More than 169.1 million people in the U.S. will buy goods and services online this year, according to Statista, and that number is projected to rise to 185.5 million in 2018. Clearly, the Internet is the "go-to" source for buying everything from books and furniture to finding a plumber, lawyer or local restaurant.
If your website isn't capable of tapping into the Internet's lead generation potential, it won't matter how good your product is — it will be left behind. However, as a small business owner, you're an expert in your industry, not necessarily in web conversion optimization, search engine optimization (SEO), AdWords campaigns and email marketing campaigns. Frankly, many small business owners don't even understand what those terms mean and can't keep up with the ever-evolving world of Internet commerce.
Here are three things that every small business owner can easily implement to get cost-efficient online lead generation and capture some of the estimated $500,000+ spent online every 60 seconds in the U.S.:
Optimize Your Website for Search Engine Traffic
The key to generating leads from every website is a call to action for the user. Once someone has landed on your website, is the layout conducive to converting that visitor into a lead? For example, we have found that companies that list their telephone number in the header in boldface type that is at least 50 percent larger than any other font on the page will get more phone call leads. Here are a few other tips for optimizing your website:
Make it Mobile Friendly
The majority of searches for small businesses is from mobile devices, so if your website isn't mobile ready, forget about generating leads. In fact, on April 21st 2015, Google decided to rank mobile-friendly websites higher than those that are not.
Remember That Less Equals More
Lead capture pages should only require minimal contact information from customers to follow up with that lead. The "magic number" is usually three fields: name, email address and phone number. Most companies will see a major drop in submissions if they ask for more. However, if you're offering a free trial and the information is desirable enough to the customer, you can request that the customer create a password for the trial, and most potential customers will provide that information.
Keep Your Content Fresh and Applicable
In the past, meta tags, meta descriptions or links to your website were the key to SEO, but that isn't what will create favorable rankings today; it takes much more than that. Today, search engines rank results according to time spent on a site and conversions. If people spend, on average, a lot of time on each page of your site and fill out the form requesting more information, Google takes that as an indication that listing you as a result for the search terms used by the visitor was the right choice and will rank you higher in the organic search results. Backlinks are still important, but it is more important that you have the right content that is specific to the search intent of the person on your site.
Run Pay-Per-Click AdWords Campaigns
It takes time to build credibility using SEO alone with search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. I recommend investing in a pay-per-click AdWords campaign to slingshot your site to the top position in the listings and start getting leads quickly. AdWords campaigns allow you to target the exact client you want. Once you have determined that you want every person who types in "plumbers in Arlington, VA" to find your page, you need to be sure you are ready for their visit with a targeted landing page.
By creating targeted landing pages, your call to action is distinct to that campaign – "get a quote," "call us at +1-888-888-XXXX," "sign up for a free trial" – and makes it easier to measure the success of the campaign. Companies that connect AdWords campaigns to a main website page might get a 2 percent conversion rate, whereas in my experience, a high-performing landing page will get an 8-12 percent conversion rate.
Follow Up With Targeted, Measurable Email Marketing Campaigns
Targeted email campaigns are your third step in the process, and the key here is metrics. You need to be able to measure every step recipients make: Did they open it, did they forward it, did they click on your link, did they delete it without opening it, etc.?
There is no "right" formula here, so you must test, test and test again against your target markets. With the right measurements in place, you will be able to see down to the time of day your potential clients are most likely to open an email, what subject line got the most opens and what copy got the most click-through. For some businesses, the long-winded, educational email is the most successful. For others, it is short, to-the-point messages that get the most leads generated.
You can use the metrics to tailor subsequent email campaigns more effectively because you know what works for your customers. You also can create "preferred customer groups" that receive new and different messages. For example, if you email 1,000 business leaders in real estate, and you get a 20 percent open rate, then you know that those 200 real estate professionals are highly interested in your information. Now, when you hone in on that group with more targeted, detailed information, you are likely to see a 50-80 percent open rate.
For all of the businesses that we have run lead generation for, these three strategies have helped us generate thousands of qualified small business leads per month.
Jacob Garlick is founder and CEO of Revsite.com, a lead-generation web design company.
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