The Slow Sale: Getting conversions from ads outside the search world

I’ve been spending a little bit of time lately out of the search marketing world and into the broader Internet marketing space. I signed up for every “guru’s” newsletter, accepted all the free offers and I even signed up for a few paid ones. There are a lot of scams out there, but there are also those genuinely interested in providing quality information.

What I’ve come away with, and I’ve certainly talked about this before, is that conversions depend a lot on the traffic source. This becomes especially true when we move our ads away from the search page and onto social media sites or other places where users are browsing, not searching. Most people will say that in order to increase conversion you need to tweak the landing page, change what you say, how you say it, update the artwork, the offer, or work on other countless variables. What they don’t tell you is that you can also improve your conversion rate without making any changes to your landing page at all. How? Well it all goes back to the traffic source, so keep reading…

Traffic is less than king

As search marketers we focus too much on traffic. This is especially true of those working with social media. The truth is that traffic alone is not enough—we need to get the traffic to convert into desired actions on our website (leads, sales, etc.). You may have a page that converts at 10%, but if you send that page untargeted traffic the conversion rate will quickly drop to zero. Targeted search engine traffic is more likely to convert than any other traffic source for two reasons:

1.       The searcher is actively looking for what you are offering.

2.       Most people trust popular search engines and assume that if you are listed (especially if you are number one) you must be good and will deliver on what you promise.

But what about other traffic sources? Social media sites, banners, blogs, etc.—those traffic sources are good too, but they require a different content strategy. They require us to understand the difference between browsing and searching. When I search, I am actively looking for something. The marketing and sales message can be very fast and direct. When I am browsing social sites and blogs, I click on an ad more out of curiosity than focused interest. The way we convert the browser into a buyer, then, is a whole different ballgame.

The slow sale

It’s well known that the browsing traffic you get from social sites and blogs is great for branding. Top link baiters understand this and leverage it to get large numbers of links. But browsing traffic is good for more than just links. We can leverage browsing traffic for leads and sales too, but we must do so as part of a more prolonged strategy, similar to the one employed by B2B companies. We must offer something valuable for free to the browser right now in order for them to click through. Social site and blog readers love things like free e-books, useful tools, reports, etc. The idea is to collect their contact information now and contact them later, persuading them slowly over time to finally take action. I’ve seen this used by several successful sites. The idea clearly works.

Here is my process to increase conversions on non-search channels (social sites, blogs, Google content network, etc.)

1.       Study your target source carefully. Try to understand what the audience likes and wants. For example, people visiting technical forums like free scripts or technical documents. People visiting “make money online” sites like free reports/e-books on how to make money.

2.       Prepare a compelling offer. Provide something that is going to be attractive to the target group. Digital content is easier to produce so it should be the first option, but free tools are generally well received.

3.       Create ads that call attention. Search ads are generally more passive, but when you are browsing you are not even looking for ads so they must call attention to themselves more aggressively. Something like “Get top widgets here…” may work for searchers, but “Free report: 10 secrets to world domination!” is more likely to get clicks on a social site.

4.       Collect the leads. Ask for an e-mail and a name at the very least. Then, set up auto-responder messages to move your targets slowly onto your persuasion scheme.

There’s no question that this is more work than selling directly to people actively searching for what you offer. But consider that at any one moment more than 80% of web surfers are not looking to buy anything. However, we know that eventually they will be. If you’ve already got your foot in the door, you’ll quickly tap into that huge market opportunity when the moment comes.

As always, let me know your own experiences or ideas in the comments.

6 replies
  1. Richard Chmura
    Richard Chmura says:

    A common yet important theme along the slow sale process is building trust. Be it providing greater transparency about your product/service, providing third party supporting references, and even specific customer testimonials. Conveying a growing level of trust as well as enthusiasm to help the customer succeed will make the final sale painless for the customer.

  2. Jon
    Jon says:

    More often than not marketers are focusing on the key words and alternative methods to increase traffic, but forget that you need content to keep them coming back. Once you prove that there is value and "get your foot in the door" there is tremendous opportunity there.

  3. Hamlet Batista
    Hamlet Batista says:

    Hi Richard,

    You hit the nail on the head. You sound like one of the authors of the selling books I've been reading lately 🙂 You're wise man. Welcome the the blogosphere!

  4. Adrian
    Adrian says:

    But consider that at any one moment more than 80% of web surfers are not looking to buy anything

    This is a very interesting point, I been thinking back of all the things I have purchased without actually going out looking for something. Maybe playing music on websites with "hidden sales pitch" hidden in the music like they supposedly did in supermarket is next thing.

  5. May Chu
    May Chu says:

    The business development team at Clarity Accounting has been hesitant to collect and store names and email addresses. We were concerned that by making it mandatory to enter names and email addresses to view a free demo, people would be more reluctuant to try our demo and feel betrayed when they start getting our newsletters. There are some other websites that ask for email addresses and put them in a mailing list anyways and have had great success with this type of marketing technique. Even when there is a compelling offer, people are often interested in just receiving the compelling offer and not any other types of marketing emails. The question becomes, how do we balance privacy issues and collect sufficient leads at the same time?

  6. Gina
    Gina says:

    That's pretty much true. One of the things I try to realize is that you can never predict what the customer is going to do. You can control and optimize every aspect of your campaign or website, but it's really about what the customer is going to do.

    As online marketers, we really ought to spend more time understanding the mind of the customer than on website techniques. When you gear your campaign towards your customer, then the rest will fall into place.

    I don't think there are enough books on conversion. Perhaps a possible niche for someone to pounce on?


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