How To Turn Website Traffic Into Paying Customers
For over a decade small businesses have wrestled with how to convert their online traffic into paying customers. Nearly every business publication, association conference and outside consulting firm has featured vivid success stories about how the website and other online activities will increase sales. Small businesses thought this was a path to a level playing field against larger competitors, but many have found less than desired results. The only thing worse than low traffic to your site is high traffic without any impact to the bottom line.
I asked social media consultant, Neal Schaffer, author of Maximize Your Social and founder of Maximize Social Business, how small businesses can maximize their online presence.
Thom Singer (TS): What mistakes do small business people make in regards to their online activities?
Neal Schaffer (NS): I think a lot of small businesses see social media as merely another marketing channel – and use it as a one-way promotional channel instead of having a two-way conversation. Investments are usually short-term with immediate results expected, but just as it takes time to make real business relationships with people, it also takes time to make similar relationships with social media users. Social media requires a long-terms approach and a belief that you are investing in the future. You should be measuring the ROI of your efforts and not expending too many internal resources at the beginning, but a small yet constant approach can help you build a long-term rapport with social media audiences – with a higher ROI to follow over time. On the other hand, if you’ve been active for three to six months and have yet to see any tangible efforts from your social media program, you need to look back at your social media strategy (you did create a plan, right?) and reevaluate it. Social media is in constant flux, so you always need to be measuring and optimizing.
TS: Is a website enough for a small business? Where else should they be?
NS: A website will attract 75% of the Internet’s population. To attract the remaining 25% you will need to have a social media presence. Some businesses can be very successful without having a social media presence. But considering that more than 90% of business use social media for marketing, you should at least do what I recommend all of my clients do: Do a search for your company name, product name, competitor name, and any other strategic keywords on the major social networks and see how many social media users are talking about you – or potentially engaging with your competition. This will give you the best indication as to whether you should be on social media and what channels you should be engaging in.
The other thing is, if you are interested in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), having a blog attached to your website as well as maintaining a minimal presence on Google Plus can definitely help the SEO and inbound marketing efforts of your company.
TS: If they have traffic, but no conversion, what can they do?
NS: This is a luxury to have, as most businesses would love to have more traffic. However, if you have a lot of traffic and no conversion you need to look at 1) where is that search traffic coming from (source, keywords), 2) where are they appearing on your website, and 3) where are they exiting your website (#2 and #3 are probably the same but not necessarily). You can find this information simply by using Google Analytics. If they are coming to your website because of Google and specific keywords, is your content relevant to the keywords? If it is, are you offering viewers a natural call-to-action to lead them into the next step? If not, can you optimize your content and make it more relevant? You might find that, for some reason, Google is sending the wrong type of visitor to your website. If that’s the case, at least try to take advantage and try to lead them to the most relevant part of your website. Obviously this is very general advice and every business will have a different situation, but hopefully this will arm you with a data-driven approach to optimize your content and website.
TS: There are a lot of consultants, but not all are as good as others. How can a small business find the right people to help them?
NS: Your immediate professional/personal network should always be the first place to go when looking for a consultant or someone who might be able to help you. When no one in your network can help you, I recommend instead of searching the web, that you go to the most trusted professional network on the Internet: LinkedIn. Use the Advanced People Search and look for people who live nearby you and have experience in what you are looking for by using very targeted keywords. Examine their professional experience, recommendations, and of course look for common connections if they are 2nd degree connections. Call on your connections and ask if they would personally refer you or not. While there are fake profiles on LinkedIn and everyone likes to paint a rosy picture of themselves, I find the results more trustworthy than merely doing a Google search.
TS: What else do small business owners need to know?
I think we covered a lot. I don’t think that social media is the holy grail of marketing – it is yet another channel to add to your toolbox. So don’t stop doing everything you’ve done to make your business a success. However, adding a social media element to your marketing mix – and integrating it with your other social media channels – can certainly help make your marketing more effective and give you the chance to potentially reap the benefits of social media amplification and viral word-of-mouth.
Thom Singer is a professional speaker, corporate trainer and the author of ten books on the power of business relationships, networking, presentation skills and entrepreneurship. Known as “The Conference Catalyst,” he regularly speaks at conferences across all industries and helps create and atmosphere for impactful engagement that leads to more powerful business connections. Visit his website at http://www.thomsinger.com and follow him at @thomsinger on Twitter.