How to keep your website SEO connected, competitive and converting

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

Techniques for optimized search engine marketing make a quantum leap every year. As more media appears on the web, customers have many more ways to find out about competing products and services, and the search engine optimization (SEO) methods required to keep your business in front of customers online become more complex.

“The cost of not strategically executing SEO is loss of significant business to your company and to the gain of your competition,” says Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO of Web design, Web development and Internet marketing agencyBayshore Solutions.

Smart Business spoke with Kevin about the critical items your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plan should address in order to stay ahead of your competition.

What SEO Items are ‘Must-Haves?’

Every business website that wants to capture customers needs to be relevant for what those customers are searching for when they ‘Google’ about a need or question they have. This starts with ‘On-page SEO’ which includes: selecting and implementing the right keywords, placing the proper meta-data in the code that supports them, and communicating the right on-page message that addresses these keywords and entices your potential customer to convert to the next step.

It is very important to clearly understand your keywords and have a strategy around them. Anyone posing as an SEO expert can advertise and achieve impressive No. 1 rank for your exact brand name or a niche keyword phrase, but are enough targeted potential customers searching the Web using this phrase? You want to be found for competitive keywords that bring you real business prospects. This is where SEO gets competitive, and where the true experts are separated from the rest.

When I’ve optimized my website, then what?

You must have solid keywords and on-page follow through optimization. Today this is a given for any business website.  High performance websites optimize well beyond keywords and meta-data. They pay specific attention to functionality, linking, social, local and mobile interconnectivity with SEO. Here are some strategic moves in these areas that you should consider to keep your business competitive and growing in our online world:

Functionality:

Really thinking through your website’s functionality is key. Industry statistics claim that for every extra ‘click’ of the mouse you require of a potential customer on your website, you lose one third of your audience.  I would suggest that your website strategy operates under a ‘One strike and you’re out’ search mentality.

Search engines like Google and Bing actively index and rank your website on how relevant it is to searchers. Although your keywords may exist in all the right places, if people consistently don’t find what they search for when they click to your site, search engines will quickly attune to this and drop your ranking accordingly.

Another case I saw of a strategic SEO functionality mistake was with an auto dealer who had built up considerable search engine disrespect, from the good intention of trying to run a clean online inventory. When a specific car listed on their site was sold out, they simply deleted its web page. In effect, all the search engine links they had built around these pages would take searchers to an ugly error screen, rather than closing the loop and presenting a page where the customer could see similar or same-model cars the dealer did have available. While the Inventory systems were able to be accurate, they were inadvertently damaging their reputation and results with the search engines.

Links:

Search engines have made no secret that links from reputable websites to your website can add great weight to your site’s chances of top search engine results. Links that bring targeted visits back to your website are the driving reason for businesses to engage in content marketing, social media marketing, affiliate marketing and most advanced online tactics. There are standard best practices for obtaining and implementing these links and then there are ‘best-performance’ practices. Do you have specific strategies for getting the best possible SEO benefit from your link building efforts?

Social-Local-Mobile:

There are many social, bookmarking, reviews and reference networks that connect people to relevant information. Search engines are giving increasing attention and credit to these new media and the influence they have with your potential customers. Last year local listings, social media and real time search results (like Twitter feeds) gained prominent real estate placement on the first page of search results. This increased pressure for SEO efforts to show businesses in the top 5 results to often be visible on the first page.

Recently, Bing partnered with Facebook to show how much your friends ‘Like’ websites shown in their search results. Google introduced their own crowd-sourced review function with their ‘Plus-One’ program. Implementing social and local online initiatives with an understanding of your SEO keywords and strategy will help these channels be effective traffic drivers to your website. This approach also can detect trending changes in the market that indicate needed keyword changes.  Siloed SEO, social media and local online marketing strategies, lose this critical synergy. How do your strategies in these areas connect with each other?

Search engines are increasingly detecting and refining the results they present to mobile devices. Mobile search optimization and mobile advertising fulfillment require a focus on not just meeting the mobile visitors current needs but presenting an easy path for your business’s best outcome (like mobile-accessed specials and reasons to keep clients in your store as they are doing mobile research a product’s UPC barcode there). This can often mean separate SEO tactics to support your mobile audiences. Industry sources forecast that mobile will overtake desktop Internet access in the next few years. Does your SEO strategy put you on top of or rolling under this next wave?

SEO needs to be connected to every aspect of your marketing online. When all tactics are working in synch with your Web strategy and with each other, your business is primed for optimal results in leads, sales and growth.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, click to: www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

How to choose the best Web tactics for your bottom line: The what & why of SEO vs. PPC

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

As a business makes its debut in online marketing, it is immediately presented with an alphabet soup of choices in channels and media. “All businesses are after bottom-line results, and depending on the competitive landscape they face, different online tactics will have different effectiveness in delivering those results.” says Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO of Web design, Web development and Internet marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions. “Implementing the right initiatives can make the difference between creating a marketing expense or achieving a return on marketing investment.”

Smart Business spoke with Kevin about how to evaluate Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Paid Search, or Pay-Per-Click (PPC) online advertising to get the best mileage from your marketing efforts and dollars.

How do I choose the right approach?

First things first—create goals and a timeline. Define what results you expect and when you expect to achieve them. Are you aiming to boost sales during a holiday season or to double your online leads year-over-year?

Once you have a clear list of goals and a timeline for them, do some competitive research. Look at your competitors and review their strategy. Simply “Googling” the product or services keywords will help illustrate who and where your competitors are on the web.  There are a number of tools available (such as Keyword Spy and Spy Fu) to see if they’re running PPC ads and which keywords they’re bidding on.  Browse their websites to understand which keywords they’re optimizing for.

Then do some Keyword research on these and similar relevant terms. This will give you a gage of the online competitiveness you will face and an estimated cost per lead. Comparing this with your average sale and margin data will help you make decisions about the right Internet marketing strategy including a more accurate budget for achieving the results you expect.

Finally, before structuring your web tactics, you’ll need to Create an Online Marketing Plan. Now that you’ve done the homework on your specific business and competitive situation, you can better select the right tactics to leverage in your plan.

How will I know if PPC or SEO is the better choice?

Comparing pay-per-click (PPC) advertising with search engine optimization (SEO) is an “apples vs. oranges” scenario.  Both are a type of online tactical “fruit” and depending on your situation, one may be easier to pick or better match your taste.  PPC and SEO are similar in their logistics of selecting keywords, optimizing website pages and measuring conversions, but they are each unique in specific ways.

PPC is like renting a house while SEO is like paying into a mortgage.  Paid Search can be a quick and easy way to land traffic and generate leads and sales, but it only works for as long as you fund it with ad-spend. Much like owning a home, SEO is a commitment and a long-term investment of time and effort to build your website’s organic search engine “equity” of strength to attract traffic.

Real estate professionals suggest that when purchasing a home, you should be willing to live there for at least 5 years. While implementing proper SEO doesn’t take 5 years to reap results, it is not instant (like PPC can be).  It is not uncommon that it can take 6 months or more to build the SEO strength needed to sustain a high-performance business website.

Matching these attributes to your web marketing goals as well as your business requirements of urgency, resources and skills will guide your strategic decision for which tactics to deploy.

What situations indicate SEO or PPC?

Implementing an SEO strategy has several benefits and should be executed to advance goals of:

  • Brand positioning
  • Long term positioning
  • Increasing visitors
  • Ranking higher in search engines organic results
  • Increasing the number of keywords driving traffic to your site

Once a website begins ranking “Organically” via SEO, it should continue to do so, with proper maintenance measures. SEO is an ongoing effort that needs attention to maintain relevance and competitive strength. Hiring or partnering with a search engine optimization expert will decrease the time you spend on this tactic, as well as provide the most profitable ROI.

PPC ads are a short term infusion solution. You’ll get results more quickly than with SEO methods but paid search has a hard-cost that you may not be willing to incur over the long haul. Unlike SEO, which can take months before ranking on the first page, PPC immediately offers the option to rank at the top for the right price.

PPC campaigns are great for:

  • Seasonal campaigns
  • Special offers and promotions
  • New product launches
  • Geo targeting

Investing in PPC advertising can be a very effective strategy for generating results from your site. But take into consideration that the investment includes ad spend in addition to the cost of an experienced PPC professional either in-house or an external partner to manage it correctly for best performance.

For many businesses the optimal strategy is a blend of both tactics.  PPC can be effectively used up front, while the strength of your SEO is building.  When SEO results show this established presence, it is common to find that dialing down the PPC tactic somewhat can provide more cost effective leads and sales. Ongoing experience will also reveal which keywords are better organic versus paid search investments for your business.

Your online marketing plan may include both PPC and SEO.  Knowing how each contributes to your goals and best compliments your specific situation will help you strike the right balance for powerful and cost effective online marketing.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, click to: http://www.bayshoresolutions.com/Method.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or http://www.bayshoresolutions.com.

Make your website launch “Easy”: how to launch your website to successfully achieve its mission

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

The preflight check list prepares all kinds of flights, from gliders to spaceships, for a successful mission. The completion of this checklist is a complex work involving numerous specialized resources and accurate inputs.  “If you truly understand that your Web presence is strategic to your business, then preparing it for a successful site launch and ongoing performance requires the completion of a similar pre-launch exercise,” advises Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO of Web design, Web development and Internet marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions.  “Strategically addressing these points up front, can often make the difference between a businesses’ online return on investment reaching the stars, or blowing up on the launchpad.”

Smart Business spoke with Kevin about the mission critical points to cover in order to have a best performing business website.

What is the formula for a successful website?

The mission of a website is to reach its target audience(s), resonate with them and catalyze them to take the action that you desire (usually converting to a lead or customer). Prerequisite to all of this is knowing your target audience, how to connect with them and how to communicate with them in order to motivate the desired response.  When this complete, then you are ready to get started designing and building your website.

Building a website combines a variety of technical specialties.  Often the ideal approach for one specialty, say programming code-efficiency, is a less than ideal tact for another, like allowances for visitor experience or customization for best SEO.  There is a very real synergy and sweet-spot among aesthetics, functionality, programming complexity, interface and usability that every website needs to attune to so it is primed for maximum success.  This balance is unique to each business’s combination of target audience, product or service, and business model.

As you are designing, developing and preparing to deploy your website, putting it through what I call the ”Easy” checklist will help ensure that the correct and comprehensive preparations are taken for its successful business launch.  But be warned! As with most things that look ‘easy, there is a lot of disciplined hard work that brings together the final polished result; in this case a fine-tuned, high performance business website.

What is the ‘Easy’ Checklist?

The essence of the ‘Easy’ checklist is to be able to affirmatively answer that your website is clean, efficient and easy to interact with at all check-points.  Is it…

  • Easy to Navigate: Is the navigation clear and consistent? Can your visitor find any piece of information they want in the least amount of clicks?
  • Easy to Experience: Are you using language, visual content and design aesthetics that resonate with and motivate your visitors? In less than 5 seconds will they understand: who you are, how you can help them, and how they can take the next step or contact you? Do you have a mobile website customized for your mobile audience and their specific needs? Don’t waste your great, compelling content by making it not ‘easy’ to experience!
  • Easy for Search Engines to Read: Have you properly researched and identified your keywords?  Are your correct meta data and search engine verification tags in place to promote them?  Do you have HTML and XML Sitemaps, and are they linked in your site’s footer?  Also, use Flash sparingly because search engines don’t read or interact well with it.  When you do use it, make sure you incorporate underlying content that is search-engine friendly.
  • Easy to Transition: When launching a site that replaces an old one, are all your 301 redirects accurate and  deployed to prevent visitors from finding themselves in a black hole instead of the page they thought they were hyperlinking to?
  • Easy to Monitor & Review: Do you have analytics correctly attached to your site and all tracking and goals set up appropriately to help you make ongoing improvements and web marketing decisions?
  • Easy to Edit: Do you have a good Content Management System (CMS) administrative interface to your website? Do you know how to effectively use your CMS so non-programmers (i.e.: you and/or your marketing staff) can instantly make the edits and updates needed to keep your website current?)
  • Easy to Convert: Are your calls to action clear and bold enough to take your visitor on your desired directed path (to becoming a lead or customer)?  Are the forms you require them to complete made as easy as possible by only asking what you really need to know to convert the visitor or process their request?  When forms are barriers, are they only set up where absolutely necessary? When they are lead or purchase gateways, can the visitor find them in one (or even zero) clicks?
  • Easy to Integrate: Is your website integrated with your client relationship management (CRM) system, email manager, and internal business process workflow and communications.  Doing so will facilitate ongoing relationships, nurturing and service levels to your clients and prospects that are smooth, accurate and complete.
  • Easy to Find: Do you have your SEO website basics in place, and more importantly, do you have a search marketing strategy and ongoing plan to keep and build your website’s best performance?
  • Easy to Connect and Engage with: Is your website cohesively aligned and connected to your social media properties, local search profiles and other online presences?  Again, do you have an ongoing strategy to maintain and make the most of this marketing channel?

As new pre- and even post-launch items arise in your web presence, a great way to address them is by analyzing them in this light and then doing the needed work to make them “Easy.”   When these check points are addressed such that the interaction with your site is ‘easy’, your website has a strategic “Go for Launch” for a successful mission of bringing you leads, sales and measurable results.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, click to: www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

Make your website launch “Easy”: how to launch your website to successfully achieve its mission

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

The preflight check list prepares all kinds of flights, from gliders to spaceships, for a successful mission. The completion of the checklist is complex work, involving many specialized resources and accurate inputs.

“If you truly understand that your Web presence is strategic to your business, then preparing it for a successful site launch and ongoing performance requires the completion of a similar pre-launch exercise,” advises Kevin Hourigan, president and CEO of Web design, Web development and Internet marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions. “Strategically addressing these points up front can often make the difference between a business’s online return on investment reaching the stars, or blowing up on the launchpad.”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about the mission-critical points to cover in order to have a best performing business website.

What is the formula for a successful website?

The mission of a website is to reach its target audience(s), resonate with them and catalyze them to take action (usually converting to a lead or customer). A prerequisite to all of this is knowing your target audience and how to connect and communicate with them in order to motivate the desired response. When this is complete, then you are ready to start designing and building your website.

Building a website combines a variety of technical specialties. Often the ideal approach for one specialty, say programming code efficiency, is a less than ideal tact for another, like allowances for visitor experience or customization for best SEO. There is a very real synergy and sweet spot among aesthetics, functionality, programming complexity, interface and usability that every website needs to attune to so it is primed for maximum success. This balance is unique to each business’s combination of target audience, product or service, and business model.

As you are designing, developing and preparing to deploy your website, putting it through what I call the ‘Easy’ checklist will help ensure that the correct and comprehensive preparations are taken for its successful business launch. But be warned: as with most things that look ‘easy,’ there is a lot of disciplined hard work that brings together the final polished result; in this case a fine-tuned, high performance business website.

What is the ‘Easy’ checklist?

The essence of the ‘Easy’ checklist is to be able to affirmatively answer that your website is clean, efficient and easy to interact with at all check-points. It must be:

  • Easy to navigate: Is the navigation clear and consistent? Can your visitors find any piece of information they want in the least amount of clicks?
  • Easy to experience: Are you using language, visual content and design aesthetics that resonate with and motivate your visitors? In less than five seconds will they understand: who you are, how you can help them and how they can take the next step or contact you? Do you have a mobile website customized for your mobile audience and their specific needs? Don’t waste your great, compelling content by making it not ‘easy’ to experience!
  • Easy for search engines to read: Have you properly researched and identified your keywords? Are your correct meta data and search engine verification tags in place to promote them? Do you have HTML and XML Sitemaps, and are they linked in your site’s footer? Also, use Flash sparingly because search engines don’t read or interact well with it. When you do use it, make sure you incorporate underlying content that is search-engine friendly.
  • Easy to transition: When launching a site that replaces an old one, are all your 301 redirects accurate and deployed to prevent visitors from finding themselves in a black hole instead of the page they thought they were hyperlinking to?
  • Easy to monitor and review: Do you have analytics correctly attached to your site and all tracking and goals set up appropriately to help you make ongoing improvements and Web marketing decisions?
  • Easy to edit: Do you have a good Content Management System (CMS) administrative interface to your website? Do you know how to effectively use your CMS so non-programmers (i.e. you and/or your marketing staff) can instantly make the edits and updates needed to keep your website current?
  • Easy to convert: Are your calls to action clear and bold enough to take your visitor on your desired directed path (to becoming a lead or customer)? Are the forms you require them to complete made as easy as possible by only asking what you really need to know to convert the visitor or process their request? When forms are barriers, are they only set up where absolutely necessary? When they are lead or purchase gateways, can the visitor find them in one (or even zero) clicks?
  • Easy to integrate: Is your website integrated with your Client Relationship Management (CRM) system, e-mail manager, and internal business process workflow and communications? Doing so will facilitate ongoing relationships, nurturing and service levels to your clients and prospects that are smooth, accurate and complete.
  • Easy to find: Do you have your SEO website basics in place, and, more importantly, do you have a search marketing strategy and ongoing plan to keep and build your website’s best performance?
  • Easy to connect and engage with: Is your website cohesively aligned and connected to your social media properties, local search profiles and other online presences? Again, do you have an ongoing strategy to maintain and make the most of this marketing channel?

As new pre- and even post-launch items arise in your Web presence, a great way to address them is by analyzing them in this light and then doing the needed work to make them ‘Easy.’ When these check points are addressed so that the interaction with your site is ‘easy,’ your website has a strategic ‘Go for Launch’ for a successful mission of bringing you leads, sales and measurable results.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions’ Web marketing methodology, click to: www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

How to make sure the marketing dollars you spend are truly reaching your customers

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

It’s been more than a century since John Wannamaker, the founder of Philadelphia’s first department store, stated, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

In the last 100 years, and even more so in the last few years, a variety of technologies has shed light on marketing channels and waste versus productive spending.

“The key is to take action with this information and use it to your advantage,” says Kevin Hourigan, the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions, a Web designWeb development and Internet marketing agency. “The most basic question to address is: ‘Is my brand and message where my customers’ eyeballs are?’”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how this seemingly simple question encompasses some complex details that are critical to a business’s success in this digital age.

How can I identify wasted branding ad spend?

Begin with a comparison of these two items: media where people are spending time/consuming advertising and media where ad dollars are spent. eMarketer cites the following stats: TV: 43 percent time spent, 43 percent ad dollars spent; Internet: 25 percent time, 18 percent dollars; radio: 16 percent time, 11 percent dollars; mobile: 8 percent time, 0.5 percent dollars; print media: 8.2 percent time, 28 percent dollars.

At first glance, this report seems to say that television ad spending matches up. Until you apply the current statistics (courtesy of Hubspot) that 86 percent of people skip TV ads. So are those eyeballs really exposed to and positively influenced by advertisers? With print media, once readers turn the page, your brand is out of sight and out of mind. Studies on print advertising consistently show that, on average, it takes a minimum of eight full-color, full-page ads for a person to remember it and associate the product or service. Most often, recall of the brand takes even more.

The key item to uncover for your specific business is: ‘Where are my customers spending their media consumption time, and are they hearing what I have to offer them?’

How do I make sure my marketing reaches my customers?

There is no doubt that the Internet has fundamentally changed the way people conduct their consumer behavior. Pew Research cites that 75 percent of U.S. adults are online; 69 percent of these for at least an hour per day and 35 percent for over three hours per day. Pew also shows that more than 60 percent of the U.S. adults online regularly engage in using a search engine, product research, getting news, buying a product, looking for ‘how-to‘ info and social networking. On top of that, statistics show that inbound leads cost 62 percent less than leads from traditional outbound sources.

More successful marketers are shifting budget away from ‘interruption advertising,’ such as traditional broadcast and print, to ‘influence and on-demand messaging,’ including search, subject matter expertise and social engagement. This means that in order to have more productive marketing, you should cut back on interrupting what people are interested in and instead give them what they are interested in. This requires a change in mind set, strategy and implementation.

There is a balance to strike with traditional and online marketing. However, if these general trends reflect the profile of your customer, you should seriously consider reallocating some marketing budget toward more impactful online tactics. Statistics show that spend in online marketing channels increased 20 percent over last year and is trending to increase 90 percent by 2015. It is quite likely that your competition is already shifting budget online, or planning to do so very soon.

What can I do to achieve more productive marketing?

First, understand your customer profile(s) and then evaluate all your marketing options alongside this. Second, track everything!

A great example of shifting smart budget from print to online is Internet ad ‘retargeting’ campaigns. This tactic trumps the ‘out of mind as you turn the page’ dynamic of print and allows your online ad impressions to keep showing up to people who have visited and moved on from your website. It does so at an exponentially lower marketing investment than funding more print ads to chase that brand message recall threshold. Google reports remarketing case results of 50 to 75 percent reduced cost per conversion. I have a case study of remarketing driving an 82 percent increase in search traffic and influencing 85 percent of sales.

There are also a variety of ways to interweave online and offline tactics. Every day we see encouragement to visit a website on radio, television and billboards. Creating campaigns that drive this kind of engagement brings a more interested prospect to you, and enables measurement of results previously unavailable with that medium.

Tracking is essential, and tracking tools are easy and affordable (Google Analytics is free). Also, separate, dynamic phone numbers can be assigned to specific media, campaigns and even keywords. Determine which metrics are the indicators of success to your marketing goals, as it is easy to get lost among the many available. Then apply and review them regularly. In the online world, this can range from hourly to daily to monthly. Choose a consistent and meaningful measure and use this to guide marketing adjustments and decisions.

There are literally dozens of online tactical and campaign opportunities and effective ways to attach meaningful metrics to them. Best matching these with where your audience engages online is the key to striking a successful marketing mix for your business. It also is worth mentioning that a prerequisite to success in the online space is that your business’s core Web presence needs to be solid, functional and optimized. With these in place, your business is primed to most wisely spend and receive the best return on its marketing and advertising dollars.

For details on the case study mentioned above, click to: www.bayshoresolutions.com/RetargetingSuccess.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions’ Web marketing methodology, click to: www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.

KEVIN HOURIGAN is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

How to discover and deploy the secret to online success

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

The lightning-fast pace of Internet business, combined with so many daily emerging tools and channels to pour your marketing time and dollars into, makes the quest for solid, sure advice on generating real Web results very understandable.

“The most common question I get asked by colleagues, customers, prospects, co-workers and people I don’t even know is: ‘What marketing initiative should I be doing to succeed online?’” says Kevin Hourigan, the president and CEO of Web designWeb development and Internet marketing agency Bayshore Solutions.

“This question is always asked with full sincerity and with full expectations that I have a simple and easy-to-implement answer: a ‘silver bullet’ solution to Web success. My answer, though not the instant response most are chasing, is always the same: You simply can’t capture lightning in a bottle, but you can produce the right combination of factors to create a climate for lightning.”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about what you can and should do to create a climate of online success in your business.

What is the best Web tool or tactic to use?

Options abound in the Web design and development sphere, including Joomla, PHP, WordPress, Dot-net, Silverlight, Flash, Javascript, etc., and each has avid proponents. The same is true for online marketing channels: e-mail campaigns, blogging, video content, Facebook, Twitter, QR codes, Foursquare or Gowalla, mobile apps, PPC, remarketing, Groupon and many more.

Each one of these is going to have some spectacular case studies of businesses who had great success using that tool or channel. If you look deeper into each case, you will also find these elements:

  • The right audience
  • The right need or functionality
  • The right message
  • The right timing
  • The right follow-through and measurement

There’s your silver bullet. It’s the back-to-basics solid marketing strategy that includes purpose, goals and success metrics combined with a well-defined and understood profile of your target customers, their demographics and psychographics. This foundation empowers you to evaluate the myriad tools, techniques and tactics available in online (and offline) marketing; then choose the most likely ones to resonate with and compel your audience to take a desired action.

With this firmly in place, you will be able to most appropriately invest in and experiment with the Web tactics that are likely to be successful for your business. The exact combination of marketing tools will change over time and they will tend to synergize for a greater success when working in concert.

It never hurts to review case studies of the channels and tools available for inspiration on approaches to online marketing. But you will rarely be able to apply the same tactic like a template to your business, or ‘uncork the bottled lightning.’ A well-reasoned strategy needs to connect how a tool, tactic or channel worked great for another business to why it will perform successfully for you.

How do I catapult to online success?

Recently in Tampa, more than 300 people came to an event titled Bing It On to hear marketing executives from Bing, Carnival Corporation, Melting Pot Restaurants and a local business, Creative Sign Designs, talk about their online marketing success.  I had the privilege of co-presenting with this great group of marketers as well as lead them in a panel discussion answering questions from the audience looking for the answer to that ‘silver bullet’ or ‘captured lightning’ question.

We spoke about each other’s attempts to use search, Web and social media marketing to help our companies grow: what worked, what did not, what we were still trying because we knew it would work and what we were going to keep trying, even though we were unsure of success.

Here is what we concluded:

  • Defined and measured goals help. Without them, failure is almost guaranteed.
  • Any channel of online marketing that your target audience does not use, or does not use at a time they want to connect to your brand, will fail.
  • You must have a well-defined brand and know what the right messaging for that brand is.
  • You must have a great website with great design, efficient navigation, fast loading, frequently updated content and good calls to action.
  • Search engine marketing still generates a great return on investment.
  • A content strategy with multiple people in the organization is needed.
  • A content distribution and syndication plan is required, and frequency is critical.
  • Metric tracking is absolutely essential.
  • Experimentation is good. Try; not everything will work, but lessons will be learned.
  • Return on investment is the ultimate metric. When there is a great ROI, there are great celebrations. But not every value can be measured and that is OK.

Though the seasoned marketing experts from this group are achieving their Web successes in different ways, everyone gave a nod of agreement that you can’t capture lightning in a bottle and that there is no silver bullet to online marketing success.

So the surest, and ultimately the quickest, path to online success is still the one where you take the time to study your market, define your goals and develop strategies that incorporate the right tactics, tools and channels for your customer audience. This experience will likely be unique for each business, and is the best method to achieving success in Web marketing.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions’ Web marketing methodology, click to: www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.

KEVIN HOURIGAN is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

Is your process ready to handle what your website delivers?

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

The business model of a sales funnel shows leads that enter at the top and filter down to become customers at the bottom. The simple logic of this model suggests that to grow what comes through at the bottom as customers, you need to increase the leads that you fill into the top.

Effective Web marketing that produces leads through quote request forms and phone calls is a proven way to pour more into your funnel,” says Kevin Hourigan, the president and CEO of Web designWeb development and Internet marketing agency Bayshore Solutions. “However, without the right processes and people in place to effectively turn those leads into customers, just turning up the volume on inbound leads can create more chaos than clients.”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to keep your sales funnel free from roadblocks and improve performance in filtering leads to customers.

What’s wrong with a huge increase in leads?

There are two situations where more leads might not be a good thing: if the leads are unqualified and will never become customers, and if there are more leads than your current structure can handle.

As marketing attracts a population of leads, each business has a certain percentage that will ‘filter out’ for qualification reasons. The challenge lies in keeping the filtering out from being due to reasons like: ‘they never got back to me,’ or ‘they couldn’t answer my questions about the product or service.’

In today’s world of readily available online information, customers are accustomed to getting the information they need quickly. If they can’t get it quickly and conveniently from you, they won’t wait. They’ll move on to your competition.

Why is an immediate response so important?

Numerous studies have shown that the quicker a business can respond to a Web form inquiry, the more likely they are to win that potential client’s business. This is a key aspect in a top performing sales funnel.

If you can immediately reach an online inquirer, impress them, and then set up the next step (an appointment for a face-to-face meeting, an appointment for a detailed project scope discussion call, offering a proposal, etc.), then in many cases you could eliminate your competition.

If you are able to sufficiently impress the inquirer that you are capable and competent as well as establish rapport, then you can interrupt their shopping mode and foster a feeling of: ‘maybe I don’t need to continue shopping right now,’ in your potential customer.

If you don’t provide as immediate a response as possible to your online inquiries, chances are a competitor will. You invest time, money and effort into the SEO, focused messaging and marketing that generates this lead. You don’t want to let a competitor beat you to the pivotally important first contact.

How to devise a Web strategy that can produce consistent results for your business

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

A “set it and forget it” belief is the fast-lane to failure in Web marketing. In fact, one of the most detrimental moves that many companies make is to build a website without understanding that the creation of the site is just the first step in an endless commitment.

According to Kevin Hourigan, the president and CEO of Web designWeb development and Internet marketing agency Bayshore Solutions, you have to constantly update and market your website.

“Recent statistics show that 80 percent of customers begin their buying research online, and to ensure that your product or service shows up for these potential customers, you need to take some basic actions to keep your website current and performing,” says Hourigan. “This includes frequent updates and publishing relevant content that showcases your company’s subject matter expertise.”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about what it takes to keep your Web strategy up to speed so it produces consistently positive results for your business.

What is the first step in an effective Web strategy?

You must start at your website. Basic requirements of being found at the top of the search results when people are looking for your product or service are the relevancy to the topic they are searching for and the freshness of the content. Websites that are built with the correct structure to support relevancy and the flexibility to allow fast changes are the essential core of a successful Web strategy.

My best advice on how to start is to build with the never-ending end in mind. Really understand what you want from your website before you design or develop it. What are your goals for your website? What do you want your website to do? Generate leads; be used as a research tool where prospects can learn more about you; serve as an interactive tool for your existing customers; recruit employees, etc.? Your website goal, or prioritized goals when there are more than one, are your guide. Make these the driving force and litmus test for all aesthetic and functionality considerations when creating your site.

How do I bring it all together?

Three things to be sure to have your website integrated with are:

  • A content management system (CMS).
  • Analytics (Google analytics is free and can serve this need well).
  • Integration with your CRM for tracking leads through to sales.

These will help ensure that your website is built to be search engine optimization-friendly, and friendly to your Web marketing needs in general, which are a moving target. If it takes a Web programmer to add Web pages or affect a change to your website, then your Web marketing is nearly doomed before it begins. When you are forced to incur the time and expense of programming to achieve the ongoing needs of your Web marketing, you bog down your ability to quickly adjust to the dynamic nature of marketing. This costs not only time and money; it will cost you sales and competitive performance in your market. A CMS enables marketers to do your Web marketing. Analytics is a prerequisite to effective SEO and measurement. Integration to your CRM enables accurate tracking of the bottom line impact of your Web investment.

Having your core website solidly in place and able to meet the needs of ongoing change enables you to best utilize Web marketing tactics that achieve your goals.

What it takes to be the dominant result when customers “Google” you

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

Today’s business reality is that when the need for a product or service arises, the overwhelming first step taken is to search for that keyword phrase via an Internet search engine (Google, Bing, etc.).

In truth, no one but Google knows how to always be the No. 1 result, and no one can guarantee that placement. However, with proper search engine optimization (SEO), you can dominate your Google results so you show up at the top of the search results page, and appear in as many results as possible.

“It is essential to keep up with SEO practices to ensure your business ranks high and often in search engine results,” says Kevin Hourigan, the president and CEO of Web designWeb development and Internet marketing agency Bayshore Solutions. “Otherwise, your business seriously risks online invisibility.”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about SEO and what it takes to keep your business on top of online search results.

Why is SEO different today?

The algorithms that Google and other search engines use to determine where to rank your business and when to show it to searchers is always evolving. The search engines’ main goal is to show relevant results to a searcher so they can quickly find what they are looking for. Years ago, a preponderance of keywords appearing on a Web page indicated its relevance to the searcher’s intended query.  As both searchers and search marketers advanced (and as unscrupulous SEO tacticians found ways to game the algorithms), search engines have become much more complex in the way SEO tactics are weighted, rewarded and/or punished in the results.

The SEO basics of proper keyword use, tagging and site-mapping are now joined by achieving the right volume and quality of links to your website through a multitude of online sources. The power of appropriate link strategy in SEO is a pivotal key to success. Relying on the SEO tactics of yesterday amid the search dynamics of today is a sure path to failure.

How do I get the right links for SEO?

Successful SEO revolves around an advanced strategy of content marketing. The more relevant content you can give to searchers, the better chances you have of ranking high and showing up when they’re searching for you online.

This means re-evaluating what you consider to be your ‘secret sauce’ in the content you will offer freely online. The hard fact is that most of the information you would hold close is already available online from your competitors. It is very important to offer content that consumers (not necessarily you) deem valuable in exchange for even their contact name and e-mail address. Consider when, where and why you want to keep such roadblocks up, and remove them wherever you can. When you can share as much information as possible to help a potential customer reach their best decision, you win by being the one that has developed that trust and relationship during their research phase. Also, you stand a very good chance of taking them out of the competitive market by being a click (or less) away as they are experiencing your content.

When packaging your content for distribution in as many relevant online places as possible, make sure that you are building in links back to pages on your website. It is equally important to embed calls to action for further information or inviting a conversation. Make it easy for the recipient to be in control and to reach out to you.

What content should I develop?

The right array of content items is different for each business’s SEO strategy. Some important content items to optimize and use in your SEO mix include:

• Map listings and business profiles

• Your corporate blog

• Videos, podcasts and slide casts

• Articles, e-books, whitepapers, worksheets, checklists and buyers’ guides

• Case studies of successful projects or service delivery

• Client testimonials and reference links

• Social media and bookmarking channels, profiles and engagements

• Optimized press releases

• Reviews on consumer websites and group forums

When a customer searching for your product or service sees a search engine results page that shows not only your main website, but many of the above items pointing to your business, they are instantly impressed with the credibility, breadth and depth of your expertise. They are also more likely to begin their relationship with you through your online content offerings that address their search questions.

How do I get started?

Smart content strategies are often interconnected in that the development of one item can feed or inspire one or many others. A very helpful habit to develop in your optimized content marketing is to develop a format and distribution matrix. Use this matrix as a framework to evaluate the content items you already have or are considering creating and ask, ‘With some slight adjustments, what other formats can this item address?’

For example: Can your blog posts be expanded upon to create articles? Could you record and post them as videos or audio podcasts? Could you extend customer satisfaction polls to encourage online reviews? Do you have a list of frequently asked questions about your product or service? How many formats could the answers be addressed in? How many different distribution channels online could these apply to?

These are focused disciplines that often draw upon advanced skill sets. For sustained best results, they require dedicated resources either in-house or with an Internet partner. Content marketing and SEO are two facets of the same system that need to be in synch with each other. When done properly, you can dominate your search engine results pages, and achieve superior lead generation power.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions’ Web marketing methodology, visit www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

How to know when and why you might need a mobile website

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions

As we enter the month highlighting romance, it is interesting to note that one of the closest relationships people have today is with their mobile device — judged by their constant proximity to it and the instant attention paid to it.

“With many indicators showing an approaching dominance of mobile Internet usage by business and retail consumers, there is an increasing urgency about having a mobile online presence,” says Kevin Hourigan, the president and CEO of Web designWeb development and Internet marketing agency Bayshore Solutions. “But, before a business jumps blindly onto the mobile bandwagon, there are key strategic factors to consider.”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to know when you’re ready for the mobile Web and how to best engage in it for your business.

What are the mobile trends that are important to businesses?

Recent industry studies show the extremely fast growth of users accessing the Web through a mobile device or smartphone. These studies say that mobile Internet users are projected to exceed desktop Internet users by 2014, one in five mobile users will watch video on a mobile device by 2013, and more than half of mobile users will be Web-enabled by 2013 (and that represents 40 percent of the U.S. population).

As more and more people are accessing the mobile Web, what are they doing there?

More studies reveal these types of mobile activities are gaining popularity:

  • Looking for directions and locations
  • Looking for coupons or promotions
  • Price, availability and support comparisons
  • Reading reviews about products, services and professionals of interest
  • Buying
  • Utilizing the services or processes of a business (checking in for a flight or an online banking transaction, for example)

How do mobile trends affect a business?

This all goes back to Marketing 101: know your customer. If you deliver a product or service that a target customer might be looking for on their mobile device because they are away from their computer, can they find you or do they find your competitors? If they do find your company’s website, does your website’s appearance from a mobile device leave an impression you are proud to show to potential customers?

If your website can be found and seen from a mobile device, what are the most common questions and transactions (both informational and monetary) that your customers will have? If they attempted any of these while on a mobile device, what are their chances of success? Aligning your business’s availability and offerings with today’s mobile trends can have a major impact on its success.

Because our mobile culture increasingly pivots on instant access, answers and gratification, if your business cannot be found and deliver this, then potential customers will simply click to the next competitor who is ready at their fingertips.

When should I establish a mobile presence?

It is critical to first understand the amount of visits your website receives from mobile devices. Google Analytics can show you how much of your traffic is coming from mobile devices, what pages mobile visitors are viewing or attempting to view, and growth in this over time. Analytics will indicate that a mobile Web presence is warranted and what Web pages to spend the most attention on based on your mobile traffic. For some businesses this could be 40 percent, for others as little as 5 percent. If it appears your business would benefit from a mobile website, first make sure your core website’s analytics and strategies are in order. With that in place, it will lead to a coordinated, cost-effective extension into a successful mobile Web presence.

What are your top tips for achieving great mobile Web results?

The hallmark of a successful mobile Web presence is one that is easy — easy to find, easy to track and measure performance and results, and easy for visitors to experience. But, accomplishing all this is not so easy. Strategic elements in developing your mobile presence include:

  • Solid integration with your analytics, CRM systems and marketing and sales lead management processes
  • Search engine marketing that orchestrates your mobile website with your other online (and offline) channels
  • Functionality that accurately understands and even anticipates your mobile visitor’s expectations and needs including making sure the mobile site works on the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Palm, Android, etc.

A business’s mobile site should not be the soup-to-nuts replication of its main website. In fact, Internet users have fundamentally distinct motivations, behaviors and expectations when accessing websites from a mobile device. Essentially your mobile site should help the mobile visitor get in and get to what they need while they’re on the go. Just a few items that support this would include:

  • Skipping the flashy home page in favor of one-click access to the information or service the visitor needs
  • Simplified copy and link activation to accommodate fingers versus a mouse, and a smaller screen surface
  • Navigability back and forth to your main site to accommodate more detailed user needs.
  • Location, map or driving directions that are immediately accessible.
  • All phone numbers displayed have click-to-call functionality

Take a strategic approach to solidifying your core Web presence and extend to a mobile presence at the right time, for the right reasons and in the right way. This will yield a much more successful result in growing your business.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions’ Web marketing methodology, visit www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.