Winning Marketing Tactics in an Uncertain Economy

The state of the economy, not just here in the United States but globally as well, impinges on the marketing budgets of companies small and large. Although search marketing is recognized as providing a higher ROI (define) than other marketing channels, clients today seem to want even more for less.

Keyword costs aren’t going down. Anything but. Truth is, there’s never been such thing as free traffic from organic listings. Somebody has to be paid for optimization work (and account management on the agency side). And optimization for both paid and organic is an iterative process. You don’t just set the dial and leave it.

Let’s mull over some tactics to squeeze every last drop from a shrinking marketing budget. I work closely with a team of top data-driven analysts. Recently, I met with the team to discuss key things to do now with analytics. Here are some of the brilliant (and often simple yet effective) ideas the team came up with. And this works whether the pre-click experience is paid search or organic.

Conversion Funnel: Don’t Spend Money Where You Don’t Need To

Imagine if you could assist a customer through every step of a purchase. Taking her from beginning to end, helping her find exactly what she’s looking for and solving problems along the way. Difficult, if not impossible, to do in the offline world. But in the online world, guiding your visitor from beginning to conversion may be easier than you think.

Using Web analytics tools to conduct funnel analysis is, perhaps, one of the cheapest but most effective methods to solve conversion dilemmas. Just throwing more traffic at a Web site to increase conversion rates is totally wrong. Identifying problems in the conversion path to convert more of your existing traffic is a sure-fire way to avoid spending more money where you don’t need to.

A Web tracking tool can identify which steps of your path need the most attention and which don’t. And while you’ll learn about any problems in the conversion funnel, you’ll also gain more insight into the end users needs and wants to connect them to the right content at the right time.

Keeping things smooth and simple is crucial to getting the sale. Not to mention the added value of building your brand and creating user loyalty.

Entry Point Experience: Avoid the Trampoline Effect

When a Web site visitor clicks on a link, she has an expectation. So if she enters your Web site and lands on a page that doesn’t fulfill that expectation, be prepared for the bounce!

For a relatively low price, optimize your conversion path by bringing users directly into the funnel instead of forcing them to find it. Simplify the experience to create the desired action. And then test, test, test.

Golden opportunities for higher conversion rates are created when you tailor pages based on things like visitor search terms, traffic source, first-time versus returning visitor, weekend versus weekday visitors, and so on. Optimization is becoming increasingly more sophisticated. And combining tried-and-tested landing pages with conversion funnel analysis provides a classic one-two punch.

During an economic downturn, consumer behavior changes. Previously, the buying process might have taken an average of three visits. However, that may shift to eight visits before a visitor converts and becomes a customer or takes another action.

Pay more attention to analyzing the number of times a visitor returns to your site before she completes a particular action. Analyzing returning visitor statistics is important, too. You may find that, although shopping lead times have increased, conversion rates are higher for returning visitors.

If this is the case, the visitor may be more familiar with the site. So revisit your marketing tactics to catch repeat visitors earlier in a visit. If you expect them to fill out a form, consider reducing the number of fields to get them over the hurdle and into the final stretch.

Think Quality Score: Think More Qualified Search Engine Traffic

In search marketing, it’s easier to reduce the cost per acquisition (CPA) compared to other methods. And yet, we sometimes get wrapped up in driving traffic, and don’t spend the time and effort on ensuring a rich post-click experience.

By providing a rich experience, a Web site is rewarded by its visitors and search engines. Search engines aim to provide the most relevant results backed with the best end-user outcome. If the landing pages and user trails that provide search engines with so much information about their audience are positive, you can be sure search engines will be happy to promote your content.

Next time, I’ll look at the eternal quality-over-quantity debate, geographic attribution, and clues to be found in your internal Web site search data.

Meet Mike at Search Engine Strategies Chicago December 8-12 at the Chicago Hilton. The only major search marketing conference and expo in the Midwest will be packed with 60-plus sessions, multiple keynotes and Orion Strategy sessions, exhibitors, networking events, and more.

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