Search engine marketing is a subject that many business owners and marketers struggle with. For the most part, they understand that in order to operate a successful website, they need search engine exposure… The hounding question is, how?
Unfortunately, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has gotten somewhat of a bad name, because of the nature of the service itself. Imagine trying to effectively sell/provide a service that is constantly changing, and offers no guaranteed results. The truth is, search engines such as Google, keep a very tight lip on the ins-and-outs of their algorithym; which is the process on how they rank websites for specific keywords. Although this can sometimes be difficult for website owners to fully wrap their heads around, it serves as an effort to ensure the most relevant websites are always ranked highest.
Often times, many search engine marketing companies “promise” top rankings in search engines when you enroll in their services… and my first (and most important) piece of advice is to RUN away from these types of companies immediately. Not only is it impossible for anyone to guarantee top rankings in Google’s “Organic” search results, most companies who advertise such promises, usually use “Black Hat” SEO techniques in an attempt to trick the search engines. “Black Hat” techniques are considered unethical practices, and can cause your website to be blacklisted from search engine results… Ouch!
Search engine optimization also takes a lot of work, as well as some time to really take shape. High rankings in search engines do not happen overnight, and usually require some maintenance to retain. An SEO program should be considered a long term investment, that will drive relevant, quality traffic to your website.
So, if SEO isn’t so easy, what about PPC? (Pay Per Click such as Google Adwords)
Pay Per Click has been around for a long time, and many website owners have included it at one time or another, in their marketing mix. It’s premise is just as it sounds, you pay for each click your “ad” receives, when someone searches for one of your keywords. Google Adwords is the search engine giant’s Pay Per Click platform, and is most popular among website owners who have struggled to obtain top rankings in the “Organic” results, and/or those who have just recently launched their website and are looking for quick surge in traffic.
As you can see from the graphic above, Pay Per Click ads are displayed on top of the “Organic” results, as well as down the right hand side. Placement and frequency of your ads are based on a budget you set for any/all of your desired keywords/search terms.
This can sound like a great way to go, to avoid the ups and downs, and intimidation of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), but there are a few critical factors to consider when investing in a Pay Per Click campaign. Let’s run through a basic scenario.
In this scenario, we will use an E-commerce website, as it is much easier to track conversions (actions that ended in online bookings).
You operate a hotel on a popular Caribbean island, and you decide to start a Pay Per Click Campaign, consisting of a group of carefully researched keywords, in an attempt to increasing online bookings. You will let the campaign run, until your budget is depleted, monitoring the progress to the best of your ability, and making necessary adjustments on-the-fly as needed.
The following results are what you can expect from this campaign, based on the industry-specific “bid” averages, CTR (click through rate), and “conversion rate”.
- Budget: $2,500
- Suggested Bid (Google Adwords suggested bid price, to maximize ad exposure): $2.22 per click
- Estimated Number of Clicks (Total visits to your website): 1,126 (Budget divided by Suggested Bid)
- Average Conversion Rate: 1.45% (Percentage of “Clicks” that converted to sales/bookings. Source: Google AdWords)
- Total Bookings: 16 (rounded to nearest whole number)
- CPA (Cost Per Acquisition): $156.25
As you can see in the figures shown above, your cost to obtain a new “booking” from your Pay Per Click campaign was $156.25. Depending on your profit margins, this may or may not be considered a successful campaign. However, you must consider this; Statistically speaking, if you maintain the same numbers shown above, each booking from a Pay Per Click campaign, will come at an expense of $156.25. From a marketer’s standpoint, this is not the most efficient form of advertising, as it comes with a constant acquisition cost of this $150+, if not more… each and every time.
Conclusion: PPC or SEO?
Search engine marketing should be considered a marathon, not a sprint. With an effective SEO (search engine optimization) plan in place, your cost-per-acquisition decreases with each and every booking, as opposed to Pay Per Click, where your cost-per-acquisition will likely never decrease. A professional SEO plan will always win over PPC in the long run when it comes to keeping your profit margins intact, so you would be well advised to focus your efforts there.
In closing, Pay Per Click may be considered for a quick boost in traffic, for immediate results if the numbers make sense… But do your homework first, so you don’t end up losing your shirt!
With the new CAN-SPAM act coming into affect, it has forced many businesses to revisit their email marketing process. Many people are scrambling to become “compliant”, and ensure they’re following the rules.
But what about the “real” rules of email marketing? Some of them include: List integrity, creating engaging content, reviewing past-campaign performance, and overall design/compatibility.
| If your email campaigns aren’t yielding an average Open/View rate of at least 25%, I strongly encourage you to read on… |
So many businesses send out horrific looking email campaigns, just for the sake of “getting something out”.
With email marketing having been the most profitable form of advertising/communication available to us for nearly a decade, why are so many of us simply not seeing the results we hoped for?
The answer is actually pretty simple… Take the time.
- Take the time… to build a quality list of opt-in contacts. When you have people who are genuinely interested in what you have to say/offer, they will open/view your email campaigns.
- Take the time… to create engaging content, that your contacts will find interesting and informative.
- Take the time… to review the performance of past email campaigns. This helps you realize what your contacts find most interesting, and something as simple as knowing what type of “email application” the recipient is using, goes along way in determining the layout of your emails. (Outlook, iPhone, Gmail, etc).
- Take the time… to build a quality, user-friendly “email design template”. Slapping together a bunch of photos/ads, with a little text not only looks amateur, it shows your lack of attention to the campaigns you’re sending. When an email is designed correctly, the recipient will know what sections of the email are generally most appealing to them, making it easier for them to interact with.
Email marketing shouldn’t be about blanketing the largest audience possible, with your latest promotion… that’s what the newspaper/billboards are for… otherwise known as “a waste of money”. Email marketing is meant to be a calculated, and measurable form of advertising, delivered to a targeted audience of quality leads. Ignoring that simple concept, is what turns email marketing from an ROI powerhouse, to something you do when the phones aren’t ringing.
So why do so many people struggle with it? It’s tough to say, but probably very in large part due to the numerous “DIY” email marketing tools available at your fingertips. There’s nothing wrong with the DIY approach, of course not, however you’re advised to learn the best practices of email marketing, so you can hone your skills and deliver quality content to your contacts.
So, why take my word for it? As the owner of Primary Target Media, and 10 years experience in email marketing, I continue to help our clients deliver an average of 80,000 emails per day, while averaging a 32.7% view/open rate. By following the simple rules above, it’s truly not rocket-science to turn email marketing into the most effective marketing activity in your business.
The stories I come across from small businesses nearly every day, is borderline insane. Some are happy with their websites, some say it could use some work, and some absolutely hate it.
The “hatred” usually comes from people who chose the inevitable doom of the “Free DIY” tools, while others may be happy with their website, they admit to having no idea if their website is providing any benefit at all.
As a web developer, I know what a terrible website looks like… but for most people, it’s not always so easy. So instead, they simply chalk it up to “websites are unnecessary for business”… which clearly couldn’t be further from the truth.
So how can you tell, if your website is doing what it’s supposed to? Here’s a couple quick tips.
Overall Design and Compatibility
To see if your website’s design is up to par (or stuck in the past decade), try poking around at a bunch of other local websites. They don’t have to be competitors, they can belong to anybody. Remember, we’re simply trying to get an eye for the overall design. Does your website display properly on all screen resolutions? (large monitors, smaller monitors, tablets, etc). A poorly designed website is bound to fail, even if so many other elements are properly in place. The fact is, your website should be built for the visitor, and if it’s not… they’ll leave.
Search Engine Exposure
Go to Google, and try searching some keywords relevant to your business (i.e. fine dining windsor ontario). Is your website found on the first page? More importantly, in the top 5 results? Ranking at the top of search engines is a critical factor, in the success of your website. 77% of all clicks in a Google search, go to the top 3 organic results. If your website is nowhere to be found, you certainly have some work to do.
If you have access to your website’s traffic statistics, such as Google Analytics (which I certainly hope so!), log in, and take a look at where your traffic is coming from… (Example, in Google Analytics, go to Traffic Sources –> Overview).
In an ideal situation, 50%-65% of your traffic should originate from search engines. Up to 20% should come from “direct traffic”, which means that the user manually entered your website into the address bar (ie. www.primarytargetmedia.com). And finally, the remaining 15-20% should come from “referral traffic”, which means the user clicked a link found on another website to arrive at yours (ie. Facebook).
This offers a solid distribution of traffic, for a website that doesn’t use custom campaigns, such as Pay Per Click advertising etc. If you use these types of advertising (Google Adwords, Facebook advertising, etc), you can probably expect approximately 10-15% of your traffic to come from these “campaign” sources.
Why is it so important to know where your traffic comes from? It’s simple… Your traffic sources paint a picture of your presence online. If you’re not getting enough traffic from search engines, you’re missing out on a large number of potential clients, as more than half of all “new customers” come from major search engines. If you’re not getting enough “referral traffic”, that simply means your brand isn’t receiving enough exposure throughout the internet, on “non-search engine” related websites.
Age of Website
If your website is more than 4 years old, it’s certainly time for a rebuild. With advancements in technology over the past few years, the face of both web design, as well as search engine optimization has changed, and ensuring your website is capitalizing, is crucial… and choosing the right developer (with experience), is obviously equally as important.
Knowing if your website is doing what it’s supposed to be, is no longer an option… If you fail to create an effective web presence in today’s economy, it truly is only a matter of time until you’re left behind.