Measuring Traffic and the Success of a Landing Page

Bob HoldemanWebsite Conversion, Website Tools, Website Traffic0 Comments

With a landing page created and a strategy for driving traffic to it deployed, you are now ready to receive visitors looking for what your landing page offers and convert them into leads for your business.  But, how do you know if it’s working?

You can go with the wet-finger-in-the-wind approach and “feel” it’s working when you start getting more leads from your landing page – or you can use simple metrics to immediately monitor the results and make changes to improve them over time.

The funny thing about the statement above is that if you don’t measure and improve you’ll never “feel” all the leads that could come your way.

Traffic can be measured in a few ways, but the most accepted way is to install the free code that Google Analytics provides on every page of your site, including your landing page(s).  This code allows Google to track every visitor to your website and provide you with reports that will tell you what is really going on.

Assuming you’ve added the landing page to your website and not put it on the site menu, every visitor to the page is one acquired by your strategy, since that is the only way to get to the page.  So by counting the visits month-to-month you can see the effectiveness of your efforts to drive traffic to it.

The effectiveness of your strategy combined with your page content will be reflected in two metrics: the page’s bounce rate and the number of forms submitted, also known as conversions.

The bounce rate is calculated for you by Google and represents the percentage of visitors who leave your site without visiting another page.  The landing page is basically the entry and the exit page, in this case.  The lower the bounce rate, the better.

Conversions can be measured consistently by dividing the number of forms submitted by the number of unique visitors to the page over a given period of time.  The result of this calculation is called the “conversion rate” and is expressed in percentages.  A five to eight percent conversion rate is considered good for a lead generation landing page.

When you have an idea of the meaningful page metrics like visits, unique visits, bounce rate, and conversions you can develop a way to track them periodically.  Once a month is typical, but whatever you do, make it regular.
What do you do with the data you are tracking?  That’s the subject of my next post.

Building Traffic to Your Landing Page

Bob HoldemanShameless Self Promotion, Website Conversion, Website Tools, Website Traffic0 Comments

There are probably a dozen distinct actions you can take to get people to visit a landing page, but the foremost of these is to be found at the top of the major search engine results pages (SERPs).  You probably already know that Google is the “gold standard” when it comes to being found on the internet and that being listed on the first few pages of Google and the other SERPs is key.  You may also know that the written content of your page is what determines where you stand in the rankings.

Do you know that there are two paths to take get to the top of the listings?  But, unlike the famous poem by Robert Frost where there is an option to go in only one of two traveled ways, both paths can be taken.

Your basic landing page page strategy should start with an ongoing organic search engine optimization (SEO) program.  This aproach can take months to fully develop and produce the traffic, and then the conversions, you expect.  Organic SEO basically relies on web crawlers examining your site and comparing its relevant text content to other sites’ relevant content.  Search engines want to provide searchers with the most relevant sites based on the keyword phrase used by the searcher.  Your site will be re-evaluated periodically by the web crawlers from Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines and their lists adjusted accordingly, to bring their searchers what they consider the best results.  While you can control your website content and work to improve it for the search engines, you don’t have much control over what they do.  If you have the time to devote to this facet of your business the internet is full of resources to help.  If you want to devote your time to your own business, contact Comstar to do the heavy lifting for you.

Of course, there is no “road less traveled” in internet marketing, so you may want to add a pay-per-click (PPC) Google Adwords campaign.  A PPC ad can get to the first page of Google at once by simply outbidding your competition, withe more control over your link’s visibility.  The higher the amount you bid per click, the higher your listing will show on the SERP.  There is some level of skill involved in managing a PPC campaign to achieve the desired result without spending too much of your budget.  A well-managed program will employ a defined budget, well-written ads, a method for tracking the results, and a plan for improvement, such as A/B ad testing.  This is where each visitor is presented one of two alternating ads and the clicks are measured and compared over a time period to determine the better performing ad.  Expect to pay a fee for management of a PPC campaign and to pay Google for the clicks, based on your budget.

A landing page is a great thing to feature relentlessly in social media.  Links from Facebook, blogs and other social media that you author or comment on can all be helpful in attracting focused traffic to your landing page.  And besides, search engines like links to your site, so do all you can to build those incoming links and you’ll be improving your SEO results, too.

Like any other marketing effort, your success depends on how well you test and measure the results of what you do.  More in my next post about how to know if your landing page is really working.

Magnetize Your Website With a Dedicated Landing Page

Bob HoldemanShameless Self Promotion, Website Conversion, Website Tips, Website Tools, Website Traffic0 Comments

Think of a landing page (aka a lead generation page) as a sort of “smart magnet” for your website.  It wants to be smart enough to attract visitors interested in just one thing and convert them into leads or even sales for you.  It does this by being focused on one idea, service, product, or even geographic area so that the visitors who find it on search engine result pages (SERP) get what they expect when they click on your link.

When they get there, have it be focused on information designed for conversion of your website visitor.  It should point the way for them to reach out to you with a simple online form.  Set realistic expectations with your visitors about when you will respond and then adhere to them by doing so promptly.  To those who submit online forms nothing is worse than not getting a response when promised.

We created this landing page for our own Advanced Spam & Virus Filter, literally pointing visitors to our form to sign up for the filter.

The form could be as simple as an email sign-up, so you can contact them later with individual or mass emails.  Keep it simple and do not require more information than you need to fulfill the promise of your landing page message.

If the page is for a specific product and you have an ecommerce store, create a separate landing page and feature a prominent link to add the item to the visitor’s shopping cart.  For better results, make the link a graphic with an eye-catching, contrasting color.

Make sure your phone number and any other ways to contact you are obvious on the page for those who won’t typically complete a form.  It’s always best to offer visitors multiple ways to get what they want.

Here is another example of a landing page we created for Holy Hill Self Storage in Richfield, WI, specifically for attracting searchers looking for self storage in Germantown, WI.

While similar information existed on pages of the example sites above, each required a focused page to attract visitors searching for specific results and to be able to track the results and determine the success of our efforts.

Now that you’ve got a landing page on your site, how do you leverage the search engines to get visitors to it?  I’ll answer that question in my next post.


An Internal Affair – Your Own Intranet?

Bob HoldemanWebsite Tips, Website Tools, Website Trends1 Comment

Whether your organization is large, small or in between, you can probably benefit from a secure company intranet for sharing information on an ongoing basis among management, employees, representatives, etc.  One of the big advantages of a properly configured intranet is that authorized users can get what they need from anywhere at anytime, with just an internet connection (or even their smart phone, provided your intranet website was developed using Responsive Web Design techniques).

Employee Handbooks, training videos, general policy documentation, announcements, scheduling of company facilities, various online or pdf forms and other internal interactions can be managed and stored on an intranet, providing all with up-to-the-minute information in one single place.

A robust website content management system is an important part of any intranet, providing not only a way to manage the information available, but a way to manage the users, their passwords, and what they can do on the website.

As with any website, goal definition and planning are key.  The goal should be to inform your users/employees by making it useful and easy to navigate to what they need and get it used by promoting it to them.

For the best results, get your employees involved so they take ownership and see the benefits early.  One of the clients we recently built an intranet for held a contest to name their “employee portal”.  They feature regular Employee of the Month articles and introduce new employees to their 100+ team of healthcare providers.

With the right planning, execution and maintenance your company intranet can become a great tool and the focal point for your entire organization’s group communications, keeping everyone on the same page and going in the same direction.

Preparing for Your Website Upgrade

Bob HoldemanWebsite Tips, Website Tools, Website Trends0 Comments

hf84509094334So, it’s time to upgrade your website software.  What’s next?

Start by opening your favorite browser and go through your website, page-by-page, making good notes about anything that may not be displaying or working correctly.  You may find that the site’s graphics won’t look right or some elements of your content may overlap one another.  Test all the functional elements that your website visitor would use: forms, apps, calendars, etc. for glitches and errors.

You may also be employing a content management system that should be tested for problems.  If you use it regularly, you may already be aware of at least some issues.  Sometimes you’ll find things like graphic buttons don’t appear, so you can’t save changes or upload website assets like photos or pdfs.

When you complete these steps, open another browser and do it all over.  Keep track of your testing by browser version.  Most browsers have a Help menu selection that should lead you to a link “about” the browser that will show you the version.

Web developers will generally program and test their software on the 4 most popular browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, and Safari (for the Mac), for the latest two or three major releases.

By documenting the issues, your notes will help in a few ways, providing a list for:

  • researching the upgrade/update – website, supporting software, module, plug-in, widget, etc. may all need to be considered.
  • communicating with your web developer – whoever is performing the hands-on update should know the issues.
  • testing – check each page and function in multiple browsers after the upgrade or update has been completed.

I like using a spreadsheet with rows for the issues I find, organized into sections by website page, with columns for each browser.  This format can be easily shared in an organization and with supporting vendors.

Like any good Boy Scout worth his merit badge, you or your web developer should always be prepared when upgrading.  If things should not go as expected, you need a Plan B, which is usually to rollback the website to where it was when you started, so a good back-up to restore from is key.  This is good in all cases, but especially if working on a live site.

However, if Plan A was to create a duplicate and perform the hands-on upgrade there, impact on your live website and your visitors will be zero.  This can provide time to figure out what went wrong and correct it.

The nature of a website may dictate which way an update will take place.  Ecommerce sites and those that have registered users need special consideration to ensure continuity for the site’s authorized users.

Upgrades and updates can range from the simple to the complex and may not immediately correct a problem or be entirely successful at first.  Good preparation and patience, as well as a competent hand at the helm, will serve you well.

Is it Time to Update/Upgrade Your Website Software?

Bob HoldemanInternet Safety, Website Tips, Website Trends0 Comments

Software updates and upgrades have become commonplace and are typically no longer to be feared, as they once may have been.

Most of us think of updates or upgrades in relation to the software that’s loaded on our pc, laptop, tablet, or smart phone. We may perform the update ourselves or sometimes we wake up to find that an automatic update has taken place overnight – for good or bad.

Your organization’s network file servers are probably kept current with upgrades by in-house or consulting IT professionals. Cloud-based applications are updated by the companies that provide the online services we use as part of their business models.

But, what about your website? When was it last updated? Why does it need to be kept “current”?

We usually think about an update to our website in terms of the visuals, the look and feel. Or maybe it’s the content, the copy and the photos. While that is certainly true, there are other, even more compelling reasons to keep your website up-to-date with current technologies.  Here are some, in order of importance:

  1. SECURITY – Thanks to the world wide web, visitors from all over can walk right in your front door, via your website, opening up your business to many new opportunities you would never have otherwise had.  But there are some bad actors out there who employ nefarious means to use your website for their own purposes and they seem to never sleep.  That’s because they may be half a world away and use their own tireless computers as weapons to infiltrate to your website’s “back room”, to keep the front door analogy going.  Updates and patches to your website software are needed to combat vulnerable holes that are being uncovered by these actors every day.  If you don’t stay current, you may wake up one day to see your website taken over by someone wearing an eye patch and talking like a pirate!
  2. BROWSER COMPATIBILITY – Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc. –  all are in use today, and have their pros and cons.  It mostly comes down to comfort level… we use the one we are most familiar and comfortable with, but sometimes a browser update will change that.  As browser updates are released you may find that your website may not look like it did on an earlier version or that it may even cease to do what it did before the update, requiring modifications that you hadn’t planned for.  Sometimes it can’t be helped or corrected, like when Internet Explorer (IE) 9 was released by Microsoft.  (This version lasted only a few months in release and is not supported by Microsoft any longer.  Statistics show that only 1.6% of browsers in use in August 2014 were IE9, so before you spend lots of money to try to fix the issues, you may want to update your own browser and recommend the same to your website visitors.)  Since its inception 6 years ago, in September, 2008, Google’s browser Chrome has gone from 3.1% usage to 60.1% today!
  3. FUNCTIONALITY – Another result of browser updates or upgrades may be that some functions of your website will not work correctly.  It may be your content management system, a module, widget, or plug-in.  You may need to update your website platform and/or the specific module, widget or plug-in to a compatible version.  If you have any custom programming in place this may also need to be corrected by a web programmer.

That covers the why… the basic reasons for updating or upgrading.  Next time I’ll go over the what… things to consider before starting and what to expect along the way.

A Massive Amount of Spam and a Spam Filter for the Masses

Bob HoldemanInternet Safety, Misc., Shameless Self Promotion0 Comments

With about 60% to 70% of the email addressed to most Inboxes today labeled as spam, in this digital world a good spam filter is a must have. But, what makes a good spam filter? Is there really more spam being sent lately or is it my imagination? Does it really matter if I’m getting more spam if I just delete it?

Let’s take those questions in reverse order…

What’s the big deal, since I just delete any spam that comes my way? With most ISP hosted email accounts and those hosted on your own exchange server, there’s a limited amount of space allotted to each account. This means that as your Inbox fills up, your ability to receive email might be temporarily suspended until you make room by deleting some. If an email client, like Outlook, has not been configured to delete emails from the email server after downloading, even the messages you delete will remain on the mail server. If you get email on your android phone and do not have a filter, spam will fill up your phone’s storage space even faster. You may be able to increase your allotment of disk space on your email server, but how much is enough and how much will you pay for it?

Has there really been an increase in spam or is it just me? It’s not imagination. According to Cisco, whose routers and other networking devices are the world’s most prolific, spam is at its highest level since late 2010. In the six months from January 2013 to June 2103 spam was estimated at 50 to 100 billion (yes, with a “b”) messages per month. As of March 2014 spam volume was estimated at 200 billion per month.

So, what makes a good spam filter? Almost any spam filter will quarantine suspected email and provide a way to whitelist your approved senders and blacklist your most pesky offenders. It should be relatively easy to add an address to your whitelist and probably a bit more involved to add to the blacklist. (Best practices say that you should only add addresses to your blacklist when they manage to get through your filter. If the filter quarantines them, don’t bother filling up your blacklist.) You should also have some controls over the aggressiveness of the filter so you can adjust as needed.

Spam should be filtered before it gets to your mail server. A good spam filter will block messages that are from known spammers and not even allow them into quarantine. It will also let you adjust the settings for this option.

No spam filter is perfect, but the best of them are focused on spam and nothing else. They keep up-to-the-minute track of the latest spam practices as well as long-term trends, to maximize capture and minimize false-positives.

And how easy is it to manage? A good spam filter will provide a simple interface for managing mail day-to-day and the better ones will send one or more automated messages to remind you to check your quarantined email.

Here’s a link to more info about a really good spam filter.

What Goes Into an Effective Online Dashboard?

Bob HoldemanWebsite Tips, Website Tools, Website Trends0 Comments

Coming up with a recipe for a really effective online member/customer dashboard is sort of like creating a new and tasty desert.  As the head chef, you need to execute your vision.  Do you layer it in gooey goodness, riddled with valuable nuggets to be discovered in its depths?  Or do you present a modest display of wholesome ingredients that will nourish your audience and sustain them as you grow your dashboard vision?

The answer to this dilemma can be found by answering these two questions:

  • First, put yourself in the shoes of someone who will be using the dashboard: your customer, an employee, external sales representatives, management or key staff, board of directors, etc.  What data do they want, what are they looking to know?  What does my audience need?
  • Second, ask yourself “How much is enough to make it valuable and useful?”.  Start simple and don’t try to do too much at first.  Your dashboard can evolve and grow, as long as it stays focused on the needs of your audience, it will get used.

Since success is measurable by how much it gets used, be sure to setup a way to measure the outcome, such as Google Analytics.  Use these metrics and solicit feedback from your audience to determine how your dashboard should evolve.  You’re better to start simply, with data that is not too time-consuming to update, displayed in a way that is fast and easily understood by your audience.

Some general suggestions:

  • Keep it on one page.
  • Make it interactive.
  • If needed, employ user-controls, such as sliders or accordian effects, to make the best use of your real estate.
  • Organize the data so it flows, the way your audience expects it to.
  • Use icons where possible (graphic links can improve the flow of your dashboard).
  • Use graphs instead of tables to show data – remember that you want to make your data easy to get at and to understand.
  • Include as much information as you can from dynamic sources, like an RSS feed from a news channel or data pulled from an enterprise system.

The development of an effective dashboard takes time and, depending on its complexity, may take professional help to setup and configure.  Choose a web developer with the right experience to guide you and bring your vision to life so that it’s easy to maintain for you and valuable for your audience.

Where to Start When Creating a Member Dashboard

Bob HoldemanWebsite Tips, Website Tools, Website Trends0 Comments

Once you understand the potential for your company or organization in taking your website to the next level, building a community of users via a Member Dashboard, what’s next?  What’s your plan of action?

There are three main areas your plan should cover:

  1. Technical/Platform
  2. Content/Data
  3. Access/Flow

#1 – Technical/Platform:
Determine the eventual size and scope of your dashboard so that you can anticipate your future website hosting needs.  It’s generally recommended you start simple, allowing room for it to grow and evolve over time, with polishing and refining.

Size and scope relates to storage of files that your dashboard will have available, as well as the number of users, who will each require their own secure login.  Does your website hosting plan need a disk space increase?  Is your current website programmed to allow login by individuals and to display private pages?  If it is, you are halfway there – and probably won’t need a separate hosting plan, saving on monthly expenses.  If not, you can add that function to your website, develop a new site with greater capabilities, or even an entirely separate website in a sub-domain to better track visitors.  A new website lets you be free to explore new and more efficient web technologies than your existing site, along with other possible benefits, such as updated design.

Your Member Dashboards can be built completely from the ground up with custom code, which may be the best approach for the user and certainly the most costly.  It could be one of the commercially available dashboard packages that provide templates and widgets for a more standard approach, at the other end of the spectrum, yet still pricey.  You could try for something in the middle, using a website content management system with modules to perform the various dashboard functions you have envisioned.

This will depend on what you plan below.

#2 – Content/Data:
The most important thing to remember about what you choose to show on your dashboard is to limit it to what your users, i.e. members/customers, want to know.  The focus must be on them, with really relevant data that is easily understood at little more than a glance.  Use of graphic icons and buttons, charts and graphs is good, especially as opposed to displaying text and data in rows and columns.

Keeping the content up to date can be a challenge if you don’t plan for it.  Some content can be pulled from other sources, with RSS news feeds and the like, with no need to maintain it, while other content that is available for download, such as proprietary product installation manuals, reports, white papers, etc. will be somewhat static.  The most valuable data to your users may well be the content you generate, though, so take steps to minimize the process of updating it.  You don’t want to find yourself spending hours each week updating online information (unless there is a real, measurable ROI in terms of making those connections with your audience).  Where possible, connect to your enterprise system for current data.

#3 – Access/Flow:
Each user will require their own credentials to login to their own dashboard – don’t neglect to plan and communicate the rollout to your audience.  How will registration be offered and implemented? Administrative access by your staff will be needed to maintain the dashboard pages.  Both will require a database, if your website is not already connected to one.

The flow of the data you display is another important factor that will play a huge part in whether your dashboard gets used.  The dashboard should present a logical and progressive look at the data, with the user flowing from one point of interest to another, like a good conversation.  This needs to be firmly based in your knowledge of what your audience wants to know.

Next: “What Goes Into an Effective Online Dashboard?”

How a Dashboard Can Help Connect You and Your Customers

Bob HoldemanWebsite Tips, Website Tools, Website Trends1 Comment

Odds are, if your business is like ours, your customers don’t realize everything you do for them.  It’s certainly true for some of the little things you do every day, but it can sometimes even be true when you go above and beyond the call of duty, when you go the extra mile.

So, just how do you forge that bond between vendor and customer that says “hey, we’re looking out for you!”, without making a pest of yourself?  Putting it another way, how do you support your customer’s perception that you’ve got them covered – in the right way?  After all, it is about what you’ve done for them.

A well-thought-out online dashboard could be the answer you’re looking for, delivering valuable information to your customers in a more subtle way, keeping them connected to you.  It can be as simple as a checklist of the tasks planned and completed on a single page or as complicated as a multi-page collection of information about customer history, projects, timelines, status of tasks, etc.  The common factor among all such approaches is that the customer’s dashboard is hosted on a website with a robust content management system (CMS) that you control and that it is only accessible to your client and you via secure login.

And yes, it must also serve a useful purpose so that it gets used by your customers.

The customer dashboard model is a great way to deliver pointed communications about customer-specific topics, such as product documentation for their eyes only, announcements, offers or even suggestions to a certain customer or group of customers.  It can be done in a serious and very professional way or it can take a more playful approach.  The content, style and tone of a dashboard is something you want to discuss with your website developer and your marketing staff, but maybe not in that order.

Once you decide to pursue this approach and have some idea of the tone you want to take, you’ll need to further decide how to implement this great thing you envision.  Some of the related questions I’ll attempt to answer in my next post include:

  • Use a separate domain or a sub-domain?
  • Develop custom dashboard or find existing solution – or somewhere in between?
  • Can a customer Dashboard serve more than one purpose?

While an online dashboard isn’t meant to replace the personal touch of a phone call or email, it can be a helpful backdrop, painting the big picture of what you do that can otherwise be forgotten or taken for granted.