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What you can do now to help get business from your website

online business

Remember the days of the “magical gold box” TV commercials?

Back in the late 1990’s and into the 2000’s, there were a number of these obnoxious infomercials about magical websites that would sprout money within hours. The ads often were accompanied by a gold treasure chest, gleaming with gold coins.

The entire point was that by buying (or more likely leasing) a website from these companies, you could make a fortune almost overnight, with very little effort on your part.

As a web designer who started when the technology first became available, I found these “infomercials” unbelievably stupid. After all, who would be naive enough to think that simply having a website would make them rich? But oddly enough, a lot of people bought into the nonsense, though I doubt that very few made much money at all.

19th century “snake oil”, magic potions and elixirs alive and well near the end of the 20th century. Truly amazing!

You don’t see the ubiquitous “gold box” ads on TV anymore, which is a bit of a blessing. However, the false impressions and influence created by them are still alive and well in 2017. Many people still think that simply having a website means that it will generate money overnight.

Here’s a true story about an unexpected success:

In the early 1990’s, Yahoo was the “king of the search engines”. It was fairly easy to get a new website ranked in the first page results of a Yahoo search.

One company we designed a website for in Vermont, produced and sold maple syrup. We started with a small website, added a simple Javascript shopping cart and started selling a few containers of maple syrup. The online sales (while e-commerce was in it’s infancy) did surprisingly well, so we decided to implement a Yahoo Store into the website. After quickly adding as much inventory as possible, Yahoo Store listed us at the top of Yahoo Shopping.

We were the very first to sell maple syrup online and it took off beyond what any of us could have expected.

The Store was launched in time for the holidays and grossed online sales figures that exceeded the companies in-house sales. We were sitting at the top of the maple syrup mountain by luck of simply getting there first. People at the company received promotions because of this huge success and new people, with fresh marketing ideas came in to take their place. You can probably guess what happened next. I was told that even though what I had done was impressive, a marketing team could do so much more.

With little more than a thank you and bragging rights, my company lost the project.

Call it Karma or perhaps fate, but the whiz bang, new marketing agency ruined the website and online sales dropped like a rock. Competitors were quick to jump on opportunities missed. The following year, online maple syrup sales were dismal. Someone “killed the goose that laid the golden egg” and the company never did regain it’s number one status.

“Set it and forget it”

… is a phrase we now hear in the 2017 infomercials. It is usually used with cooking equipment, etc. sold on TV. Yet, many business owners and web novices believe it applies to having a website.

Honestly, back as far as the late 1990’s, you simply could have a website, do little to maintain it and have business come your way. That was long before competition and websites grew exponentially. Eventually it seemed that everyone was on the web. Now in 2017, they really are.

No matter how nice your web design is, if no one can find you it’s like owning a gorgeous mansion in a swamp.

You may be proud and want to show off your website but if no one can find you, they will never see it. Worse yet, if you have products, promotions and information on your website that’s outdated, if visitors do find you, they will probably not come back.

The wheel keeps on turning:

These days, a website is more like a mutual fund for your business. It’s the hub of a wagon wheel and the spokes that support it are social media, e-mail marketing, paid advertising and other means. Keeping the website up-to-date with fresh, engaging content and functioning well is essential. Visitors to your website will only stick around for a few seconds before deciding whether to browse, or bounce off to your competitor’s website.

There really is a method to the madness of social media and Internet marketing…

Random posts, tweets and photo shares can only do so much and rely 100% upon luck. To be successful, you must realize that social media campaigns must be planned, executed and funded by advertising (ie. Facebook ads, Google ads, etc.) in order to be truly competitive.

Think about companies that purchase TV and radio ads. Perhaps you are even using these type of ads yourself. They are not cheap! Television ads are probably the most costly of all, followed by radio ads. It’s amazing that business owners will spend thousands on media ads each month, but expect that simply having a website will attract as much business, at little or no cost at all.

Here is the real story about website sales conversions:

You can do quite well with a popular website that consistently ranks very high in organic results, has a lot of regular traffic and updated with engaging content. In that case, you may not really need an ad budget. If that’s truly the case you’re in the lucky minority. Thank your lucky stars!

Most of us have to put a lot of time and effort into our website promotions, utilizing SEO (search engine optimization), e-mail marketing, cultivating high power back links and e-commerce. Even if we get all of those right, it still may not be enough. That’s where we look to marketing such as pay-per-click ads (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), banners, affiliate programs and paid search such as Google AdWords and Bing ads.

Tread carefully in the waters of paid web advertising…very carefully!

Media ads such as TV and radio, it can cost thousands of dollars per month. It can also be difficult to know how media ads are converting unless you have a method in place to track conversions (such as coupons, codes, etc.). The advantages that web advertising has is that it can be much lower cost to get started with. You can easily track conversions to your website, social media promotions and so forth.

With the lower costs come more attention to details and statistics.

Though you can run simple Facebook post “boosts” at a low cost, what might be sufficient for one business may not yield enough profitable results for another. To utilize paid web advertising effectively, be prepared to split test your ads, measure conversions and calculate results. In simpler terms, if you can spend $1 in web advertising to make $2 in profit, you’re doing it right.

A “set it and forget it” attitude in web advertising is like gambling. You might have better luck at a slot machine.

Social media comes to the rescue??? Not so fast partner. Though many of us implement social media as a marketing tool, it can only do so much. As a matter of fact, openly promoting your business in a personal Facebook feed can get you kicked off your friend’s list or at the least, condition people to ignore you. If you want to use free social media promotions, you must “give to gain” by sharing and engaging with others. That can be a lot of work.

Paid advertising is much faster because you can target your audience directly. This ensures that your ads are seen by the people you want to attract.

How much should I plan to spend on my web promotions?

Many of our clients have asked this question, so we spent the past two months testing and researching this topic carefully. We started off helping some of our long time clients by offering one hour or two hours per month. Although that does help somewhat, there is really very little that anyone can do in just a couple hours. Maybe a blog post and social shares or a website update. Though it’s much better than doing nothing at all, it can only yield so much. Also, it depends upon the business. All of them are different and the more unique your business niche is, area competition, etc., the easier it is to accomplish a lot on a very low budget.

Competition comes with a price tag, like it or not:

If you’re in a very competitive local business such as real estate, medical and dental services, construction, electrical and plumbing, etc., you should plan on a minimum of $1000 per month (services) plus another $500 for ad spend budgeting. The larger the company and competition, the more you will have to invest. A business that does over a million in annual sales, should plan on between $1500 to $7000 per month for web advertising services. Larger corporations, franchises, etc., should plan on over $10k per month.

Wow, that really seems expensive…

If you’re stuck in the mindset that many of us are, that websites are a quick ticket to business success and profit with very little effort, it really does look expensive. Yet, when you think about the cost of TV and radio ads, it starts to look like a bargain. Consider this. If you can, measure the effectiveness of a TV or radio ad in terms of customer acquisition compared to the cost of a new customer from web advertising.

From Entrepreneur:

The simplest way to estimate lifetime value: Plug actual or estimated (if you’re in the planning stages or just starting out) numbers into the following equation:

(Average Value of a Sale) X (Number of Repeat Transactions) X (Average Retention Time in Months or Years for a Typical Customer)

An easy example would be the lifetime value of a gym member who spends $20 every month for 3 years. The value of that customer would be:
$20 X 12 months X 3 years = $720 in total revenue (or $240 per year)

Now you can see even from this hypothetical example why many gyms offer a free starter membership to help drive traffic. Gym owners know that as long as they spend less than $240 to acquire a new member, the customer will prove profitable in a short amount of time.

As you can see in the example above, if you’re the owner of a gym and you can get 5 new members to sign up based on a Facebook ad special that you paid $1000 for you’re ahead of the game. But, if you paid $5000 for a TV ad that resulted in getting 5 new customers, it wouldn’t be such a great conversion. This is why it’s important to know what your conversion rates are.

SEO or Uh-oh?

I’ve been spending a lot of time researching SEO methods and it really boils down to 3 important things that you need to know. These are beyond the web standards of using proper keyword meta tags and so forth, so if you’re building a website correctly, you should have already have done that correctly. If not, do it!

  1. Quality content with posts and/or pages 1200 words or more with images, videos and outgoing links to authority websites. These can be no-follow links if the website doesn’t link back to you.
  2. Back links from OTHER high authority websites pointing TO your website. Websites that rank high send more “link juice” value to your website, thus increasing your website’s credibility, and hopefully ranking.
  3. Approaching “influencers” and basically trying to beg, borrow or steal your way into their world, in hopes of getting valuable links and/or referrals from them.

It’s number 3 that I have a problem with…

According to SEO “experts” like Brian Dean and others, you should casually approach (politically correct stalking) people of influence that have topics similar or lateral to yours, hoping to build up a casual acquaintance with them. You do this by not blatantly asking for links, etc. but by offering them something of value, which can be something like guest posts, featuring them and/or their content on an article you’re writing, sharing their social media posts & tweets or just about anything you can do to get them to notice you. One

Once they acknowledge you, then and only then, should you suggest in the most minimal way that they link to your website, social media, etc.

Sounds like a good, sincere way to approach someone right? Yes, it is. But, have you stopped to think how many other people are doing the exact same thing? You can bet it’s a LOT and that’s in addition to the tons of requests influencers get blatantly asking for links, etc. Seems like a huge amount of work and effort for a few links if you’re lucky enough to get them. But, if you’ve got plenty of spare time, give it a shot!

If you’ve got lots of money money and time to burn, take influencers and potential clients to lunch, as Neil Patel did!

When you hire a knowledgeable web professional to manage your web ads and social media, you can come up with ways to laser target your conversions.

I sincerely hope that this helps to shed some light upon the mysteries of web management and Internet marketing. Now, the next time you look at your website, hopefully you’ll see it in a different light. A website is a tool, like a hammer or food processor. If you don’t use it properly, you simply cannot expect it to perform miracles.

If you have any questions about any of the above, contact us. We are offering free website audits to clients who sign on for new web design, SEO and Internet marketing plans.

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