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BACK TO BASICS: Boosting Conversions with SEO and Email

by Susan Esparza, October 31, 2007

As more businesses actively pursue Internet marketing, the increasing competition for available ad inventory has pushed the cost of paid search and display advertising up, resulting in limited buying options. Marketers are spending more to drive traffic to their Web sites, while at the same time, they are faced with lower conversion rates, which in turn lead to increasing customer acquisition costs. Site owners can improve their Web site conversions with the right combination of search engine optimization and email marketing, very popular, cost-effective marketing strategies.

Both of these strategies require fine-tuning your Web site partnered with the use of analytics. With SEO, you will be improving your Web site structure, content, and inbound links with special emphasis on your conversion funnel to increase Web site conversions. SEO is also fundamental for optimizing the return on your advertising campaigns.

Improving Your Conversion Rates

The two-prong strategy of SEO and email marketing works because search engine optimization is known to produce maximum conversions and beef up any pay per click search engine advertising you might do. House email campaigns also produce high conversions and can be used to bring back many of the estimated 97 percent of visitors who leave your site without converting.

If you're a follower of our newsletter, you already know the fundamentals of SEO. For a step by step guide to SEO, we refer you to our search engine optimization methodology where we cover this in depth. Henceforth, this article will focus on how to use email marketing for targeting the visitors that abandoned your site.

Acquiring Leads With Your Web Site

To use email marketing for targeting lost prospects, start by acquiring leads for future conversion. A lead is a prospect that might be interested in purchasing your products and services. While these visitors may not be ready to convert, their interest level is high enough to request information. This interest can be leveraged with a lead-capture form on your landing page and other traffic-entry pages offering a relevant newsletter.

Your lead-capture form should ask for the email address and get permission to email on a regular basis. Subscriber opt-in forms can offer regular email updates on relevant industry tips and advice, advanced looks at the latest fashions, or email-only promotional offers. A travel site might offer information on hot travel spots or popular cruises.

Gathering Data

Your online forms can be used to capture useful demographic information. You might ask for:

  • Physical address - especially if direct mail is part of the marketing mix
  • Purchase timeframe
  • Product interest
  • Phone number - this can be hard to capture unless the prospect is ready to buy
  • Industry - particularly for business leads

It is debatable how much information should be required on your form. Sometimes, it's better to require only what's absolutely necessary -- the email address and product interest. More information can always be gathered later, and it's important to get subscribers into your database so you can start marketing to them.

Welcoming Your Subscribers

Once onboard, you must provide an immediate response to new subscribers. Your welcome message can reinforce your value proposition, set expectations for the type and frequency of communications, remind prospects that they have opted-in to allow you to send informational emails, and provide the opportunity to confirm the email subscription (double opt-in). This will lay the groundwork for future conversion marketing campaigns. To conduct your campaigns, you need to be familiar with the buyer decision-making process.

Nurturing Your Prospects

Once your lead acquisition plan is in place, whether email or search engine optimization based, you can begin leading your prospects to their first purchase. This requires an understanding of the buyer's decision-making process, which follows five basic steps:

  • Needs Recognition
  • Information Search
  • Evaluation of Alternatives
  • Purchase
  • Post-Purchase Evaluation

For smaller purchases, prospects may go from Needs Recognition to Evaluation of Alternatives or even straight to Purchase. But for larger purchases and first-time buyers, prospects may spend time and effort in the Information Search and Evaluation phase.

You want to elevate your value proposition to the prospects in the Needs Recognition and Information Search phases. This is where you can make the most impact by providing relevant information, creating rapport and presenting compelling and relevant product or service options.

Throughout this process, the more you can learn about the prospect, the better you can target future communications to close the sale. Here is where you can target a promotion that fits the prospect's needs, create an email campaign specific to the prospect and consider designing a silo that guides the prospect to the conversion point. Your goal is to actively manage the purchase decision process by providing relevant information to prospective customers through your Web site as well as your house email program.

Segmenting Your Leads

As your list builds, you can start segmenting targeted email campaigns. For example, a travel site can segment its list based on the location of interest (if that information was requested on the lead capture form). If not, your conversion efforts can begin with well written and designed generic newsletters, which can create trust, impart knowledge, and present options for purchase.

Creating a Two-Way Conversation

You can increase your knowledge about prospective customers by including a survey with your regular email campaigns. These surveys can focus on specific demographic information by asking such questions as, "What places will you likely visit in Europe?" or "When do you expect to take your next international vacation?" This information can be added as a demographic in the database. This not only helps your ongoing targeting efforts with these prospects, but also allows you to create automated promotional campaigns based on this new information.

Using Behaviorally Targeted Autoresponders

You can send newsletters to subscribers with links to numerous vacation spots. Then when the subscriber clicks to view the info, preference data can be sent back to your database.

Behavioral targeting is a powerful segmentation tool because it allows you to target prospects based on the links they click or pages they visit. For example, a travel agency can promote local travel spots to those who clicked a link titled "affordable mini vacations" differently from those who clicked "exquisite European vacations."

Some Subject lines may not attract the number of opens expected for a campaign. In that case, re-working the Subject line and re-sending to the non-openers could increase your campaign stats substantially.

Converting Prospects Into Buyers

Building a strong and flexible house database to support your online marketing efforts helps you understand your prospects and customers as well as their interests, purchase intent and purchase timeframe so you can send the right offer to the right customer at the right time.

It's important to know your customer, using the data gathered with an ongoing email retention campaign. This continues to build rapport and trust. Don't let too much time lapse between purchases, and provide incentives to draw customers back to your site.

Boosting Conversions

With increasing competition for online advertising, and lower conversion rates on the rise, marketers must employ the best strategies for boosting conversions. The use of SEO to increase Web site conversions and optimize the return on your advertising campaigns is proven to be effective. The use of email marketing to capture leads for future conversions is also effective. Don't miss out on using these marketing strategies for boosting your overall conversions.

For permission to reprint or reuse any materials, please contact us. To learn more about our authors, please visit the Bruce Clay Authors page. Copyright 2007 Bruce Clay, Inc.