Is It Ever Better to Start Over with SEO?

As a rule of thumb, business owners turn to us for search engine optimization (SEO) for one of two reasons: either because they have a brand-new company they want to promote, or because they haven’t gotten the results they were looking for in the past. In other words, they are either starting over or building on past campaigns.

Recently, though, we have been encountering a new kind of question: does it ever make sense to begin your SEO campaigns from a blank slate? In other words, should you even consider moving domains and beginning your online marketing campaigns as if you were a brand-new business even if you aren’t?

This would typically be a bad idea, given that search history, authority, and other search indicators are all tied to domain age and previous search activity. However, there are a few situations where starting fresh might make sense. Let’s look at a few of them…

When You Have Changed Names or Industries

Sometimes you can have the same business without having the same business. If you are in a situation where your name and/or location are the same as they have always been but your product or service mix is quite different, then starting fresh can be a good idea. This is especially true if you are getting inquiries that aren’t related to what you currently sell or offer.

When you have a new business it’s usually smart to begin with a new website. It might be hard to start over, but that’s usually the sensible long-term choice.

When Your Business Has Accumulated a Poor Online Reputation

Surveys show that around 90% of all customers look at customer feedback before trying a new business for the first time. So, if a Google search for your company name yields hundreds or thousands of bad online reviews, then achieving a high search ranking isn’t going to help you. 

Of course, this brings us back to the first point. If your business model is broken then you might need to re-launch—with a new name and at different online and offline locations—before buyers will consider giving you another try.

When You Have Found Yourself in Hot Water with Google

This is the situation we hear about most frequently these days. Some business owners, in a rush to make it to the top of search listings, have hired firms that relied on cheap tricks and quick gimmicks. Those can work for a little while, but they can also cause you to be blacklisted by Google. When that happens search spiders treat your content as if it doesn’t exist. 

In most cases the damage isn’t permanent. A team like ours can usually go through your site, piece by piece, and repair things one step at a time. In some severe instances, however, it can actually be easier to restart on a new domain and begin again from the ground up (while being careful not to repeat the same mistakes).

The Good News about Starting Fresh

It’s worth reiterating again that starting from scratch with Google wouldn’t be a good idea for the vast majority of businesses out there. However, if you were to go that route we have some good news: it’s not as difficult to get results as you might think.

As Google’s algorithms have gotten better, and knowledge around SEO has improved, the time it takes to make an impact in the search rankings has decreased. In fact, in 2021 it’s possible to dominate a local or niche portion of the organic market within just a few months. Add in some focused ads and a strong social media effort and you could be drawing in new leads and sales very quickly.

That’s good news for entrepreneurs who are just beginning, of course, but it’s also a good reminder for established business owners who haven’t seen much traction from SEO in the past. Start following a different plan and you could see results much quicker than you think!

SEO and Online Marketing Are All about Strategy and Execution

To turn your website into a source of leads and revenue you need two things: the right approach and an actionable plan to keep your business on track. We can help with both.

The Good and Bad of Blog Post Templates

Web design templates have been around for years. Some business owners (and even a few professional designers) use them to save time while creating WordPress sites, landing pages, and other common tools. Lately, content writing services have been getting in on the act. They have started offering blog post templates that are designed to help you pump out articles with less time and stress than ever before.

We are seeing these blog post templates everywhere, which means you’re probably coming across them as well. But should you be using them for content marketing?

To find the answer, let’s look at the good and the bad of blog post templates.

The Positives of Blog Post Templates

As with web design templates, starting with an article outline offers some advantages.

  • Blog post templates get you writing quickly so you don’t have to worry about creative blocks or staring at an empty screen.
  • Using a writing template gives you a structure you can follow, which can be important for those who have trouble organizing their ideas.
  • Often, blog post templates start with a simple idea that you can duplicate or adapt to virtually any industry.
  • The templates are based on popular article styles so the resulting post should theoretically be something readers will be interested in.

To sum these up cleanly, you would say that when you start with a blog post template, the hard work of writing is done. That’s a huge positive, especially if you’re the sort of person who has trouble being focused or motivated enough to sit down at your keyboard. However, there are a few downsides.

The Negatives of Blog Post Templates

In our business we often note that web design templates can be constraining. Blog post templates have some of the same drawbacks.

  • The topics and outlines you find in blog post templates are all very similar and generic. That makes it easy to crank out content, but hard to write something that stands out.
  • In some ways working with a template can stifle your creativity. It’s hard to generate an original portrait when you’re painting by numbers, and the same holds true when you’re writing from a list of predefined bullet points.
  • If you don’t do enough with your blog post templates, then you could end up with duplicate content on your website, causing Google to ignore the content you’re creating (which sort of defeats the purpose).

Those are some pretty big downsides. That brings us back to our original question.

So, Should You Use Blog Post Templates?

Blog post templates are kind of like training wheels for content marketers. There is nothing essentially wrong with using them, but you shouldn’t expect to compete with the leaders in your industry by filling in blanks, either.

Our advice? Give them a shot and see what kind of results you get—particularly if you’re someone who has struggled to create written content in the past. Over time, as you develop your own voice and rhythm, you can stop using them and move on to more effective content marketing habits.

3 Simple Tips for Higher Online Ad Engagement

We are at an interesting point in the history of advertising. On the one hand, it has never been easier to target and reach the specific group of buyers who need to see your ads. But on the other hand, it has never been more difficult to grab their attention… much less earn their business.

The key is to put all the advantages of modern search and social advertising platforms on your side without losing the interest of your market. In other words, it’s all about increasing engagement.

That’s what today’s post is all about. Here are three simple tips you can use to boost online ad engagement starting today

1. Join a Conversation Already in Progress

Most marketers attempt to attract customers by throwing a hook, headline, or image that catches someone’s attention. That can work, but an even better strategy is to join a conversation that is already going on in their minds and simply add to it.

If you know what your target market is thinking or worrying about, then use that knowledge. It’s infinitely more valuable than your products, your services, or even the benefits you provide. Not only do most people agree with themselves, but they tend to fixate on immediate problems and solutions. So, by touching on something they were already spending mental energy on, you can draw them into your sales funnel more quickly.

Not sure what sort of conversation is happening among your buying audience? Talk to a few prospects and customers or look into interest- or industry-specific social media groups. What you’ll learn will be invaluable.

2. Repeat Your Most Important Sales Points

Because of the way most of us interact with the internet these days, it’s difficult to get buyers to hold on to a train of thought. Even if they have an interest in what you provide, they might not act upon their desire right away.

With that in mind, an easy way to boost conversions and sales is to keep reminding them of what you can do. The most obvious way to accomplish this is by using retargeting ads that pull them back to your brand again and again. Just be sure that as you build your campaigns out, you stay with the most pertinent sales messages. Buyers can absorb one or two key points over time, particularly if they see them again and again. But throwing more than that can confuse or overwhelm them.

Repetition has been considered a “must-use” advertising strategy for a long time because it aligns well with human psychology. Put modern digital ad techniques to good use.

3. Get Creative in Your Delivery

If you are following strategies in the first two tips we’ve recommended, the only thing left to do is separate yourself from the competition. That means going the extra mile to stand out a bit.

We are all hardwired to notice things that are more interesting or attractive than usual. Do your advertisements fit that description? Many marketers, if they were being honest, would have to admit that they are wasting money on lackluster ads.

This is one area in your campaign where a good creative team can be worth its weight in gold. A team of designers, digital experts, and online ad specialists can’t tell you why buyers choose you instead of a competitor. But if you give them those insights they can emphasize them in a series of ads that convert again and again.

Want Help Shifting Your Ad Campaigns into Overdrive?

Putting together a profitable ad strategy isn’t always about spending more money or designing dozens of landing page variations. Often, it’s the result of small and consistent improvements made from one step to the next.

5 Things That Will Be More Valuable Than Cash to Marketers in 2021

As 2020 has officially come to a close, and as business owners start looking towards the new year, it’s understandable that many are keeping a closer-than-usual eye on their bottom line. The last 12 months have been completely unpredictable, and they have left even established companies in some industries scrambling around for cash.

There is no substitute for money in your business bank account, of course, but most of the entrepreneurs we know aren’t in dire straits. For them, our advice is to look at the bigger picture. We definitely think this is a good time to hold onto your money, but not if it stops you from winning customers or hurts you in the long run.

To help make sense of this advice, here are five things that will be worth more than cash to marketers in the coming year…

1. A Top Three Search Engine Position

When your company’s website is highly visible on Google, it allows you to reach an exponentially higher number of potential customers than your competitors. Then, you can continue generating leads and making sales even if you have to change your products, services, or pricing. Because organic search positioning builds over time, that’s an advantage that’s hard for anyone to take away.

2. A Sterling Online Reputation

Having a strong online reputationin terms of the right reviews and testimonialsis always important. When the economy is uncertain and money is tight, however, people are even more careful about the way they spend and whom they trust. For that reason, having lots of positive online feedback can give all of your sales and marketing efforts a huge boost.

3. A Strong Brand Identity

While brand identity and reputation are similar, they aren’t the same thing. When you have a brand that is well-known within your target market, it amplifies the effects of your ads, emails, and other outreach activities. If customers and prospects know what your business does, and they understand your unique selling proposition already, they will most likely to say “yes” to your offers.

4. An Email List Full of Buyers and Prospects

Email remains the most cost-effective sales and marketing tool around today. With a few clicks of a button you can reach out to hundreds or thousands of buyers at onceprovided you already have a list of subscribers to work with. Finding engaged subscribers who look forward to your messaging is a great way to generate consistent sales and make your business recession-proof.

5. The Right Marketing Advice and Strategy

Is it a little self-serving of us to say good online marketing advice is worth more than what you pay for? Maybe, but it also happens to be true. When you have a team of experienced professionals nudging you in the right direction, it’s easier to get results while avoiding common blunders. This is especially true at a time when many of your competitors are probably scrambling around trying to figure out their next steps.

How COVID-19 Changed Business Forever

It’s easy to say that COVID-19 has changed virtually every aspect of life in the past nine months. However, while some temporary measureslike social distancing, mask-wearing, and avoiding public gatheringswill probably fade away, some other changes will be permanent.

In our business, it’s easy to see how the pandemic emphasized the importance of having a strong website. Even though some entrepreneurs will be anxiously waiting for things to go back to “normal,” we think many of the shifts are irreversible. In other words, all the reasons your website was critically important to your company in 2020 will continue into the future. That’s because we were already moving towards a digital-first business landscape.

As a full-service agency, we deal with everything: print ads, branding, package design, and digital strategies. But this year has been all about online business. The internet has been critically important to marketers for years, of course, but current circumstances have shown what is possible and accelerated a trend that was already in motion.

What does this mean for you and your business going forward? Let’s look at a few things that are already becoming apparent…

Your Website is the Primary Point of Contact for Your Business

In many ways, your website is your most important piece of real estate, your best employee, and your biggest source of referrals all in one. That’s because it can be seen and interacted with by many times more visitors than you, your building, or all of your employees combined. That’s especially true if you’re using search engine optimization and social media to their fullest powers.

When you have a strong website in place it enhances your credibility. It’s easier for people to trust you, and to understand the unique advantages of your products or services. In order to gain these benefits, though, your website has to actually be impressive. It also helps if you can use interactive toolslike online chat and real-time social media feedsto engage visitors from the first moment they arrive.

It’s Not Just about Looks Anymore

Although we are in the “business web design” industry, we recognize that term has become something of a misnomer. That’s because the design (or aesthetics) of a website are no longer the primary or only consideration. What you can do with your pages is just as important as the way they look.

We’ve already mentioned the big benefits that come with using online chat to engage with visitors directly in real-time. What we have also seen this year is that ecommerce plugins, online scheduling tools, and video training modulesto name just a fewcan all make a website more valuable. These kinds of features boost revenue, save money, and make it more convenient for customers to do business with you.

COVID-19 Will Pass but Digital Business is Here to Stay

Speaking of decreased costs and increased revenue, it’s important to remember that bottom-line considerations have been driving business website upgrades for many years. There are a lot of business owners out there who only made changes to their websites out of necessity in 2020. Now that they’ve seen the benefits, though, they won’t be going back.

There aren’t many silver linings to the struggles we have seen in 2020. However, it’s never a bad thing when entrepreneurs and executives can discover lasting ways to find customers or save money. That’s why it’s a safe bet that the “new normal” of relying on business websites is going to be with us even as the pandemic stops being an ongoing concern.

7 New Year’s Resolutions for the Struggling Online Marketer

Do you feel like you aren’t getting the right kinds of results from your online marketing campaigns? Struggling to even get started with search engine optimization, social media, and digital ads? Or, do you feel like you’re always trying to catch up to competitors who get leads and sales from the web while you struggle?

If any of these situations resonate with you, then know you aren’t alone. We talk to dozens of business owners and executives every year who are going through the same things. With a brand-new year right around the corner, this is your chance to set your company on a different and more profitable path.

To help you make that change, here are seven New Year’s resolutions for any struggling online marketer to follow…

1. Review Your Business Website Regularly

Your business website isn’t one of those things you should launch and then forget about. Go through your pages, like a customer would, every month or two to look for problems or spot places where your content could be updated. This could stop your site from getting stale and prevent you from missing big problems (like broken links or missing plugins) that hurt your credibility.

2. Post Something New Every Week

Most business owners and marketing professionals struggle with content creation for the simple reason  like it never becomes a habit. You don’t have to write a long article, design a white paper, or dive into a video series every week. What you could do, though, is adding a few hundred words to your blog, updating your company’s Facebook page, and taking a snap for Instagram. Do that regularly (maybe on a Saturday morning) and you’ll develop habits that will build over time.

3. Get Familiar with Important Web Metrics

It’s almost impossible to make progress with your online marketing plan when you aren’t sure what’s going on with your website. Basic online statistics will tell you how many visitors are coming to your pages, how long they’re staying, and what they are doing when they interact with your site. Once you have a grip on those details you can develop smarter strategies and make better investments.

4. Try Something New Every Quarter

Most business owners (and more than a few web designers) fall into the habit of only working with the tools or techniques they are used to. For example, they might only post to Facebook because that’s what they pay attention to in their personal lives. It’s fine to start with what’s comfortable, but make sure you’re always trying something new to expand your boundaries. Before long you might come across a new source of leads or sales that you wouldn’t have otherwise discovered.

5. Build a Brand without Overselling

Your messaging is important. You want to stay on-topic with your blog articles, emails, and social media posts. But, you have to do that without always being in hard-sell mode. Finding the right balance can be tricky. Here is a good rule of thumb to follow: when in doubt, write or speak as if you were explaining something about your business to a colleague. That will stop you from getting too personal, but also keep you from being overbearing with your marketing.

6. Put Your Focus on Consistency

You might have noticed that many of the resolutions we recommend have to do with keeping your efforts and campaigns moving over time. That’s intentional. Success in online marketing doesn’t usually come from an all-at-once effort. Instead, it’s the cumulative effect you get from hundreds of posts, updates, and interactions. Just keep at it and you will make progress.

7. Stop Trying to Do It All on Your Own

Want to know a secret? Even in a web design and digital marketing agency like ours, it’s impossible for one or two people to do everything. There is just too much to look after between content creation, online reputation management, hosting plans, and dozens of other details. You can get help with all of these thingsand a lot more—by working with a team like ours. It will probably cost less than you think and could make a huge difference in your company’s profitability.

Want to Make 2021 Your Best Year Yet?

There is no easier or better way to make your business more profitable than by improving your digital marketing strategy. And, there has never been a better time to get started with web design, search engine optimization, social media marketing, and internet advertising.

7 Ways to Deal with Online Competitors and Their Dirty Tricks

In most business books and classes, competitors are treated like an abstract concept. They are in the background, like gravity, but don’t really affect you except as a thought exercise. In that context, the way to deal with them is simple: just do what you do better than anyone else and let customers figure out that you offer more value on their own.

As most of us know, the real world doesn’t really work like that. You do have to concentrate on your own business, but your competitors are anything but abstract. They are people just like you. In fact, in some cases they are petty, unethical, and downright dishonest.

That brings us to a question that’s rarely ever addressed directly enough: how do you deal with the dirty tricks they play? What should you do to fight back when they try to run ads using your brand names, put up websites that look like your own, or try to copy your products? What are your options when they post fake online reviews, try to steal your content, or market their products or services with lies?

In today’s post we are going to give you the answers. But first, a quick warning: don’t try to fight bad behavior with more bad behavior. While it might not always seem like it, those who perpetrate online lies and scams usually get caught. And once they do, they can face severe consequences, ranging from legal challenges to blacklists from search engines and social platforms. Your competitor might be willing to risk the future of their business, but that doesn’t mean you should put yours in jeopardy.

With that little bit of fine print out of the way, let’s look at seven ways you can deal with dishonest online competitors and their dirty tricks…

1. Run Defensive PPC Ads

Suppose you have industry-leading products and services, or just draw a lot of traffic to your website. Your competitors might take an approach that could be summed up as “if you can’t be them, imitate them.” That usually involves running search and social ads based on branded terms or product names that are normally associated with your company. In other words, they try to steal web traffic that’s meant for your website.

An easy way around this is to simply run your own ads for the same terms or branded search phrases. You might not prefer to spend money on search traffic that was meant for you anyway, and that’s understandable. However, you’ll end up getting most of those visits at a very low price (usually pennies per click). And in the process, you’ll deprive your competitor of that web traffic while also driving up their pay-per-click budget at the same time.

2. Lock Up the Right Domains

A similar tactic some dishonest competitors will use is to direct searchers towards a website that looks like it’s owned by your company. Usually they’ll be savvy enough to employ a variation that’s just different enough from yours to avoid any legal liability. Again, the goal is to siphon traffic away from your website and towards their copycat pages.

If you have a very popular company, it’s worth taking the time to snap up a handful of related domains. As with running ads on your own branded search terms, this can be annoying but it’s ultimately going to be inexpensive.

Not sure which domains you should reserve to play defense against your competitors? Get together with your web design team to evaluate search in traffic patterns, along with your most important keywords or brand names. Then you can come up with a list of the most obvious targets and lock them up before your competitors can.

3. Monitor Your Online Reviews

One particularly nasty tactic some desperate competitors will use involves hiring people to post negative reviews of your business. The theory in this case is that if they can’t beat you on price, service, or value, they can at least make you look worse in the eyes of potential customers who might not know better.

This is an area where a little preparation goes a long way. For a few dollars a month you can have your web development team deploy reputation management software that will keep you informed any time someone leaves feedback about your business. If lots of false and negative reviews show up at once, you’ll be alerted before they can do any damage, and as an added bonus you can use the same tools to improve your reputation online with legitimate reviews, boosting your sales in the process.

4. Protect Your Content

There are lots of scams related to web content, but a competitor who is jealous of your success may simply use it as their own. Unfortunately, this is something that’s common enough for us to have seen dozens of times.

Protecting yourself from this kind of theft is pretty simple. There are software tools (like Copyscape) that will scour the web and let you know if someone has posted your copy-written material. If you find that has happened, you can contact the company hosting the offending website and have them remove the pages right away. Google and the other search engines will also take action against blatant content duplication or scraping. However, you have to monitor the web and be aware of the problem before you can do anything about it.

5. Post Comparison Product Reviews

Sometimes, the problem with competitors is that they try to pass their products or services off as better, using false or misleading information. If you come across minor exaggerations, you might not care enough to address them. If you feel like they’ve shared something inaccurate that’s going to hurt sales, though, you might decide to take the issue head-on.

The easiest way to do that is to simply post a side-by-side comparison video or product review. Just put what you have to offer up against the competition and point out the differences in a clear and accurate way. This type of content tends to attract plenty of views and can be easy for buyers to understand. 

Just be sure that you are sharing your facts, comparisons, and assessments. Being untruthful or overboard doesn’t help you. In fact, it just makes it harder for customers to separate you from others who are being unethical with their marketing.

6. Get Customers to Tell the Story

Even if you are completely honest and straightforward in your marketing, it can be hard to get buyers to pay attention. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem: because your competitors lie, it’s difficult for buyers to trust you. And because they don’t trust you, they can’t see the value in what you are offering.

To get around this stumbling block, you just have to let your satisfied customers do the talking for you. People might not believe marketers, but they do believe impartial reviewers who look and act like themselves. So, if you have testimonials from customers who faced the same problems that the rest of your target market is dealing with, get them to share their experiences.

The caveat here is to make sure your reviewers are uncompensated, specific about the benefits they received, and are easy to verify. Do that, and their kind words will do more to boost your sales than any kind of marketing content ever could.

7. Just Keep Leading the Pack

You knew this piece of advice was coming, didn’t you? As frustrating as it might be, the best way to deal with an unethical competitor is usually to ignore them and do your own thing. They might be getting under your skin, but they probably aren’t making a very big dent in your bottom line.

Think about it this way: when someone tries to imitate your products, your content, or some other aspect of your messaging, they are basically admitting that your business is better than theirs. They’re pointing out that you have the real thing and they are a pretender.

Naturally, we don’t want you to ignore serious copyright violations or let a competitor steal money from your pocket. When in doubt, though, your best bet is to work on your own business, continue racking up those positive reviews, and watch your reputation (and profitability) just keep growing.

Are You Getting the Right Kind of Online Marketing Advice?

Having the right information and strategy has always been key to finding customersand surpassing your competitors—on the internet. Now, with the changes and disruptions we are facing in 2020, it’s more important than ever to have a winning plan.

How to Prepare Your Ecommerce Site for an Unusual 2020 Holiday Shopping Season

In a normal year, this would be the point on the calendar where we would be speaking to our clients about changes, additions, and improvements to their online stores. After all, nearly half of all ecommerce sales are made through the holiday season.

Of course, this is anything but a normal year, and as a consequence, many business owners are scrambling for answers and directions.

If you’re like most of the people we talk to, you’re wondering whether you should be playing offense or defense. You’re looking to save money due to an uncertain economy and take advantage of the marketing opportunities that are just around the corner. How can you walk this tightrope and make smart decisions for 2020?

To help you maximize your profitability this Fall, here are seven tips we think you should follow…

1. Pay Attention to Your Website Audit

Typically, we would begin helping our clients to prepare for the holiday shopping season by auditing their existing website and online store. This involves taking a deep dive into their HTML to look for coding errors, security vulnerabilities, search engine visibility, and technical issues like broken links.

That’s an important starting point in any environment, but especially in the economy we are currently facing. You can’t afford to let simple unseen errors affect your ability to attract customers or engage with them. So, order a website audit today and take the time to go over the results with your web design partner.

2. Upgrade Your Shopping Cart for Upsells

The prevailing wisdom in the world of ecommerce is that customers might be a little more jittery than usual this fall. That means you have to maximize the value of every visit and sale. One good way to do that is by generating upsell opportunities with special offers that appear at the time of checkout.

These kinds of last-minute add-ons and combinations are easy for buyers to say yes to, but they require more than an entry-level shopping cart solution. Why not look at the tools installed in your online store and see if a few simple improvements could help you double your sales volume in the coming months?

3. Develop a Smart PPC Strategy

Should you be increasing your pay-per-click advertising (PPC) budget to attract more buyers in a choppy economy, or pulling back to save money? The best answer might be “both.”

Look into the history of your PPC campaigns to see if there are clear trends. You certainly don’t want to pull back on your profitable ads, particularly if they are still working in 2020. At the same time, though, you may consider cutting off marginal or speculative ads for a while. In other words, focus on your winners and cut off any ads that aren’t performing for the next few months.

4. Lean into Retargeting Ads

Although we’ve already mentioned PPC strategies, retargeting ads deserves special mention. Since maximizing value per customer (VPC) is likely to be your top priority for the 2020 shopping season, you want to convert as many high-dollar sales as possible. That means giving buyers second and third chances with retargeting.

You don’t want to go crazy and blow through your marketing budget, of course, but consider throwing additional dollars at potential buyers who are looking into your most profitable products. You may be able to turn more of those exposures into sales and lower your ad costs, particularly if you follow the advice given in the last tip.

5. Use Targeted Content to Your Advantage

It’s easy to forget that free content is often more effective than ads when it comes to drawing in traffic and generating conversions. That’s especially true when you plan ahead.

In recent years, our clients have done particularly well by publishing buying guides, online video demonstrations, and customer testimonials. These all reassure visitors that they are making good decisions and will be happy with their purchases. In other words, they reduce the sense of fear that so many customers feel when it comes to checking out, particularly if they aren’t familiar with your products. Why not use these pieces of content to make your store more profitable this Fall?

6. Build Adaptability into Your Online Marketing Plan

No one can really say with any certainty what the next few months will be like. The best any of us can do is to make good plans, search for opportunities to get ahead, and then stay adaptable.

There are a lot of ways you can be flexible with your holiday season ecommerce strategy. You can build two or three sets of promotions and then let week-two-week analytics guide your strategy. You could prepare various ads, landing pages, and email blasts for different scenarios. You could even activate or hide certain parts of your online store, changing prices and promotions on the fly. The more uncertain you feel about the Fall season, the more contingency plans you should have in place.

7. Start Planning Today

It’s possible that our most important piece of advice is to simply get started on your Fall strategy today if you haven’t already. We advise our clients and readers to get an early jump on ecommerce preparations every year, but in 2020 it’s even more crucial.

Savvy business owners and executives are already following the advice we’ve laid out in this article, knowing that they may have to adjust their plans and ideas as they go. That’s going to be almost impossible if you wait until the last minute. It’s much better to spend a few hours putting together an email, social, or ad campaign that you won’t need than it is to find yourself scrambling to create one when you’re desperate to generate online sales.

Need Expert Help with Your Ecommerce Strategy?

It’s never easy to make good online marketing decisions on your own, and the current economic environment hasn’t helped anything. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert in web design, search engine optimization, or pay-per-click advertising to maximize the sales from your ecommerce site. You just have to have a team of experts who are willing to learn about your business and give you the right advice.

5 Quick Tips on Selling More Through Your Business Website

When lockdowns and stay-at-home orders were first being put into place, savvy business owners moved to institute ecommerce features on to their websites. They recognized that if buyers couldn’t visit them in person, they’d have to find new ways to generate revenue. That forethought has paid off, with some estimates suggesting online sales have doubled compared to the same quarter last year.

However, while some business owners took immediate action, others decided to take a wait-and-see approach. That was understandable, but customers are largely deciding to stay home. That means that this is the perfect time to upgrade the ecommerce features on your website.

If you don’t currently have the ability to sell online, this should be your cue to start. Alternatively, if you can already make money through your web pages you might want to expand your capabilities and attract more revenue.

No matter which of those categories your business falls into, we want to give you some actionable advice that will help. Let’s look at five ways you can start to sell more through your business website starting today

1. Add a Shopping Cart

You can’t sell anything through your website without some mechanism to process transactions and collect money. In most instances, that’s going to mean installing some kind of shopping cart that pairs with a merchant account.

These solutions are easy to find and implementing them is not complex from a technical or programming standpoint. At the same time, just deciding to sell things online isn’t necessarily as simple as it might seem. You definitely want to take care in choosing the right shopping cart and merchant solution for your business. Getting things wrong could cost you a lot of money, create a great deal of hassle for your customers, and even lead to other disruptions in your business or website.

For example, it goes without saying that you want your shopping cart software to be as secure as possible. You’ll also want to know that it’s easy to use, both for yourself and your customers. It has to be compatible with the content management system you’re using, and it always helps if the product is inexpensive. 

On top of that, there may be certain features you require, like custom specifications or discounts for various order sizes. You might not find those in the simplest shopping cart solutions, or you might need a web developer to help you put the right settings into place.

As a rule of thumb, we always recommend you work with an experienced web team when choosing and installing merchant features on your small business website. It’s not an expensive or time-consuming process, but it’s one you can’t afford to get wrong.

2. Create Online Demos Customers Can View

It’s one thing to have the ability to sell products and services online, and another thing to actually generate orders. Often, what’s truly important to a small business isn’t the technical tools needed to accept payments but the skill and expertise of a master salesperson.

You’re never going to be able to completely duplicate face-to-face contact online, but you can get a lot closer with online demo videos or interactive presentations. These allow you, or a member of your team, to walk a potential buyer through the features and benefits of a product before making a decision.

In some ways an online video presentation can be even better than a live demo. In person you might forget to mention something crucial or struggle with a difficult question. When you’re working from a script, and with ideal lighting and backdrops, you can put your very best foot forward. Even better, you can film a presentation once and then have it seen by dozens or hundreds of buyers. You can even share it on your social profiles and in an email newsletter.

Putting together online sales presentations does take a bit of work, but most of our clients can batch the task into a single day. Then, they not only have the tools they need to sell more products and services online, but also a way to pre-qualify buyers and reduce complaints or returns.

The cost of video production and editing has gone down steadily over the past decade as broadband-speed connections have come to rural areas and mobile devices. Video is much more powerful as a sales tool than plain text and images, so why not make the most of it?

3. Integrate Live Chat Features

While you can use online video to intrigue and motivate buyers, your business might be one where customers are going to have lots of questions. They might need to consider specific use cases, or simply get more information before making a final decision.

In those cases, having live chat features on your website can be a game-changer. When you or your employees are standing by, ready to address specific issues as needed, a major obstacle to closing the sale is removed. Prospects no longer have to go without the details or interaction they might need to make them feel comfortable taking the next step.

Online chat features are easy to install, although (as in shopping carts) you’ll want to make sure they are safe, compatible, and convenient. Some will allow customers to contact you or a team member directly; others can be programmed to automatically answer simple and frequent queries.

No matter how straightforward or complex you want to go, however, there is a lot of value in letting a potential buyer see that someone is standing by to assist them with their order or to tackle a quick question. That’s especially true when you consider that someone who is interested right now might not necessarily return to your website to get the answer they need later.

4. Create Upsell Opportunities

In the real world, you and your employees probably look for upsell and add-on opportunities so often it has become second nature. From asking someone “do you want fries with that?” to suggesting a maintenance plan, businesses are always finding ways to increase revenueand value for their customers—by putting more into each sale.

If you have a simple shopping cart on your website, though, you might not be able to do the same. That would mean you’re probably missing out on huge amounts of revenue because your average sale price is going to be a lot lower than normal. It could also mean buyers aren’t getting the little “extras” that would make them happier with their decision later.

The answer, of course, is to integrate smart ecommerce features into your business website that correlate certain products and services with one another. As an example, if someone were purchasing a shirt from you, they might be interested in another similar item the same size. Or, if they were booking a service to clean up leaves in the Fall, they might also be interested in snow removal this Winter.

These are just simple examples, but you get the idea. If there is something you would normally sell to a customer at the time you check them out or write up an invoice, they need to be offered the same product or service (at a minimum) when they finish a transaction on your website. That’s not hard to set up with your web design team, and you’ll definitely see the difference in your bottom line.

5. Don’t Forget About Inventory and Fulfillment  

To this point we’ve looked at a few tools and solutions that can increase your sales, but don’t forget about everything that happens after an order has been placed.

Buyers are always impatient to know when their items will be shipped and delivered, but that’s particularly true this year when so many industries and supply lines have been disrupted. If you’re going to add merchant features to your website, or improve the ones you have, it makes sense to address inventory and fulfillment.

You can put automated systems in place that notify customers about the status of their orders and help them keep track of shipping. You can even combine inventory and ecommerce platforms so shoppers can see what’s available on your website in real time.

These sorts of add-ons can increase sales, but more importantly they lower your customer service burden. When buyers can get the information they need about their transactions directly from your website, they don’t have to call or email your team.

As with the other improvements we suggested, adding inventory and fulfillment tools to your website doesn’t have to be a huge, expensive project. If you’re already thinking about raising your ecommerce capabilities this might be a good time to consider it.

Valley Power Systems Case Study

Since teaming up with Marcom, our SEO, Google Ads, and social media presence have experienced significant increases in traffic that have helped us attract new customers.” – Valley Power Systems, June 2020

Valley Power Systems partnered with us in November 2018 to boost their online advertising campaign. Utilizing a variety of marketing strategies, we’ve been able to improve their online presence, resulting in better web traffic and higher conversions.

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