Tom Levers

Improving Your Website… a “Call To Action”

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING, PUBLIC RELATIONS by Tom Levers on January 21, 2009

directionHow are you measuring your prospect activities when directed to your site?

From hits to clicks and page views to time-on-site, all of these issues are sorrounded by a myriad of ways to measure a website. But remember abandonment rates, they can measure both your efficiency and your effectiveness of the sites “Call To Action” (CTA) objectives.

There are many best practices used for improving the metrics of a site, but your real objective is to fill the sales funnel by getting a registration, requesting a white paper, running a  “cost justification wizard”,  downloading a trial… or any of the many other call to action tactics that increase the probability of the sale. It is imperative to measure each step or action, because its a prime indicator of where or what the Visitor has touched, and it might possibly be the reason they left your site.

Where an action is requested and not taken, we need to build baselines for improvement. No one in the B-to-B organization would accept not tracking and improving the sales processes (by measuring where and why the sales process stalled), you may want to consider the same importance to tracking and improving the abandonment of a “Call To Action”. Here site analytics software is key to improving your Demand Funnel, just as relationship management software is key to improving the Sales Funnel.

By monitoring Web Analytics Dashboards to measure the Demand Funnel you can identify and improve the  “Call to Action Metrics” by developing indicatwebsite-metricsors or KPIs of how to minimize the drop offs. The solution can typically be to modify the registration information required or remodel the page flow or navigation, but first you need to identify the areas to improve.

There are 2 ways to calculate Drop off rate:

The first calculation to take Drop off/Abandonment rate = (Visits of the current CTA Step-Visits of the previous CTA Step)/Visits of the First Conversion Step. This calculation takes into account the Homepage every time we calculate the drop off rate at every step. So in the Funnel, we notice 7000 visits are measured on the Products View (Step 2) and only 2000 Continue to registration which means that the calculation based on the formula would be (2000-7000)/10000 which would be -50% as it is loss.

The second calculation to calculate Drop off/Abandonment rate = (Visits of the current CTA Step-Visits of the previous CTA Step)/Visits of the Previous conversion Step. This calculation takes into account the previous “Call To Action” Step and the current “Call To Action”Step. As an Example In the Funnel, we notice 7000 visits are measured on the Products View  and only 2000 Continue to “Call to Action” which means that the calculation based on the formula would be (2000-7000)/7000 which would be -71%.

Using AB tests on the “Call To Action”  pages can immediately increase the amount of prospects you generate.

AB Testing is a way to test 2 variations of a page in order to determine which page is more successful in terms of pulling people towards a website goal. We split traffic on each page based on a defined proportion (50/50, 90/10). Usually the first step where there are most chances of convincing a user to buy something is the homepage as this is the page that defines a website in terms of visual appeal, product listing, ease of navigation, color scheme and even text. These things go a long way in generating a sense of trust in the users. For e.g. we have a website whose business model is selling books and there are 2 AB Test pages with the first page being the Control (original) having a discount offer banner on the top and the second page doesn’t have any discount offer banner but a slideshow listing the top selling books. We will then put tracking codes on both these pages and identify each page with a unique identifier in order to measure each page’s success. This success is usually measured in terms of the Conversion ratio which can be measured as: Visitors on the Conversion page/Visitors on the Test/Home Page. Some tools that can help you achieve AB Testing are Google Website Optimizer, Verster, SiteSpect and SplitAnalyzer.


Multivariate Testing is the second and the most efficient method to optimize your page. In this method, you don’t use multiple pages to determine a higher conversion rate but you do test the same page by changing the elements around. For example you can test headlines, colors, buttons and images on the same page by correlating each element with each other to find the best possible combination/element. The method used to achieve this is known as the Taguchi Method.This method takes into consideration the sample size and how long a test should run in order to have a clear winner. Google Website Optimizer uses this method to measure a multivariate test. This tool lets you view the various combinations and elements separately and then based on the Taguchi method decides the winner. All you need to do is add a tracking code on to your page and Google Website Optimizer will then split the traffic equally on each element separately.  Some other tools that can help you achieve multivariate Testing are Google Website Optimizer, Optimost, Memetrics, Verster,clouds Maxymiser and Omniture Test & Target.

After using the Taguchi method of page testing and based on the above formulas the result is counter intuitive. It may look like the first method generated a  better rate of abandonment. However, the second funnel is only considered in the respective CTA steps  and not Step 1 (Homepage) because Step 1 is entirely a separate user experience. As a result, the drop off rate should be calculated based on the 2nd CTA Step, as they are independent of the user experience on the other pages of a Funnel. These 2 pages alone can determine how to  improve the conversion rate at each step, as these are not based on the Homepage experience. As example. The Registration form design and involvement is totally different than what it is on the Homepage.

How Do You Measure Success?

Whether your site received 2 visitors or 2 million, that figure is pretty meaningless unless it’s improvement correlates with an increase in enquiries or sales. It’s simple, the yardstick for how the website is measured has changed as analytics scramble to reflect how actionable activities are generated.  Total minutes on a site has its own caveats and is more an awareness thought leadership metric, not a call to action measure. The reliance of marketers on their website becomes increasingly obvious. But with increased spending comes increased expectations; tracking results through basic measures such as click-through and PPC related areas won’t be sufficient. This is why focusing on measuring the various stages of the Demand Funnel and “Call to Action” is the true approach to improving the efficiency and quality of your website performance.

SEO is behavioral

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on January 5, 2009

 

semWhat does Web search have to do with behavior?

 

Everything!

 

Did you know that if you have a B 2 B site that has not been modified in 6 months you have lost significant readers, prospects and sales. This is because GOOGLE is becoming more and more behavioral. Behavior is the Google direction to improve the quality of their ranking algorithm.

 

I won’t go into who’s money funded these qualitative findings, or why, or how, or who in GOOGLE guided me (like deep throat) threw to the conclusions below. But my investigation was founded on other SEO experts that have made the same conclusions from their quantitative perspective. So, here are a few of the more current  issues that are now impacted by search algorithms.

 

For SEO professionals or The Person Who Got Stuck With SEO, its time to make sure you are focused on three areas:

  • Usability – Be helpful to those who have reached your site. Looking at how people get to your site is easy,  more importantly get more people to stay on your site.
  • Analytics – It is not just measuring if keywords work or do not work, you’d better be good at analyzing the metrics to identify why and where you should make site improvements.
  • Writing – Be a consultative thought leader not a blatant promoter.

Behavior is the Google direction to improve the quality of their ranking algorithm. Here are the facts to improving your web rankings:

 

Search Behavior Fact 1:  Impressions are Nothing and Click-Thru is everything.

People who click on a native search listing versus those who see it and don’t click will tell Google you are more accurately addressing “the search need”. Those who are chosen to fulfill the need are rewarded in ranking.  This means your copy should be aligned with the most relevant and current topics… obviously, but without getting into the details, if you have not changed your web copy / topics recently, you are being penalized.

 

Search Behavior Fact 2: Bounce Rate Impacts Ranking.

Search engines are  incorporating user behavior data, like bounce rate, into their algorithms. How many visitors from organic search look at one page and leave without clicking to another page? The more folks that leave, the higher your bounce rate. So don’t generate traffic that promotes hit and run, search algorithms will interpret it as abandoned visitors. A high bounce rate impacts your ranking.

 

Search Behavior Fact 3: Time On your Site Impacts Ranking.

The amount of time someone spends on your web site from their search query will impact ranking. This is why building thought leadership and good usability to flow through your site is critical.

 

I have heard from some very “in the know Google types”, and I am now reading it from other search experts that “time on the site” impsearch-engine-marketingroves organic rankings.  What you need to do is to deliver value to your reader: Clarify your offer, and watch your analytics.

Make sure your description and tags are aligned with your current site. To improved time on site give people what they expect when they click on your listing in the search results. Take a leadership role by educating to increase interest. Track your organic landing pages vs. your paid. Organic search engines pick the page they’ll list in the ranking, – you pick the landing page for paid search and track back promotion.  So watch the pages that draw search traffic and backtrack with an understanding of why it is behaving in a specific manner. Figure out the keywords that are generating traffic to those pages. Then adjust those pages so they make sense in a behavioral context.Use your analytics for more than PPC. Watch time spent on each organic landing page and test those pages. Find the best combination of headline, copy, layout and offer. Then do it again.Be creative. This means that the one product long tail company needs to get more creative than those competitive companies with many products and many reasons to navigate the site.

Search Behavior Fact 4: Social Networking will matter.

This one’s been evident for consumer companies for a while, but even B to B is moving in this direction: Search engines are  adding bookmarking, stumbles, Diggs, Technorati, and other information into the equation. If you can get more folks to live at your site, or promote it to the top of Google Search wiki, or bookmark your site on Del.icio.us, your ranking’s are going to improve.

 

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SEM Channel Partner Methods

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on December 14, 2008
partners3
by Tom Levers

Adding an SEM perspective to your partner programs can generate a better quality lead.

Today few corporate brand owners are thinking creatively when developing partner programs. While manufacturers and others offer traditional co-branding marketing programs, they often fail miserably at executing Search Engine Marketing.

The brand owner needs to know: Why is the partner not selling more?  How are they generating leads? What did they do with all the leads?  What’s the return on the co-op dollars they were given?  In general what is their marketing plan and tactics for the product?

Channel partners, on the other hand, often complain about the lack of support. We need more co-op dollars. Why don’t you give us more leads? The leads you give us aren’t qualified. What are you doing to improve promoting us?

Both sides are generally justified in their stance. The root issue, however, lies not in the money spent promoting channel partners, but in the effectiveness of channel partner initiatives. With all the evidence that search plays a huge role in B2B purchases, few brands have made the investment to properly optimize their own sites for search, let alone optimize their sites to promote or advise partner search marketing. Yet SEM can be one of the most effective, cost-efficient ways to drive traffic to channel partners and generate leads and sales.

It’s hard to explain topartner28 a partner how to optimize its site for search of your product. Typically, you cannot mandate how channel partners should do their PPC campaign. At the corporate brand level, it’s hard to justify pay-per-click campaigns that drive traffic to channel partners and not to the corporate brand (it would be like sending partners a check for every click). The answer lies, however, in organic optimization. A well-designed landing page for each channel partner on the corporate brand’s site is largely a one-time expense. Done right, it can generate channel partner leads in perpetuity with little to no ongoing investment.

SEM is still in the Wild West phase of marketing and the PPC range wars are not touched in partner marketing.  But with one unique page for each channel partner, one that speaks to their expertise and value as a partner can create a lot of business and improve overall keyword rankings. Too often, partner contact information is merely an address and a link that goes to each partner’s site or worse… nothing at all. There really isn’t much for the search engine to index. And that’s the problem. If you want to drive traffic to channel partners (and you should), you need to create optimized landing pages that speak to the prospect in key word searches that target your partners value add to your brand. These pages differentiate and add value beyond just the product feature set. Prospects often start their search by looking for solutions close to the solution, e.g., “software tools”, but often drill down to narrow thrier requirement. The partner page should provide more segmented keyword differentiation, “software testing tools and testing services in California.”

Also, make sure you use generic search terms. Don’t adopt the myopic and arrogant position that every person knows your brand and is going to use that brand name in every search. Yes, most dealers, reps, and distributors carry products from other companies, and optimizing channel partner landing pages using generic terms may send channel partners leads that ultimately buy another brand, but wouldn’t you rather drive traffic to your dealer. If your products are good, your partners will sell them. If they’re not, your problem likely isn’t your dealer network.

Try to support the partner on both their site and yours.  That’s right… you need to put it on your website as part of your reseller program. Often the execution of the Channel partner contact page can look very similar; the only thing that changes is the name of the channel partner and its contact information. This can lead to duplicate content issues. The key to avoiding these issues is simple. Don’t be lazy. If you choose to create a bunch of channel partner contact pages on your site, don’t use the same page for all channel partners by merely swapping the name of the next distributor or dealer. If you do, the search engines will likely only index one of these pages and consider all the others duplicate content.

Think of how much money you spend on supporting your channel partners through meetings, tradeshows, traditional co-branded print literature, developing relationships, travel, etc. The number gets big quickly. All you need to do is spend a little time to develop a unique, non-duplicate-content page for each partner? And doing so will not only speak volumes regarding your support of each partner, but it will also generate tangible returns for them, something you can clearly point to as evidence of contributing to their success.

Make sure your channel partner contact pages can be indexed. Too often, these pages are database-driven pages that can’t be indexed by the search engines. Make sure your site and its content are designed so the search engines crawlers scan and index each of the partner contact pages.

But there is even more you can do with partner blogs.

An optimized landing page for each channel partner on the corporate site is only one of the ways to help create demand in the channel. Don’t fpartner27orget about other ways, too. If you have a corporate blog, use it to promote happenings at the channel partner level. Be smart about your blog entries, ensuring the content of your posts is optimized for search terms that prospects in your channel partner’s market are likely to use.

The same is true for public relations efforts. Take advantage of optimized news releases that promote channel partner happenings. Perhaps your dealer or distributor is going to carry a new line of yours, open a new location, or doing something to further support your brand. Chances are your dealers may be less sophisticated regarding search marketing than you are. Effectively distributing optimized news releases is another way to ensure your channel partners are found by prospects in their markets.

The role of search marketing is about assisting in the evaluation process and generating sales. There are many ways you can use search marketing to do this. But remember, it’s not all about promoting you and your brand. It’s about having more touch points, and more people at the street level to recommend and close the sale. Smart search marketing promotes not only the brand, but also its channel partners. Make sure your search marketing efforts drive channel traffic to your partners. Driving prospects to channel partners will improve relationships and translate into driving sales to you.

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Search Engine Trademark Best Practices… what every marketer should know.

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on December 5, 2008
on-the-back1by Tom Levers

Can you build awareness from other brands ? 

No matter if you are using a “professional  SEM agency” or you’re a “PPC Do It Yourself-er “, a brand has a lot of value, so remember that its critical to be aware of the do’s and don’ts of  SEM Trademark best practices.

 

Despite the recession in 2008, U.S. paid search advertisement revenue is expected to reach $15.52 billion. Even with the holiday melt down internet marketing represents a 31.9% increase over 2007.  Search advertising is not immune to the economy and will motivate many to squeeze more out of their ad spending. So now more than ever the PPC marketer should be vigilant about the utilization and protection of a brand. There have been many search engine court cases involving keyword usage and trademark protection, by knowing best practices, you don’t need to fear or wonder about trademark infringement. 

 

This article reviews the state of the law, search engine company policies, as well as, legal methods to protect your trademark or use another trademark to enhance your visibility on the web. Trademark infringement is a popular topic for any business that develops a brand. There are the 4 basic elements of a claim: 1. Ownership of valid trademark, 2. Priority – earliest use, 3. Use in commerce in connection with the sale of goods services. (If the advertiser buys the trademark as a keyword but doesn’t use the keyword in the ad copy, there’s a huge split in opinion on whether or not this infringes on a trademark.) There is also a geographic split – in New York it appears to be no, in the rest of the country it appears to be yes and finally, 4. Likelihood of consumer confusion.

 

A couple of courts say that if there is a purchase of a keyword without the keyword in the ad copy, it does not confuse the consumer. Another court says that consumers will always be confused and the plaintiff should always win. So presently the courts don’t really have consistent opinions. If a consumer is confused about brand representation, there are a variety of defenses; referencing the trademarked owner. For example in the Tiffany vs. Ebay case, Ebay was buying advertising on the Tiffany trademarked products, and was excused because the use was nominative – “Ebay is a great place to buy Tiffany products”.

 

There are some basic search engine trademark policies.  A summary of the top three search vendors reveals Yahoo and MSN have banned certain types of keyword and ad buys based on the trademark.  Google allows bidding on trademarked keywords, but does not allow reference of the trademark in the ad copy. This approach may be more helpful. Google trademark complaint procedures for US, UK, Ireland and Canada, won’t investigate keywords, only ad text. Outside the US, UK, Ireland and Canada, they will investigatex-os1usage in both keywords and ad text. Yahoo trademark approach has the opposite procedure; they don’t allow users to bid on trademarked keywords. Ebay has a complaint procedure, it’s called the VeRO program (Verified rights owner) and they can and will kick people out. You just fill out a form, it’s easy, and you don’t need an attorney.

 

How to use your mark so you don’t abandon or misuse: First always use proprietary notices: “this TM is registered”. Distinguish your mark in print perhaps. Use it in all caps, or use it with the first letter as the capital (though don’t use it is a proper noun because then it becomes generic. For example, Escalator lost trademark rights because they used it as a noun, and now an escalator is the generic word for “moving stairs”). Also don’t use it as a verb, like “TiVo your favorite TV show”, you should use it as an adjective, like I’ll use my TiVo DVR. Never change your mark. So if you update or modernize your mark, be cautious of the trademark implications.

 

How to legally use another company’s trademark: There are limits on how company A can use company B’s trademark. Trademark use is prohibited if it causes confusion. But there are ways you can use it. The issue of what is and isn’t likely can cause confusion – just ask yourself the question, why am I using someone else’s’ trademark? To identify a genuine product or service… To let users know you are offering a product or service… To make a comparison between your product and another, for example, you are marketing a generic version of a product…  There is no other readily identifiable way of identifying the trademarked products or services.

 

Infringement is created when a company is trying: 1.To get a search engine listing when your website has nothing to do with the trademarked product, 2.To get a more prominent organic listing when your website has nothing to do with the trademarked product, 3.To get more traffic to your site, 4.To divert a competitor’s traffic to your site

 

So if you have the right answer to “why I am using this trademark?” here are some permitted uses: 1.When your website sells the genuine trademarked product, 2.In a meta tag when the website sells the genuine product, 3. In a meta tag when the website sells the generic version of the trademarked product.=

 

Limits on use: You can say, “We have the best prices on TiVo DVRs”, or “Our Video Editor is better than NEROs”, or “We sell the generic version of Lipitor”. You can’t use the trademark more than necessary (Orbitz,Orbitz,Orbitz), or in a more prominent form than necessary. You can not overly exclaim a trademark (We are not Orbitz, We are not Orbitz, We are not Orbitz). You can’t use a trademarked logo instead of the word and you can’t falsely claim sponsorship. A new use is when a marketer writes about a product or service, and this comes up in the search listings results, when it has nothing to do with the site. The articles are usually written to drive traffic to the site. Presently there has not yet been any US case law, but if abused this will be addressed.

 

Your brand has a lot of value, so remember that its critical to be vigilant to the do’s and do not’s of SEM Trademarks. Now that more and more marketing is not on paper you need to protect your brand using contemporary methods. You may find that you could increase your results just by following these SEM trademark best practices.

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Measuring the reponse of your Web Site

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on November 29, 2008
by Tom Levers

Are you testing your web site when you make changes?

Testing starts with a pllitehousean and a question that needs answering.  Just because you can test umpteen different variables at once doesn’t mean you should. Testing the elements that will produce the greatest effect first is still the best strategy, and where the Web is concerned, that means finding out what improves conversion to sale.

Homepage configuration, navigation, checkout pages – any element of the Web site that can be moved, repositioned, enhanced or versioned to influence site conversion – are candidates for testing. With the Web, the concept of testing the big things still applies, but the costs associated with those tests and the potential benefits of establishing better practices are tremendous.

Most hosting companies today have the ability to A/B split test content online in a manner that allows you to literally serve up a different version to every other customer or potential customer who comes to your site. Moreover, many of the testing capabilities allow you to establish heat map tests for visits that come from specific activities, such as PPC programs or affiliate links. And as more customers go to the Web to place their orders, testing online and establishing controls as well as efficient practices are critical.

E-mail testing, too, is easy to do and can reap extraordinary rewards.  personally love fiddling with heat maps… testing promotional offers, delivdinasourery time of day, delivery day of week, subject lines, total number of offers/click throughs, embedded navigation, rich media versus HTML versus text, content density, etc., all consist of relatively minor programming tweaks, which means, as tests, they’re very easy to execute.

The formula used to calculate the lower and upper bounds of a confidence interval is as follows:

  • Lower Bound = p – (Z)(  p(1-p)/n)
  • Upper Bound = p + (Z)(  p(1-p)/n)

p = test response rate
n = test sample size
Z = 1.65, 1.96 or 2.575 for a 90 percent, 95 percent and 99 percent confidence level, respectively

So Easy Its Hard

But are the tests so easy that the web site marketer gets overwhelmed and tests nothing or too much because its too easy? Regardless of the sophistication of your direct marketing objectives, you should be testing at every possible opportunity. If you’ve tested a concept in the past but the business has shifted, the brand has been repositioned, go back and retest those concepts. If you’ve run out of big things to test and established an ironclad control, work on testing the details, tightening the screws as it were to improve results all the more. In the science that is direct marketing, testing is the path to greater success. So remember to make a plan and only test until you see diminishing returns.

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