Thanksgiving Signals Black Friday and Cyber Monday

November 27, 2008 by  
Filed under Marketing Strategies

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Just a reminder here that one of two of the busiest holiday shopping days of the season start tomorrow. The season officially kicks off with Black Friday. This day traditionally marks the start of the holiday shopping season and has long been known for great sales, stores opening extra early and pure customer mayhem.

As part of your marketing calendar you should have planned for Black Friday with your own store. Pushing the best sale ever (or a one day sale) should have started at least a week ago. However, if you have not planned for it, you’re not out of luck. You could still quickly put up a sale along with a banner and gain some advantage for those visitors who come to your site. Get it up at midnight tonight and you’re in good shape.

Although Black Friday marks the beginning of the season, in 2005, Shop.org coined the phrase Cyber Monday as the first Monday following Thanksgiving. This has long been one of the busiest online shopping days of the year. Many consumers go online to begin there shopping. Again, this date should have been on your merchandising calendar already but it’s not too late to get something in place. Last year I wrote an entry listing 6 promotional ideas you could use for Cyber Monday. Those tips would be a good place to start if wondering what you can do.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

Do Your Paid Search Keywords Have a Long Tail, Short Tail or No Tail?

November 24, 2008 by  
Filed under Search Marketing

Keyword with long tailDepending on your strategy (branding / exposure vs. sales for example) the way you structure the keywords in your paid search campaigns can determine whether a visitor to your site is ready to buy or just window shopping.

The buying cycle of any potential customer goes through stages. They start in a research stage and move through various stages until they ultimately have enough information to make an informed buying decision.

As they progress through these stages, the length and types of keywords used becomes more specific.

For example sake, let’s say we sell Nintendo Wii video games at our online store. This is a very competitive market by nature and could cost you a bundle in paid search if you don’t watch your approach.

Potential customers for the Wii Games you sell will be at various stages in their buying cycle. Some may be new to video gaming and are curious as to what the Wii is, what games are available for them, and about how much it may cost to purchase a Wii console while others are more advanced gamers and know exactly what they want.

To be more specific, let’s say you have in stock the Wii Game called Carnival Games Mini Golf. Let’s also say your paid search budget is not unlimited and you need to maximize those clicks you get from your ads to give you the best opportunity at generating sales.

Naturally, your site itself plays a big part in the conversion process as does the ad itself (in addition to a number of other factors) but you can begin to qualify visitor traffic starting with the keyword itself.

A progression comparison of searches might look like this for example.

Early stage. Contains more researchers and window shoppers looking for information or options available to them. These “broad scale” style keywords often drive more traffic, but that traffic can be less qualified to buy.

Example Early Stage (Broad) Keyword(s): Nintendo Wii; Nintendo Wii Games. These types of keywords are typically what an early stage information seeker types in. Because they are less informed they tend to use more broad (general) style keywords in search.

Consider this. In our current example, those users who type in these search terms could be looking for the actual game console, games to play on their console, or could simply be looking for more information on what a Wii is. Because of this, you might get the click, but your chances of closing the sale are decreased to some degree only because the visitor likely has not yet determined exactly what it is they need.

Mid stage. Still contains shoppers often in the research stage, yet they have narrowed down their needs to a particular product type. These shoppers can become buyers under the proper circumstances and therefore you can pickup some qualified traffic with these types of keywords.

Example Mid Stage Keyword: Wii Sports Games. Visitors using these types of keywords are a little more qualified. They may already have a wii game console but are still seeking more information on what games are available specifically relating to sports.

Because there are a number of different sports game titles for the Nintendo Wii, these searches will be presented with multiple options from which to choose. If you are trying to sell the title “Carnival Games Mini Golf”, then you may have some success with these visitors but understand that the bulk of them could be looking for other sports titles and are not interested in the title you want to sell. This can cost you money and decrease your conversion.

Advanced stage. Visitors that arrive in the advanced stage of their buying process typically have done the research and know exactly what it is they are looking for. Because of this they often use longer combinations of more exact keywords to find what they seek. These more exact keywords are what are called long tail keywords. These more exact keywords often drive less traffic, but that traffic typically is more qualified to buy.

Example Long Tailed Keyword: Nintendo Wii Carnival Games Mini Golf Video Game. It is obvious by the exactness of the keyword that the visitor knows precisely what it is they want. They are no doubt looking for the Nintendo Wii video game called Carnival Games Mini Golf to play on the Wii Console. They are not seeking just any sports game for the Wii, and they are not searching for the Wii Console itself (the mechanical device that actually plays the games.)

Because you offer this game for sale, the chances of this visitor purchasing from you increase greatly as they have found the single item them desire at your site. Of course this does not take into consideration price conscience buyers, or other factors, but you can be sure that the click you generated from your paid search efforts is qualified to buy the product you sell.

So the next time you go in to review your paid search campaigns make note of the types of keywords you are using. You may find out that the reason your campaign is not as productive as it could be is because you haven’t taken the time to more precisely target your ideal customer starting with your keywords.

Ecommerce Survival in a Tough Economy – 6 Tips

November 13, 2008 by  
Filed under Featured, Marketing Strategies

As many of you have no doubt found out it’s hard to sell during tough economic times. However, keep in mind it’s not impossible.

I’ve heard a number of store owners say their sales have dropped and they are wondering what they can do to recover some of that.

Here are a few tips that can help you get through the tough times. In most cases you simply need to be willing to adapt and change a bit as well as broaden your methods of marketing and exposure for your store.

What you do not want to do is stop marketing. Many facts about past recession periods have been kept that prove marketing during down time will win out in the end.

6 Survival Tips for Selling in a Tough Economy

  1. Tap into your current customer list. You should be doing this anyhow, but in down times this can become a good resource to generate sales. The 80 / 20 rule says that 20% of your current customers provide 80% of your margin.
  2. Find your main products that drive sales and push them. It has been said that approximately 85% of all profits come from just 4 main products. This may be different for various companies, but the point here is that you need to find those products in your store that always seem to be the best sellers and bring them to the front.
  3. Give your customers additional options. During tough economic times your customers are even more price aware. They may take more time to make buying decisions and might be looking for additional payment options or perks to get them to buy. Let them know you understand their pain and offer them a solution to overcome it. For example, in tough economic times you might want to consider offering a “buy now pay later” option such as Bill Me Later.
  4. Tap into your networks … this includes Social Media. Although some of your potential customers may not be completely ready to buy right now, doing some extra leg work and getting yourself in front of them will ensure that when they are ready, they think of you first. Social Media provides you with a low expense overhead to a target group of closely related individuals with a common interest in what you offer.
  5. Keep an eye on your competition. Again, something you should be doing anyhow, but during tough times you might be able to take advantage of this even more. Watch the offers your competitors are presenting and if you can, one up them by making your just a bit sweeter. If they offer Free Shipping on orders over $50 then you could offer free shipping on ALL orders – no matter the dollar amount.
  6. Tighten up your PPC campaigns with lower CPC bids. Providing you have done your homework in setting up your paid search campaigns, you can instantly save money without losing position by paying attention to your quality scores (named differently for various engines). Higher quality scores reduce your paid search cost without sacrificing position. Finally, turn off any campaigns or keywords that have only cost you money and have not converted to sales over the past 6 months or so – at least temporarily.

Most importantly, plan a strategy during this time and be patient. You’re not the only one seeing lower sales volume. But you can be one of those that survive with the right mix.

Keep plugging away.

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