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

by Hamlet Batista | June 25, 2008 | 6 Comments

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.

Hamlet Batista

Chief Executive Officer

“We kept putting more energy into getting SEO audits done to understand why we started to lose positions to smaller, newer companies, but we kept losing ground. We kept trying to SEO audit recommendations, but our programmers couldn’t go fast enough.

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