Volume 48, Issue 9- September 2013

Web of Opportunity
Two Companies Learn What To Do and Not Do When They Put Their Websites Up for Critique
by Ellen Rogers

WGood websites are like good business—they don’t just happen. If you want your business to be successful it takes a lot of work and effort. The same can be said of a company’s online presence: if you want a successful one you’re going to have to work at it.

And believe it or not, the beauty of your company’s website isn’t necessarily the most critical component. In fact, a number of tactics necessary for a successful site are never even seen to the average viewer who clicks on your page. Where your company ranks in search engine results, targeted key words, and optimization are just the start when it comes to developing a go-to website for customers and future customers.

Earlier this year USGlass magazine, through its daily e-newsletter, usgnn.com™, issued a challenge to readers: to put their websites in front of online marketing expert Bob DeStefano with SVM E-Marketing Solutions based in Somerset, N.J. Two companies stepped up, boldly putting their websites at the hands, mercy and critique of DeStefano. Ace Glass in Little Rock, Ark., and Metropolitan Glass in Denver took part voluntarily in the website review.

“We were in the process of revising our site so it seemed prudent to get an expert opinion as to the effectiveness of the current site,” says Courtney Little, president of Ace Glass. “We knew [the site] needed updating but we couldn’t put our finger on what we wanted to change. Our site is more for branding and information, but we weren’t presenting ourselves as well as we’d like.”

Marty Richardson, sales manager with Metropolitan Glass, says he took on the challenge as he wanted a completely objective opinion of the company’s site. 

“[I wanted to know] what were its strengths and weaknesses,” he says, noting that before the start of the critique he thought the website was fine.

“It does what it was designed to do--inform our customers of who we are and what we do.” The site is also important from a marketing standpoint.

“We wanted it to show our customers our capabilities.  Since we keep [the site] fairly up-to-date, our customers can see what type of projects we have completed recently. I think it’s particularly helpful for out-of-state general contractors who are moving into our market to find us and see what we are about.”

But as DeStefano explains, a company’s website can be a money-maker or simply a glorified brochure. 

“An effective website can help you achieve a number of business goals, such as generating leads, building a marketing database, enhancing customer service and selling online,” he says. To do so, he suggests employing what he calls an Online Marketing Machine™.

“An Online Marketing Machine leverages the following four components as an integrated system to continually generate new business, strengthen relationships with customers and maximize the results from your marketing investments:

1. Attract: Search Engine Marketing
—attract targeted prospects that are actively searching for your company’s products and capabilities;

2. Convert: Customer-Focused Website
—serve the needs of your various target audiences and convert visitors into leads and sales;

3. Nurture: Email and Social Media Marketing
—nurture relationships with customers and generate repeat website visits; and

4. Measure: Marketing ROI Measurement
—measure the results and return on investment from your online marketing initiatives.”

DeStefano explains, if a business wants to attract customers and potential customers to its website one of the best ways to do so is through effective search engine marketing, which attracts targeted visitors by increasing online visibility. In fact, DeStefano points out 80 percent of web customers begin their online queries by using search engines (i.e., Google, Bing, etc.). However, it’s important to note that there are two types of search results: organic results and paid results. Organic or “natural” results draw about 75 percent of a site’s clicks. Ranking is determined by relevancy and link popularity. Basically, DeStefano explains, you earn your way in. Paid results, also known as “pay-per-click” results, draw about 25 percent of a site’s clicks. Ranking is determined by the bid amount, relevancy and budget.”

“You buy your way in,” says DeStefano. Next, companies want to make sure they have a customer-focused website. The site should speak directly to each member of the company’s target audience; provide content and features that address customers’ needs; educate and build trust; persuade visitors to take action; and make it easy for customers to do business with them.

The third component is nurturing the relationship though email and social media marketing. If you think Facebook and Twitter are just for fun, it’s time to think again. Social media sites such as these can help keep companies directed to and connected with their target audience. This component, DeStefano explains, allows a company to nurture its relationships with customers and prospects; generate leads and repeat business; enhance customer retention; and expand its authority online.

The final component is measuring marketing results with web and marketing analytics. Measuring marketing return on investment, DeStefano says, is the foundation for proving and improving a company’s online marketing success. It ties companies to measurable business goals and helps drive actionable strategies to enhance future success.

So, what happened with our volunteer critiques? What were the reviews? And how might your company’s site stack up? We examine the results of the critiques over the next few pages. Companies were ranked numerically on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best scores. Take a look at the specific charts throughout the section for a detailed look at the results.

Ace Glass Company
Attract Targeted Prospects with
Search Engine Marketing

Just as we all “Xerox™ this paper” and wipe our noses with Kleenex™, what do we do when we need to find something online? We “google” it. So where a company’s website ranks on Google.com for keyword searches is an important criterion. Ace Glass scored a 2 in terms of the keyword phrases it provided to SVM, and DeStefano’s critique found the company’s website was not listed on the first three pages of Google for keyword phrases. Search engine marketing, though, is one of a company’s greatest opportunities to improve online marketing results, according to DeStefano.

Targeted keywords—those searched most frequently by customers—are also important. DeStefano also evaluated the keyword phrases targeted and searched most often by Ace Glass customers and found that those the company provided to SVM were a bit too general and the list was limited

“You need to perform keyword research to identify the specific, niche phrases used most often by customers and prospects,” says DeStefano. Ace Glass scored a 2 in this area.

In reviewing for website optimization, Ace Glass earned a 3, as DeStefano found it to be search engine friendly, meaning all of the pages are fully accessible to Google.

In terms of inbound link popularity (see box on page 95), Ace Glass’s website had 139 inbound links. This number, according to DeStefano, is low. The company scored a 2. For pay-per-click advertising the company’s score was 1, as Ace Glass was not running any type of pay-per-click advertising campaign. Total Attraction Score: 2

Convert Visitors into Leads: Customer-Focused Website

A home page should clearly communicate what the company does and the customers it serves. In determining the home page effectiveness of Ace Glass, DeStefano found that its home page leverages imagery and text to present its services. He added that the site needs to focus on prospects’ needs and help guide them through the website to find the information they need. The company scored a 3 in this area. In terms of intuitive navigation, Ace Glass also scored a 3, as, according to DeStefano, the website offers a consistent main navigation menu throughout the site. Ace Glass also scored a 3 for customer-focused content. The majority of the content on the website is focused on Ace Glass’s products and information about the company. But, DeStefano noted, “The website’s value to customers can be greatly improved by supplementing the content with additional useful content that serves the needs or your niche target audiences.”

In terms of educational content the company scored a 1. The critique found that Ace Glass was not offering much in the way of educational content. Creating and offering educational content and features based on the interests of various niche audiences can help bolster the site, according to DeStefano.

When it comes to compelling calls to action the company scored a 2, as DeStefano noted that the site offers calls to action in the form of a phone number at the top of every page as well as its contact section. Total Conversion Score: 2.4

Nurture Relationships: with Email and Social Media

Much of the scoring was weighted in the use email marketing (i.e., email newsletters), customer-focused content and social sharing (having content that is sharable on social networks). The company scored 1 in customer-focused content, adhering to regular email schedules and social sharing; it earned 2 for its use of email marketing. The company scored a 3 for its use of social marketing as it is currently active on Facebook. Total Nurturing Score: 1.6

Measure Marketing Results with Web and Marketing Analytics

One big focus area within this segment is web analytics (score: 2), which provide a company with access to reports that track the effectiveness of the website. Ace Glass did not have access to any web analytic reports and had not decided which package to use. In terms of conversion tracking, which tracks the effectiveness of online lead generation/sales, Ace Glass scored a 2. The company was not tracking lead generation on its website through an informal process. For search engine metrics (tracking search engine marketing results) the company scored a 1, as this was a measure it was not tracking. For email and social metrics the company scored a 3. While not conducting any email marketing campaigns, which would have results to track, it does track the results on its Facebook page. And it also earned a 3 for frequency of analysis as it does track online marketing results with its marketing director. Total Measurement Score: 2.2

Overall online marketing strength score: 2.1 Where Are They Now?

“We learned quite a bit,” says Little. “We integrated some of the recommendations with our site revision and plan on using the rest of the recommendations over time to keep our site fresh.”

He adds, “We plan to continue updating our site and gathering interesting and relevant content to increase its reach and usefulness.”

Metropolitan Glass Inc.
Attract Targeted Prospects with
Search Engine Marketing

When it came to key word searches, Metropolitan Glass scored a 2 as far as its rank on Google. DeStefano’s critique found the site was not listed on the first three pages of Google for keyword phrases provided to SVM. As with Ace Glass, he stressed that search engine marketing is one of a company’s greatest opportunities to improve online marketing results.

As for targeted key words, the company scored a 2 here as well. DeStefano said the keyword phrases provided to SVM were a bit too general and the list was limited. He suggested the company conduct key word research to identify the specific, niche phrases used most often by its customers and prospects.

When it came to website optimization, the company scored a 3. DeStefano said the site was search-engine friendly in that all pages are fully accessible to Google. However, he said the site did not appear to be proactively optimized for a top ranking in organic results.

The company’s site had only 23 inbound links, giving it an in-bound link popularity score of 2. DeStefano suggested the company conduct a focused link building campaign. And as for pay-per-click advertising, here the company scored a 1, as it was not currently running a pay-per-click advertising campaign. Total Attraction Score: 2

Convert Visitors into Leads: Customer-Focused Website

When it came to home page effectiveness, Metropolitan Glass scored a 2. DeStefano commented that the home page leverages imagery and text to present the company’s services. He noted the site should also focus on the needs of prospects and help guide them through the website.

As for intuitive navigation, DeStefano found the site offered a consistent main navigation menu throughout the site. Here, the company’s score was 2.

In terms of providing customer-focused content, Metropolitan Glass scored a 3. According to DeStefano, the majority of the content on the company’s site is focused on its products and information about the company.

For educational content Metropolitan Glass scored a 1, as the site was not currently offering such material. In terms of compelling calls to action, the company’s site scored a 2. The only such content was the “contact us” form. Total Conversion Score: 2

Nurture Relationships: with Email and Social Media

This was an area DeStefano said required some attention and work. At the time Metropolitan was not engaged in email marketing or social marketing programs. Total Nurturing Score: 1

Measure Marketing Results with
Web and Marketing Analytics

For web analytics, Metropolitan Glass scored a 5 as it was using Google Analytics. The company also earned a 3 for conversion tracking as it was tracking website lead generation. For search engine metrics, though, it scored a 1, just as it did with email and social metrics, as it was not tracking either of these. For frequency of analysis the company scored a 2 as it does track online marketing results, though infrequently. Total Measurement Score: 2.4

Overall online marketing strength score: 1.9

Where Are They Now?
Since taking part in the critique, Richardson says he is starting to move forward with a few changes.

“I am visiting our analytical tool more often to see how much traffic our website gets, and how long visitors are staying on the various pages, and what pages they go to most often,” he says, adding he is also looking at what information site visitors are browsing so he can prioritize which pages get updated first and most often.

“We definitely want to update the site using the more recent software making our site more customer-friendly, and offering more options for information about our company and industry,” he says.

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