Here's How to Make the Most of Your Search Efforts

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This is part two of a two-part series.


Thousands of users visit your Web site each day, and they leave millions of impressions as they visit pages. However, despite the volume of traffic, few companies truly know anything about these visitors.


To get the most from your online investment and capitalize on your search engine marketing dollars, it is important to answer these questions regarding the visitors who access your site:


· Who are they?


· Do they know where they are?


· Do they know where to go from here?


· Do you know why they are there?


· Do you know what they want?


· How are you encouraging them to stay, and how do you measure how successful each impression is?


Answers to these questions let a marketer develop an overall understanding of its online visitors and therefore target them better to produce stronger ROI for online initiatives.


In last month's article, we focused on the initial phase of the traffic generated by search engine marketing and analyzed three steps to help identify the users, how best to lure users throughout your site and how to demonstrate your company through an easily navigated site. This month, we look at the final three steps for making the most out of your SEM efforts, which will increase ROI and produce a healthier bottom line.


Educate the user. Whether you are an online retailer, news source, small local business or Fortune 500 company, people visit Web sites to learn something. Content not only must provide them information, it also must provide an environment in which to learn. Is your content downloadable? Is the content developed in a way that makes reading online easier?


It's easy to publish content on the Web. The challenge is to engage the user and make visitors feel comfortable and trust you. A few easy ways to build trust and credibility include:


· Brand reinforcement, which extends the importance of your company's reputation.


· Consistent navigation, so users are comfortable with how easy it is to find information.


· Consistent, professional visual presentation.


· Seals of approval (e.g.: symbols or text that reinforces credibility, safety, testimonials, etc.).


· Publish your management team so users feel they can connect with real people.


Convert the user. Depending on the Web site, converting the user could take on several definitions. From shopper to subscriber to weekly visitor, converting the user is a goal on any site, but what steps do you take to convert the visitor into a prospect or customer?


The simplest method is to capture a small amount of information by giving the user an easy way to contact you. Whether through e-mail, a short form, live chat or phone number, users are more willing to trade information about themselves for the additional information you are willing to provide. If you want more than a name and e-mail address, you need to provide a better offer such as white papers, support updates, product updates, evaluation copies or demonstrations. With these types of offers, users are more likely to give detailed information to receive such information.


If you still cannot convert the user, it's time to offer more in trade. By offering freebies such as trinkets, coupons and samples, users will feel like they are getting something tangible for their personal information.


Evaluate the user. Once you complete the first five steps, the final step in the process is to evaluate the user to understand how your Web site was used. The evaluation can take on numerous aspects, such as a direct mail campaign, e-mail campaign or other marketing initiatives. Whichever method you use, your outreach to these potential customers must be done in a way that respects their rights yet provides the information they were seeking when they visited your site in the first place.


Once you evaluate your visitors, you will understand quickly whether they received the information they requested or whether you must reevaluate your online presence. By constantly evaluating visitors, you not only can develop a site that handles the volume of visitors your search engine marketing effort creates, but you can convert those visitors into paying customers more frequently.


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