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A quick summary of how what I do is different to building websites
2010-10-07: This is an outline of what I offer that I sent to a web developer who is looking for collaborees, so I would do the Internet marketing bit and he would do the website building bit. After I'd written it, I thought it summarised quite neatly the difference between what I do and what a 'normal' web developer does.
You'll see that I top and tail the web development process. What I do is crucial right up front when you're deciding what you want your website to be like. And after your website is done, you need to market it .. that's me. So here's what I sent (I've changed the names and subjects):
OK Geoff, you'll need a comfortable seat and a coffee for this, here's my take on The Granite Place, Matlock.

Initial design for SEO

I guess the bottom line is we get to do what the client wants. What follows is what I would do in an ideal situation.
The first thing, before you even start to think what you are going to do with your website is to get the marketing right, and that starts with demand, so the first thing I would want to do is to look at the number of people who search on a wide range of keyphrases related to this company's business, assess competition and (alongside the client) relevance to their business, then group the keyphrases. I would then want to write a page for each of those keyphrase groups. That, for me, forms the start of the structure of a website.
(The problem with most websites is that they are organised according to the structure of the business, not according to customer needs. So for instance, let's imagine you go to a car website and it gives you links to the Careera, the Poncho, the Cashew and the WhitePurple .. all cars they manufacture. They assume you know which is the hatchback and which the 4x4. Or, they assume you know which you want. Or you go to a mobile company and they say do you want PAYG or a contract? Basically, you don't know until you learn more. Those are organised according to the owner's deep understanding of their business, but that's not how the customers see things. They may have just started thinking they need a new car and may not have chosen yet whether they want a diesel or petrol, or a saloon v a hatchback. You need a new phone, but whether you go for a contract or PAYG surely depends on the phone you like and the relative costs.
Often you can start with lifestyle, or develop a short flowchart to help guide people to the product that would suit them, so for fireplaces you might, from gas fires, ask .. modern or traditional styling .. it has to fit in a room so that's already decided.
You can end up with menu options that mean nothing to the customer. The shop owner will have to help me with those phrases and topic, and if you confuse your customers, you're dead, so on your example website I would have something to explain each phrase to help the customer know what they've got and what they need. If we can guide people through their needs to our solutions and turn a list of 50 choices into a choice of three or four, that's more like it.
And that explanation place becomes something the search engine picks up whenever someone wants help with that, and if you're helpful, you might get the business.)
So, in principle, we are writing pages about the relevant things that clients are searching for.
Let's assume for a minute that that's enough to get you a first page position and some traffic from natural search.

Improving your conversion rate (sell more with the same traffic)

The next thing you want is for your website visitor to buy something from you, the percentage who do is your conversion rate.
So, how do we improve conversion?
(Everyone wants more traffic, very few are looking at conversion .. it's not right. Conversion begets traffic. If you convert, you're doing a great job. People will beat a path to your door. If you're not converting, more traffic just disappoints more people).
  • Usability is important, so a usability test is important using real users. It's fairly cheap to do and usually brings out a load of things that could be better that you and I and your client would never have noticed. I include accessibility and internationalisation in this.
  • Psychology: we should try to appeal to our visitors' subconscious as well as their conscious intellect. So we should provide pictures of food and/or attractive and happy people and probably include a small amount of movement (a slow javascript slideshow works) for our subconscious and facts, figures, comparison charts and so on for our intellect.

    There are a number of persuasion possibilities too, I'll pick three at random: social proof: testimonials, Facebook/Twitter pages with good comments and company responses and a fair number of fans; commitment: get someone to give you their contact details and they are implying that they trust you enough. If they've done that, you are halfway to selling to them, so give them small ways in .. download a PDF guide to all the different product types, for instance, or encourage them to follow or friend you on one of the social media networks. Scarcity: if you mark something up as your most popular model and show there's only one left, that will encourage sales.
  • We should, of course, cover the basics: a competitive price, delivery, guarantee, and add-on services such as fitting, maintenance and support.
  • Copy: Text is persuasive. You need good copy because that's what persuades people to buy and because that's partly what Google uses when it decides when and where to display you in the search results. Combining the two is a skill. You need someone good on that just as much as you need professional, not amateur photographs (unless amateur is part of your branding).
  • Video. It's still the next big thing. Check out this and this if you think you need an ultra professional five-figure setup before you make a start.
  • Interact: This isn't about setting up a shop and just taking people's money. Their questions need to be answered (and then organised into a real FAQ). There's a basic Internet principle that says we should provide our content in the way the user wants it. So if they like Twitter, we should be on Twitter. If they want email, we'll write back to them by email. If they want a live video interaction on Skype .. hell, why not? Social media is partly like the phone and fax used to be. But social media is also public. Answer a question on Twitter and you don't just impress the person you're tweeting with, you impress the crowd of twenty gathered around, too.
  • Information architecture: basically, how information is gathered, used and presented to the benefit of everyone. In ecommerce, it's about gathering information about your business and using it to help future customers. Which of these products is the most popular? Which do young people like? What's new? Which is most fuel efficient? Which do people add to their wishlist the most? Can I share my wishlist on Facebook and get my friends' inputs? Can I organise these products by price and unselect them by category until I've a shortlist of two or three?
  • Blogging: While we are at it, we should work out what the news and information opportunities are, decide whether anyone in the business is going to have the will, the time, and the skills to blog, Tweet and so on, or will they need someone to do it, or are we not going to bother (bad idea)?
All of this, ideally, is to be considered right at the start.

Build your website

Having answered all that, you get to build the site.

After you've built your website ..

Then post-build, we are into:
  • coaching/training in social media/blogging and systems setup: there's a guy in Bridlington who runs a B&B and moans about his clients. There's a right way and many wrong ways to do this and there's a lot to it, so clients need coaching and that's ongoing until it's right.
  • usability testing, watching Analytics, running tests and continual improvement: once you see the real traffic flowing through your site it should inform improvements. Someone who knows what to look for needs to watch that and make suggestions. If, for instance, searches on the phrase 'granite worktop' convert better than 'marble worktop' then maybe we should blog more on granite worktops. Or check the prices against competitors. And maybe check our product ranges. And our online copy.

    You can (and should) set up tests. Pages convert at a particular rate. If your granite worktop page converts at, say, 2%, wouldn't it be nice if it converted at 4%? By testing different headlines, layouts, photographs and so on, you can iterate your way to better conversion for the whole website. Testing is ongoing and forever.
  • Link building: The website that comes top in your industry for your main keyphrase has 608 pages of its own and the home page has 80 inbound links. It's been around since 2004 so let's take an initial guess and say that it's currently adding 2 pages a week and one or two inbound links a month. An active blog with two entries per week and an equally active programme of fleshing out website content wherever traffic shows there is opportunity and need would allow us to catch up with them over the medium term and gain us the search position we want.
  • in the meantime, you can buy traffic using pay per click (PPC) advertising, usually Adwords or Facebook but other places too. You probably know how that works, but basically it's not simple. The price you pay in Adwords is partly to do with what you bid, but it's also your quality score, and that is partly to do with the closeness of match between the search term, the ad text, and the landing page text. So basically you need a specific landing page and ad for each search term. Also, you need a fast site and a low bounce rate. Once you are over all that, you can buy specific traffic and watch, say, 200 go to a specific page on your site and then decide whether it's converting at a good enough rate for you. If so, fine, press on with SEO stuff (which takes time, effort and money), if not, change something and go again. Basically, use PPC to check the efficacy of your website's conversion mechanisms for particular search terms.
  • if you like, you can think about competitions and ways to engage people and go for viral marketing effects through social media. That may not be totally appropriate for this client, but I mention it generally.
OK, so what this boils down to is there should be a lump of money for marketing input to the initial concepts and requirements of the website. Then you build the website with a little bit of input from Internet marketing, more if I'm writing the copy. Then there's ongoing work on all the things above .. blog coaching, PPC, link building, testing, traffic monitoring and so on.
It's a lot. It may put off some clients. But here's the thing. Actually it's one of my favourite life rules: everything is as complex as it can humanly be. It's the natural order of things. Kicking a ball into the back of a net is a lifetime's work once you want to make it your profession. There are ten natural search slots on page one of Google for any search term. If it's a moneymaking term, you bet there's competition. 42% of traffic goes to the person in the top position. That person will defend their livelihood with all the passion they can bring to it, and they'll stop you taking the food from their children's mouths if they can. It's a fight. If you want to make money online, you need to throw some resources at it to dislodge an incumbent or two. Once you're there, it's easier to defend. How much resource is needed? That depends on the profit from the search term.
So if you are working for small companies, then we can start with small traffic, specific long-tail search terms and build up a flow of small-beer positions which gradually add up to something worthwhile.
If you are working for larger companies, then the budget should reflect that. I've seen companies spending 10m a month on Internet marketing. Most often the bulk of that, wrongly IMHO, is on PPC.
I offer everything I've spoken about here.
I haven't spoken about email marketing .. I haven't done much of that, it's not really my thing, but I suppose if you've got someone on board who knows about that, fine, just keep the costs in proportion with all the other things mentioned here and remember that ads and promotions like this are not long term, whereas SEO, link building and social media connections are.
Let me know what you think :-)
All the best

By John Allsopp
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