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The Big Picture -- Well-Rounded SEM for SMBs, Part 3

Carrie Hill
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Analytics, SEO, paid advertising, branding, reputation management, social networking, viral marketing, and images and videos are some of the most important tactics for small business owners to consider, as I discussed in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

In this third (and final) installment, we'll talk about a few more elements you should consider when looking at a well rounded SEM campaign: local search, usability, and how to increase conversions. We'll also talk a bit about how to pick and choose what is working and what isn't worth your time.

Local Search

There's some conflicting information out there about local search. Honestly, it seems like every platform works a bit differently. I highly suggest reading "Local Search Ranking Factors," compiled by SMB and local search consultant David Mihm. Some of the best minds in the industry weighed in on the many factors that go into ranking on local search platforms.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Put your local physical address in text on every page of your site. If you have multiple brick and mortar locations, build a page for each location.
  • Login, claim, update, and enhance your listings at Yahoo Local and Google Maps.
  • Optimize key pages on your site for geo-targeted keywords.
  • Build links from local resources with good anchor text.

Usability

How the shopper interacts with your site and finds the information they're looking for is paramount to obtaining a conversion. With some sites, conversions are full sales that take place through a shopping cart or other e-commerce solution. For other sites, conversions may be a RFP form or signing up for a newsletter.

Whatever your conversion goals, make sure users can understand the point of your Web site and find the conversion paths quickly and easily. It's a wasted effort to drive thousands of clicks a day to a site that performs poorly, doesn't give clear and un-cluttered choices and options, and is aesthetically unpleasing. If your bounce rates from your homepage are over 20 percent, it's time to seriously consider a new design, or at least some testing to tweak what you have into a more user-friendly format.

Think about the actions you want the user to take. If you want them to call you, a great big phone number at the top of the page is going to draw the eye and encourage them to pick up the phone. If you want them to click through to your inventory search, make the button or link prominent and easy to find. This doesn't mean adding blinking text, glittery backgrounds, or other obnoxious movement on the page. Movement on a page should be limited to a slideshow of images that doesn't interfere with text on the page and other things the user will need to make a shopping decision.

Increasing Conversions

What it really boils down to for most small businesses is the almighty dollar. Most things take time, and the return can come back more slowly, but your top priority is to make sure a site is converting -- even ahead of building a traffic base.

I attended a session on marketing during a recession at an advanced SEM conference earlier this month. Every panelist agreed that the first marketing dollar should be spent on making sure you've done your on-site homework. The first step toward fixing your conversion roadblocks: know where they are. Having analytics is just as important as SEO for your Web site. You'll have no idea what you're doing if you have no way to measure it.

Mining analytics data is an important component to understanding conversion roadblocks. Digging into the meat of your data will help you understand what you can improve. Look at how many people are hitting your homepage and where they're going from there -- are they leaving, or going to pages you really don't want them on (e.g., privacy policy, sitemap, etc.)?

If your visitors aren't going where you want, make the path much clearer. Eliminate links that don't end in an action. You can provide information to folks via the navigation in second and third tier pages. Throwing a link to every single page on every single page is going to confuse, and convolute the buying process. Make it clear, give them some breadcrumb navigation so they can move back and forth through the process if they're looking for particular information. But make sure all of the paths you develop through your site end in a conversion opportunity.

This has been a three-part series with lots of advice. The big question now: how do you as a small business owner act upon it?

Well, it's testing the waters, starting with the basics, and then trying out new things to see what works well for you. Your business model might thrive with paid search, and remain somewhat stagnant with organic search. Success depends upon what you can put into it, what you're doing with it, and what you want to get out of it. The key is to try, analyze, test, and try again until you find something that works.


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