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Converting Search Engine Users to Customers

thurow-shari
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A special report from the Search Engine Strategies 2001 Conference, November 14-15, Dallas, TX.

Getting visitors to your web site is only half the battle. To be victorious, you need to convert visitors into customers by making purchases, signing up for services, or otherwise fulfilling your goals. At a session called "After They Arrive," industry experts Nick Usborne of NickUsborne.com and Michael Sack of Inceptor, Inc. discussed the dos and don'ts of converting visitors to customers.

"Too many sites are product or service-centric and fail to engage or connect with new visitors," stated Usborne. " Sites would do better to make their home pages more about their customers' needs and less about the company's products."

Usborne presented the following guidelines to consider when building your web site:

  • Make your site about the customer.

  • Make your site easy to use.
  • Keep your site relevant to the customer.
  • Tell people what to do.
  • Create a voice and character your customers can trust.
  • Tell them enough to make up their minds.

"Many sites are horribly hard to navigate," stated Usborne. "If people cannot find what they want quickly, they will simply give up. And even when they do find what they want, the checkout process kills more sales than it confirms."

Effective copy is essential to the sales process. Sites need to have copy that drives customer actions and deliberately, effectively closes sales. "Many a sale has been lost because the site didn't give enough information about a particular product or service, said Usborne. "The more expensive or complex the product, the more you have to say in order to close the sale. Don't be shy about using long copy in the right places."

Usborne also emphasized that personalization can make a big difference. Web site owners should great efforts to customize the visitor experience, in order to make sure that the experience matches the visitors' needs.

Michael Sack of Inceptor spoke specifically about driving return-on-investment (ROI) through search engine optimization. "Search engine strategies should always be integrated with conversion marketing," stated Sack.

According to Sack, conversion marketing is the process of leveraging the content of your web site to drive qualified traffic to increasingly accurate destinations within your site. Before visitors arrive at your site, web site owners should:

(1) Make the most relevant content (products, services, articles, information, etc.) visible at the search level.

(2) Connect the search results to specific pages, sometimes called landing pages, on your web site. For example, if a person is looking for a specific product, you don't want that person to go to your site's home page. You want that person to go directly to the page highlighting the product he is searching for.

(3) Make it easy for your site's visitors to find your site or to get what they want.

Once visitors arrive at your site, Sack explained, you can measure the effectiveness of your web pages. Content, calls-to-action, pricing points, and click-through paths are all valuable information that can be tested.

Sack offered an analogy to a supermarket. "The supermarket knows where every product is placed in its store to increase the likelihood of a purchase," he explained. " Why shouldn't web sites do the same thing?"

When tracking results, Sack recommended finding which search engines and directories deliver the best traffic and which click-through paths deliver the most conversions. By connecting the best performing search phrases and to the best performing click-through paths, web site owners will get the best results.

Shari Thurow is the Marketing Director and Webmaster for Grantastic Designs, Inc. (http://www.grantasticdesigns.com/) She has been designing and promoting web sites since 1995 for businesses in a wide range of fields.

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