Internet marketing and web design

My time is pretty much divided into two areas: web design and internet marketing. I’ve noticed some interesting aspects of each that in many ways, really make very little sense.

Clients, with very rare exception, see web design as an expense. As with any expense, the inclination is to negotiate the lowest price. For some reason, they do not acknowledge the inherent importance of something that says so much about their business.

If ever something was an investment and not an expense, it is web design. Prospects, and current clients, make numerous decisions about your business strictly based upon the appearance of your website.

Are the images strong and crisp? Is the design minimalist and professional? Is the layout contemporary and compelling?

The answers to questions like these determine the way your business is perceived.

I’ve often pointed this out to clients without much success. A typical response goes something like “it’s the information in the site that counts’.

While I don’t disagree about the importance of content, the fact is that visuals are not rational. They create a response that is not logical. Visuals are emotional.

This is why web design is an investment, not an expense. Spending the money to create a visual image that connotes whatever it is you want to express is the best money you can spend.

The other side of the coin is marketing. Where a client can resist even a modest charge for web design, the sky’s the limit when it comes to marketing.

A recent example: a client embarked upon a very heavy Adwords campaign. These campaigns, if you are not familiar with them, are based upon Google clicks.

An advertiser bids for page position for a certain search term. For example, If I were running an Adwords campaign for Webfour, one of my main search terms would be ‘web design’.

As you can imagine, there are many web designers interested in being found under this search term. To secure one of the top spots, my bid would have to $7 or $8.

So, every time someone clicked on my ad, Google would charge me $7 or $8. That adds up to serious money very quickly.

Getting back to my client: her ad budget for Google AdWords was set at $10,000 a month. For a small business – a sizable amount.

I spent a lot of time creating the ad campaign. I had to determine key words, negative keywords, ad groups, and more. I also had to write the ad copy, with multiple variations for the purpose of testing.

In additional to all of that, a way to track of all the clicks had to be implemented. What ad did a click come from? What happened after it was clicked?

This required installing Google Analytics, and tracking pixels in the client’s website. It also meant substantial training for the person monitoring the campaign on a day by day basis.

There was more of course, but this gives a general idea of the time just to setup the campaign. As a result, my hours added up, and the bill was substantial.

Just to recap, my client committed to a $10,000 monthly ad budget and paid me a substantial sum to do the setup. All of this without a word of complaint.

Then it came time to create the landing page. This is the page that visitors come to after clicking the ad and creating the charge.

Web designers, advertising and marketing experts, and just about everyone else with any experience in business or psychology, will attest to the importance of a landing page.

Not only must the page describe the service or product being offered, it must convince the reader to take action – to move to the next step in the sales cycle.

This might be completing an email form, receiving an e-book, requesting a quote via an online form, or making a phone call. Accomplishing this is no easy task.

You might even say, as many do, that the landing page is the most important component of the entire advertising promotion. And, it’s hard to argue with this logic.

What good is all the keyword research, ad writing and tracking, if the landing page fails to move the prospect to the next stage of the sales cycle?

Obviously, all of that effort is completely wasted if the landing page fails to do its job. With as obvious as this is, you would think the budget for the landing page would be ‘whatever it needs to be’.

Unfortunately, in this particular example, the client simply could not understand that the final, key component of the campaign was as much of an investment as was my time.

She simply could not get past the notion that design is an expense to be minimized at every juncture.

The story does have a happy ending. The campaign was a success – and that’s what counts. But with a greater understanding of the importance of design on human behavior, it could have done far better.

 

 

 

 

 

Using online press releases correctly

There are two main ways a press release is used to generate online awareness for a product, service, or individual.

The first way sends out a press release to a mass of online newspapers, blogs and websites. The distribution makes no attempt to target readers by their interests or demographic characteristics.

The press release is published in low value media with no relevance to the sender.

The strategy behind this attempt is to generate links from media outlets back to a designated website. In theory, these links enhance the credibility of the website.

If this strategy every worked, it certainly no longer does. Google has been on a mission for years to discredit linking strategies of this kind.

While they may hurt a websites overall SEO profile, they certainly do not help.

On the other hand, the second way of using online press releases and generating publicity is effective. This method is based upon the original intent of press release writing and distribution.

Brief history of the press release

While it’s impossible to pinpoint the exact origin of the press release, they have been in popular use since at least the time of the America Revolution.

At that time, they were referred to as fliers, but the intent was the same: to inform the general public thru the media they read. A flier would be printed, and then distributed to local newspapers for reprinting.

As the number of newspapers expanded, a new profession, called ‘public relations’, came into existence. Public relations companies wrote press releases about their clients, hoping to get influential media interested.

The key was finding an angle that would interest the media. When successful, the free coverage to their client was of great value.

Best use of online press releases

The basic concept of using an online press release for publicity and to attract media attention is the same as it has ever been. The only difference is the tools employed.

The process begins by finding media who will want a story because it will be of value and interest to their readers. In today’s world, with so many online media, this can be a time intensive research project.

Fortunately, there are tools to help. There are online directories and guides for media based upon the industries they target. Google searches are also effective for discovering the right candidates.

Once media have been chosen, the task is to encourage them to either print a press release, or follow up with a story. As you can imagine, this is not easy.

Online media receive many requests for coverage. Often, they have a very small staff and budget.

Nevertheless, the process of finding relevant media, and then contacting them, is how the game is played. In future articles, I will discuss strategies and tools that may this possible.

 

 

 

 

Internet marketing’s questionable return

If you plan to spend hours and hours writing posts and then promoting on social media, you should understand what the likely results will be.

If you intend to establish your personal online identity by creating records under a Google search for you name, you will probably be successful.

If you intend to dominate a search category of any significance for a business entity, you will almost certainly be not.

In most instances, there is not high demand to create search records for a personal name.

A person’s name is associated with the name itself – and that’s all that matters.

A business, on the other hand, wants to be associated with a product or service, and that’s why it’s tough.

For example, it’s easy for me to have the name of my business ‘webfour.net’ appear in top search results for ‘webfour’, but having it appear in the top results for ‘web design’ is an entirely different issue.

Google practices favor the incumbent

Virtually every significant product or service search category is dominated by participants who began the process years, and years ago.

They have created enormous numbers of articles relevant to what they offer, and thousands of websites link back to that content.

These links are incredibly important to Google as the decide which pages to present for search queries.

Links are very hard to get, and the process of ‘link building’ is tedious and very time consuming.

The links, plus the content, age of the domain, and a few other factors,  allow Google to determine credibility.

Once a website has earned ‘expert status’, the can maintain there dominant position with a minimal effort.

Adding to the visibility problem are paid advertisers. High traffic categories have dozens of companies vying for top position.

Fortunately, Google is no longer the only way to be seen online, and to generate traffic. Social media advertising offers an attractive option.