Susan Sweeney
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Increasing Web Site Traffic
appeared in "So-to-Speak" and "Business Voice"

The Formula for e-Business Success
appeared in "Atlantic Progress"

Increasing Web Site Traffic

By Susan Sweeney, CA, CSP
The Internet has changed the way we do business. Building a web site, however, is just the first step. Driving targeted traffic to your site takes knowledge, planning, time and effort.

Eighty–five percent of people using the Internet depend on search engines to find what they are looking for. If your web site does not come up in the first 30 results, chances are you will not see much traffic as a result of search engine placement. To get placed high in search engine results you must know the search engines' ranking criteria and ensure your site incorporates the elements they are looking for. As a minimum, you should include your most appropriate keywords in your description meta tags, keyword meta tags, page text, page titles and alt tags. It is important to know the different search engines' criteria for high placement and adjust your site before submission to them. Some webmasters create different doorways to their site for each search engine.

To achieve lots of traffic, you should incorporate a multi-faceted Internet marketing strategy, developed with careful consideration of your objectives for being online, your products/services and target market. Every company’s strategy is different. Yours may include regular participation in appropriate Usenet Newsgroups. With tens of thousands of Newsgroups it's likely several are frequently read by your target market. You might also participate in publicly accessible Mail Lists that relate to your target market. When you participate in Newsgroups or Mail Lists, make use of your signature file by including a short tag line.

Develop a comprehensive links strategy. The more sites that link to yours, the better. Ensure you are listed on all the meta-indexes that relate to your product or service. Consider getting linked from appropriate cybermalls and webrings. Given the targeted audience, these sites can be great places to purchase banner advertising.

Develop an online media relations strategy. Interactive press releases make it easy for journalists to access quotes from company officials, access the PR contact person in your organization, and access photos for their story. If press release distribution is an important element of your online marketing strategy you might consider developing a Media Centre as part of your site. The Media Centre would have links to a chronology of past press releases, other articles that have been written about you or your organization, key company official bios, pictures and quotes as well as media contact information. Your press release distribution list should include the many e-zines that relate to your target market.

What’s New sections, reminder notices, contests, advice columns, chat sessions, coupons all encourage repeat visits. Where possible ask people if they would like to be notified when you update these elements so that you have the visitors' permission to send them email notices. Every time you get yourself in front of your target market whether through email, your newsletter or mail list posting, you increase your exposure and encourage repeat visits to your web site. The techniques you employ will vary with each target market.

Some of the latest trends in Internet marketing - Rich Media and Associate/Affiliate programs, have proven themselves very successful for many companies. Rich media can be used by companies by purchasing a "commercial" that precedes an online presentation or audio event or they can be developed and used by the company on their own web site to provide greater sense of interactivity which will result in more repeat traffic. According to a study conducted by Arbitron New Media and Northstar Interactive, 70 percent of the Webcast audience clicks for content information, and while listening/viewing streaming media, nearly 60 percent click through for advertising information. Offering streaming audio/video directly from your site is also a great way to enhance the experience for the user and to encourage repeat traffic.

Having your own affiliate program allows you to increase awareness of your site and increase your sales force dramatically. A side benefit to having an affiliate program is that every affiliate provides a link to your site, increasing your link popularity, which in turn improves search engine ranking in a number of the popular search engines. Amazon.com has the most recognized and established affiliate program. Today we see many sites following in the footsteps of Amazon.com. These affiliate programs, also known as associate programs or referral programs, are now very common in the Internet marketplace.

As with any promotional activity, the more you do, the better the results. These are just a few online marketing techniques. Be sure to tie in your traditional marketing with your online marketing. Include your Internet address on everything that has your company name on it.

Susan Sweeney, CA is president ofConnex Network Inc., a leading Internet marketing consulting company in Nova Scotia. She is a frequent speaker on Internet Marketing and the author of 101 Ways to Promote Your Web Site.



The Formula for e-Business Success

by Susan Sweeney, CA, CSP
E-business success boils down to three things – selecting the right E-business model for your operation, building the right Web site, and driving volumes of targeted traffic to your site. If your strategic online plan is missing any one of these components you will not be able to achieve E-business success.

In essence, there are three interdependent elements necessary for constructing the right E-business model – the storefront, payment processing, and the level of integration with backend systems. To be successful, the options you select must be compatible with one another. Each element also has a number of its own options from which your business must choose the most fitting selections.

Your customer interacts directly with the Web site, so you must select the right storefront option for your business. One option is to have your own custom storefront designed, with your own shopping cart, your own payment taking procedures, and your own look and feel. Another option is to purchase your own storefront software, which you install on your site’s server and customize accordingly to meet your needs. An additional option is to use the services of an e-commerce solution provider, following the ASP (application service provider) model. In this case the solution provider owns the storefront software but assigns you a login name and password that allows you to configure the appearance of your storefront and to add/remove products with ease. A final option worth mentioning is to use a third party’s storefront template service, such as store.yahoo.com.

Behind the scenes, payment processing takes place. Depending on your resources, you have the option of implementing your own automatic in-house payment processing systems, outsourcing payment processing to a third party known as a transaction processing company, or processing payments offline. The key is to be able to efficiently have credit card transactions authorized, complete the transactions, and have the funds deposited in your bank account. You will need an e-merchant account in order to process your own payments; however, if you are unable to obtain one there are alternative solutions available to you. For example, there are transaction processing companies that will allow you to use their e-merchant account for a fee.

The last element in selecting a fitting E-business model involves choosing between a fully integrated backend, a partially integrated backend, or not integrating backend systems at all. Backend systems refer to the company’s internal accounting, inventory, contact management, customer service and other supporting software systems. A company that only has an online presence and sells downloadable software may have no need to integrate any of their backend systems. In contrast, a business such as Amazon.com who pushes through massive volumes of product would be unable to operate efficiently without having their inventory directly integrated with their Web site.

Your Web site must be designed with your objectives, your target market, and your products and services in mind. Common objectives include advertising products and services, selling products and services, providing customer service or support, providing useful information, reinforcing brand image, and providing product information cost effectively. However, when designing your Web site objectives you must consider your secondary objectives as well as your primary objectives. Secondary objectives would encompass issues like designing your site to be search engine friendly, implementing methods to generate repeat traffic, and inserting loyalty building programs to encourage the development of extended customers and positive word of mouth exposure. Spending time defining your primary and secondary objectives is invaluable. Without defining your objectives it will be very difficult for someone else to successfully build the Web site to achieve them!

Designing a site to be search engine friendly is a common challenge. You need to appear in the top 20 search results to be noticed. Each search engine has its own unique formula for ranking sites and your site must be designed in keeping with this criteria. Although they have different ranking criteria, there are a number of consistencies from which you can build a firm foundation. Keywords and how you use them are extremely important. You need to apply appropriate keywords in your keywords meta tags, description meta tags, page titles, "alt" attributes, and the content of each appropriate page on your site. Always apply your most appropriate keywords first. Each page of your site serves a different purpose, so be sure to focus on the most relevant keywords for each particular page. A common mistake made by many companies is that they apply the same meta information on every page of their site. In doing so, these companies are missing out on a great marketing opportunity because they are restricting their findability to whatever information is contained in their uniform meta information.

A growing number of the search engines, including AltaVista and Google, use link popularity as an influential part of their ranking criteria. It is extremely important to develop a comprehensive links strategy as the number of sites pointing towards yours will have a major impact on your site’s positioning in the top search engines.

It is very important to include elements to increase the "stickiness" of your site. It is also very important to include repeat traffic generating elements on your site. Every company is different so the techniques you implement should be tailored accordingly. There are an overwhelming number of options you have to choose from, including: what’s new sections, reminder notices, contests, sample giveaways, advice columns, chat sessions, coupons and discounts, surveys, interactive tours, a calendar of events, newsletters, useful resources, bulletin boards, reminder services, jokes and trivia, and tips of the week. Where possible use permission marketing - ask people if they would like to be notified when you update these elements so that you have the visitors' permission to send them email notices. A simple, yet often under-utilized technique to generate repeat traffic is the "bookmark me now!" call to action. Place this call to action in an appropriate location your site. Your target market will be much more likely to add your site to their bookmark list. You can encourage traffic to visit your site by implementing viral marketing techniques. Give site visitors the option to notify others of your site and "spread the word".

The increasing popularity of broadband applications and high-speed Internet access are paving the way for highly interactive and entertaining sites. Advertainment allows sites to provide their content surrounded by stimulating eye candy.

Generating Web site traffic is an ongoing process, as you will always want a sustainable flow of new visitors to your site. Your proactive Internet marketing strategy should always include submitting to the search engines and directories as well as developing a links strategy. Both are extremely important to your online success and can generate consistent levels of traffic to your site over a prolonged period of time.

Other proactive elements that you might include in your Internet marketing strategy consist of targeted banner advertising campaigns, promotion through publicly accessible mail lists, direct email campaigns, Usenet newsgroup participation, contributions to e-zines that are read by your target market, and online press release distribution. You will also want to take a proactive approach to getting listed and linked in appropriate Webrings, cybermalls, and meta-indexes – all of which will increase the flow of incoming traffic to your site. You may even want to develop an associate or affiliate program to expand your online presence. With affiliate programs you can multiply your sales force exponentially and in return each affiliate is paid a percentage of the revenue they generate for your company. The number of proactive online marketing techniques at your disposal is endless.

Any business taking its online presence seriously will see a return on investment. Your online business remains open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and your geographic reach is enormous. Having the right combination of the most fitting E-business model, the most appropriate Web site, and a dynamite Internet marketing strategy to increase your Web site traffic will bring you E-business success.

Susan Sweeney, CA, CSP is president of Connex Network Inc., a leading Internet marketing consulting company in Nova Scotia. Susan is recognized internationally as an E-business and Internet marketing expert who speaks frequently at events and conferences. She is the author of five Internet books including the best selling 101 Ways to Promote Your Web Site.

 
 
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