Tag Archives: Search marketing

So Where’s the Payoff?


Website conversion, that somewhat illusive term that every site must accomplish, can have a number of meanings.  Generally, we marketers refer to it simply as what action we intend for the website visitor to take before leaving our site.  It may mean completing an online form to receive a technical white paper; it could also be requesting to be added to a mailing list to receive future newsletters or blog posts; or in its purest form, to complete a transaction where an exchange of a product for money takes place. The evaluation of website conversions is important whether your marketing efforts are directed towards the consumer (B to C) or whether directed towards another business (B to B).  Website conversions also take place regardless of industry, and this would include manufacturing, professional services, transportation and even not-for-profit.  The bottom line is, regardless of whether the intent behind the conversion is to generate leads, to sell a product, to take a survey or to gather market information, the conversion is the key measurement to success in Internet marketing.

I have had a number of clients ask me what kind of conversion rate they should expect as a result of their online search marketing initiatives.  As I’ve said in a number of previous posts, there are many factors that can impact your conversion rate, but you should also consider the sales cycle of your product or service.  If your product has a high price, your sales cycle is likely much longer and therefore a lower conversion rate is probably acceptable.  If on the other hand, you are trying to gather information on people who could potentially be a customer, then your conversion rate will depend on what value the visitor receives in exchange for the information they provide.

Internet visitors can come to your site from four very generalized sources:

  • Pay-per-click or Sponsored Search ads
  • Organic or Natural Search (a result of your SEO efforts)
  • Directly typing in your URL or having bookmarked your URL
  • Some other referring party

Even though traffic can come from an endless number of places, a study completed recently by Engine Ready looked at these categories and the traffic to 26 e-commerce sites over a 12 month period.  Although I will hit the highlights, the complete study is available at


You’re probably saying, David, we don’t do e-commerce on our website and that is a perfectly legitimate concern.  Although results can vary dramatically based upon what you have defined as a “conversion,” I just thought this study might be interesting in helping you evaluate whether you are getting the best value from your search strategies.

According to their findings, for these 26 “e-retailers” this was what they saw:

  • The conversion rate from sponsored search was 2.03% versus 1.26% for organic search.  This could be attributed to the fact that more design time is spent on the landing page of a sponsored search ad.
  • Not surprisingly, the best conversion rate, 7.38%, was from someone directly typing in the URL or clicking a bookmark.  The second best was the visitor who was referred by another website or who clicked on an email link, it was 6.58%.
  • The bounce rate, or visitors who immediately left after hitting the landing page was 43.9% overall, with organic search producing the worst bounce at 48.5% and direct access the lowest at 39.2%.  Many times either people don’t input quality search phrases or the search engines missed their mark.

So, where’s the payoff?  The clear answer is if they don’t know your domain name, then you definitely want to be referred by another website; it’s like word of mouth advertising.  But, I believe this shows that you simply have to have an overall strategic plan when it comes to Internet marketing and always measure, evaluate, adjust and then measure again.  Your thoughts?



It’s Just Touch and Go

What, another landing page blog!?

Please indulge me for just one more post about how best to convert visitors on your website. I have had a number of my readers comment that they appreciated the subject so much that they wanted more. It isn’t really surprising. Thousands of dollars are wasted each day in email and Adword campaigns that drive lots of traffic but no conversions. Regardless of how you define a conversion, or what you want someone to do when they come to your website, it is the conversion that ultimately rings the cash register, right? Are you concerned that your visitors are doing the old “touch and go?”

I enjoyed attending a webinar the other day by Tim Ash of SiteTuners titled “The 7 Deadly Sins of Website Design and What to Do About Them.” He did such a great job of illuminating some very common design mistakes that I will do my best to sum up what his hour and a half webinar covered.

Sin #1
An Unclear Call-To-Action

Since the call-to-action is the actual conversion, it has to be extremely clear, even stupidly clear. The key here is “please don’t make me have to think too much.” If it takes too long for the visitor to figure out what to do, they will get frustrated or confused and hit the “back” button. Also, there are times where competing visual elements demand so much attention that the call-to-action is lost. Be sure that the call-to-action is obvious and it’s best if it’s above the fold.

Sin #2
Too Many Choices

Tim provided a great example of a Home page that had 146 clickable links! What exactly is the visitor supposed to do? For the sake of simplicity it is best to reduce the amount of detail so early in the process. The visitor doesn’t know you, therefore give them only what they need to know then provide sub-pages that they can go to for more detail if they choose. This grouping of choices into higher level categories will reduce confusion.

Sin #3
Asking for Too Much Information

This is especially true when someone is completing a form to be contacted or to receive a whitepaper, or sometimes even as the part of a shopping cart. If you ask for a lot of extraneous information (many times just for the purpose of gathering marketing information) it becomes too personal or it is not appropriate. If the process is too imposing or takes too much time, you’ll also lose them. Ask only for information that is absolutely necessary. If you don’t need a zip code, don’t ask for one. Reduce the number of fields in the form to the bare minimum which will also simplify. You can always get more details later, once you have established a level of trust.

Sin #4
Too Much Text

“Do I really have to read all of this?” How many times has that happened to you? We humans have very short attention spans especially online. In this case, less is definitely more. Unless you want your visitors to suffer some serious information overload, create very clear headlines and sub-headings in bulleted format. Use imagery if you can (only please, no overused stock photos). Most of all, put the important stuff, what you want them to know, first.

Sin #5
Not Keeping Your Promises

Every visitor to your website is there with a clear intent and in a particular frame of mind. They arrived because your email or pay-per-click ad gave them the expectation that they would find what they were looking for. The worst thing you can do is go back on that promise. Many times, because of a disconnect upstream, expectations are not met, and the “back” button is hit, only with vigor. Be sure you are representing what your ad talked about by repeating ad text or keywords. Provide clear access to information. Remember, your brand is a promise, keep it.

Sin #6
Too Many Visual Distractions

This used to be a huge problem back when Flash animation was all the rage. You would go to a website and be inundated with so much color and movement you’d thought you were having an epilepsy attack. Be clear about where on the page you want your visitor to look. Gratuitous graphics is like a visual assault, it interrupts the whole experience. I’ve seen websites where I can’t even separate content from navigation from branding. It’s just a hodge-podge. Studies have indicated that actually boring can convert better because there is no competition with the call-to-action. If your web designer is frustrated with boring, let them cut off their ear and be an artist!

Sin #7
Lack of Credibility and Trust

When a visitor comes to your website their first question is, “why should I trust you and buy from you?” Be prepared to answer that question and calm their concerns. You can do this with clearly displayed endorsements, trust symbols or social proof. In some cases, companies have featured the trust mark so prominently that is carries a heavier weight than the brand. Now that makes a statement: you are more concerned about your customer than you are about blowing your own horn. Whenever you can, use client logos and make sure you are providing generous money-back policies and guarantees.

My thanks again to Tim Ash and the folks at SiteTuners.

If you follow these guidelines and avoid these sins, your website visitors will not do the “touch and go” but will do the “touch and stay for a while and maybe even spend some money.”

As always, I welcome your comments.



What Happens After The Click?

I have a question for you: Have you ever participated in an Adwords campaign (or other form of paid search) for the purpose of on-line lead generation or to sell your products through a shopping cart? Were you really happy with the results? Did you come away saying, “I don’t think this really works?” What about an email campaign that you put a lot of time, effort and expense into, specifically designing a strong call-to-action and a link to your website only to be frustrated that the lead generation results were dismal at best?

I’ve run across many clients that have experienced these same frustrations. When they looked at their website analytics they found that many people simply abandoned after clicking through. You spent a lot of money getting people interested enough to make that click, but then sent them to a website page that simply didn’t offer them what they were looking for. And guess what, it is estimated that you have less than three seconds to make an impression, perhaps the first and only impression that the visitor will get of your company and what you have to offer. If they don’t see what they want, you’ve lost them.

An optimized landing page (sometimes referred to as an offer page) is one viable solution to this problem. If all you’re doing is sending the person that clicked on your link to the Home page of your website, you’re forcing them to find what they were initially interested in with lots of clicking and perhaps even some frustration. Of all the products and services you may offer, they were really only looking for the specific one you mentioned in your email/direct mail or what they typed into their search query and since they didn’t find it immediately, they abandoned your site.

A landing page on the other hand is very specific to what you are promoting in your email/direct mail piece or for what they were searching. Without the distractions of other offers or products, you make it easier for your customers to focus on what you want them to do: buy something, enroll in a class, download a whitepaper, request information etc. It’s all about making this process as easy as possible and giving them exactly what they want. The other great benefit to the landing page is the ability to track the success of specific campaigns. You can have one landing page for your email campaign; one for your direct mail piece and one for your pay-per-click campaign giving you the ability to monitor how each is performing, not only from the standpoint of click-throughs but also who actually did what you wanted them to do.

Now it’s not just about throwing any old landing page up and hoping for success. Spend some time in the design of this page. Most importantly, it should carry the same look and feel as all of your other marketing efforts, both online and offline. We generally like the email or direct mail we send to have the same exact look as the landing page that we will take them to. Be sure that your branding is consistent. BNET Editorial does a very good job of describing the attributes of a landing page and what to avoid. http://www.bnet.com/2410-13237_23-168347.html

Now, since we are all unique individuals, with different experiences, tastes, upbringings, ages, ethnicity, sex, does it really make since to present the same landing page to every individual that responds by clicking on your link? In my next post I’ll deal with the concept of multiple landing pages for individual campaigns. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Regards,

David Soxman


Mobile: 816.590.5038

That’s My Company Name, That’s Not Fair

I recently had a client contact me in a bit of a rage about the fact that when they put in the exact name of their company in a Google or Yahoo! search, their competitors came up in primary positions in the sponsored search engine results page (SERP). What was even more aggravating was the fact that their own company didn’t show in any of the sponsored SERP. What is up with that, and how can they get away with that? This company and this name has been in existence for 20 years and there’s no way to just sit here and take this. (Insert appropriate explicative here or substitute #@!ᔐ$) Something must be done, this isn’t fair!

First of all, we would strongly recommend that “self searching” is not the best way to see what is happening when the rest of the world searches, however this is certainly a legitimate concern.

It doesn’t seem particularly fair that one of your competitors can go to Google or Yahoo!, request key words and phrases that contain your company name, plunk down enough cash to “buy” a number one or two position and wait for those folks looking for your company by name to instead click on their ad and go to their website. This seems especially brutal when you’ve worked so hard to build the business, its brand and your customer base, or maybe it’s a family business that has an extremely long history and you know the sacrifices that your parents made to get the company to where it is today.

The direct answer is not necessarily reassuring.

As of the date of this post, there is nothing to stop your competitors from purchasing key words that are your company name, although a recent court case just ruled on may change this. And, yes, it kind of seems like dirty pool. Now, this is what they cannot do: If you have a trademark on your company name, a complaint can be filed with the search engines, which means that even though your competition can bid on key words that contain your company name, they cannot use your company name in their ad copy. A perfect example is the word “BotoxTM” and even though I can bid on this key word and build it into my sponsored search inventory, I cannot use the word “BotoxTM” in my ad copy.

Now before hitting the panic button, I think it’s important to step back, without emotion, and look at the intent of the person doing the searching.

That individual has obviously heard of your company name, either as a result of other marketing efforts you are doing or by word-of-mouth (always the best), and they are using the search engine to locate you because they don’t know your website address. It is not uncommon for people to use a search engine as their browser. If the proper work has been done to optimize your website for organic search, the results page should give you good visibility, and in fact, if you are blogging or have optimized video or other media on your website, the likelihood is very good that you will have multiple organic listings that are highly visible (i.e. “blended results”). Now if the individual was particularly interested in learning more about your company by name, what do you think is the likelihood that they really have much interest in your competitors who may only be showing up in the sponsored search results? Those companies that are showing up in the sponsored SERP probably have a lower relevancy to the requested search, are therefore likely to have a lower quality score and hence must pay even more to keep that high position. Talk about driving up the cost of sale!

Okay, you say, I get that there is a higher likelihood that my organic listing will be clicked instead of my competitor’s sponsored ad, but why don’t I appear in the sponsored SERP as well as my unscrupulous adversaries? Great question.

We would always recommend that your include the name of your company in your sponsored key word inventory but let’s look at Google’s intent when they do not show your ad in the sponsored SERP. They see that someone has specifically requested your company by name, and they know that you have a daily allowance limit on your Pay-per-click campaign. Why would they waste an ad impression and a possible click on your ad, when the searching party already knows you exist? Google is actually doing you a favor (I know, you Google haters are saying when does a behemoth like Google ever do anyone a favor?).

The reality is that the proper strategy behind a Sponsored Search or Pay-per-click campaign is to attract website visitors that don’t know you exist, have never heard of you and simply want the product or service that you provide. Those are the folks we are after. Why pay for people that already know who you are?

Subtleties like these are a part of what makes Search Marketing a specialty and why our clients appreciate the expertise we bring. Call me if you have needs that relate to search or any of the other marketing needs. I can be reached at 816.590.5038 or at http://twitter.com/davidsoxman

Yes, In Search Marketing Quality Does Matter

Competition can at times be a very frustrating thing, even though as entrepreneurs, we know competition is what makes it possible for us to take on the big guys and win. Competition is very evident when it comes to managing a sponsored search or pay-per-click campaign. How is it that companies that offer completely unrelated services than you, can appear in a higher position on the sponsored search results page? Is Google just that bad at matching the intent of the searcher with the proper results. No, more than likely, those other companies are forking over big dollars to be in a number one or number two position and it is situations like this that cause many consumers out there to say, “I never click on sponsored search ads because too many times they’re junk.” It’s too bad that if you have a lot of money, you can throw a bunch at the wall to see what sticks and end up garnering the highest position. This hurts all marketers that are trying to legitimately reach their target market. But….where’s the quality and how do you fight back?

I have received comments voicing these concerns enough times that I thought is was important to talk about it. For the purpose of this post, I’ll be referring specifically to Google, but some of these concepts apply to the other search properties as well. Google has a ranking metric that is aptly called a quality score and it is one of the most important criteria to determine both how much you will pay per click and which position your pay-per-click ad will appear, if at all. Craig Danuloff, in his post of April 27th says, “It turns out quality score is a big deal, one that you ignore at your own risk and expense.” http://searchengineland.com/is-the-hype-over-google-adwords-quality-score-justified-18031

The key to a high quality score is “relevance.” Google’s lifeblood is their sponsored search revenue. If you as a searcher become frustrated with the results being presented to you from your search, and it happens enough times, you will more than likely find another search engine to default to, and all those Google stockholders who paid lots of dough for their shares see their earnings drop, not a good situation. So, as a matter of self preservation, Google created the quality score to measure relevancy and thereby, provide better sponsored search results for their searching clients.

The determination of your campaign’s quality score is really very simple: It is the relationship between the search terms or phrase used by the searcher; the text or copy of your sponsored ad; and the content of the landing page that the click takes them to. If there is a mismatch of any of these three, it will lower your quality score. Now I said that the determination of a quality score is simple, however there are subtle nuances that make a high quality score a bit elusive. The most important criteria, and this really makes sense, is the click-through rate or CTR. Your CTR is the ratio between the number of times your ad is shown (an impression) and the number of times it is clicked. The higher the CTR, the more that Google assumes your relevancy is high and awards you with a higher quality score. This score gives you a great opportunity to rid yourself of the frustration of your competitors because your ad can appear above theirs and you’ll be paying less. Besides the CTR, other quality score affecting factors are deceptive and unrelated landing pages, slow load times, and frequent, rapid clicks of the “back” button when someone clicks on your ad.

Attention to your quality score can save you money and can improve your position on the sponsored search results page relative to your competition. It requires a thorough understanding of the nuances of Google’s ranking criteria as well as the testing and retesting of ad copy, all skills that our clients hire us for.

What do you think? If you have any questions or comments, I can be reached at http://twitter.com/davidsoxman