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2012

Body_QAwendydeoca.jpgby Robert Lerose.

 

Online ads come in different shapes and sizes, but one thing they all strive for is to get the audience member to click on them and be whisked one step further along the sales cycle. To understand the psychology of the click, Robert Lerose spoke with Wendy Montes de Oca, president and managing partner of Precision Marketing and Media, a West Palm Beach, Florida full-service marketing firm, and author of Content Is Cash, an Amazon best-seller. Some edited excerpts from the interview:

 

RL: What are some different kinds of online ads?

WM: On the paid side, there are banner ads or display ads that could be flat, which means they're not Flash or video or involve graphics. Some popular sizes include a rectangle or a square. Other paid ads are text ads or text links. They can vary in word count from a short sentence to a small paragraph, usually going to a call to action which links to a landing page. On the free side, there are classified ads on sites like craigslist, and also on directory and local listings such as yellowpages, GooglePlaces, and YahooLocal.

 

PQ_QAwendydeoca.jpgRL: What are pay per click ads?

WM: A pay per click, or cost per click, ad is basically a text ad with about 90 characters including a link to a URL. The party who purchased the ad pays for each click that the ad gets, as opposed to a cost per thousand where you're paying for the thousands of potential eyeballs each time that ad is shown.

RL: What are some first steps a small business should take to decide which online ads to use?

WM: First, it's important to decide on the budget because this will basically dictate what percent of the advertising is going to be free versus paid. Second, understand the target market and which delivery method they would respond to best. Some demographics respond better to contextual ads versus visual ads. Third, think of what you're selling. [The amount of] copy to sell the product might help define the venue. For example, if it's something that involves more copy, then a text ad might be better than a banner ad.

 

RL: Are there some features that successful online ads share?

WM: Yes, there are certain things that are pretty much consistent across the board. First, if it's a banner ad or something that involves graphics, it usually has a strong visual element or even a headline that captures your attention within three to five seconds. Second, [placing the] ad above the fold, which is the top part of the computer page. Eye-tracking studies show that the upper-right corner of the page is best for ads. Third, strong, persuasive copy on both the actual ad and the click-through landing page as well as a strong call to action. Lastly, [the ad must have] relevance to the target audience you're shooting for.

 

RL: How do you even define success for online ads?

WM: It's different for different industries. One benchmark is the click-through rate. Basically, you divide how many clicks versus how many impressions you get between the front-end (which is the banner ad or text ad) and the back-end (the landing page). The conversion rate would be the number of people that went from your landing page, took the next action, and clicked submit for the offer. That could vary based on whether your offer is sales related or lead generation, meaning you just want to get an email address. 

RL: What do you look for in these results?

WM: If your ad has a strong click-through rate but a poor conversion rate, it means generally that you're getting the initial eyes, but you're not closing the deal. In other words, your banner ad or text ad is good, but you might need to refine the landing page, such as the copy, the offer, the price point, the call to action, or the guarantee. If an ad has a bad click-through rate and a bad conversion rate, you need to revamp both your front- and back-end creative.

 

RL: What are some of the different pricing models for online ads?
WM: In general terms, the rates for CPM (cost per thousand) models are going to vary by industry and by site. If it's a very popular site that has a lot of traffic, it's going to be different from a site that has a little less traffic. I always advise people to do their due diligence when they look at rates. A savvy media buyer never ever pays what's on the rate card because obviously the account executive always has inflated the prices, so it's really important to do your competitive analysis. Ad networks sell ad units at a cheaper rate than if you buy directly from a site. They usually buy their ads in bulk and can pass down the savings. Clickz has ad networks that are current, and Burst Media usually offers pretty good rates.

 

RL: What else?

WM: To save money when buying ads through a network, ask for remnant space. Remnant space is basically excess ad units that a network or a publisher needs to unload. They try to sell them at reasonable rates, so you're still getting great exposure. For somebody buying ads for the first time, it's actually really good. They can get the job done, but get it a lot cheaper.

RL: Do you have any examples of or links to ads that work?

WM: The Street.com, iVillage, and Fox News are all pretty good sites for anyone who wants to get an idea of either type of ad, how they're written, and the visual element. One thing that's really important for people to know about is the Interactive Advertising Bureau. They have all the ad types out there, along with research, best practices, and guidelines, so they're a really good reference.

Body_WebAnalysis.jpgby Iris Dorbian.


For small businesses with a burgeoning online presence, using online site metrics as a benchmark for performance can be critical to the company’s growth. Not only can such tools as website analytics track the number of visitors (or lack thereof) to a site, but they can also provide data as to what content is working and what isn’t. A big side benefit is its impact on a company’s sales message.


Wade Benz, owner of USImprints, an online provider of promotional products, credits his usage of website analytics as key to developing his company’s web sales strategy. “Website analytics tools are very important when refining your sales message,” says Benz, who began his company seven years ago and now has 18 employees. “You can use them to track the entire sales process of a website visitor: How long it takes them to checkout, how many visits go to conversion, and what content works better to make a sale.”


Benz began to use website analytics early in his company’s history to track his site’s traffic and unearth important data about each visitor, such as where they were coming from, what pages they visited. and how long they stayed on each one. Also of interest—the content and/or pages that were most popular as well as the overall conversion rate (the percentage of people who buy an item).


Based on the cumulative data provided by the analytics, Benz and his team, who use an arsenal of low-cost tools that include Google Analytics, HaveaMint.com, SEOmoz.org made the necessary improvements that would convert visitors to customers without having to increase traffic. This past year, he says his site’s “bounce rate” dropped nearly 20 percent following testing of customer interest in content.


 

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“We have worked hard to increase our conversion, and have seen huge improvements,” reflects Benz. “This could not have been done without the use of our analytics tools.”

Using Benz’s example as a springboard, what are four ways that website analytics tools can help refine a company’s sales message?


PQ_WebAnalysis.jpgProvide comprehensive visitor data

Nick McElhinney, owner of MackTeck Solutions, a two-year old web design and development firm with a staff of five, says website analytics tools have given him a treasure trove of information on every visitor that logs onto his website, such as how long each one stayed on his site and how many pages were viewed per visit. As a result, he has been able to fine-tune his sales message to perfection.


“After my website was first launched, I was receiving a fair amount of visitors to my website daily,” he recalls. “I was able to analyze the data for each visitor and I noticed that for the most part, my website was engaging visitors because they spent a fair amount of time on the site and they viewed many pages per visit.” Still, when he compared the visitor data with the conversion data, he found that the website was underperforming.


Upon further analysis, McElhinney decided on a quirky tweak: He added a large call to action button that said ‘Let’s Work Together’ on the top right of every page. “This brought the visitor directly to my contact page,” he explains. “My purpose for this button was to disarm my visitors with a friendly message and direct them to the next step—contacting me. I decided I would put this button on my website and wait two weeks before analyzing the results.”


After two weeks passed, McElhinney says that his site’s conversion rate increased by an impressive 48 percent. This provided him with a pivotal realization. “I was spending the same amount of money on advertising and more people were contacting me,” he says. “This minor change to my website not only brought me more clients, it raised the return on investment of my advertising, which lowered my client cost per acquisition.”


Other ways that website analytics can tweak your sales message:


Decrease bounce rates

When Petplan Pet Insurance first launched in 2006, “the sales funnel was seven steps to purchase after saving a pet insurance quote,” recalls co-CEO and Chief Marketing Officer Natasha Ashton. To simplify the purchase process for customers while eliminating the bounce rate, Ashton and her husband Chris, who co-founded the company with her, sought the help of website analytics.


“We set up an A/B test and used analytics tools to help us monitor performance between the two funnels and make strategic adjustments based on data, rather than just gut feelings,” explains Ashton. As a result of this online fine-tuning, Petplan has enjoyed growth of more than 2,200 percent in revenue during the last three years and expanded its workforce from just a handful of staff to 60 employees.


Analyze where traffic originates

“Understand where the traffic is coming from” says Kenneth C. Wisnefski, founder and CEO of WebiMax, a small Internet marketing firm. “For a small business if you focus your sales message in [a specific geographic] area, you should cater your message to [this audience]. This will allow you to see if your sales message is branching out to other markets.  If that is the case, refine your message to target these areas.”

 

To illustrate his point, Wisnefski cites a law firm client based in Southern New Jersey that started getting a lot of web traffic from the Philadelphia and Baltimore region. “We evaluated and tweaked the sales message to target specifically individuals in and around Philadelphia and Baltimore.”


Determine what is engaging visitors

Measuring traffic to your site is important, but so is ascertaining where visitors are spending their time when they get there and for how long.


“Time on-site is key as it will illustrate how engaging and informative your website is,” says Wisnefski. "Anything over 45 seconds is considered sufficient. If consumers are spending less time on your site, perhaps you need to consider creating a more engaging experience. This helps when trying to capture leads and create conversions on your sales side of the site.”


For small business owners looking to create an impact with their online sales messages, website analytics tools are a must. If harnessed correctly and effectively, the analytics can reveal data that can lead to important sales conversions without incurring undue advertising costs. The old maxim, knowledge is power, is applicable here because having a knowledge of your visitors and their activities on your site, can greatly affect your sales strategy and bolster ROI.

 

Getting started with website analytics

The following sites may be invaluable resources for small business owners seeking to use website analytics to improve their sales. Check them out:


  • Google Analytics: Arguably the most popular website analytics tool out there. Google Analytics can provide you with a plethora of data and best of all, it’s free.  The site offers a tutorial on how to use it effectively. You can also contact technical support 24/7.
  • Woopra: As featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur.com and TechCrunch, Woopra can help you track your site’s visitors in real time and spot key customer segments.  If you need assistance, just go to their live chat room. Pricing varies, running the gamut from free for basic use (which includes 30,000 actions per month) to $39.95 for 1 million actions per month to $349.95 for 15 million actions per month. All price plans come with a 30-day free trial.
  • Trace Watch:  Here’s another complimentary website analytics tool that can help you track the visitors to your site in real time. Trace Watch can be installed on any website supporting PHP and MySQL. However, you will need to download a few files on your server. 
  • Reinivigorate Snoop: A desktop application, Snoop has a Windows and Mac version. After you install it, you’ll get notified if an important development on your site occurs such as when you have a sale or a user signup. Sign up and get a 14-day free trial. $10 per month.

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