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June 1, 2010

Is Your Website Optimized for Keywords…or Conversions?

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Amazon Web Services

atmOne of the greatest things about web marketing is that once you’ve found a winning formula, it can continue to work consistently – even without further changes. In other words, as long as you know you’re getting a certain amount of traffic, then over time you are very, very likely to keep getting new leads and new sales at the same percentage rate. Your website becomes a cash machine, and all you have to do is keep it running.

As wonderful as that dynamic is, however, it’s not always so straightforward to achieve in the real world. For example, some pages fail to convert a high enough percentage of visitors to make money or prices and trends change so quickly that they force the marketer or business owner to move in a new direction. An even greater obstacle is finding sufficient numbers of visitors in the first place, especially in a way that makes the effort cost-effective. It’s no use bringing in hundreds or thousands of fresh buyers if you are losing money on transactions.

Because of this, many companies focus on bringing ever-greater amounts of traffic to their sites. Their reasoning is sound, at least at first glance: find enough new prospects, and you are bound to close at least some of them.

Be very careful with that assumption. As important as search engine optimization and marketing programs are, it is not hits, impressions, or page views that add digits to your bottom line – it’s sales. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider your online marketing strategy:

Consider your audience

If you post about things people care about, then they’ll come to read or look at what you’ve put online. Marketing in a way that speaks to your audience isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it’s becoming more vital than ever in a climate where so many companies are trying to blast customers with too many messages and ideas.

If you’re ever in doubt about what’s on your customers’ minds, there’s a simple solution: ask them. Often, it takes very little (in the way of money or programming time) to add a forum or feedback section, but taking that small step can yield you quite a bit of insight into the minds of the men and women who are buying from you. Use it to take their pulse now and again, and then add content that speaks to their hopes, concerns, and needs.

Think quality, not quantity

quality-sealProbably the biggest sin marketers make online in focusing too much on traffic statistics is trying to cram more pages, articles, blog posts, and other updates than they can manage and still maintain a certain level of quality and originality. It’s the old spaghetti approach: throw enough keywords against the wall, and some should stick.

Unfortunately, marketing hardly ever works that way – online or off. People read, visit, and shop on the websites they do because they find them to be helpful, informative, or entertaining, not because they care what’s tucked into the page header or embedded links. For that reason, it makes a lot more sense to add to your site the way you would a gourmet dinner, letting quality ingredients simmer together rather than dashing everything on the plate at once.

Get specific

In recent years, it’s become popular to talk about “long tail” searches and keywords, and for good reason – they offer the best of all possible business worlds. Because they’re more specific, they give marketers the opportunity to focus their efforts on one or two small areas and dominate them with relatively little effort. And, as an added bonus, long tail terms generally convert a much larger percentage of visitors than their more general, more expensive counterparts.

The toughest part of executing a long tail strategy, for most companies, isn’t in making it work, but finding the right phrases to start with in the first place. It doesn’t have to be difficult, though; just think of what it is your business does better than any other and begin with that. From there, a good web design firm or online marketing professional should be able to help you find the right keyword combinations, not to mention track the results.

Traffic is important to online sales, but bringing in visitors doesn’t automatically mean that you’re going to start making more money. In order to convert viewers into buyers, you need to find the right ones and present them with a compelling reason to do business with you. That’s the real name of the game, and it’s harder than simply optimizing your site for search engines and waiting for the orders to come in.

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