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The latest tips & trends in online marketing

By James Thomson
Wednesday, 25 August 2010

To help you improve your online marketing efforts, we've asked six of Australia's best online marketing minds to nominate the latest tips and trends in this ever-changing arena.


Closing the deal


Jason West, managing director of online marketing group Websalad, says customers are getting back to basics - they want leads and conversions from the websites, not just traffic and pretty design.


"Everyone is looking at the fundamentals - which is basically getting the phone to ring off their website and generating leads," he says.


If you sell products through your website, West says it is a good idea to concentrate hard on making sure the actual checkout process works really well.


Examine why people are dropping out during the checkout process and look for what he calls "friction" points - your phone number is hidden too far down the page, your purchasing form has too many fields, your payment mechanism isn't right. "Try to reduce that element of doubt or anxiety," West says.


If you use your website to generate leads, he suggests looking at a two-stage process to capture potential client details. On the first page, just ask them for their name, their company and their email address. When they submit those details, take them to a thank-you page that contains three more optional questions that are more specific. "Then you've got two lists of leads," West says. "The tyre kickers, and the serious potential customers."


Conversion optimisation


Chris Thomas believes conversion optimisation will become more and more popular as awareness grows, and he provides examples of how important it can be.


"We've got an e-commerce client who (in peak season) spends around $10,500 a day on Google Ad clicks," Thomas says. "Yes, he really is playing for sheep stations."


When the client's web development company came up with a new design for the home page, Thomas immediately started testing the new design to make sure the client wasn't about to lose a fortune in sales.


"We used Google Website Optimiser for a simple A/B split test, showing 50% of visitors to the original, and the other 50% to the new home page, for just six hours."


One of the key results was the bounce rate - that is, how many people hit the home page and left without looking at any other page. The bounce rate for the original site was 37%, while the new design was 27%.


"Just on that one metric we learnt two really important things. The first was the new design was a hands-down winner in terms of getting more people on to product pages where purchasing decisions are made. The second was fewer ‘wasted' AdWords clicks. It's bloody expensive having 37% of all AdWords visits hit a page and leave!"


Engagement over content


Fred Schebesta, director of online marketing firm Freestyle Media, has written often on SmartCompany about the need to use great content on your site (such as a video, a calculator, a guide to your sector). But it's no longer enough.


"Having just a great piece of content on your site that pulls in visitors once and then they just leave was fantastic, although your bounce rate was shot and your web hosts can get annoyed," he says. Websites need to be able to engage users, keep them on the site, keep them coming back and keep spending.


"If your visitors stayed on your site and interacted, and they told two more people each because your site was more engaging that just another internet meme, you will be better off."


Customer experience needs to be a KPI


A multi-channel world is making it increasingly difficult for brands to understand how customers are interacting with them. David Trewern from DT Designs argues that online tools make it simpler and easier to gather customer feedback, regardless of channel, and customer experience benchmarks need to be established and measured continuously to ensure that customers are getting what they want from a brand.


"The old methods of measuring customer satisfaction occasionally via focus groups or surveys needs to be replaced with more pro-active and automated measurement systems, which can gather on-going feedback after every transaction," he says.

"Making the customer experience a KPI of any organisation is only possible with simple, practical but powerful measurement systems that allow customers to provide their feedback in a structured way."


Faster, faster, faster


How often do you update your site and talk with your customers? It's probably not often enough.


"It's all about the speed that information gets to a person now," Schebesta says. "Google takes hours to index content, blogs are almost immediate and Twitter is there the moment that you tweet. The trend to timeliness of information has created new platforms to communicate."


Is social networking really for you?


We've got a plethora of tips about the power of marketing using social networking, so let's start with the dissenting voice of Chris Thomas from Reseo, who is not convinced for two reasons.


First, he argues that people are typically not looking for solutions to problems in their social media environments - they're relaxing and spending time with friends. And even if you do advertise there, it's difficult to measure ROI.


Second, he believes social media sites just don't drive massive volumes of free targeted traffic to business sites. "Not when I look at our client's analytics data anyway," Thomas says. "It's still the search engines doing most of the heavy lifting.


"Overall though, my feeling is there's a lot of effort required for limited rewards; and one small slip could cause permanent damage to your brand."


Facebook for your business


If you think Facebook is just a place for teenagers to look at photographs of each other, think again. Arrow Internet Marketing's Jasmine Batra says businesses can get great results in terms of branding and sales by setting up a Facebook page for their business.


She gives the example of a Facebook page she set up for a gourmet food business. After searching based on Facebook users' preferences, she was able to send invitations asking a large group of people to become "friends" with the brand. In less than three months the brand had 2400 friends, most of whom regularly visit the Facebook page to look at the recipes the company owner posts.


"We find that people who are coming and looking at the company's Facebook page are better quality traffic in that they spend more time looking at recipes," she says.


Becoming an expert


Batra was a bit confused when a potential client arrived at her office with a folder marked BATRA. She had never met him and certainly hadn't done any work for him before, so what was in the folder? "He opened it, and there was every one of my blogs printed out." It's a good example of how setting yourself up as an expert can help you win business.


Batra suggests blogging is a good way to open the social networking door. Posting thoughtful comments on Twitter can also help - less of the "my dog is eating his dinner" and more of the "I found this article really helpful".


Personal branding


Most entrepreneurs will concentrate their marketing efforts on their company's brand, but Batra says it's also important to remember your personal brand in this age of social media. "At the end of the day, people still like to do business with other people," she says.


Ensuring you have a personal profile on networks such as Facebook and Twitter is important, but business people also love LinkedIn, which relies on a powerful system of recommendations. Ask your clients to give you recommendations and make sure you do the same. "The way to make it more effective is to give recommendations and get recommendations in return," she says. "It's the karma of LinkedIn."


Google Local


Here's a quick and easy tip from Clay Cook, internet entrepreneur and founder of SEO firm ineedhits. With the web recently overtaking print directories like the Yellow Pages, more and more local customers are looking online for goods and services. "The good news for small business is that claiming a top "local listing" on search engines like Google has never been easier," Cook says.


Creating your local listing is free and these often appear as the top results for locality-based searches. Cook's tips for maximising local exposure include incorporating major keywords in your business title (such as, ineedhits - search marketing Perth) and adding detailed descriptions of your business with keywords worked into the copy.


Finally, boost your ranking by encouraging customers to review your business through some feedback by giving them an incentive such as discount on their next purchase.


Socially inappropriate marketing


The proliferation of advertising platforms means you need to subtly tailor your message to each one - particularly when advertising on social networks. "Imagine you were at your Christmas dinner with your family and you were handing out pieces of turkey and everyone was chatting and enjoying themselves," says Fred Schebesta.


"Now imagine if someone came waltzing in with a massive sandwich board with a huge ad on it and asked you to chat with them because you were their ‘friend'. The same response is being felt by corporates who attempt to use social media as an advertising channel."  He says pubs, events, concerts and music are all social things and are perfect for social media. "But the lowest mortgage rate is not part of this social conversation."


Customer behaviour will drive the customer experience


Delivering your users exactly what they want should be the focus of any website. But what if you could customise your website to suit each users' taste, preferences and interests? David Trewern argues that analytics and tracking technology will increasingly be used to optimise and customise content.


"The sophistication of web software will increase to allow dynamic publishing that draws on customer data and behaviour to optimise what they see and do online. Customers will increasingly expect websites and online marketing to reflect their personal interests and to predict their preferences," he says.


"Any publisher or retailer who does not move towards a dynamically optimised publishing model, or who adheres to a traditional ‘broadcast' model, will become increasingly irrelevant to consumers who are looking for more personalised experiences."


Corporate websites will become increasingly open and "mashable"


Companies are realising that it's OK to tear down the walls around their own websites. At the recent South by Southwest Conference in Texas, US electronics retailer BestBuy announced that it was opening up its entire online product catalogue to third party developers who can "remash" the content into new tools and applications.


Trewern says the site, called BestBuy ReMix, is another way BestBuy can expand its online audience.


"For example, developers can use the product data to create a Facebook app that lets people share favourite products with friends."


Reputation management - domain and channel protection


It used to be just domain names you needed to protect. You still do, but Chris Thomas argues that more than ever you also need to protect your channel IDs.


Channel IDs are the accounts you set up with YouTube, Twitter and MySpace and the like. "Even before Twitter looked like going mainstream, I registered," Thomas says. "Your business should too, even if you're not going to use it. It can prevent the ‘nasties' taking the channel and masquerading as you."


As Thomas says, it's reputation management 101.


International SEO


So you've got your website optimised for the Australian market. But what about the Chinese, Japanese or Korean markets? Jason West says exporters are increasingly interested in getting help with SEO for overseas markets as a way to boost sales.


There's a lot to consider. First, West says that in a lot of these non-English speaking Asian countries Google doesn't have the dominance that it has in Australia. Second, you'll need someone to help with the language issues - and make sure they understand the jargon and linguistic nuances in each market. Finally, you need someone who knows which social media distribution channels to target - that is, which local blogs or social networking sites are popular in your sector.


Mobile marketing


West says the growing popularity of the iPhone has led to growing interest in mobile marketing and mobile search. While the market is still in development, mobile marketing won't suit every business. Fast-moving products (such as food, drink or hospitality-related items) or fast moving offers with an emotional call to action ("on sale at this price for one day only") seem to work best.


Online videos


Clay Cook says online video marketing has exploded recently, due to the huge popularity of video sharing sites like YouTube, and the increased speed of broadband. Some things - like customer testimonials or product demonstrations - are easier and far better expressed over video, rather than just text and images.


Cook says there are many techniques to maximise your video's exposure and one of the most important is inbound linking - make sure you link back to your website or product page.


Online agencies will focus on the buzz


David Trewern says clever media agencies will start to move into the space of "creating buzz" rather than simply booking "empty rectangles on portals".


"Banner ads and poorly executed, over-priced ‘content deals' with the big media owners will lose their lustre as astute brands realise they're getting little to no benefit at all, let alone a measurable ROI."


He says activity in the social media space, in blogs and in general website content will become far more important for brands looking to stimulate dialogue right in the middle of where web users continue to look to for information, help, inspiration and connections.

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