If you’re a savvy business owner, you’ll already have a website and online strategy (and if not, it’s time to get one!). Here’s how to boost your web presence at minimal cost for maximum effectiveness.
Start thinking like a customer
To see how easy your business is to find in Google, imagine you’re a prospective customer. Search for your business name – how quickly can your customers find you? Then try searching for your products or services – can people also find you through the things you sell?
For a start, ensuring you have a user-friendly, well-structured website will help search engines like Google find and index it easily. It also makes sense to investigate all of the free business listings available on the web, such as Google Places (formerly known as the Local Business Centre) on Google Maps. Any business can create a listing which will be shown if a customer searches on Google Maps for, say, a cafe in Lyall Bay.
Invest in search
Once you know your customers can find you, it’s time to find your customers and ensure you’re where they are. Search advertisements are the text-based ads you may have noticed next to and above your search results when you’re researching products online. Advertising your products via search marketing allows you to connect with your customers at the moment they’re searching for you – so you’re talking to an audience that’s already interested in what you have to offer.
Search campaigns can be created quickly and easily, and you only pay when people click on your ads, making them extremely cost-effective.
Search is also perfect for online novices, because it’s easy to test and learn, tweak and adjust – you can pause, cancel or resume campaigns at the click of a mouse and continually review what you’ve set up. And of course, you can manage your marketing any time you like, 24/7.
By looking at search patterns, you can see what people are interested in and thinking about – and tailor your marketing activity to make the most of that. We’ve noticed there are some search terms that prove popular on Google.co.nz at the same time every year – some are predictable, such as Valentine’s Day, Easter and Christmas, while some are slightly less obvious; for instance the surge in searches for ‘feijoa’-related topics in April (feijoa season).
You can check out these trends for yourself – for free – with Google Insights for Search (www. google.com/insights/search). This allows you to get a sense of trends by comparing search volume patterns across specific regions, categories and time frames. It can help you anticipate seasonal demand for your business by showing when people are searching for your product or service, or help you find where your customers are, by showing which regions have the highest search volumes for what you’re offering.
Know where your audience is coming from You can further drive the effectiveness of your website by learning more about the visitors you’re getting. You can do this through a variety of free, easy-to-use web analytics tools at www.google. com/analytics.
Analytics can show you where your visitors are coming from and how long they’re staying on your site – for instance, are you getting a high bounce rate; that is, are people leaving without having made a single click? By identifying the sites that are sending visitors with the highest bounce rates, you can investigate the reasons why – is it your search campaign, the context in which your search link is placed, your ads – and make changes to ensure visitors find what they’re looking for.
Next, take a closer look at the pages visitors land on. Remember, YOU don’t choose the landing page of your website – when people search, the engine finds the most relevant page on your site which becomes their ‘landing page’. You can see in Analytics reports where people are landing the most and which pages might be letting you down by not engaging your visitors enough to make even one click. You can also see your most-viewed pages – maybe you’re getting more hits to your reviews pages than to product pages, or perhaps only two of your 10 products are attracting traffic.
Website Fix It 101
Now that you’ve determined what needs fixing, what do you do next? Here’s how to avoid making some common mistakes:
• Pass the 8 second test. At first glance, a visitor should understand the purpose of your website within a few seconds. People are busy and have limited attention spans – make sure it’s clear what you want them to do or where to click.
• Tell them what’s in it for them. Create clear and tangible benefits on your site and in your advertising (eg: “Save 30%!”, “Make extra money!” “Free installation with every purchase!”).
• Use compelling images. Try product images instead of generic stock photos – a low-quality, irrelevant image can kill your site’s credibility.
• Keep it simple. Gratuitous images or too much text can distract your visitors, as can design elements that are more annoying than cool. Don’t provide too many clickable links; focus your visitors’ clicks and route them from there.
• Close the sale. Help your visitors take the next step. Make sure there’s a clear call to action; don’t make them hunt for what to do next. Action words like “get a quote” may work better than “enquire”, for instance.
• Don’t demand too much information. Ask only for what’s absolutely necessary to complete a transaction. Avoid long forms that ask for things the customer may not have easily at hand.
Above all else, don’t worry if you don’t get everything right first time – that’s the beauty of online; it allows you immense flexibility to play around, adjust and find out what works for you. Good luck!