Issue #15 – Build Your Online Presence Like a House
Organizing and prioritizing the steps to online marketing success can be harrowing. Beyond simply having a website, many business owners are unclear about next steps. We like to think of building a robust, profitable online marketing plan as being tantamount to building a house – don’t put the roof on before you have walls or a foundation. Perhaps you’re considering social media investment after seeing a friend or colleague’s success. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try pay-per-click advertising but are unsure about how much to spend and concerned about the return on your investment, or want to redesign your website or add a second website to showcase a specialty product or service your business offers. If any of this sounds familiar, read our blueprint to get your digital marketing house in order:
Step 1 – You need a website that converts a visitor into an online sale, email inquiry, or phone call.
A strong house starts with a strong foundation. Often a lack of attention is paid, once a website is created, to whether the website actually entices a visitor to buy/call/email your business. Numerous strategies can be employed. For example, you should have a contact form high up on the home page. You should also include numerous “trust signals” that all indicate your business is the best choice, which holds a visitor’s attention, reduces the chance they leave the page (bounce rate), and can add at least a fraction of a percentage point to your conversion rate, translating into additional leads. Some websites need sweeping changes in order to convert well, while others just need some minor tweaks. By the way, if the terms “conversion rate” or “trust signal” are foreign to you, then we should probably talk 🙂
The cost? Custom-coded websites can cost anywhere from $2000 all the way up to $50k or more, depending on how many bells and whistles you want, though most of our clients can get a great site within the $7k to $18k range. If your budget is a bit lower or higher, still contact us, but this gives you a picture of what high-quality custom-coded websites should cost in 2016.
Step 2 – Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Once you have a website built to convert, you need people to find it. Despite what some may say, there is no substitute for ongoing, organic SEO or the experts who execute these strategies. Limitless Instagram posts won’t soon take the place of your website appearing first when people search for the products or services that you offer. The SEO “walls” are built brick by brick through link building, continuous content creation and optimization, proper header tags, dynamic content, and other processes. Carefully stacking the bricks, in white-hat fashion, can help you to rise all the way to page one on Google. Beware of those who promise you page one rankings in a short period of time. Depending on the level of competition in your market it could take months of work and a substantial budget, but the payoff is worth it.
The cost? You could spend $750 to $30k/month or more, but most of our clients end up in the $1000 to $5000/month range, depending on market, business sector (legal, medical, e-commerce, insurance, and more) and competition in the area.
Step 3A – Ratings and Reviews
As soon as you have increased the visibility of your site by improving rankings, you can begin improving your online reputation to solicit more clicks to your site. With the barrage of information assailing those searching online, having a solid stream of 4.5- to 5-star reviews consistently being added to your business profiles will not only set you apart from your competition but will help you get the content you need to increase your SEO rankings. This is insulation for your house’s walls. But how do you install the insulation? Rather than asking your clients to leave a review and then crossing your fingers that they actually do it, we match businesses with Preferred Vendors that will place an iPad in your place of business so that clients can provide their feedback on the spot, leading to a much higher volume of reviews. Their proprietary software then uploads these reviews to where they are needed the most online. In many cases, we’ve seen our clients go from capturing only a couple of reviews per month to dozens.
Imagine if someone is looking to purchase a boat for their family, and after some research, they’ve narrowed it down to two dealerships in their area. He could go to the business with three 5-star reviews, but they are more likely to go to the one with 28 reviews and an overall rating of 4.8 stars. More reviews = more trust, and you win the business if you have the edge on positive review volume.
The cost? Between $3-900/month, and well worth the investment over time.
Step 3B – Live Chat
If insulation regulates the temperature, the windows let in the light. Once you’re increasing total unique visitors to your site and your site is already converting visitors due to its design, you can focus on further improving conversion rate with other methods. Live chat gives visitors potentially averse to phone and email another option, often increasing overall conversion rate. Almost 60% of average website visitors like having the option to chat with someone while they’re on a website, so while most visitors would still call or email, there’s business being missed by not having live chat once you have website traffic. Chat operators can simply email their conversation with a visitor to the business, or even transfer the visitor via phone call, immediately connecting them to your business. If we do some quick math, 1000 visitors per month at a 2% conversion rate (where we like to see our clients’ average) gives you 20 leads per month. Assuming live chat increases the conversion rate by only .5% – that same 1000 visitors is now converting at 2.5% or 25 leads per month. Just 5 extra leads per month is 60 extra qualified leads per year!
The cost? Varies based on visitor counts, but most websites can have live chat for between $250-3000 per month.
Step 4 – Pay Per Click/Social Media Ads
Once visitors to your site are converting consistently, you can think about boosting the number of visitors by paying directly for higher search visibility. Pay per click (PPC) is the opposite of organic SEO: you get people to your site quickly, and you pay for each and every visit. It’s like a light switch – as long as you have electricity (a.k.a. money to spend) the lights will turn on (a.k.a. more visitors). PPC can be very competitive, therefore expensive, in larger markets but gives you the flexibility to go after low-hanging fruit right away. Avoid the mistake of investing in PPC or social media ads too early, before you are averaging at least a 2% conversion rate. Otherwise, you’re wasting money on driving visitors to a site that doesn’t convert to leads. PPC can be amazing when done properly and conservatively, but there’s a reason it’s #4 and not #1.
The cost? Unlimited. Starting with $500-1000/month for Google and $200-300/month for social media isn’t out of the ordinary, but be prepared to turn up the heat when you see success. We have businesses spending hundreds of thousands per year, generating millions in sales, but building up to those spend levels takes time for smaller businesses, and is the norm for mid-sized companies.
Step 5 – Excellent Social Media Feeds
An impressive social media presence (follow @SEOversite on Instagram, for example) is your house’s beautiful landscaping. The latest trend for nearly every web team is to include social media management in their proposals, and there’s a reason that nearly every social media feed being managed by these companies looks the same: It is often largely an afterthought to drive additional revenue to the online marketing firm. This is why we brought this service in-house through iScreamSocialMedia, our team of social media experts delivering a truly superb social presence. An outstanding social media presence requires time, effort, and a deep understanding of not only what you want your feed to say, but how you want your feed to say it. Every business has a unique personality. The culture can differ completely from one company to the next, so having the same old “here’s our specials” routine once a month doesn’t cut it. Further, building a robust network of followers requires constant, active following of other feeds and creating engaging content that others want to share. If you don’t water the plants, you never see the flowers.
The cost? Web teams typically charge $200-500/month, but proper social media management will run about $1000-3000/month if your goal is to monetize your social presence and achieve demonstrable results.
We hope this blueprint for your online marketing “house” can be a great resource as you build your business. If there were effective, legitimate shortcuts, we would gladly share them. We didn’t develop the order of these recommendations by accident, but rather through A/B testing of our own, and learning from the trial and error of our clients (before they found us). Feel free to stand on the shoulders of our research, or better yet, give us a call and we can talk you through it and connect you, at no cost, to some of the countries best vetted, reasonably priced online vendors. We’re the roof of the house, sheltering you from the storm of the digital world.