Todd Miechiels – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Tue, 31 Mar 2009 16:21:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.6.3 What If John Henry Managed B2B Paid Search Campaigns? /what-if-john-henry-managed-b2b-paid-search-campaigns-17117 /what-if-john-henry-managed-b2b-paid-search-campaigns-17117#respond Wed, 01 Apr 2009 11:00:43 +0000 http:/?p=17117 According to the The Legend of John Henry, “Steel-drivin’ men like John Henry used large hammers and stakes to pound holes into the rock, which were then filled with explosives that would blast a cavity deeper and deeper into the mountain. In the folk ballads, the central event took place under such conditions. Eager to […]

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According to the The Legend of John Henry, “Steel-drivin’ men like John Henry used large hammers and stakes to pound holes into the rock, which were then filled with explosives that would blast a cavity deeper and deeper into the mountain. In the folk ballads, the central event took place under such conditions. Eager to reduce costs and speed up progress, some tunnel engineers were using steam drills to power their way into the rock. According to some accounts, on hearing of the machine, John Henry challenged the steam drill to a contest. He won, but died of exhaustion, his life cut short by his own superhuman effort.”

When it comes to managing paid search campaigns, sometimes I feel like John Henry.  I know my clients and colleagues sometimes feel that way.  The notion of managing and being responsible for precious budget dollars day in and day out, across multiple ad networks, using manual tools and labor can often feel like trying to tunnel through a mountain with a sledge hammer.  There may however be some light at the end of the tunnel. Help may indeed be on the way.

More and more I’m being approached by nearly-full service paid search management companies such as ReachLocal, Yodle, RealPages, etc. that will do almost all the ‘digging and blasting’ for you, usually at no apparent additional cost other than the advertising (the costs are presumably built in).  Important: I put these companies in a different category than say hiring a search marketing consultant or agency that would have to add significant fees on top of the advertising for management and execution.

Let me better define ‘digging and blasting’ as things that can take an awful lot of time and once the strategy as been clearly defined, can be executed by relatively cheap labor and in many cases automatically by a computer.  These are things like:

  • Building out large keyword lists from carefully thought smaller ones
  • Setting up the interfaces for multiple networks such as Google, Yahoo, & MSN
  • Adjusting bid prices for phrases based on how well they are performing
  • Managing to not run over budget, and at the same time get maximum visibility and quality clicks
  • Creating reports and communicating results with stakeholders

So let’s say you are in charge of, and have your company’s or your client’s paid search interests at heart.  And let’s say you’ve been tirelessly swinging away with that hammer.  You may even enjoy and take pride in doing so.  When does it make sense to give way to the “steam engine?” And when does it make sense to clutch that hammer all the way to the grave?

I guess it depends on several factors:

  • What is the purpose and objective of your paid search campaign?
  • How important/vital is paid search to the health of your business right now?
  • How much are you willing to trust the day-to-day execution to someone else?
  • What could you be doing with the time and energy you would have spent digging and blasting?
  • Which approach will produce the best result at the lowest cost?

When it’s all said and done the most important factor is probably determining which approach produces the best result.   But of course, the only way to truly know that is to have tried it both ways.  In many situations, I think it is prudent to launch a campaign using one approach for three months, and then trying it the other way for another three months.  And the only way to know for sure is if you are carefully measuring results and comparing apples to apples.

I wouldn’t base my decision on what feels most comfortable.  Lots of things that are good for our business feel decidedly uncomfortable.  Usually that discomfort comes from fear of the unknown.

The pros and cons of bringing in the steam engine

Pros

  • Frees up a lot of your time (and money) you can use for higher-level activities such as improving website conversion, prequalification of leads, and nurturing programs.
  • You usually (not always), get a helpful account manager that is vested in seeing your campaign work.  My ReachLocal rep brings a good deal of strategic insight and value to the table, which goes a long way with my clients.  I haven’t had nearly the same luck with some of the other providers so make sure you are comfortable with the rep assigned to you before you start working with them.
  • In some cases, they offer powerful features and technology such as re-marketing, and geo-targeted display advertising that would be unrealistic for someone with limited time and resources to pull off.  Again, the bells and whistles vary greatly so do your own due diligence.

Cons

  • If you are used to micro managing your own campaigns in terms of keywords, bidding, split testing ad copy, etc., you’ll probably be frustrated with the lack of control.
  • The same helpful account manager that wants to see you succeed, isn’t likely going to have a lot of time and patience for answering questions about the minutia of a campaign. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing as long as you are getting good results.
  • You won’t get nearly the visibility and insight into what is working and not working as if you managed it yourself.  Often times, it’s simply impossible to get access to what would typically be considered indispensable data (to people that would do day-to-day management themselves).  This can be frustrating if you are used to getting into the nitty gritty details.

The best of both worlds?

I think in an ideal situation, you should try to leverage and embrace the steam engine and not fight it.  Using these service providers should allow you to get more done in less time.

I guess in the end, it comes down to the age-old decision of outsourcing certain tasks at the risk of giving up explicit control over quality and results.  It’s kind of like deciding whether to use H&R Block, TurboTax, or doing your taxes yourself.

If John Henry had grown up a generation later I bet he wouldn’t have been as adamant about challenging that steam engine.  My guess is he would have found more productive, but equally as rewarding ways to spend his time.

I’d love to hear your take and opinions on this—please share your comments below.

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It’s Not ALL About Conversions – A Wider Perspective On B2B Search Campaigns /it%e2%80%99s-not-all-about-conversions-taking-a-wider-perspective-with-your-b2b-search-campaigns-16674 /it%e2%80%99s-not-all-about-conversions-taking-a-wider-perspective-with-your-b2b-search-campaigns-16674#respond Wed, 04 Mar 2009 10:20:21 +0000 http:/?p=16674 Ok, so I’m really passionate about looking for ways to improve conversion rates – I admit it.  I’m kind of a conversion junkie. But sometimes I make the mistake of getting so focused on conversions that I can lose site of the bigger picture. I end up only staring at the trees right in front […]

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Ok, so I’m really passionate about looking for ways to improve conversion rates – I admit it.  I’m kind of a conversion junkie. But sometimes I make the mistake of getting so focused on conversions that I can lose site of the bigger picture. I end up only staring at the trees right in front of me, without taking the time to take inventory of the forest. Such a shortsighted viewpoint can undermine a B2B search engine marketing campaign to the detriment of a sales organization. Let me explain…

What’s the purpose and goal of a B2B search campaign?

Ah…that’s a loaded question. As a consultant, it’s not uncommon at all for me to find multiple stakeholders within a company who have very different goals for the same campaign. The VP of Marketing is being graded on her number of leads. The Marketing Coordinator will pride himself on improving the conversion rates of downloads. And of course, the Director of Sales just wants hot and heavy opportunities that hopefully result in signed purchase orders. And let’s not forget the wise Board of Directors member who just wants to see the company’s name in lights at the top of every appropriate Google search.

Somewhere between all of these goals lies a metric that most of my clients aren’t aware of and seldom factor into the success or failure of a search campaign. It’s simply this:

How many legitimate companies have been steered to the website this month as a result of search engine marketing?

What I mean by this is, can you tell over a 30-day period, how many recognizable companies that your company could, or would like to do business with, showed up in your analytics reports.  Specifically, can you tell if your site was visited by the Public Schools of Detroit, Merck, Home Depot, ACME Technology Company, and more?  Which search engine or referring site did they come from? Which search phrase brought them to you?

I’m amazed at the percentage of companies that spend thousands and thousands per month on Google AdWords, yet don’t have this information at their fingertips.

Why it’s important to track visiting organizations back to search phrase

If you are in a competitive B2B space, it’s not uncommon to see lackluster conversion rates for things like demos and whitepapers. Let’s be generous and say you are getting a conversion rate of 30% for paid search (and that would be very generous). That equates to having no intelligence whatsoever on 70 out of every 100 people that you are already paying for. Sure we can tell you that “IT audits” is the search phrase that’s bringing in the most clicks, but what does that actually tell us? Not much.

Of these 100 visitors, how many identifiable, specific companies did you catch so that you can report this to the Sales Manager? After all, some of these companies may likely be ones that your sales team is already pursuing. A few may be extremely important and could make or break a forecast. Certainly someone on the sales team could use this intelligence to place a timely call.

Even more importantly, you may find that 80% of the high quality organizations are coming as a result of just 20% of your search marketing spend. And that other 80% of your media spend is bringing in a slew of non-attractive visitors.

Having this data at your fingertips

In the olden days, Webmasters would scour their web log files looking for visiting IP addresses and doing reverse lookups on WHOIS.org. These days, there are several available tools that already include this functionality as part of a broader Internet marketing and sales solution.

One of the simplest tools but relatively unknown tools is called Leadlander.com. It’s really simple to install and pretty easy to realize immediate value from.

I also use a solution called Pardot.com, which offers much of the same functionality in more of a full-blown marketing automation solution.

There are several other products out there, so do some research on your own.  If you know of others you like, I invite you to contribute comments and we can build a knowledge base around this topic.

Close the loop

Once you begin capturing this data, make sure to use it! At the very least, send weekly or monthly spreadsheets containing the names of the visiting organizations to the Sales Manager. Hold your Sales Manager accountable for simply taking a highlighter to any organizations that are ‘on target’.

Simply doing this will give you a dashboard metric to play with.  “Last month we had 5 legitimate visiting organizations, and this month we have 10.” And again, you’ll get a handle on which phrases tend to bring more quality visitors than merely quantity. Quantitative metrics can be the kiss of death for any B2B marketer if given too much importance.

Take away points

  • Make sure you are capturing the names of visiting organizations and can tie them back to search phrase.
  • Get sales to highlight organizations that are of value on a monthly basis.
  • Use that information to better optimize your campaigns.

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Want More B2B Conversions? Reduce Your Visitor’s Anxiety. /want-more-b2b-conversions-reduce-your-visitor%e2%80%99s-anxiety-16320 /want-more-b2b-conversions-reduce-your-visitor%e2%80%99s-anxiety-16320#comments Wed, 04 Feb 2009 17:23:59 +0000 http:/?p=16320 For the past couple of months, I’ve been writing about ways to improve the conversion rates of your search traffic. Borrowing shamelessly once again from my friends at MarketingExperiments.com, I finish up this conversion series focusing today on anxiety (not yours, your visitor’s), and some things we can do as search marketers to help relieve […]

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For the past couple of months, I’ve been writing about ways to improve the conversion rates of your search traffic. Borrowing shamelessly once again from my friends at MarketingExperiments.com, I finish up this conversion series focusing today on anxiety (not yours, your visitor’s), and some things we can do as search marketers to help relieve it. In successfully relieving the anxiety of the visitor, we stack the deck in our favor, resulting in higher conversions and greater returns on our search marketing investments.

Quite simply, anxiety is any concern in the visitor’s mind that is stimulated by any given element (or lack thereof) in the website’s selling process. Please don’t think anxiety and selling process are only relevant to an eCommerce site. B2B lead generation sites have their fair share of anxiety producing elements that can be alleviated as well.

Why might your visitors be anxious?

Before you can begin the process of relieving the visitor’s anxiety, you first have to identify where it is. Here are some likely sources:

  • Quality of the product, service, or information
  • Credibility of the company
  • Credit Card Security (eCommerce)
  • Price (eCommerce)

Since I primarily focus on B2B lead generation and conversion, I’m going elaborate on the first two bullets. Let’s say our conversion goal is simply for the visitor to reach out and inquire for more information, either by phone, email, inquiry form, etc. How can we get 10 inquires out of every 100 visitors instead of 5 by relieving visitor anxiety?

Don’t worry, we really do have a quality product/service!

There are several things you can do to relive anxiety caused by the questionable quality of a product or service:

  • Testimonials (test with audio, photo of person, video, etc.)
  • Third Party Ratings and awards
  • Higher quality photography when appropriate
  • Satisfaction guarantees
  • Helpful answers to frequently asked questions

But I’m still not too sure about your company

Even if you are not promoting the company itself, we all, to some extent, want to know who we are buying from or giving our information to. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Clearly displayed phone number and business address
  • An About Us page
  • Third Party press coverage
  • Photos of physical offices and staff/executives
  • Associations, affiliations, organizations logos/emblems

Being at the right place, at the right time

Sometimes we are given the opportunity to relieve anxiety at a very specific time and place in the buying process. A good example of that would be the anxiety one has when they are about to hit submit on a web form and give their information away. In this specific instance, both a privacy policy link, and a clear indicator that the page is secure (in the case of credit card transactions), are obvious but clear examples how we can help relieve anxiety.

A not so obvious example might be on a simple landing page offering a thought leadership paper. This is really a one step, succeed or fail conversion opportunity. In just a few short seconds the visitor’s anxiety emerges. “Who are these guys?”  “Why should I consider them experts?” “Is it really worth my time to read this paper even if I request it” “All these guys in this industry are slimeballs.” You’ve got several options here:

  • Testimonials specific to the paper itself, preferably from recognized industry authorities.
  • A short video clip from the author that shows, not only is he not a slimeball, but he’s actually quite charming and personable.
  • Copy that helps the visitor believe you really understand his current plight or need.  Nothing soothes us more as consumers then when we believe, “Hey this guy gets what I’m going through,” or, “Hey that’s exactly what I’m trying to do.”

Tying it all together and getting results

Remember anxiety is just one of the factors in improving conversion. I encourage you to address it as part of a holistic approach to testing. MarketingExperiments certainly has given us all a clear blueprint to follow. For some, the testing and analytical part of the process may feel unnatural and uncomfortable. We’re not all scientists at heart. The simple fact is, search marketing is getting more and more expensive. It is getting increasingly difficult to compete for leads, and those companies that can adopt these conversion principles and methods into their marketing processes will have a large advantage.

If all this talk of anxiety, conversion, and testing makes you anxious, don’t fret, you are not alone. It can seem highly theoretical at first (and second…and third glance). What I’ve found is when you breakdown the conversion formula and take a little time to understand each part of it, like most things in life, it isn’t as confusing or intimidating as it first seems. Just remember the end objective – to systematically increase the conversion rate to get a greater return on your hard earned search traffic.

Now relax go and relieve some of your visitor’s anxiety!

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How To Increase Your B2B Conversion Rates By Reducing Friction /how-to-increase-your-b2b-conversion-rates-by-reducing-friction-15687 Wed, 10 Dec 2008 18:32:17 +0000 http:/?p=15687 This month, I continue my series on improving conversion rates using the Conversion Sequence.  The Conversion Sequence is the heuristic that was created and is being taught by the good folks at MarketingExperiments.com.  Improving your conversion rates will obviously help squeeze more value from all of your diligent search engine marketing efforts. So let’s jump […]

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This month, I continue my series on improving conversion rates using the Conversion Sequence.  The Conversion Sequence is the heuristic that was created and is being taught by the good folks at MarketingExperiments.com.  Improving your conversion rates will obviously help squeeze more value from all of your diligent search engine marketing efforts. So let’s jump right in and talk about friction, how it causes people to abandon the conversion process, and what you can do to minimize it.

Reducing friction

Friction, as defined by Flint McLaughlin in this context, is the psychological resistance to a given element in the sales process.  Friction exists in the mind of the consumer.

Of all the things that can be done to try and increase conversion, making simple changes to reduce friction on your web pages is often one of the lowest cost, highest return things you can do. Unfortunately, and all too often, companies embark on things like rebranding, redesigns, flash demos, additional advertising and other potentially high cost, low yield activities in an effort to increase conversions and sales.  These all of course have their place and time, but friction is the underlying and uber-powerful cog in the machine that can wreak havoc on your conversion rates and therefore deserves our attention and energy.

Simplifying web forms

Where is friction found?  The simplest and common example is in a web form.  Every field we add to a form, particularly those that aren’t absolutely necessary at a given stage in the process increases friction.  Tremendous gains in conversion are commonplace among people who have simply reduced the number of fields in their forms or at least split the fields of the form into a two step process.  In doing this the marketer can still capture the lead in the first step, while still having the opportunity to qualify them with additional fields in the second step.  With today’s automated marketing systems that allow us to score, grade, and prequalify leads, it makes good sense to really focus on reducing friction with shorter, minimal forms to get the folks we pay good money to get to our site, to raise their hand and jump in the top of the funnel.

While we’re talking about forms, it’s not just the number of fields that causes friction, but the complexity or difficulty of the form itself. Often times it can be confusing or ambiguous buttons, pull downs, and error handling messages (or lack thereof) that wreak havoc on your conversion rates.  Strive to have your buttons state as clearly as possible what they actually do from the visitor’s perspective.  For example, “Buy It Now” is much better than “Submit”, and “Add to Cart” is clearer than “Continue”.   I’ve seen some very confusing pulldowns where the question and/or the answers require too much thinking and effort on the part of the visitor.   When someone creates an error on your form, are they presented with a clear and helpful error message, or a confusing and cold one?   If you haven’t banged on your forms in awhile, now would be a good time to get in the shoes of your prospect and go hunting for any elements that are possibly causing friction.

Using friction to increase quality conversions

Now if conversion was simply defined as someone jumping into the process, regardless of quality, then you could just start minimizing all points of friction.  In B2B especially, conversion is usually defined with one or more qualitative components.  For example in one case a ‘conversion’ may be defined as a form respondent who indicates they have over 50 employees, or they are actively seeking a solution.  Another case may be where the visitor is required to first view a one or two minute video in order to complete the form.

Conversion definitions run the gamut largely based on factors such as supply vs. demand, the strength and efficiency of the offline sales process, as well as your company’s philosophy and approach to marketing itself.  A company with little or no nurturing process tends to be very strict and restrictive with whom they want filling out forms.  Conversely, a company with a well-thought and effective nurturing process will tend to focus on capturing a lot more people in the top of the funnel.   This is important in helping to dial the right amount of friction your particular situation.

In some cases, for some companies, friction is not only a good thing, but a powerful tool in weeding out what they believe to be poorly qualified people.  Keep in mind though that you are usually going to pay the same amount of money for the visitor whether they ‘convert’ or not.  It’s a delicate balance, one that warrants a discussion between sales and marketing.

Understand your audience

To recap, friction is psychological resistance to a given element in the sales process.  Friction exists in the mind of the consumer.  Therefore, I encourage you to ‘get in the mind’ of your consumer and look at your website, pages, and forms through the eyes of the customer.  Print the pages out.  Grab colored highlighters and mark up things that could possibly be causing friction and then discuss them with everyone who has a vested stake in the success of the website.  Have fun with it!  If you’d like my opinion on your stuff, get a hold of me, I’m happy to give it.

As the year ends, I want to thank Search Engine Land and all of the readers for the opportunity to pass on some of the knowledge that’s been so graciously imparted on me.  Holiday blessings and a great new year to you all!

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Want Higher Conversions? Get Clear About Your Value Propositions /want-higher-conversions-get-clear-about-your-value-propositions-15369 Wed, 12 Nov 2008 17:02:15 +0000 http:/?p=15369 In last month’s article, I wrote at a high level about the heuristic introduced by Dr. Flint McLaughlin and the folks at MarketingExperiements.com that helps us B2B marketers systematically and purposefully improve the conversion rates of our landing pages and websites. For quick review here is the conversion “formula”: The conversion sequence: C = 4m […]

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In last month’s article, I wrote at a high level about the heuristic introduced by Dr. Flint McLaughlin and the folks at MarketingExperiements.com that helps us B2B marketers systematically and purposefully improve the conversion rates of our landing pages and websites.

For quick review here is the conversion “formula”:

The conversion sequence: C = 4m + 3v + 2(i-f) – 2a

the motivation of the visitor
+ the clarity of the value proposition
+ incentive
– friction
– anxiety
————-
=The probability of conversion

Since we have little control of the motivation of the visitor, I’m going to move along to something we have an enormous amount of control over: the clarity of the value proposition.

How clear is your value proposition?

It makes perfect sense that before we throw a bunch of time and money around trying to market our product or service that we would first make sure we have a clear and effective value proposition. In reality however, fundamental marketing components such as a value proposition get quickly and viciously trampled over by the latest cool tactic or technology. It’s not uncommon to try and ‘fix’ or polish a weak value proposition with some ‘killer creative’. In the process, muddy, poorly crafted messages and ineffective campaigns get hurled through cyberspace with less than stellar results. When this happens, rarely is the underlying problem of a weak value proposition addressed and corrected, let alone even identified. Rather new creative is applied, using different tactics, and alternative channels, again with lackluster results, and so the cycle repeats itself.

So let’s take a break from the crazy breakneck pace and chaos of our marketing programs and lead quotas and hit the pause button for just a minute or two.

How clear is your value proposition? Do you even have a value proposition?

Unapologetically lifting from the MarketingExperiments folks:

The clarity of the value proposition hinges on two critical things. Your ability to identify an effective value proposition and; your ability to express it.

Let’s break each of these down.

Identifying an effective value proposition

A value proposition is the primary reason why your ideal customer should buy from you. It should:

  • Explain how your offering is different from your competition.
  • Clearly state how and why you are the best choice for your ideal customer.

In evaluating your current or proposed value proposition you can draw from one or more the following principles:

  • Your value proposition can usually be discovered from existing needs in the marketplace.
  • Ask yourself, “why should my ideal customer buy from me instead of my competitor?”
  • Compare your answers to the claims of your main competitors.

You should keep kneading and working your value proposition until it can be boiled down into a single, instantly credible, sentence.

Easy? Not a chance. People get paid big bucks to try and craft these sorts of things. Executive teams have literally gone insane trying to nail their value proposition down. But nothing worth doing is every easy. The good news is you don’t have to get the perfect value proposition out of the gate, you just have to be committed to an ongoing process of testing and refinement. This is the digital age where research and data points are cheap and easy to collect. The alternative is to lazily just keep spending more money blasting your message out there and then blaming a down economy or a shifting competitive landscape for a weak pipeline. This is one of those pivotal uber-powerful levers that few companies will dare to pull. But for those that do the rewards will be great and yield superior, lasting results.

Expressing an effective value proposition

Assuming this article has greatly inspired each of you to refine and perfect your value proposition, It must be expressed in such a way your customer or web visitor can understand it. This is a two part holistic effort. Firstly there must be congruence, meaning every element of your web page should work together to either state, or support the value proposition. Secondly, there must be continuity, meaning each step and part of the buying process states or supports the value proposition.

So where does this all fit into search engine marketing?

That’s a fair question with a clear answer. This has everything to do with search engine marketing. It is the essence and glue that makes or breaks campaigns. Your value propositions will be your compass for your keyword research, the copy of your search ads, the headlines of your landing pages, and help define the overall visitor experience.

Of course the beauty of all of this is it can all be put to the test and improved upon. This is definitely an ongoing process. This isn’t your daddy’s marketing department where work with our agency to come up with the killer tagline or slogan that we hitch our wagon to, for better or worse, for multiple months or even years. No, this is a new age where these value propositions can be held accountable for their ability to directly impact conversions, lead generation, and ultimately ROI.

For those of you that would like to delve into this deeper and even rate your value propositions, here is some further recommended reading.

Next month: Incentive and Friction.

Todd Miechiels is a business-to-business internet marketing consultant. His website is www.miechiels.com. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.

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Website Visitor Conversion In A B2B Environment /website-visitor-conversion-in-a-b2b-environment-15052 Wed, 15 Oct 2008 23:51:43 +0000 http:/?p=15052 Last month I had the good fortune of becoming ‘certified’ in Landing Page Optimization through MarketingExperiments out of Jacksonville Beach Florida.  Several times a year, their team brings a hundred or so marketers through the 2-day workshop.  The material is similar to that of their free Wednesday web clinics but in a much more intense, […]

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Last month I had the good fortune of becoming ‘certified’ in Landing Page Optimization through MarketingExperiments out of Jacksonville Beach Florida.  Several times a year, their team brings a hundred or so marketers through the 2-day workshop.  The material is similar to that of their free Wednesday web clinics but in a much more intense, and hands-on workshop environment.

After attending the workshop I felt a renewed sense of purpose as a search engine marketer towards challenging my clients to focus on and improve their conversion rates, I wanted to provide some of the highlights in my next few columns. Conversion defined

Why do we get blank stares whever we talk about ‘conversion’ to executives? Perhaps this clear definition will help aid us in the future:

Conversion is the process of successfully achieving the primary objective of a specific page or website.

There are a few key concepts in that definition I’d like to emphasize that all too often overlooked by some marketers.  The first being ‘process’, rather than a single event. The second being ‘primary objective’.  Get a group of marketing and sales people together in a room for a web strategy meeting and ask them each to state the primary objective.  Too often we blow by this critical step in a rush to tackle easier, less meaningful issues.

The ratio at which visitors achieve the primary objective on a webpage is called the conversion rate.  Quite simply when we increase the conversion rate, we are more profitable and successful.  So why don’t we spend more time in this area?  I think a lot of us give up too early, giving it our best attempt, instead of seeing it as an ongoing process by which sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail, but we always learn.

The scientific secret conversion formula

What I am about to reveal to you is highly confidential.  Many a man has literally gone insane trying to unlock this mystery.  Seriously though, Dr. Flint McLaughlin has developed, patented, and graciously shared with us a heuristic to help make sense, and practically, methodically attack the opportunity to improve our conversion rates.

The conversion sequence:  C = 4m + 3v = 2(i-f) – 2a

If you are like me, the first time (and second and third time) I was presented with this ‘formula’ my stomach rose to my throat as anxiety of failed math exams and chemistry experiments reemerged in my mind.  RELAX. Let’s break it down:

C= The probability of conversion. That’s easy enough.

m= Motivation of the user. This is basically how badly they want what you have, and the reason they want it.  This is the element you have the least control over.

v= Clarity of value proposition. This is probably the most important element because you do have control over it. I’ll be writing about this next month in detail.

i= Incentive to take action. What are you offering to stimulate a desired action.

f= Friction elements in the conversion process. Anything that impedes the visitor from taking action. Common friction causes are forms with too many fields, or confusing options/choices.

a= Anxiety about entering information. This could be things like testimonials, an award, Better Business Bureau logos, etc.

A little less art, a lot more science

All too often ‘enhancements’ are made to a home page, or landing page, because some creative person, an award winning agency, or the executive with the highest authority (or that executive’s nephew), suspects such a change will help make an impact.  And while there’s no doubt being creative, possessing outstanding copywriting skills, or just having a uncanny knack for going with a gut instinct can help lift conversion, if you are looking to mitigate risk and get real results, these should all be things to pull from, as work through this clear and linear conversion sequence.

Working with, and through this conversion sequence will put purpose and defensible rationale behind the changes that you’ll be making to your pages in the future.

Learn. Apply. Get results.

You’ll be amazed at how differently you approach a page when you’ve got a framework to guide you. I think you’ll also be surprised and pleased with the results that you can achieve with this methodology. In the next few columns I’ll be focusing on one or more aspects of the conversion sequence, starting with the ever-important “Clarity of Value Proposition”.

In the meantime, I invite you to get your best (or worst) landing page, and using the conversion sequence featured in this article, begin to ask, “How clear is my value proposition? Where is there unnecessary friction on this page? Who are the people coming to this page?  Why are they here? What do I want them to do on this page?”

Until next month, keep pressing forward!

Todd Miechiels is a business-to-business internet marketing consultant. His website is www.miechiels.com. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.

The post Website Visitor Conversion In A B2B Environment appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Are Your B2B Paid Search Campaigns Trying To Serve Two Masters? /are-your-b2b-paid-search-campaigns-trying-to-serve-two-masters-14755 Wed, 17 Sep 2008 22:07:18 +0000 http:/beta/are-your-b2b-paid-search-campaigns-trying-to-serve-two-masters-14755.php One of the best pieces of advice I ever got from a seasoned Google AdWords mentor was to "not try and serve two masters within a single campaign." If your campaigns are like most, they have a fixed budget and are ROI driven. In this situation, we are constantly trying to ratchet down the cost […]

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One of the best pieces of advice I ever got from a seasoned Google
AdWords mentor was to "not try and serve two masters within a single
campaign." If your campaigns are like most, they have a fixed budget and are ROI driven. In this situation, we are constantly trying to ratchet down the
cost per lead while still using up the budget to get as many leads as
possible. But beware! At some point you
can almost be guaranteed that you’ll be requested to "fill up the pipe" by
ramping up volume (and spend) for the short term. Unfortunately, trying to
jockey between the two is a recipe for long-term frustration and compromised
results.

This may seem trivial to many, especially at the outset of a campaign
when everything is new, shiny, and exciting. But as I and my clients have
learned, as a campaign matures — and you are looking to improve upon current
and past results — that lingering question once again rears its head. ROI or
volume? It’s very hard to run disciplined, scientific campaign tests and
optimizations if that question isn’t clearly answered and adhered to.

A Practical Example

Case in point, a niche player in the crowded web-based CRM space relies on Google AdWords for a good percentage of their inbound lead flow. The client
is primarily interested in volume of leads within a reasonable cost per lead
(which fluctuates based on the health of the pipeline). For instance, one
month he may get 100 legitimate sales leads at an average cost of $50 per
lead.

The person running the search campaign begins implementing tactics necessary
to bring the overall cost per lead down (improve ROI). Things like:

  • Pausing or bidding down on phrases that aren’t converting
  • Pausing or bidding down on times of day that aren’t converting as well
  • Changing the days of the week that ads are shown
  • Restructuring campaigns to improve performance

Methodically, over time, the cost per lead goes down significantly and
they can get more leads with the budget. Mission accomplished right?
Not so fast.

The phone rings. It’s the VP of Sales. "What the heck happened to my
leads? They are way down!" And the search marketer replies, "But we’ve
lowered the cost per lead from $50 to $30." To which the VP quickly
snaps back, “Just get us more leads!”

It’s easy to just cave and turn up the dials to satisfy the demand. But
that still, quiet voice in us wants to push back and do what we know is the
"right" thing for the long term health of the campaign.

As a dear client/mentor of mine once said, "Todd, you need to learn, the
‘right’ thing to do, isn’t always the thing that gets done in a corporate
setting." In other words, even though we would like to believe (and
sometimes are even told by the boss) "it’s all about ROI," often times it’s
simply about filling the funnel.

I know for a lot of veteran sales and marketing executives this paradox
is nothing new. It isn’t specific to the Internet. But for those readers who
may be climbing up the business ladder coming from the search marketing side
of things, I wanted you to know you are not alone in facing this issue! So
what can we do about it?

The Easy Fix In The Perfect World

The easiest solution of course is to force all stakeholders to agree to
stick to one goal or the other. You’ve got to try and be steadfast. Stick to
your guns, Kimosabe. When we jump between the two goals we inevitably end up
paying a “stupid tax” that more disciplined campaign managers seem to be
exempt from.

Meanwhile, In the Real World

Unfortunately, we know that even in ROI driven campaigns, you will
probably need to ramp up the volume/spend any way in the short term to
appease the boss/client. Still, remember and try and explain to the client:

In a fixed budget environment, a
temporary ramp up in spend will undoubtedly cause your total lead volume
for the month to decline and the cost per lead to increase.

I’ve provided a

link to a spreadsheet
that illustrates this concept.

What Do You Think?

In conversations with my peers, this issue seems to be commonplace in a B2B
lead generation environment. I’d love to hear how many of you have faced
this issue and how you have dealt with it. Chime in!

Todd Miechiels is a
business-to-business internet marketing consultant
. His website is
www.miechiels.com.

The post Are Your B2B Paid Search Campaigns Trying To Serve Two Masters? appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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