With all due respect to the great marketing master Ron Popeil, online marketing is not as simple as "set it and forget it".
In order to stay ahead of the competition, achieve profitability and maximize the return on your marketing investment, you must continually refine and optimize your advertising and website content to turn more visitors into customers.
Here are 5 of the most basic principles to retain and convert visitors to your website more effectively and efficiently without resorting to infomercial-style gimmicks:
1. Measure Visitor Activity
"If you can't measure it, you can't manage it." ~Peter Drucker
It sounds basic, right? Yet I'm surprised how often I hear of mid-sized companies that have no clue how many visitors their website gets, where they come from, or how many turn into customers.
At the bare minimum, sites should be running one of the free website analytics packages. Some of my favorites are:
- Google Analytics
- Yahoo! Web Analytics
- Piwik (open source!)
With any of these tools, you will get a basic set of metrics for site visits, content usage, and traffic referral sources. Advanced capabilities include conversion tracking (how many visitors took a desired action?) and ad campaign tracking (how well are my ads working?).
Not sure how to set them up? Check with a qualified website analytics consultant to get started (hello!).
2. Remove Distractions
Web users have short attention spans. They don't give you long to get to the point and you only have a short time to get them to take action on your site. Think about all of the obstacles and distractions on your site that are preventing them from converting or finding the right content...and get rid of it!
Less truly is more, and your visitors will appreciate being able to complete their desired actions quickly and easily.
3. Test Everything!
And I mean EVERYTHING! Designing and running simple A/B tests is usually free (except for development time) but can uncover invaluable insights in a short amount of time.
Okay, so testing everything can be a bit overwhelming. Start with the basics:
- Ad text, banner ad images
- Landing page headlines and body copy (hint: they should reinforce your ad text!)
- Images and buttons
- Forms (less is more)
- Contact info placement
- Calls to action
- Special offers and promotions
Ready to jump in with the big fish? Try the Google Website Optimizer to test multiple combinations at once.
4. Give Visitors What They Ask For
Whether you use banner ads or pay per click advertising, don't just drop visitors on your home page. If you mention a specific offer in your ad, your landing page better reinforce that message! Otherwise you run the risk of losing hard-won (and costly) visitors that can't find what they were promised.
Looking for more customization? Mine your site search logs or search engine data to find out what people are searching for, then create content around common themes.
5. Be Ruthless
Don't be afraid to cut any part of your marketing plan that does not provide a demonstrable return. Social media, email marketing, pay per click advertising, skywriting and FourSquare may be fun, but don't waste your own valuable time or money on these channels if you aren't sure whether or not they are working.
It's okay to hit the "pause" button on any marketing initiative while you re-assess your capabilities to track the results. After all, if you can't measure it, you can't manage it.