthly limit is hit.
  • geographic reach: allows you to customize the geographic areas that are reached by your ads instead of simply broadcasting them to the entire region.
  • Result based: the results are fully trackable; you know right away if it is working or not.

At this point, Seibert began talking about how paid search is NOT for everybody. He laid some guidelines, saying that it is probably NOT for you if:

  • You are a monopoly/ oligopoly: there is not much competition with keyword terms because you are the only, or one of two companies that provide the product or service.
  • Are in a search competitive industry with a small budget: in this situations, keyword terms are at very high bid rates, and some companies would use up their monthly allocated budget very quickly with little results.
  • Can only sell to a small geographic area which has yet to adopt to technology.

Once a company decides that paid search is right for them, they should decide if they should do it in house or hire an outside firm to handle it for them. Generally, if the company has a small budget, they should try in-house paid search. It is when time and resources are lacking when companies should decide to use an outside agency to handle search campaigns for them.

Begin a Paid Search Campaign!
Seibert then began a comprehensive tutorial for those who would decide to try in-house paid search marketing. The first step is to set up an account with the search engine you would like your ads to appear on.

  1. Set up an account
  2. Decide which geographic area you would like to target
  3. Write your ad: carefully choose your headline, description lines, and display URL.
    1. It is recommended that you use the Keyword Insertion Tool: this will insert the keyword the individual searched for into the headline of your ad so that they will be more likely to click the link due to relevancy.
  4. Choose your keywords after carrying out basic keyword research. Related keywords are usually suggested by your search provider after you create your ad.
  5. Set your budget and max bids

Tips for Better Results
Seibert also had a variety of tips and resources for anybody who decides to take on paid search marketing in house.

  • Positioning: you do not need to be #1. Aim for the top five search results instead, so that you’re not pouring your resources into a one or two spot difference.
  • Pick actual keywords being used by those searching for you, not keyword terms that you, as an expert of your business industry, would necessarily use.
  • Landing pages: generally, do NOT send people to your home page, but to a page on your site which would be most relevant to what they searched for.
  • Check out the competition: if a competitor is doing a good job, try to copy their techniques in order to compete.
  • Don’t forget to test everything so you know if it’s working!
  • Again, test everything!

Overall, Seibert’s presentation was very in depth and informational, containing specific instruction on how to get started implementing paid search. This is the type of information the “do it yourself” individuals are looking for. For more information, contact Seibert on his own website, Direct Online Marketing.

The Next Step in SEO Presentations

During the SEM II- Join the Evolution Conference on December 6, 2007, Neal Rabogliatti’s presentation on how to implement Search Engine Optimization (SEO) was, in my opinion, the missing portion of most SEO presentation and articles readily available today. Not only did Rabogliatti present the basics, but he suggested specific steps to take to implement SEO, a step many professionals are reluctant to take unless they are working directly for a client at a high hourly rate.

Introducing… SEO
Rabogliatti began by presenting an “E-Strategy Process,” where he explained seven phases of optimizing a site for both search engines and user friendly design.

  1. Define your goal: be as specific as possible
  2. Discovery: who is our specific audience?
  3. Research: find the terminology that should be used to appeal to the largest audience
  4. Compiling and Arranging: decide on the terms you should use in the site
  5. Review and test the keyword terms in order to modify your keyword selection
  6. Execute the plan: have a web developer create and launch the site
  7. Market, Promote, Optimize and Maintain the site

Rabogliatti stressed the importance of the initial planning phases in order to implement the most effective SEO plan. He also mentioned that, if possible, the web developer should be a part of all phases in order to increase his understanding of the goals.

The discussion then led to a basic explanation of SEO, including how search engines usually rank sites. The search engines first send out “spiders” that crawl your site, finding the pages linked to your site, and therefore creating an index of the page. The page is then ranked according to the page content’s relevancy to the key term that is being searched for. The ranking, or relevancy, of a site is determined by referencing:

  • Page Content: text keyword density should be around 5-7% of code. This can be found using a Keyword Density Checker.
  • Organizing Codes: Page Title, meta tags, and keyword tags can all be used to increase keywords and relevancy of your site.
  • Link Popularity: the number of external sites that link to your site.

How to Implement SEO
We now get into the “how to” section of Rabogliatti’s presentation, which begins with his “designing for success” suggestions. User friendly sites tend to be the most SEO friendly, therefore ranking as more relevant than non-user friendly sites. Your web developer should pay close attention to the following aspects of the site architecture and layout in order to maximize SEO potential:

  • File and Folder Structure: folder directories should be as close to the root directories as possible. The further from the root directory, the more likely the search engine is to interpret the file as less relevant and important, resulting in a lower ranking or no indexing of the pages furthest away.
  • Page Layout: the actual content containing the keywords should be as close to the beginning of the code as possible.
    • Keep content at beginning of code. Content that begins after code line 150 may actually be ignored by most search engines.
    • Using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) can help bring relevant content into the first few lines by referring to an external (CSS) file in order to give the instructions for what the page should look like.
    • Stay away from frame and table layouts, as search engines generally read these layouts differently than the order of importance.
    • Use Div / Layers in order to enable the code to tell the search engines which sections to read first, and therefore which are most relevant.
  • Navigational Structure: ensure every page is accessible from another within two clicks. This helps search engines index your site.

Social Media and SEO
Rabogliatti also introduced social media within the SEO context. Social media consists of online tools that people use to share opinions, insights, and information with one another in the form of text, images, audio, or video. It can be classified into four different types:

  1. Bookmarking Sites: users bookmark their favorite sites, which creates a link to that site, increasing the SEM power of the site. Examples include Del.icio.us or reddit.
  2. Media Sharing Sites: examples include YouTube and Flickr
  3. Blogs
  4. Content Syndication: people place press releases and announcements on these sites, which increase the search engine marketing power of the site. An example is Digg.

There are several things you can do to use social media to help increase your search engine marketing power:

  1. Make tagging and bookmarking easy by adding a tool below each article, post, or on each page inviting visitors to share this tool. An example includes Add This.
  2. Create Content: begin to contribute to the current discussion on whatever topics in your area of expertise are hot at the moment. Become a thought leader in your field by getting involved through posts containing your opinion and the information your target audience is looking for.
  3. Know How to Target Your Audience: do some research to find out what they want, and then give it to them through the creation of content.

Helpful Tools
The following are some helpful tools that Rabogliatti recommends in order to utilize search engine optimization most effectively:

Overall, Rabogliatti did a tremendous job presenting this valuable information to the attendees of the conference. As well as providing some helpful and descriptive “how to” tips, he was lively and entertaining, obviously passionate and knowledgeable about the topic. Thanks Neal, for your wonderful presentation and insightful SEO tips!

SEM II: SEM- Paid and Natural Recap!

Last week’s conference, “SEM II: Join the Evolution,” was a great success, providing its attendees with some first rate information on the basics of search engine marketing, both paid and natural, as well as “how to” information to get started. Held at the Ambassador Banquet and Conference Center in Erie, PA, which resulted in a strong turnout and several walk ins, which was surprising due to the thick layer of snow that covered the ground that morning.

Neal Rabogliatti’s presentation on how to implement Search Engine Optimization (SEO) included the next steps necessary to implement the strategy, which the majority of SEO presentation and articles readily available today do not provide. Not only did Rabogliatti present the basics, but he suggested specific steps to take to actually implement SEO, a step many are reluctant to take unless they are working directly with a client, being paid an hourly rate.

After a short intermission to allow Rabogliatti’s wealth of information to settle, Justin Seibert presented on the topic of Paid Search Marketing. Seibert’s presentation also served as the next step presentation for paid search. Instead of focusing on the basics of the medium, he gives detailed information about how to set up accounts on sites such as Google AdWords and Yahoo! Search Marketing to begin implementing your paid search marketing strategies.

Did you miss the conference? You didn’t miss out! Stay tuned for the next few posts on this eMarketing SIG Blog, in which we will be recapping both Rabogliatti and Seibert’s excellent presentations, in order to supply you with a taste of their experiences and knowledge they shared about search engine optimization and paid search marketing!

Search Marketing; One of the Triumvirate Three

Search Engine Marketing is one of three most essential online marketing strategies for businesses that are seriously committed to using the online channel to find new markets, build awareness, promote product and services, qualify and generate leads, acquire new customers and close a sale. The triumvirate three includes having a website and email marketing but I will cover those another time. 

New activities are emerging and becoming a significant influence on Search Engine Marketing.  This includes Web 2.0 activities commonly known as social media, social networks, and user generated content.  Sites like Facebook, Blogs, Video sites like YouTube and user reviewed sites like Digg all of have the ability to influence searcher behavior by generating valuable inbound links which are so important to a search optimization strategy. 

Effective online marketers are always looking for ways to enhance and improve website visibility in natural or organic search engine listings.  The primary goal for most is to increase the number of visitors and increase online conversions. 

Google Paid and Organic Search            

Optimizing your website involves a process of testing and tweaking website structure, search terms research, content creation and link equity. So understanding how to use Web 2.0 activities and linking strategies starts with understanding your particular audience and figuring out how they will benefit, if at all. 

However, Paid Search Marketing, also known as Pay Per Click (PPC,) is the fastest growing tactic used to drive relevant and qualified leads.  Google, MSN and Yahoo all have paid sponsor or advertising opportunities driving close to $6 billion dollars in 2006. One reason PPC is so compelling is because it delivers results almost immediately. Quick measurable results make PPC a smart way to plan your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy. All the major search engines offer reporting and analytics tools so you can monitor and tack every click gaining valuable data to be used when planning your SEO strategy.  It makes sense to develop a combination of PPC and SEO strategies for driving traffic and generating leads.  

Search marketing is one of the tools you need to market in today’s digitally savvy world.  Search marketing is a long term strategic investment and marketers need to evaluate how it fits into their marketing plans. Start taking advantage of search and other tactics and technologies to grow your business and gain an edge.


sem2home.jpgBecome an eMarketing Rockstar! Attend the SEM II: Join the eVolution Conference. The web is outpacing all other media for user involvement.  This conference and other educational programs offered at the eMarketing Learning Center @ eBizITPA will help you understand, navigate and integrate Internet marketing strategies to support you business growth.  This evet is sponsored by the NWIRCErie Ad Club Members and Tech Council Members qualify for special rate.