Moving your business online
If consumers made more than 4 million inquiries specific to your company’s product or service, wouldn’t you want to know? That’s exactly what’s happening on the Internet right now.
Out of 146 million adults looking for local businesses, an estimated 86 million, or 59 percent, start their search on the Internet. They go to Google, Yahoo!, MSN or one of hundreds of smaller search engines and type in a word or phrase related to their needs, such as “windshield repair.” The search engine gives them a listing of local and national businesses whose Web sites match their search criteria. These listings include brief company descriptions or ad copy and links to the companies’ Web sites.
Studies estimate Internet users performed more than 4.1 million searches for auto glass-related businesses during the past 12 months.
Shouldn’t your company be in the front row?
How do I get listed?
There are two ways to get listed in the top search engines: organically or by using the pay-per-click process. Both are critical to online success. Organic listings are those that appear naturally on the search results page when consumers type in certain words, such as “auto glass replacement.” They require your Web site meets search-engine criteria for the way it is built, what kind of content it has and how user-friendly it is. Showing up in organic search-engine listings used to be pretty easy; you placed various words or phrases on your Web site and voila, your company listing appeared on the search results page. Unfortunately, those days are gone.
To get listed now, your Web site must be constructed in a specific way and search terms must appear within specific content or on particular pages. The way each page of your Web site links to and from other pages or Web sites is critical, and search-engine programs called “spiders” or “crawlers” scrutinize how the content speaks to the consumer.
This sounds complex, and to many it is. However, with the appropriate understanding of Web sites and search-engine configurations, companies can experience significant success. Consult an Internet or Web-site design specialist to evaluate your existing Web site or create a new one. Your site’s ability to generate sales, as well as its professional design, navigation tools, even details such as privacy policies and a local address, are all important aspects.
Remember, a beautifully designed Web site will not generate business on its own; consumers must be able to find it. A good Web-site design expert will help you build search-engine presence.
The pay-per-click process
Normally located in the top, right corner of the search results page, “pay-per-click” or sponsored ads are some of the most popular and successful forms of online marketing. Companies compete for ad placement by trying to outbid their competitors. The cost is based on how much you are willing to pay each time someone clicks on your ad. In the glass industry, typical cost-per-click rates range from $2 to $6 per click.
When I discovered pay-per-click advertising, the average cost per click was around half of 1 cent. On one engine, it was actually one-tenth of 1 cent: 10 clicks for a penny! While those prices are long gone, pay-per-click advertising can still be highly profitable. However, it’s important to create compelling ads that only drive clicks from those consumers most likely to make a purchase.
Furthermore, it’s critical that your Web site welcomes the consumer with a Web page that calls them to action. I’ve seen customers’ return on investment jump to 200 percent or more simply because they modified the Web page their visitors landed on.
Following are steps to employ effective PPC advertising:
1. Choose the right search terms. Don’t pay for “glass” if you repair windshields. Doing so will drain your monthly budget within a day, and you’ll have no ROI to show for it. Stick to terms that are specific to your business like “windshield repair” or “auto glass repair.”
2. Test, test, test! Decide on a test budget, choose two or three search engines to use during the test phase and create several versions of your ad copy for each. Run a 90-day test, sporadically swapping your ad copy to see what works best.
3. Track everything. This will ensure you know what’s working, what’s not and how to make adjustments for future success.
4. Be agile. PPC advertising can be modified on-the-fly. Be prepared to change ad copy, search terms, bids, relative positions or even the Web page you send traffic to, at a moment’s notice. The more agile you can be, the more success you will have with PPC advertising.
Protecting your brand
As a business owner, you want to preserve your company image and marketing message. I regularly read news about companies purchasing search terms related to their competitors. This is not illegal; many businesses use it simply as a strategy to compare services. In some cases, however, companies use unethical methods to purchase a competitor’s name or brand with the goal of taking traffic away from their site or tarnishing their brand name.
Most of the major search engines won’t arbitrate trademark disputes, leaving it up to individual companies to decide whether they want to take action to protect a trademark.
Take the following steps to protect your brand and trademarks:
• Run positioning reports on your company and competitors to see which search terms make their names appear in the search results
• Include your branded terms in the report
• Track both organic and sponsored ads
• Look at your competitors’ ad copy to see if they are using your brand or trademarks.
If you notice a competitor using your trademark, you can submit a trademark complaint to most search engines. Though they won’t get involved legally, they will typically block other companies from using your trademarked terms.
Imagine if the folks at the phonebook company could tell you precisely how many people turned to the page your advertisement was on, and of those, how many focused on your ad compared to your competitors’. What if they could tell you how many of those people picked up the phone or visited your store? And how many of those folks purchased something from your company, and at what price? Or how much profit you made on each sale? Sound ridiculous?
It’s not unreasonable if you’re doing business online.
It’s possible to track how many people viewed your online advertisement and how many clicked on it. Once a consumer is on your site, you can track if they call you, come into your office, request a quote, send an e-mail or purchase your services with the help of data-tracking tools and effective marketing strategies. You can see which search engine your customer was on; what search term they used to find you; what page, product and service they were interested in; how they completed the sale or call-to-action; what your cost-per-acquisition was; and all financial aspects of the sale, right down to the bottom-line profit for each transaction.
Imagine the success you could build with such insight.