How can I turn search engine traffic into purchases?

I run a Coventry-based print company and 12 months ago spent a considerable amount on developing a website to attract business from outside of the Midlands. It gives a good professional impression of us as a company but the conversion of browsers to buyers is very poor despite us spending a lot on keyword advertising. How can we better manage our search engine optimisation and make people buy once they’re on our website?


A. Cathy Jenkins of Web on High writes

The answer to this is not straight-forward. Many companies spend a great deal of money advertising their business online, but don’t put enough thought into the strategy behind the promotion. You need customers – not just browsers!

With many of the sites we look at, little consideration has been given to the search engines. It is vital that the site is designed with the needs of search engines in mind. It is important to exclude anything that may limit access to the site e.g. a heavy Flash front end that search engines can’t read.

We know that 28% of people won’t wait more than 12 seconds for a website to open and seven seconds to decide whether the business can meet their needs. You need to consider the key marketing messages a prospect receives and whether the website states clearly what you do. Does the prospect get a positive impression of your business? Does the site’s navigation lead them easily through the site to fi nd the information they need and to take the action that you want them to?

Once you have a well-constructed website there is scope for optimisation, promotion and then pay-per-click promotion, email campaigns, banner advertising etc. The most effective way to get good, qualifi ed traffi c to your site is via ‘organic’ listings – those that get there on their own merit. In reality, it is becoming increasingly diffi cult to achieve a number one listing – indeed it can take up to 12 months to get any listing for a new site! That’s why people often look at ‘buying’ positions via Google Adwords for example. However, this needs to be underpinned by solid research; there is no point paying for the term ‘litho printer Coventry’ if there are very few people searching for this. Equally, you could pay a lot for listings under ‘digital printer’, but if it is very competitive, there is little chance of you breaking though the competition.

Unless a website is professional in appearance, has visual impact, a clear sales message, is simple to use and easily found by the search engines, it simply won’t attract the levels of enquiries you need – however much you spend on its promotion.

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