of the week!!
Sorry about the bad news. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
[Thanks Abhishek. Being an advisor is a role that I am not comfortable with. Especially since I don’t have those zeroes in my bank to point to as proof of the effectiveness of what I am saying. But then, this is therodinhoods.com and for my purposes I have enough examples (okay one!) to show you proof.
As an entrepreneur that should always be your first filter. A permanently switched on bullshit meter. I’ll leave it to you to judge the bullshit level on this post.
Asha, owww, stop yankin me! :)]
Okay preamble done. Now, shut down everything else, grab a large mug of coffee, some pop corn, sink back into your chair, and read on.
Sorry for the bad news. But your website sucks. No no no. There is not one of you who escapes. Don’t look at your revenue numbers and think: ‘Okay this doesn’t apply to me. My website is raking in the moolah and this is for the losers.’
When you open a physical store and 90-99% of your visitors walk in, poke around, and don’t buy anything, do you sit back and grin contentedly just because that 1%-10% of buyers is keeping your head above water?
If you are of the mindset ‘build it and they will come’ or to quote Thoreau ‘build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door’, sorry. It is my painful duty to inform you that is no longer true. In the 21st century even if you have a iMousetrap that will trap the mice, automatically navigate to the nearest field, and gently release the mouse there, all the while feeding classical music via a 4G connection, you still need to market (and that too aggressively) your product…. to mice for maximum traction. And to home owners if you can’t figure out mouse talk. 🙂
There are, of course, exceptions. For example: teleportation devices. If you’ve invented one of those then yes, post a video to youtube, tell your friends on FB, and then please sit back, and wait for the moolah to come pouring in. Also, please mail me directly if you have one. I am dying to say “Beam me up scottie” and scramble my body’s atoms and reassemble it somewhere else. 🙂
Otherwise, listen up.
Internet Marketing = Traffic Generation + Conversion Optimization
That’s it. Nearly everything you do with your site can be clubbed under these two. Sounds a bit too simple, right? It is really once you think about it.
As an entrepreneur irrespective of whether you are a pure online play or a real world business with an online presence, there are your only two questions you need to obsess over with respect to internet marketing.
1. How do I get people who want my stuff to my site a.k.a relevant traffic?
2. How do I get them to take action on my site a.k.a conversion?
The important lesson for you the site owner is this: every rupee you spent on the website should directly or indirectly be tied to these two aspects.
SEO, PPC, Social Media, Blogging and Email Marketing are all traffic generation tactics.
Copy (website content), UI, and UX improvements are conversion optimization tactics. Watch out for that radically fundoo, sooper cool design that does nothing for your conversion goals.
Factoid: Any kind of speed improvements you achieve is directly correlated to better SEO and Conversion.
Google’s already on record about site speed being a part of the search ranking algorithm.
Amazon says for every 100ms lift in speed (responsiveness to end user) they see a 1% incr…. Google Maps saw a 30% increase in usage after they decreased the page weight by 30%.
If you haven’t looked at your site speed and you are growing traffic comfortably with decent conversions drop everything else and fix site speed now. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is the holy grail of responsiveness: 1 second.
Also, remember not to demarcate everything on-website as conversion related and everything off-website as traffic generation related. In most instances this is true but there are enough edge cases to shoot that paradigm down. For example – Adwords is rolling out new extensions where you can sign up leads straight from the search results page without bringing them to the site. Yahoo has been doing that – somewhat ineffectively – for a while with display ads. So that’s traffic and conversion at a single point of interaction. Whether that particular tactic is effective or not will depend in large part on your industry, your offer, the audience you are dealing with, AND how you define effectiveness.
Should I focus on conversion optimization first or traffic generation?
That depends, but generally it is cyclical. If you are a startup, you need the traffic first. If you already have a decent amount of traffic then focus on improving the conversion. Ideally you should have two teams, one chasing traffic, the other conversion ninjas. And make sure that they both talk to each other. The ninjas can’t do anything if your traffic team is sending irrelevant traffic. Extreme example: Bikers being sent to a Fair and Lovely website. Sounds ridiculous but it has happened. And that with otherwise intelligent people.
I don’t have any money to spend on SEO, PPC, Social Media, Blogging, etc.
Oh. Welcome to the club. 🙂 There is a great Distilled article about producing content without a budget that effectively sums it up: to produce content you need two of three things – time, talent, money. Now if you don’t have money you will need to find the other two. And please do check in at reality 101. It is unlikely that you will ever succeed without active marketing. My favorite example: Sir Alok Rodinhood. 🙂
Things your site needs:
a) High quality content: gobs of it, produced on a regular cycle. Easiest way to do this is with a blog. Your production frequency and content mix will be determined by your industry. Good news for B2B: you only need to produce marginally more content than your competition. Bad news for B2C: suck it up, grit your teeth, and get down to it. OR you have to find creative ways to take your once a month post and make it a viral smash hit.
Good example of that? Sir Alok Rodinhood of course. 🙂 Okay he was more prolific than once a month in the beginning. But most of his posts were viral smash hits.
b) Social Media engagement: Get people to like, comment on your shit. (The adjective choice of “shit” is a separate philosophical/spiritual discussion which we’ll need to carry out elsewhere :-)). Do it sincerely. Absolutely necessary if you are a B2C play. Highly desirable even if you are B2B. Try for Google+ if your audience is there but don’t sweat it if not. Same goes for Twitter. Go there if your audience is present and wade into the @replies and win followers. The social media channels you decide on will be driven by your audience. The ones you should consider are: FB, Twitter, G+, and LinkedIn. Remember the second rule of marketing. Go where your audience is.
Shoutout: Use http://crowdnub.com by our very own rodinhooder – Kiran. Once you have some content and you are going nuts trying to figure out engagement, crowdnub is a great way to get your content in front of your FB audience. Plus I think Twitter also now. (Kiran?)
c) SEO: Are you doing a) and b)? Oh good. Go directly to d).
Okay I am not going to get away with that. 🙂
Don’t obssess over rankings. SEO has changed radically in 2012. Keyword driven SEO is on its deathbed.
Again: Sir Alok Rodinhood’s rant about doing SEO by not doing SEO wins. 🙂
[But then I still stand by what I say about being able to double the traffic :D]
Okay, okay, sorry this is turning into a praise Alok post. Just too lazy to look elsewhere. Besides. He IS punching all the right buttons. Right? :))
The short version is that search engines are shifting to social relevance, citations, keyword-site entity relationships (what I call Word Cloud SEO), and not to forget personal search and browsing history to determine ranking. And they are shifting away from pure anchor text (links) driven rankings. Please note: this is the general direction in which the google beast is heading and not a prescriptive description of the state of current search algos.
SEO in 2013 and beyond boils down to this: get people to like (or +1), share, comment, and engage with the content on your site. That is the strongest signal of relevance and authority.
IT ALL GOES BACK TO THE SAME SOURCE. Now before I drift off topic… onward.
PS: One very important thing to note. DO NOT and I mean DO NOT let the content you publish on your site be published elsewhere. Write fresh content for them if you have to but what you have on your site should be unique. Duplicate content raises a quality flag with the search engines. As with everything there are exceptions but in general be mindful of duplicate content.
d) Email marketing: Get yourself an email system that supports A/B testing and lots of bells and whistles. Mailchimp is fantabulous. But they are known hardasses when it comes to list quality. Work within mailchimp’s guidelines and you will develop best practices by default.
Email your audience as frequently as possible This depends on your list and their responsiveness and engagement with your content. In some markets you can do it daily and even multiple times a day. In others they’ll throw a hissy fit if you mail them more than once a month. Which brings up the first rule of marketing. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.
Best practices say that you should avoid purchased lists. Good advice. You can break that rule if you know what you are doing. BUT remember if you make a wrong move you will end up on the spam list of ISPs (gmail, yahoo mail, hotmail, etc) and once that happens you are up shit creek without a paddle. In general avoid purchased lists. There is ninjagiri which is borderline gray hat but dont go there without reading up lots on the ins and outs of email deliverability, spam ratios, list laundering, etc etc.
In general your job is to get people to sign up to your email list from your website and then bring them back to the site. Email marketing is both a traffic gen tactic as well as the first step in a conversion funnel.
Factoid: Email marketing has the higest ROI compared to any other marketing channel.
For a more detailed breakdown of the ninjagiri involved go read Aneja’s post on email marketing.
e) Conversion optimization framework: As soon as you get some amount of traffic please START CONVERSION TESTING. At this point I should probably get on my knees and beg. LOL.
Every site, and I mean EVERY SITE, has conversion goals. And those goals can be tested and improved.
Whether you are a content publisher, an ecommerce store, a B2B site or any other type of site, you have conversion goals that you can define and improve.
Here is the short summary from Brian Massey’s awsilicious primer on conversion. Scroll lower for details about the book.
There are Five Primary Conversion formulas:
The Brochure site: This one is the barebones site. Depending on your industry maybe that is all you need. Enquiries will come in because you are known in the industry or because you are the default player in the market. If the bulk of your enquiries and subsequently sales come in through the web then you are more in the lead generation category. Ask yourself this question, will I be able to thrive without a website. Not in terms of branding but in terms of sales. i.e. If you did not have a site will your business still continue. If you answer yes to this question. You don’t need to do anything. If you answer maybe or no to this question. Then you better start working on your site.
The Publication site: Games2win and Contests2win fit in this category. So do pure content blogs, news sites, and etc. Unless you are Wikipedia or totally I-am-doing-it-for-the-love-of-it-and-don’t-care-if-it -is-read-or-dont, you have to pay attention to conversion goals. The widest possible goal is content consumption. Which in analytics gets translated to pageviews, time on site.
Time on Site is also a quality metric for content consumption. If people are whizzing through your pages at x seconds per page when you know the consumption time should be x+y seconds then you have to look at whats happening and why.
Your conversion goal has to be tied back to a hard monetary number. The exact formula you use is immaterial. It should however be predictable and should tie in with your revenue. You should be tracking this and theorizing ways to improve this number.
E.g. If your revenue is in CPM. You should focus on both increasing the page views and the Time on Site. Increase page views to jack up the impressions. Increase time on site to push up your rates with the ad vendors. Most ad vendors won’t agree of course but once you get enough traction then you are the boss. :).
There are two ways to increase page views. More traffic. OR More content consumption. When you do both you get a double whammy.
The trick with publication (and this goes for all sites since content generation and content marketing has to be a part of your plans) is to generate more UGC (user generated content) than you can keep up. That’s when you hit, what Dan Theis calls, the virtuous cycle. Your actual contribution can drop way down. And SEO practically takes care of itself.
And good example of that? 😀 Obviously, therodinhoods.com. 😀
The Ecommerce Store: This is the easiest to track and the toughest to convert. An average ecommerce store converts at less than 1%. The top of the range in the category convert at 50%+. So, buckle up and get down to it. You have a lot of work to do.
You need to have a solid rationale in place to stand out from the crowd (aka USP). You cannot buy market share with branding alone. Our desi ecommerce trainwreck is a good example.
More than any of the others an ecommerce store needs conversion testing. Why? Imagine this: do you ever walk into a supermarket with the sole intention to browse and then walk out? If you are the store owner and you have 1000 footfalls a day and only 10 buyers wouldn’t you either commit harakiri or figure out what’s going wrong at every point of interaction?
The consultant site/lead gen site: I know I know. Half a dozen people will jump on me now and point at my site. Ashaaaa!!!!! 🙂
I am lazy. I believe it is all shit anyway. Part of that philosophical discussion I spoke about earlier. Actually my site’s dismal state has more to do with laziness and I-am-making-enough-na-so-why-bother than the ‘it-is-all-shit’ argument.
Notwithstanding that. Here is what happens in this category. You are selling a relatively high ticket product or service. You need to talk to the client to help him figure out what he wants. The client needs to fill up a form to get in touch with you. Your focus should be in asking the minimum information that will get you quality leads in exchange for some value that is closely tied to your product. Favorite choice is a whitepaper. But that’s just one option. Whitepaper marketing when done right is a great lead gen and sales tool.
The online service: This one is relatively easy to convert with a trial offer and with some bells and whistles but retention is hard. That’s what you need to focus on. Retention.
The easy way to build your audience is to have a freemium version with upgrades. Your core performance metrics are your freemium to premium conversion rates and your retention rate.
Conversion Testing – The Gateway to More Money
Unless you are measuring, testing, and improving your conversion – you are basically running blind and are more likely to fail. In bar room talk – you are up shit creek.
If that doesn’t scare you then take a look at this table below.
Granted this is a simplified view but this should give you an idea of how the twin pillars of conversion optimzation: traffic & conversion rate, gets your sales numbers moving.
Note how for the same cost of traffic your sales increases as your conversion rate improves. Look at the rows highlighted in green. By improving your conversion rate marginally you are skyrocketing your revenue with traffic growth. And finally see how as you improve your conversion rate your cost per conversion starts going into free fall and you maximize your visitor value.
Which is where we started with this article: get the right traffic and get them to convert.
One of the best books on the subject is Brian Massey’s Your Customer Creation Equation. The Kindle version is $9.99 and totally worth it. You can read it off your smartphone (which is what I did initially) and just the reading will pay you back with ideas and insights worth their weight in gold.
The other book is Bryan Eisenberg’s Always be Testing. This is more suited to an enterprise audience.
Of the conversion testing tools there are three I can recommend:
Content Experiments (buried inside Google Analytics) is free but you are on your own for tech support.
I haven’t worked with VWO but have heard only good things about them. And the little I poked around in the app, I had to suck back the drool. 🙂 And what really kicks me is that they are desi, have refused VC money, and somemany of the top brands in the world are their customers.
Convert.com is awesome and their support is phenomenal. Usual response window is a few hours during their working hours. They are chilling it in sunny Mexico and have customers all over the planet. And they are crazy. I asked a doubt and they came up with a new feature in a few hours.
f) Paid Advertising: Contrary to popular opinion, paid advertising when coupled with a rigorous conversion testing framework can bring you an avalanche of profitable traffic. When you get it right, paid traffic is like a tap. Turn it on or off as you like. The catch though is in the phrase ‘when you get it right’. It takes rigorous attention to detail and testing to discover creatives and traffic sources that bring you profitable visitors who are hungry for your product and services.
The gorrilla in the room is of course Adwords. CPC (cost per click) on adwords these days is expensive in almost all markets but if you can crack it, you will be laughing all the way to bank.
The other ad networks won’t send you as high quality traffic as adwords but depending on your product or service you may find niches that work for you like gangbusters.
Another Shoutout: Okay this rodinhooder is difficult to get on the phone. Aditya is either blasting it at Punjabi weddings (his friend’s not his :)) or is buried deep inside the code of his app. Standard code junkie. And he is at the cutting edge of an industry that is solving one major problem with ad networks. How to reach your audience at the right time and at the most optimal price. If you have a fairly reasonable budget you should use his platform. http://impulsemedia.co.in
I guess I should stop now eh? This ramble has gone on for too long. :))
Questions, comments, doubts? Drop ’em in the comments below and I’ll get to them as soon as I can.