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Marketing Today - Web Traffic

If a tree falls in a forest- and no one hears it- does it make a sound? If a website is launched- and no one visits- does it contribute to the bottom line? In today’s search-enabled online environment- you need more than merely building a great website to be successful. It takes an intelligent and intentional approach to drive more traffic to it.

AvBuyer   |   1st November 2009
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Drive More Traffic To Your Website
Some notes on the Push and Pull marketing methods for your website.

If a tree falls in a forest- and no one hears it- does it make a sound? If a website is launched- and no one visits- does it contribute to the bottom line? In today’s search-enabled online environment- you need more than merely building a great website to be successful. It takes an intelligent and intentional approach to drive more traffic to it.

Thankfully- there are a number of tools and techniques available to help you improve your site’s visibility. Many of them are free. Others are relatively inexpensive. Efforts to improve your website traffic can be divided into two main categories: push and pull. Push marketing involves intentionally promoting- or “pushing” awareness of your site out to your target audience. Pull marketing creates a web presence that is easy to find by people looking for the aircraft- products or services you sell.

Push marketing involves a variety of direct and mass marketing techniques. Pull marketing is based on leveraging online search engines to your advantage. Together- they form a cohesive- strategic approach to making your website pay bigger dividends as a marketing investment.

It has become second nature for aviation industry marketers to promote their website addresses on everything from print advertising to trade show gizmos. But beyond these obvious opportunities- there are other ways to push your site’s visibility.

Email Signatures: One frequently overlooked method is to be sure that every employee in your organization has an email signature with a live link to your website. Surprisingly- many companies either neglect email signatures- or use a graphic instead of hyperlinked text. The graphic may look nicer- but it’s not the one-click jump to your website you need.

Banner/Online Display Ads: Banner advertising- or “display advertising” as it is often called- consists of graphical ads—sometimes animated—placed around the editorial content of an informational or editorial website. These ads can be effective in driving traffic to your site if properly designed and advantageously placed.

Banner advertising is like real estate: Location. Location. Location. It’s all about being sure your ad is located where the right people are looking. Narrowly targeted online media (World Aircraft Sales Magazine’s website (www.avbuyer.com) or the weekly NBAA Update e-newsletter for example) offer a high likelihood that your target audience will see your ad and click it to reach your website.

One big mistake made with banner advertising is trying to say too much. As with a highway billboard- less is more. People aren’t really looking for your ad- but they may see it. Catch the reader’s eye and give them one compelling reason to click. Banner ads can be easily tested for effectiveness by the number of click-throughs they generate; so you can test different websites against one another- try different ad sizes and placements- or vary the design.

By taking the time to monitor results- you can steer your efforts toward what works best. You should be able to obtain a report on banner ad performance from the websites or newsletters where you advertise. It will include the number of impressions (the number of times your ad appears) and the number of click-throughs. Divide the number of impressions by the number of clicks and you have your click through rate (CTR).

Public Relations: This is a great untapped marketing resource for many aviation businesses. Developing an effective “PR machine” enables your organization to be seen in print and online- which almost always creates the opportunity to list your website address. When these releases appear on multiple industry websites- the live links back to your site also help with your organic search engine optimization (SEO)—more on that below.

The revolution in search technology on the Web has completely transformed marketing communications. The power resides squarely in the hands of the customer. Empowered by Google and other search engines- people can find anything and everything they seek.

In many ways- this has leveled the playing field for small companies. Large corporations and small start-ups have equal access to interested searchers out there on the Web. In fact- some small businesses are doing a better job at leveraging online search technology than corporate giants hundreds of times their size. An intelligent search engine strategy is predicated on two tactics:

1. Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
2. Paid Search Marketing Organic SEO is the intentional effort to develop a website’s structure so that it achieves the highest possible rankings in search engines like Google- Yahoo and Bing.

There are rules and protocols that these search engines apply when ranking website pages by relevance- and it is possible to align with these protocols for maximum exposure and higher rankings. Keep in mind- however- that there is a world of difference between optimizing and manipulating. SEO means playing by Google’s rules- not trying to trick it.

According to Google- its Page-Rank technology reflects its real-time view of the relevance of any given web page by considering more than 500 million variables- and 2 billion search terms. Google’s patented algorithm for addressing this massive amount of data and translating it into useful search results is estimated to change every 25 hours. So trying to “trick” Google is an ill-fated venture- harder than fooling the IRS.

Beware the man trying to sell you guaranteed page-one placement on Google. That said- it is possible to legitimately maximize your search engine placement using some simple tactics:

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS): CSS is currently the best web-compliant language for developing your website to maximize SEO. CSS is search engine-friendly because it separates the content (the text of your site) from the presentation code (the design of your site)- allowing the search engines to index those all-important keywords in your website text rather than all the code that is used to define its design. CSS allows search engines to cut to the chase- so to speak- and they reward your page ranking accordingly.

Keyword Density: This involves reviewing your website to be sure the exact words and phrases that you think your ideal prospect would use in a Google search are present in sufficient abundance within the text of your website. An ideal amount of density is roughly ten percent. If you overdo it- Google’s algorithm will flag your website as intentionally over-using a search term and penalize it with a lower page ranking.

Frequent Updates: Because the search engines are constantly monitoring or “spidering” the Internet- they notice when you have updated or added content. (That’s why Wikipedia articles rank so high on Google searches.) The search engine algorithms tend to reward changes in content because the assumption is that new content is more relevant.

Too often- companies build beautiful websites but fail to make the necessary updates to improve search engine ranking. This is where blogs- news updates- and text edits to multiple pages within your site can help your page ranking.

More- Shorter Pages: Google tends to reward sites with more pages- and shorter pages. This may require more of a breakdown of content when you build your website; but it makes it easier not only for the search engines to find your site- but also your human visitors to find what they are looking for.

Formatting Hierarchy: Search engines give prominence to web pages where keywords are found in headings- subheads and bolded words. Without overdoing things and without making text hard to read for your visitors- this can add to your SEO.

Again- without overdoing things- if the keywords that you expect prospective customers to use in their searches appear as hyperlinks in your site- internally connecting one page with another- that also will be rewarded by most search engines.

In-linking From Other Websites: Your SEO will be improved by an increase in the number of other websites that link back to your site. That’s where your press releases on aviation media websites and listings on industry directories can help your SEO. The more websites that link back to your site- the better your page ranking on the search engines.

Landing Pages: A landing page is a small website with its own unique- memorable URL that is highly focused on some particular area of your business or perhaps a special offer.

The site will have good keyword density due to its specialization- and will score high on search engine rankings. And because the search engines see it as an entirely different site- it can double your exposure for the same set of keywords. Because this “microsite” links back to your primary website- that will also improve SEO.

Landing pages can also be used to correspond to a particular print ad campaign- thus enabling you to test response to an ad based on the number of visitors who come to the landing page before connecting to your main site.

Length of Domain Registration: While the specifics on this one are a bit sketchy- it appears that Google rewards websites whose domain name registrations are longer in duration than sites with short-term commitments. This factor has been viewed with skepticism as a ploy by the domain registration companies to get more money through longer registration commitments; but there appears to be some truth to it- and so this fits in the “can’t-hurt/may-help” category.

Paid search is the other main category of search engine marketing. It involves purchasing those small text advertisements that appear above or beside the actual search results.

They are called “Sponsored Links” by Google- “Sponsored Results” by Yahoo and “Sponsored Sites” by Bing. The way you pay for them is essentially a bidding process. You go to the search engine’s paid search calculation tool- enter the keywords you wish to buy- and see what it costs to appear on various pages of search results and positions on those pages.

The more popular the word- the more it costs. The search term “private jet charter” will be far more expensive than “aircraft lavatory.” Paid search comes with at least three great advantages:

1. You pay only for results

2. You can set clearly defined budgets

3. You can monitor success in real-time

With most paid search packages you only pay for click-throughs. Through your password- protected account on these search engines—Google Adwords for example— you’ll have access to a dashboard where you can see in real-time how your keyword purchase is performing: how many times your sponsored ad appeared- and how many times people clicked on it.

The more specific the keyword phrase- the less it is likely to cost- and the more likely you are to attract people searching for that specific item. Thus- two- and three-word paid search keyword phrases are generally the most effective and affordable.

These paid search tools allow you to set a pre-defined budget. So let’s say you have to pay a dollar every time someone clicks on your ad for the keyword phrase “executive helicopter sales.” You set a budget of $500/month- and after your ad is clicked 500 times- it stops appearing. If it only gets clicked 300 times- you only pay Google $300.

You can easily adjust your paid search campaign by increasing your bid to get better page ranking or adding new keywords and deleting others. You can monitor it daily if you wish to see how each keyword is performing.

This all takes a bit of initial guesswork- as you try to anticipate which words your prospective customers will use to find the products or services you sell; but over time- you can refine your keywords based on their actual performance.

While what I’m about to say next may not sound very scientific- it’s true. There is a magic tipping point- a “flywheel effect” that kicks in when a company’s marketing efforts are sufficiently funded- monitored and well-executed. The company’s PR is helping its search engine ranking. Its print media ads are driving traffic to the website. Blogs and social media are creating buzz about the company. Paid search ads are reaching qualified prospects on a daily basis. Its website traffic has doubled.

The company seems to be visible everywhere you look. Sure it takes money to do this- and great creativity to stand out from the crowd. But there does come a point where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Everything is clicking (pardon the pun)- and it actually now costs less money and takes less effort to gain greater market visibility. That’s how great brands are born and grow- and driving traffic to your website is one crucial part of the equation.

David Heitman is the president of The Creative Alliance- an award-winning branding and public relations firm specializing in general aviation marketing. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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