Online marketing: the latest tips and trends

online marketing tipsIt’s the great downturn dilemma – as times get tough and cash gets tight, the temptation to cut back on your online marketing efforts gets bigger every day. Stop right there.

As we’ve said many times at SmartCompany, this is not the moment to decrease your marketing budget. This is the time to take advantage of your weakened competitor by winning market share, building your brand and boosting your web sales. 

To help you improve your online marketing efforts, we’ve asked six of Australia’s best online marketing minds – Jasmine Batra from Arrow Internet Marketing, Clay Cook of ineedhits, Fred Schebesta from Freestyle Media, Chris Thomas from Reseo, David Trewern from DT Designs, and Jason West from Websalad – 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 in these difficult economic times – 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.”

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