In part 1, we focused on pre-site activities that create awareness for the brand and generate traffic to the site. Now we’ll focus on what we do with that traffic.

A website is by far the most important aspect of your marketing program. It is the hub for all of your communications and acts as a gateway to your brand. It is shocking that that nearly 40% of small- to medium-sized business still don’t have a website.(1) It is true that many brands use their social media profile pages as their website, but this should be more of a promotional tactic. You need a website if you want to conduct any level of business today.

As always we need to define the metrics on which to base performance. For your website the goals are subscriptions/email addresses, contact inquiries, purchases and various levels of engagement. Those are essentially the four major actions that a visitor to your site can take and you should set a baseline for each of these metrics then develop initiatives to improve on each one.

Developing a site that really works

One of the major reasons for visiting a website is to vet your company, either by a potential customer, distributor, buyer or investor. The key is to build every aspect of the site to ensure a sense of confidence. To accomplish this, you need to look professional and up-to-date. The act of clicking around your site and making a purchase needs to be easy and feel secure. Make sure you have setup a return policy, privacy policy and secure pages of your site where you obtain customer information. Then make sure the customers can find that information easily. Using a strong ecommerce platform like bigcommerce.com or magentocommerce.com could be a good solution.

In terms of content, you should be focusing on four things. First, communicate what you sell, don’t assume anything. Do consumers spend more time looking at an outdoor billboard or a company’s home page? The answer is they spend about the same time. You have 7 seconds to communicate what your company does and what makes you different before a visitor will leave. That’s certainly not a lot of time. So get to the point. Don’t be clever, be clear.  Second, give people information to help them understand why your products or services are better than anything they’ve ever experienced. This should be easy to understand and succinct. You should discuss the features of your products and the philosophy in which they are made. Today both are of the utmost concern to consumers. The third, and arguably the most important element, is to season the website with facts, figures, logos, and quotes to create confidence in your company. Everyone is skeptical on the web, so confront your purchasing obstacles directly. What, in your mind, are some of the main issues that may prevent a consumer from purchasing your product online?  Then address those concerns head-on. Add testimonials, case studies, photography, public relations articles, secure shopping logos, partnerships, etc. to add credibility and trust in your company. Fourth, you should create content that is engaging. The content serves a purpose and will keep customers on your site. Better yet, allow consumers to create their own content and now you’re really in the swing of things.

Video is always a great way of providing information and entertaining visitors. It certainly adds credibility and legitimacy to your brand and is also great for SEO. Google will give a page with a video a higher page ranking than one without. You can also post the video on YouTube, garnering traffic that way, as well. It can be time-consuming to prepare, but you don’t need a super slick video these days. Today, a simple iPhone-quality video can give you as much authenticity and credibility as a commercial, maybe more so.

It’s important to remember that the content of your website has two audiences. First and foremost are humans, but running a close second are the multitude of robots that troll the Internet cataloging pages for search engines. These robots do not see images, they only read text, so your best bet is to start building your site around the keywords that you would like to appear on. Choose the keywords that are most relevant and then build pages about each of those keywords—one page about one keyword. Also include the keyword(s) in the headline, subhead, body copy, page URL and page title. Focus on that keyword. You’ll want to write for humans first and robots second, but don’t forget about the robots or they’ll forget about you.   Another great tip is to create a site map and a robot.txt file to help them find their way.

Blogging is so important today since search engines and the general public spend a lot of time on social media sites. Blogging does require time but it creates fresh content and more pages of content, which is great for SEO. It will allow you to express the depth of your brand personality with posts about what inspires, touches or is relevant to you. So much more than a coupon or a print ad, blogging creates a sense of texture for your brand that your customers will appreciate. Ultimately all that hard work will pay you back with more traffic and leads. To make blogging easier, you can use platforms like hootsuite.com to post to your blog as well as your social media sites at the same time.

Blogging is a great segue into introducing other social media elements into your site. There are three ways to utilize social media on your site. First, you’ll want to allow people to see the social media sites that you’re on and give them the ability to “like” you or visit your profile page. The second part of social media is the ability to share. You’ll want to give visitors to your site the ability to share both the brand and individual products with their friends. You can embed free apps like sharethis.com or addthis.com on your site that offer all of the social media and bookmarking sites around. One of the latest trends in social media is to have people login into your site using their Facebook login. Having the ability to connect your site and a customer’s Facebook profile can be a very effective sales and brand building tool.

Getting the conversions

Now that you have a site that clearly communicates what you offer and you’re getting lots of traffic, you need to convert that traffic into either subscribers or customers. Beyond cash in the bank, the most important asset a company can have is a rich email database. Okay, maybe I’m stretching a bit, but according to a 2012 Nielsen report, 50% of consumers trust email messages they have signed up to receive.(2) We recommend using an email distribution provider like mailchimp.com or emma.com to not only send out your emails, but also manage your database of subscribers. Typically it takes a minimum of 7 impressions for a brand to get a sale, so it makes a lot of sense to have a marketing campaign focused on email acquisition. This way you can inform, entertain and persuade (in that order) new prospects about your products over time.  This will also elevate your marketing message from “BUY NOW!!!” to “Sign up and we can talk about it later.”

Now that you’ve put an “add me” button in the footer of your website, we can discuss sales. To make your website exceed the 2-4% ecommerce conversion rate, you want to ensure that visitors have the ability to shop for products easily in a similar fashion as they do in the physical world. This means they should be able to inspect the box, read the label, and compare products. The web is utilized to its fullest when you have testimonials and consumer reviews on your site as well. Remember than confidence and convenience are of the utmost importance to ecommerce customers. Your site needs to be conveying both of those characteristics across every page.

Find the right spot to land

When you’re buying banner ads or spending money on keyword advertising, you’ll need to send the clicks somewhere on your site. So you’ll want to experiment with different landing pages. Sure you can send someone to your home page, but the home page needs to do a lot and is often too general to be truly persuasive. For example, if you are a specialty food store and your ad is about the gluten-free products you offer, then send incoming traffic to your store page with your gluten free products already filtered for them or, at the very least, a page about the gluten-free products you sell. This will get them farther along the purchase cycle and less likely to shop somewhere else. Remember, it’s all about convenience and confidence. Design the pages to have a headline, a subhead, a brief description, maybe a few testimonials and a clear call to action. Make the call to action large and bold while making it a visually obvious button—take nothing for granted. As you fine-tune your marketing efforts, you’ll begin developing keyword-driven pages that are geared toward the better performing ads.

When building the site, think of the landing pages you want and evaluate the design of the pages your creative team has prepared based on ability to convert. If you do this, you’ll most likely end up with a website that is far more productive that anything you could of imagined. But if you’re not sure, go to usertesting.com. For less than $50 you can have a handful of people walk through your site and give you real feedback about how they see what you created. It can be very helpful.

Footnotes:

(1) 1&1 Internet Survey, 2011

(2) Nielsen Report, 2012