Internet Marketing Tips
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Having a great Web site is not enough. You also have to bring people to it.
But promoting an online store is different from promoting an ordinary Web site. You're not just looking for hits. You're looking for sales. While it's always a good thing to bring more people to your site, what you really need are buyers. How do you bring them to you?
As always, the solution is to put your self in the customer's place. If you were someone looking to buy online, where would you be?
A year ago, there was no definite answer. Maybe a search engine. Maybe a site related to the kind of stuff you sell. But recently Internet hubs like MSN have been setting up areas just for shopping. They vary a lot in quality. Some are, so far, just pages of links. But in the long term (and even the fairly short term) this is where shoppers will go to look for products online.
Don't expect your site to show up in search engines immediately. It will show up in AltaVista in a couple days, but most other search engines are slow to add new listings. Some only seem to rebuild their databases every couple months.
You need a lot of incoming links.
Another common question people ask us is: How do I get my site to appear first in the search engines?
There is no easy trick that will work in all cases, because (a) all the search engines are different, and (b), if there were a trick, everyone would use it, and it would be just as hard to come up first.
As a general rule, someone searching for "chocolate" is more likely to get a page in your site if the word chocolate appears often on that page, especially if it appears in the title. But it will not work simply to have your page begin with the word "chocolate" repeated 100 times. Most search engines filter out sites that try that. The best approach is to use key words frequently in your site, but not in a way that appears unnatural.
For example, Vitanet is a site selling dietary supplements. The section selling DHEA contains a lot of information about DHEA. The purpose is not only to sell the product, but to draw hits from search engines. The more text in your site, the bigger a target you present to search engines.
One thing not to do, if you want traffic from search engines, is use software that generates your pages dynamically. Search engines don't index dynamically generated pages. As Internet World points out, a dynamically generated site is "all but invisible to search engines."
Most online stores can also profit by getting links from related sites. The best way to get other sites to link to you is to give them a percentage of the sales generated by that link. Industry leaders like Amazon.Com have used this technique with great results.
Which sites should you get links from? Put yourself in your customer's position. If you are selling Star Trek merchandise, go to a search engine and search for your products. The sites you get sent to be the same ones your customers will get sent to, so those are where you want to start asking for links.
Another way to get traffic is to buy banner ads that lead to your site. For example, you can buy banner ads on search engines that are tied to particular keywords. When you search for "books" in many search engines, you will see a banner ad for Amazon.Com.
Be careful when you buy banner ads. Banner ads are expensive, and even if they bring lots of visitors to your site, there is no guarantee that these visitors will place orders. Our data suggests that few online purchases are impulse purchases. Most buyers show by the keywords they use that they meant to buy before they even reached the site where they placed the order.
So if you buy a banner ad that just brings thousands of random people to your site, few of them will place orders. I know of one online store that bought a banner ad on Playboy's Web site. I can't disclose the name, but let's say they were selling modems. Most of their buyers were men, and they knew that thousands of men visited Playboy's site, so where better to put an ad? And in fact, they did get thousands of visits from this banner. But not one order. Why? Because those people were not thinking about buying modems. The mere fact that they were at the Playboy Web site showed that.
In retrospect the advertiser might have done better to put an ad on a site giving advice about which modems to buy. An ad like that might bring far fewer visitors than a Playboy ad, but they would all be people who actually meant to buy modems.
If all you know about your site is how many hits you get, then of course you tend to think that hits are what you should maximize. But hits are not what you need in an online store. Sales are what you need. So you should find the sources of hits that turn into the most sales, and focus on them.
How do you do that? Tracking tools. Good tracking tools can tell you where all your visitors come from, and how much visitors from each source spend. Tracking tools can even tell you which search keywords your visitors used in search engines, and how much money people searching for each phrase spent.
For example, if you are selling Star Wars products, you will get a lot of hits from search engines. You may find that you get ten times as many hits from people searching for "darth vader" as for "darth vader figurine". But I would bet that the people searching for "darth vader figurine" spend more money at your site. So what keyword do you buy from search engines? If you want sales, buy "figurine", not "darth vader".
Finally, if you have a catalog business or retail stores, don't forget to promote your site to your existing customers. If you have a catalog, include your URL in it. Your Web site is the perfect place to sell limited quantities of closeout items that would not be worth including in your print catalog. I know one company that includes messages throughout their print catalog telling customers that closeouts are available on their Web site at special prices. They say there is a noticeable jump in orders each time their catalog goes out.
1. Always put your URL on letterhead, business cards and in e-mail signatureswherever potential visitors are likely to see it.
2. If your employees wear uniforms, put your URL on them so every one of your customers sees a walking advertisement of your Web site.
3. Include your URL on all promotional items you give awaycoffee mugs, T-shirts, key chains and so on. A daily reminder is a good way to get people to visit your site.
4. Be sure to include your Web address in all press releases you send out to members of the media. By having it at their fingertips, they may be more likely to include it in articles they write about your company.
5. Don't forget to put your Web address in your Yellow Pages ad. That's one place people see it every day.
6. Do you own any company vehicles? Be sure to put your URL on the side of any car or truck that's out there delivering your products.
7. In addition to listing your toll-free number, put your Web address on the bottom of every page of your catalog so customers have easy access to your online store.
8. Hone your search engine submission process so you can get the best exposure possible.(use catalogpostings.com)
9. If you're still itching for more exposure, you can explore search engine marketing, wherein you pay to have a text ad appear when visitors search for certain keywords.
10. Launch a sweepstakes that offers anyone who registers on your site or subscribes to e-newsletters within a certain time frame the chance to win a free gift.
11. Send out a weekly e-mail newsletter to registered site members that offer tips and news related to your company or industry with links back to your site.
12. Offer free content to other sites. It's a win-win situation: The other site gets free articles to beef up their offerings and you get a link back to your site and the cachet of being an expert.
13. Send a well-planned, customer-focused e-mail promotion to a targeted list of potential visitors and offer a credit toward the purchase of anything from your site. Spend time on your e-mail's look and content: You want to offer value to customers and not have it appear to be Spam.
14. Create your own link exchange by asking sites complementary to yours (but that don't compete) to put your link on their pages and you'll do likewise.
15. Hook up with Web affiliateshundreds of sites that all link their traffic to yoursand get visitors from sites with related content.
16. Get active in online discussion groups and chats and always include your URL in your signature. (Don't do any hard selling, though. Most groups frown on such behavior and will think you're spamming the group.)
17. Any time someone orders a product from your site, include a catalog with their order to get him or her coming back for more.
18. Inspire your visitors to spread the word for you with viral marketing techniques, from the aforementioned newsgroup participation to including an "e-mail this link" on every page of your site.
19. Not sure what your customers want? Try creating an online survey to get their crucial opinions on how well your site is selling to them.
20. When creating your own ads, make sure you understand who you're targeting, the goal of your campaign, and how to creatively use the ad confines to get viewers to click on your ad, not away from it.
21. Use other selling venues like online classified advertising or online auction sites to increase exposure to your site and products.
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