Volume 10, Issue 4 - July/August 2008

Driving Technology
understanding today’s business practices

Getting Your Customers Back … Online
by Scott Orth

Are your customers being stolen? Are you getting frustrated by larger, national auto glass companies pushing their way into your neighborhood? With more than 40 percent of the online auto glass market being dominated by just one company, it’s time to take your customers back.

The best way to get started is with Internet marketing. Yes, it’s different from anything you’ve done before and it is still a new marketing medium that some are uncomfortable with. But it’s time to get on the bandwagon. After all, the Internet is where your customers are going when they need your services. In fact, there are approximately 9 billion online searches occurring in the United States each month, and an estimated 59 percent of searchers are looking for local businesses. With a piece of that action, you’d be well on your way to pushing back your strongest competitor. 

There’s a lot to know to be successful on the Internet, but I hope to make it easier with a few tips and recommendations. First things first: where do you start?

Gaining Visibility
I recommend starting with organic optimization and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising. A marketing strategy combining these two methods will give you the best visibility on major search engines. In turn, you will have an opportunity to trump your competitors with strong search engine listings.

There are many other online tactics that may benefit your business. Keep these in mind as we may discuss them in future columns:
• Link building;
• Usability and conversion tracking;
• E-media (banner ads, video ads, etc.);
• Blogging and social media;
• E-mail marketing; and
• Mixed marketing (directing traditional advertising to the website).

Organic Optimization
To get started with organic optimization, choose one search term for each of your pages. Review the content of each page to best match what terms fit most naturally. Once you have a list of terms in front of you this will make more sense, but, as an example, one page may focus on “cracked windshield repair,” while another page may focus on “windshield repair.” Though very similar, each of these terms offers a distinct focus to your audience.

Next, you’ll want to create unique page titles for each of your pages. If your site is on a Content Management System (CMS), you’ll simply select the title section of each page and modify it to your liking. Without CMS you’ll need to change it manually. In an HTML editing program, find the <title> line in the header section of code and modify it appropriately.

Though not critical, I recommend creating a site map for basic optimization. A site map is a unique page on your site that lists (and links to) all other pages on the site. It’s also important to place a link to the site map on every page of the site, typically at the bottom of each page. 

Now that you have a few organic optimization basics underway, we can move forward with sponsored online advertising (PPC).

There is quite a bit of planning and strategy behind a successful PPC campaign, but anyone can at least start an account and begin to build some exposure on their own.

I recommend starting with Google™ Adwords (www.adwords.google.com). The instructions won’t show you how to succeed, per se, but they are quite complete at getting your account set up and positioning you to build initial success. 

Once the account is set up, use the Google Keyword tool to find search terms relevant to your business. Only choose two- to four-word terms that are specific to your products or services in order to keep your campaign focused. Single words, or terms that are too broad, will cost a great deal of money to market. 

Next, you’ll build ad groups with titles and descriptions based on the selection of terms themselves. Organize your ad groups as it makes sense for your business, but keep them focused. Try to create small groups of terms that are highly relevant. If possible, you want the actual ad copy to mention a search term. So, if you have a group for “windshield” terms, your ad copy would be all about windshields. In contrast, you may have another group with very similar ad copy, but the terms are all related to “auto glass.” You might break groups out instead by “repair” versus “replacement,” or “auto glass” versus “flat glass”—whatever makes sense for your particular business.

No matter how you set up your campaign, tracking results is key. Knowing what works and what does not will give you the insight needed to make intelligent marketing changes.

Getting Your Customer Back
With a combined organic and PPC focus, you’re well on your way to getting your customers back. But don’t waste time; the large competitors that are plaguing you now are taking advantage of new online opportunities everyday. Isn’t it time you benefit from the same opportunities? 

Scott Orth is director of Internet marketing services at GTS in Portland, Ore. Mr. Orth’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

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