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Posted: January 05, 2010

How to build a smarter online mousetrap

Spend some money to make some money

Esty Atlas

Common results scenario: Two page views. Time on site: 1 minute, 23 seconds -- not very long.

A smart mousetrap, not just any old website, can help you catch more of what you want: consumers. It can tell which browsers people are using and which search words are effective and provide you with the tools to attract new customers. After all, isn't that the whole point? 

There are two sides to this Internet landscape, and both sides must work together: What people see and what people don't see. Clicks count, total online time at one site makes a difference in creating an impression that can lead to more business. Consider this: it is estimated that, on average, 50 percent of marketing dollars are improperly spent or poorly targeted - or both. This begs the question: "Do you really know what's working for you and what isn't, or are you just guessing with a one-way website?" The good news is the Internet is now the most measurable media, with the right tools.

Today, smart companies of all sizes (even non-profits on extremely tight budgets) are putting their marketing dollars to work tracking the actual traffic that appears on their site. This translates to how companies communicate with their public. If you aren't doing it already, it's time to pay attention to the Wizard behind the curtain; because that's where the action really is. With knowledge, comes a better business model, especially when the information yields appropriate improvements.

Three examples: Panera Bread, The San Francisco Ballet Company, and the food giant, Nestle. What these food businesses and non-profit performance organization have in common is website optimization. Coca-Cola first tested the water with a three-month analytics services trial, but before the trial was over, they extended the contract for a full year.

Large companies, small companies, it's a growing must-have today for all companies. Even Virgin Atlantic Airlines is no virgin to the benefits of optimizing its online business tool in an extremely competitive industry. Why? Patrick Odey, Website Production Manager for Virgin Atlantic said, "We can now track the success of navigation links such as special offers, flights times and frequent flyer displayed on the homepage-which is absolutely fundamental as the first port of call for prospective customers."

True, there are many different tracking services out there. Which to choose? If you can, optimize that investment, too, with a "two birds, one stone" concept. Find a competent marketing company that can serve both sides of your website equation. Why marketing? Because good-looking design and people who understand smart attention-getting content are just as important as the ability to track, measure, analyze and optimize the visitor information obtained.

You'll save money with a one-stop program and have fewer fingers making the same pie.

"By uniting your online presence and redefining the user experience, you'll soon see a difference in what your website can really do to build consumer activity" says Melanie Goetz of Hughes & Stuart Sustainable Marketing in Denver. That's the whole point of having a website in the first place.

Ruth Egherman Pangilinan, Associate Director of Marketing & Communications, San Francisco Ballet explains how optimization works for them. "I was able to glean useful information that was instrumental in making decisions about where to spend marketing dollars, what time of day to send an email promotion and gaining understanding of what our web visitors are looking for when visiting our website."

Answer this quick & simple 5-point checklist:

1) Is your website easy on the eyes and easy to navigate? (make a note if any page is overwhelming or old in text or design).
2) Does it have short videos (brief talking bios of your leadership team). This is great for bringing your people to life or explaining product benefits in a 3-D way text alone does not convey).
3) Does it have an ongoing ‘engagement tool?' (something that causes a return action).
4) Are other methods of spreading the texted information implemented? (social media, additional communication grassroots outreach channels).
5) Are there consistent methods of activity measurement (and follow-up integration)?

The goal is to engage and convert more visitors into customers, more viewers into clients. Website traffic, web analytics, ad tracking, real-time lead generation, pay per click, consumer emails, creating effective landing pages and other relevant data can help you turn even the largest stockpiles of online and offline records into business opportunities. Page popularity and detailed click path information provides great insight into visitor habits to see what's working and what isn't. That's when marketing works from the inside out.

And that's the kind of business guidance that's worth paying for!

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Esty Atlas is the owner of Esty Creative, a four-time Emmy award-winning marketing, communications, media strategy coach and public relations branding specialist. She can be reached at: 303-919-2425; email: estycreative@yahoo.com or www.estycreative.com

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