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Archive for April, 2008

What is Web Strategy and Why is it Important? 10 Questions to Help Explain

Example customer categories as part of a web site strategy.

I have watched friends build a website to generate income with very little planning; they have an idea, and the next day they’re building the website. But I’ve watched those same friends start a business and immediately start with a business plan before doing anything else. Why the difference? It seems that planning is an expected part of successful business strategy. Why isn’t planning considered equally important for a website? In this article we’ll discuss what web strategy is, questions that should be answered as part of a successful website strategy, and we’ll talk about why such a strategy is important.

So what is web strategy?

I’ll start with a rather pithy definition: Web strategy is about looking at and anticipating root causes of online success or failure and coming up with solutions to address those root causes instead of superficial solutions.

Perhaps that still doesn’t make sense; let’s try to explain it another way?

Put simply, web strategy is like a business plan, but it is the plan for your website. In it you outline a road map for your website. You outline obstacles and challenges you expect to face, your plan to overcome those obstacles, and goals that will determine whether you’ve been successful.

Do you really need a web strategy?

You may ask, ‘Why is planning important?‘ An ancient proverb states, “The plans of the diligent one surely make for advantage, but everyone that is hasty surely heads for want.” Good planning ultimately leads to business advantages. Similarly, good website planning ultimately leads to advantages for your website versus competing websites.

But what types of questions are answered as a part of a web strategy?

Let me provide some examples of web strategy questions and see if this helps you to understand what web strategy is about:

  1. What are the categories of customers who use your website? Thinking of all your customers in one big group is an example of having no website strategy because customers are not all the same. For example, a website selling books might group their customers into categories like as in the chart at the top of this article.
  2. Does your website address the needs of each category of customer in a satisfactory way? Many website owners think primarily about their own needs, for instance getting a sale, and thus the website reflects this. Just as we hate salesman that are only out for their commission, people hate websites that only sell and otherwise aren’t helpful at sincerely answering questions or concerns the potential buyer might have.
  3. What are the top 10 questions customers ask when they reach your website? How do you answer each of those top 10 questions? Websites that fail to answer the most important customer questions won’t get sales because it is guaranteed you have a competitor on the internet that does answer his questions. Since this is the case, why would he buy from your website?
  4. On each page of your website, what is the desired action you want the user to take on that page? If you don’t know this, how can you tell your customer what to do? If you can’t tell your customer what to do, how will he know what to do next? If he doesn’t know what to do next, he will just leave your website.
  5. What is considered a successful visit on your website? What are you doing to ensure that each visit to your website is successful? Are you trying to get a phone call, a newsletter subscription, a purchase? The answer to this question should greatly affect your entire website’s layout and design.
  6. What is the average conversion rate for your industry and what is the target conversion rate for your website? If you don’t know your industry conversion rate, then how can you set a target for your own conversion rate? You can’t just pull these numbers out of the air. If this data is not available, you need some other logical way of determining a reasonable conversion rate.
  7. Besides relying on search engines, directories, and advertising, what is your six month plan for increasing the number of visitors to your website? Millions of websites are competing to get on Google Search, Yahoo Directory, etc. If you do the same thing everyone else is doing, you’re going to get the same results. The average website fails. So what will you do differently than those failing websites did?
  8. What are the goals for your website in the next 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year? Your goals should guide your activity every day. Without goals you are like a runner running without a destination. How will he know which direction to take his next step?
  9. What lessons have you learned from your competitors in the last 6 months and how do you plan to apply those lessons in the next 6 months? Your competitors are trying thousands of different things to find success. The smart entrepreneur learns from his competitors. Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club, started Sam’s Club after he visited Sol Price’s Price Club (now named Costco). He was always learning. You should be doing the same by using your competitor’s websites regularly.
  10. What reason does a visitor have to tell others about your website? The best marketing is word-of-mouth. Is there anything about your website that a customer would have reason to tell his friends and colleagues about? To get an honest answer, you may need to ask someone else for their opinion. This is probably the most important question you can ask.

I could continue to list questions, but hopefully you get the point. Web strategy is about formulating answers to questions like the above. To put it another way, a successful web strategy can be a formal document, just like a business plan, that outlines your plan for the growth and development of your website and sets clear goals that will allow you to determine whether you were successful or not.

Your Plan is Your Map

If you don’t have a web strategy, then you’re like a traveler on a road trip without a map and without a route. You might stumble upon your destination, but your journey is going to be long and difficult full of wrong turns and dead ends. However, by developing a web strategy you’re going to be like the traveler that has both a map, and a well planned route. You will reach your destination, and you will reach it quickly and you will enjoy the scenery along the way.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Ayo - April 27, 2008 at 1:57 pm

Categories: Some web questions   Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Is your website competitive? Let’s Ask Google’s New Benchmarking Tool

Screenshot of Google Analytics Benchmarking Service

Summary: Google has launched a new benchmarking service to enable business owners and executives to compare their website’s statistics against the industry average. This tool can help you to gain insight into how your website stacks up against your competitor. This is necessary if you are going to increase your site’s conversion rate, yield maximal benefits from website promotion, or increase site traffic. In this article we will discuss the tool in more detail and analyze why it is so valuable.

Have you ever been sitting, looking at your website statistics, trying your best to analyze the data, but just feeling like you have no idea whether your site’s statistics are good or bad? You keep wondering, ‘how do I stack up against my competition?’ Unfortunately, you can’t just call your competitors every week and ask to swap data. But without knowing how your competitors are doing, you feel like your site’s numbers give you little real insight as to how your company is performing.

Fortunately, Google has helped to lift the fog. Google Analytics has released a new benchmarking tool to enable companies to easily compare their website’s statistics against industry averages. Amazingly, this free service can help you see if your website is doing well versus websites in your industry, doing poorly, or just performing at an average level. Google’s Analytics Benchmarking tool can give you insights into your own success and failure and those of your competitors.

But what is benchmarking and why do business owners and executives need a benchmarking tool to maintain a successful website? It is beneficial to examine the answer to this question.

You may know your website’s statistics (e.g. number of visitors, pageviews, etc.), but is that enough to know whether or not your website is performing well? No. Your website’s level of success, whether good or bad, can only be determined by comparing your site against competitors. This process is called benchmarking. Let me illustrate why benchmarking is necessary with an example.

In college, students are graded on a curve. Students who are far above average receive the A grade; students that are below average receive the C, D, or F; average gets you a B. It is impossible to determine your grade from your exam score without also knowing the average.

For example, while in college, I once scored 45 out of 100 on a final exam. When I saw my score I was in shock. I was almost certain I had failed. But did I fail the test? No. In fact, I aced it. It turned out the average on the test was a 25 so my 45 was an A+. Only by knowing the average could I accurately judge my success on that test.

Measuring website performance is the same. If 10% of visitors to your website end up purchasing, is that good or bad? It depends. If your competitors are getting 30% of visitors to buy, then you should be asking, ‘what am I doing wrong?’ If this were college, you’d be receiving the F. However, if your competitors are only getting 2% of visitors to buy versus your 10%, then your company is performing at an excellent level! You deserve the A+! Again, site statistics must be benchmarked against your competitors to accurately judge your success. On their own, statistics provide limited insight.

So undoubtedly you see the importance of benchmarking your website’s performance against the industry average. Google’s new Analytics Benchmarking service is an excellent tool that now makes benchmarking easier than ever. I urge you to strongly consider the use of this tool, or any similar benchmarking tool you are aware of. As a result of benchmarking your website, you will know with confidence whether your website is great, without need of improvement, or uncompetitive with urgent need of an upgrade.

Notes

  • To use the Google Analytics Benchmarking service, your website must be using Google analytics.
  • Google Analytics is a free service.
  • You can sign up for Google Analytics at: http://www.google.com/intl/en/analytics/index.html

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Ayo - April 14, 2008 at 9:37 pm

Categories: Useful Tools   Tags: , , , , ,

How Can Freely Sharing Articles You Author Help You Build Business?

An image of two kids sharing an ice cream cone can teach us a lesson about sharing expertise on our website to grow business.

Summary: Customers ignore advertisements because advertisements saturate our lives and we’ve learned most of them can’t be trusted. So how can you reach ad-weary customers? By freely educating them. If a customer can learn something valuable from you, they are more likely to respect you, trust you, remember you, and recommend you. This technique is often called “Content Marketing.” To help you better understand what Content Marketing is and how it can help your company, I thought it would be helpful to share an excellent definition I found on Wikipedia today.

Which is a customer more likely to ignore, a helpful article or a traditional advertisement? Which is a customer more likely to show to colleagues, an educational video or a video advertisement?

Freely sharing helpful articles, videos, etc. to grow your business is an effective method called “Content Marketing.” Below is a definition of Content Marketing from Wikipedia.org:

“Content marketing is an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation or sharing of content for the purpose of engaging current and potential consumer bases. In contrast to traditional marketing methods that aim to increase sales or awareness through interruption techniques, content marketing subscribes to the notion that delivering high-quality, relevant and valuable information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action.

The idea of sharing content as a means of persuading decision-making has driven content marketers to make their once-proprietary informational assets available to selected audiences. Alternatively, many content marketers choose to create new information and share it via any and all media. Content marketing products frequently take the form of custom magazines, print or online newsletters, digital content, websites or microsites, white papers, webcasts/webinars, podcasts, video portals or series, in-person roadshows, roundtables, interactive online, email, events. The purpose of this information is not to spout the virtues of the marketer’s own products or services, but to inform target customers and prospects about key industry issues, sometimes involving the marketer’s products. The motivation behind content marketing is the belief that educating the customer results in the brand’s recognition as a thought leader and industry expert.

Marketers may use content marketing as a means of achieving a variety of business goals, such as thought leadership, lead generation, increasing direct sales, improving retention and more.

Content marketing is the underlying philosophy driving techniques such as custom media, custom publishing, database marketing, brand marketing, branded entertainment and branded content.” (Wikipedia, 2008.)

Put simply, Content Marketing allows you to build a closer relationship with the customer than mere advertising can provide by freely giving him with educational articles, audio, video, that address his problems and also demonstrate your company’s value and expertise.

So do not delay. Start sharing your expertise with your existing and potential customers by writing articles with solutions to their problems and placing them prominently on your website, sending them out in email, and using any other reasonable method. If you share your expertise freely, you will generate goodwill and will gain the potential customer’s attention, respect, and business. However, if you do not share your expertise freely, customers will incorrectly assume that you don’t share information because you don’t have their interests in mind, or worse you don’t have the expertise you claim to have. As a result, they will take their business to a more convincing competitor. So apply this saying to your expertise, “Practice giving and people will give to you.”

References

Wikepedia : “Content marketing.“

This definition of Content Marketing was shared under the terms of the Wikipedia Licensing agreement.

Promotions:

Link building helps online businesses secure top positions on search results pages.
Vertical Measures provides link building services.

3 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Ayo - April 5, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Categories: Tips to increase site traffic   Tags: , , , , ,

Guest Article: How can Patience Provide Rewarding Sales Growth?

Image from the blog homepage of lightninglabels.com

Summary: Over a 2 year period, Peter Renton’s blog has helped him grow his website, lightninglabels.com, from zero visitors to 22,000 visitors per month (Compete.com, 2008). This is impressive for a business with such a small niche. Today, Peter is going to discuss the rewards of patience as you build your website and how he benefited from writing a business blog. Recently, Peter estimated that his blog drives at least $2,000 per month of additional business to his website. I hope you enjoy this article.

I believe every business should have a blog, but to launch a successful blog you need to be patient and committed. You simply cannot judge the success of your blog for at least 12 months, so you need to continually update your blog even when few people are reading it. Unless you are very lucky or famous, building blog traffic is a slow and gradual process.

A blog can do a number of things for a business. First and foremost, it should provide a more personal face for your company. The blog author or authors should be visible and be allowed to write in a personal, conversational tone. A blog is not about telling the world how great you are; you should leave that to your main site. Instead, you should use your blog to educate and inform, and possibly entertain if it is appropriate.

When you start writing your blog you should do a handful of posts and then announce to the world that you have a blog. You can do online press releases, contact industry publications, email your customer list and get the word out any way you can. This should provide an initial bump in traffic for you which will hopefully result in a number of regular readers.

Our company blog is now two years old, and is the oldest blog in our industry. For many months, though, I would write blog posts and look at the traffic and be disappointed. Here is the breakdown of approximate number of daily visitors and how it has grown:

Month Daily Visitors
3rd 25
6th 31
9th 45
12th 65
18th 114
24th 147

The numbers above are for unique visitors viewing pages on the blog web site, but with any blog you can subscribe to the content without visiting the site by using an RSS reader. Our growth in the number of subscribers has followed a similar curve to that of daily visitors, and today we have about the same number of subscribers, around 140.

These are not huge numbers but for a vertical market such as digital label printing you can’t expect to have thousands of readers. One important feature that every business blog should have is a prominent link back to the company’s main web site. We get more visitors to our main site from our blog than any other source other than the search engines. People find our blog go to our web site and become customers. I estimate that we get around four new customers a month resulting in around $2,000 in sales directly from the blog.

So how do you grow the number of visitors to your blog? Here are a number of ways we have done it:

1. Search engines – every new post is indexed by the search engines within a day or two and after two years we have over 170 posts and more than 50,000 words written about our industry. All these words are indexed and able to be searched with more words being added with every post.

2. Promoting the blog – we promote the blog at every opportunity. We provide a link to the blog in our customer emails, press releases, articles, even in my email signature.

3. Commenting on other blogs – I subscribe to dozens of blogs and I regularly make comments on these blogs. These comments usually provide a link back to our company blog. One word of warning: be careful to make the comment meaningful otherwise it will be deleted as spam.

4. Blogrolls – Develop a relationship with other bloggers and you can get your blog placed on what is called a blogroll. This is a list of blogs (with links) that a blogger publishes on their blog.

5. Your main web site – a link to your blog should be prominently featured on your main company web site.

We get many people who visit our own main site, then go and check out our blog and place an order. We have no way of measuring the actual impact that our blog has on these people but I know the blog helps create the impression that we are an industry leader. Our blog is also mentioned in trade publications now and has resulted in speaking and writing engagements for me that increases our exposure in our industry. But this all took time and perseverance.

Peter Renton is the founder of Lightning Labels, Inc., the leaders in digital label printing and custom labels. He writes regularly about the label printing industry on his company blog at http://blog.lightninglabels.com.

References

Compete.com : Lightninglabels.com. “Snapshot of LightningLabels.com“

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Ayo - April 3, 2008 at 1:01 pm

Categories: Tips to increase site traffic   Tags: , , , , , ,

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