Problem: Introducing new products when traffic skips over the home page and goes directly to interior sections of the site.
Solution: The concept of the "home page" is being redefined as search engines become the natural place many businesspeople choose to begin their online experiences. Efficiencies in search have allowed users to be transported directly to the product they seek instead of being escorted through the home page front door and relying on a site's internal navigation or search engine. While this is a valued benefit of a well-planned search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, it also raises some issues about successfully introducing and cross-selling products.
It is critical for a site to have a solid information architecture foundation to accommodate a variety of different user scenarios. The new model is not to rely on a single home page to introduce customers to your products and brand but instead to treat every page like it's your home page. Brand awareness, site navigation and marketing need to be reinforced at all levels. Even the deepest parts of a site should help prospects and customers understand what the site is about as if they were seeing your brand for the first time.
Primary navigation structures are not only a kind of users' guide, they are communications tools and opportunities to market products. Nomenclature for these areas needs to be carefully considered, as it will inform prospects of new offerings that may interest them.
Once on a detail page, users will be most responsive to products related to what they searched for. If done right, contextual promotions will prompt them to read the message, click on the link and ultimately buy. Introducing modules that integrate with the content such as "If you're interested in X, you may also be interested in Y" is a great example of this. Understanding how your prospects arrive on your site and how they get around will help you craft a holistic user experience.
Jeff Piazza is a principal and creative director at interactive studio Behavior Design.
Problem: Determining if SEO is something my business needs and how much SEO to implement.
Solution: Approximately 80% of all Web traffic now begins at a search engine. Increasing a Web site's natural search engine rankings through SEO can directly and positively impact an e-commerce-enabled Web site selling consumables and other low-cost or commodity products. Studies have shown that second- or third-page rankings can increase Web site traffic by up to nine times. Top 10 rankings, or first page listings, can mean an additional sixfold increase in traffic. The correlating impact on sales is also astronomical: 42% more sales within the first month of Top 10 listings and nearly 100% more the second month. And while paid search is an ever-accruing expense, SEO costs can be amortized over time.
SEO is not a panacea and should be employed as an integral part of an overall marketing strategy. Some studies indicate that paid search advertising may have long-term branding benefits, but the effects on unaided recall of brands within the context of natural search results is largely unknown.
Thus, a company that focuses all of its marketing thrust on SEO won't benefit from the long-term effects of brand-building, which can shorten sales cycles and build cumulative credibility in the market.
The best way to determine whether and how much SEO to implement is to determine how your target customers currently search for your product categories by running a report that provides a historical perspective of the popularity of key phrases that match your interest. If you find that thousands of Internet surfers are searching for your particular category per day, then you should move SEO to the top of your marketing priorities.
Remember that SEO is an ongoing, long-term investment. While the majority of SEO work requires optimizing content, programming and code, you'll need to maintain your efforts in order to remain on top.
Such pressures are both internal and external: Internally, you will undoubtedly update your site's content frequently and will want your new content to show on search engines. External pressures, such as search engines constantly changing their ranking algorithms, will require your designated SEO experts to stay abreast of how your site is being ranked.
Ignoring search marketing altogether can be detrimental to a company. Protect your brand and your competitive edge, and increase your bottom line assets by improving your search visibility.
Hollis Thomases is president and founder of interactive agency Web Ad.vantage.
Problem: Ensuring my e-mail marketing messages are getting delivered to business domains.
Solution: As a b-to-b sender, there are a number of things you can do to help increase your delivery rates. Consider the following tips:
1) Test your e-mails against anti-spam technologies. Make sure you are testing your messages against the most popular corporate anti-spam technologies, such as Brightmail, Postini and MessageLabs. Many corporations use these technologies to help reduce the amount of spam that comes into their systems.
2) Make sure your e-mails render correctly. Test your e-mails to make sure they look the way you intended in the most common e-mail clients, such as Outlook and Lotus Notes.
3) Understand the domains on your list. If there are certain corporations that dominate your customer list, try reaching out to those system administrators to get a better understanding of what you can do to improve your delivery rates.
4) Include an "add to address book" call to action. If customers add your sending address to their address book, it will increase the likelihood of reaching their in-boxes.
5) Ensure that your system is set up correctly. Having an inappropriately configured e-mail delivery system can affect your delivery rates. If you have an open relay or your DNS is not configured correctly, this will affect your overall delivery rates.
Spencer Kollas is director of delivery services at StrongMail Systems, a provider of e-mail delivery software and appliances.