I have worked on many sites and it is true to say that some perform better than others, not just in terms of SEO but also in how successful they are.
I thought it would be a good time to provide a case study of one particular client which has performed extremely well over the last couple of years. My aim is to help you to understand what the “secret ingredients” are and what ultimately determines your success when undertaking any online marketing campaign.
The Budwig Center
When the Budwig Center approached me for help in the middle of 2009 I was asked to build a site for their clinic which provided courses in alternative medicine, specifically the Budwig Diet which is used to prevent and cure cancer and other serious illnesses.
Once the site was completed, we were pretty much starting from scratch in terms of traffic to the site. So, there were no indexed pages, no sitemaps, no inbound links, nada.
Today the site realises around 24,000 visitors every month and numbers have been progressing each and every month since we first begun. The site offers a free Budwig diet guide and this on average is downloaded around 1,000 times each month by prospective clients and no doubt provides some very good leads and new business for the clinic.
The site also enjoys good sharing activity and since September 2009 has been shared no less than 2,572 times via sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and MySpace. This kind of sharing is crucial if you are to take your marketing efforts to new heights in this new social media age.
There is definitely a direct correlation between good sharing, mentions via social media sites and positive organic rankings. The main search engines are now using these “signals” as a part of their organic ranking algorithm.
Each month the Budwig Center site goes from strength to strength and below I can give you an insight into reasons why.
UVP – Unique Value Proposition
This is the most important step. If you get this wrong, don’t even bother to spend your time and money on promoting your business.
If you are unable to offer something of value that solves a problem that people are having problems finding anywhere else, you will have an uphill journey all the way. Trying to flog something to people that doesn’t have a real benefit or doesn’t differentiate your business from hundreds of others is a no win situation.
BUDWIG CENTER UVP: Providing visitors with free guides, information and advice to help them overcome and prevent cancer and other serious illnesses.
Site Design and Usability
I’ve lost count of the number of websites I have been shown by potential clients that just were not cut out to be put live on the web.
Great web design is of paramount importance and can be a major stumbling block when promoting your business online. You do not have to spend $10,000 on a site for it to be effective.
Any website needs to be functional and easy to navigate. Anything superfluous added just distracts users and prevents them taking the desired action, i.e. downloading a guide, filling in a form or subscribing to your newsletter.
User’s are generally after information that solves a problem, they don’t want to be entertained, if they wanted that, they would turn on the TV or watch a movie. Give them what they need to know and solve their problem. Job done!
BUDWIG CENTER SITE DESIGN: Clear, easy to navigate, social sharing features, fast loading.
Search Engine Optimisation
If you have a website and create regular content then you need to make sure that the search engines can find it so that it can be presented in the search results for relevant search queries.
SEO helps you site to be seen on the web. By optimising page titles, meta descriptions, H tags, bolding of text, creation of XML sitemaps and performing good internal linking, you send the search engines positive signals as to what you content is about and how it should be categorised.
But this is only half the story. You will also need to perform a certain amount of keyword research, competitor analysis and manual link building in order to help boost your organic rankings, especially in the early stages of your marketing campaign.
BUDWIG CENTER SEO: Consistent on-site and off-site optimisation has been performed in order to strengthen organic search engine positions for the Budwig Center’s most important and relevant keywords.
FREE Content That Provides Solutions
You have to add fresh and interesting content on a regular basis. Ideally you need a blog which is connected to Twitter and Facebook to allow your followers to be notified of any new blog posts. You also need an RSS feed which is good for those that want to read your updates via their RSS reader and not have to visit your blog directly.
At the end of the day, the more interesting content that provides users with solutions or answers to their problems, the more shares you will get and the more natural links you will gain.
But there’s something else to remember here. YOUR CONTENT MUST BE FREE!
I know what you are thinking, “FREE! Are you mad!. I can’t afford to give my time away!”.
You can and you must if you want to win the social media game. Free content attracts more customers, links, likes and customer loyalty in the long term.
BUDWIG CENTER CONTENT: Free downloadable guides, rich information, free expert advice, testimonials, case studies and blog posts.
Call To Action
If you want a visitor to take action you have to point them in the right direction and lead them gently into your sales funnel. It is a fact that most of us subtly WANT to be lead and advised on the actions we need to take.
It’s actually surprising just how many sites neglect call to action. Things like nice bold buttons, links, strong titles, strike through’s, good copy-writing and images can all help to get users to convert.
It’s worth noting that call to action doesn’t have to be big and bold. It can also be the subtle language that you use in your copywriting and “speaking the language” of your customers.
BUDWIG CENTER CALL TO ACTION: Simple call to action in form of images and textual links. Social media call to action to help build social community.
Permission Marketing/Visitor Retention
Once users hit your site, you want to keep them coming back. Your need to build a tribe of fans who look forward to hearing what you have to say. You can only do that if you keep them connected to you. How do you do this? By using RSS feeds, newsletters, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
These sites and services act as “outposts” for your business and means that visitors do not have to visit your site directly in order to read the content that you publish.
When users signup to your newsletter, like you on Facebook, follow you on Twitter and alike, this is referred to as “permission marketing”. This is your ultimate aim as a marketer. It means that a user trusts you enough and will allow you to sell to them.
So make sure you are building your outposts and allowing users to connect with you in multiple ways.
BUDWIG CENTER PERMISSION MARKETING: Makes good use of Facebook, Twitter, RSS and email to help keep customers connected.
Social Media Presence
As mentioned above, you need to build outposts. Outposts include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, Flickr and many other social sites.
But it does not stop there. You need to be consistent with using these sites and need to update your status and interact with your social circle consistently. It also means that you have to build your social circle over time.
But remember that it is not just about numbers! It’s about building a tribe of loyal friends and fans who not only want to interact with you on a social level but who will ultimately spread the word to their own social circles and help to promote your business.
What is really important to mention is this.
DO NOT SELL TO YOUR SOCIAL CIRCLE!
Your aim is not to SELL. Your aim is to build trust and nurture your social community. Once you provide useful, free content which shows you are an expert or authority within your field, your circle will look to you for a solution when required. They will also tell their friends about your product and services as well. Double whammy!!
BUDWIG CENTER SOCIAL MEDIA: The Budwig Center have a number of social media accounts including Facebook and Twitter which act as outposts and pull new visitors into the site. Also make use of relevant forums, answer sites, document sharing sites and blog commenting where appropriate.
The web has evolved. Links are no longer the be all and end all of internet marketing. Shares have now become just as, if not more important.
Each time your blog content or Facebook page is shared it pops up in the stream of that users social media account. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or another social media feed, by sharing your content, a user is advocating not only your content but your business. This is what we refer to “social proofing”. Hey, my friend likes this, so there is a good chance that I will too.
With the average user on Facebook having around 130 friends, you can see that it is extremely valuable for your business if only a handful of users share your content. This kind of sharing creates a “viral buzz”. Your content can reach many many people in a short space of time.
The Budwig Center provides rich, useful, free content that helps to answer questions that visitors have about alternative medicine and cancer. This kind of solution based content is easy for others to share.
By simply placing social media sharing widgets on your blog posts or important content ( I recommend addthis ) you allow users to share your content with their social circles.
BUDWIG CENTER SHARING: The Budwig Center makes good use of AddThis social sharing buttons on the main site and blog which allows users to share their content effortlessly.
Most companies are not familiar with or if they are, do not spend the time or money on focusing on Conversion Optimisation.
It’s great getting visitors to your site but is a total waste of your time and money if they do not complete a goal, whether signing up to your newsletter, buying a product or completing your form.
This is where Conversion Optimisation comes in. By analysing your main landing pages you can improve them with good call to action which can gently help bring your visitors into your sales funnel.
In order to improve your pages conversion rate, you will need to have a complete understanding of your sites visitors, why they are there, what they care about most, what problems they need solving and what will ultimately make them take action.
With conversion optimisation, it is also important to run A/B split testing and multi-variate split testing. This enables you to make changes to your landing pages and monitor whether conversions have improved or not.
Another important tool to help improve conversion is usability testing.
Usability testing means setting unknown users tasks to complete on your site. They perform the tasks which are recorded with sound and video which enables you to find out what the user is experiencing and if they are having issues with your site.
It’s important to understand why users are not buying. It is normally because they either CAN’T buy or WON’T buy.
They CAN’T buy normally means that the site design is lacking in something such as poor navigation or it could be that the content is “answering their questions”.
If a user WON’T buy, this usually means that there is something wrong with your value proposition. Are your products too expensive? Are they of a poor quality? Or do you not provide the items or services that your visitors really need?
By performing conversion optimisation including split testing and usability testing, you will find out why.
BUDWIG CENTER: We have undertaken numerous usability tests and split testing to improve conversion rates and usability on the site.
If you want to help create greater brand recognition and build a community around your site, then you need to be using as many of the above as possible.
Inbound Marketing presents a world of opportunity to ALL businesses, large or small, local or global. Given time and a little creativity, there is no reason why you can’t leverage the opportunities that the web offers, even on a small shoestring budget.
You don’t need big bucks to compete online and this is why the web has helped to level the playing field for smaller businesses and one man bands.
Users are ignoring conventional media (interruption marketing) more than ever. Television, radio and press marketing is no longer as effective as it used to be. Users have “switched off” to these conventional forms of mass marketing.
Inbound Marketing using SEO and Social Media is YOUR opportunity. So start creating something of value today and begin to build your social community.
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Social Media - Likeable Social Media, Social Media Examiner
SEO – SEOMoz
Web Design: Redline Company, Innov8graphics
Social Sharing Buttons: AddThis
Usability Testing: User Testing, Open Hallway
Conversion Optimisation: Conversion Rate Experts
Inbound Marketing – Hubspot