Michael Epstein

How to Get Inside Your Customer’s Head

Companies looking to improve their website conversion rates often ask me something that I find rather farcical. “Can you tell me why aren’t my customers converting?” Sure, we can dive into the analytics. We can record user sessions. We can look at heat maps. Eye tracking. Run split tests. There are lots and lots of articles written about best practices for web/landing page design with a focus on conversion, and many of these are quite good. But my first question is, “Have you actually asked them?” They typically give me a look resembling something between perplexed and contrite and say “Um, no.”

On-Site Customer Surveys

We can analyze the website data and draw conclusions from it, but often the fastest and easiest option is to simply ask customers. On site survey software such as Qualaroo or Webengage allow you to create unique (even rules-based) on-site surveys so you can ask a simple, open-ended question like “Is there anything still preventing you from purchasing?” You might be amazed by what they are willing to tell you.

Abandoned Cart Email Follow Up

There are 3rd party abandoned cart follow up email tools that can automate this process. Additionally, a number of common email platforms that you might already be using for your email newsletters even allow rules-based triggers that you can create based on customers visiting certain pages of your site and not converting.  For example, something as simple as “Hi [Name], Thanks for visiting [Website Name.] We noticed that you did not complete your order for [product name] Is there anything currently preventing you from completing your purchase that we can assist you with? [Your Contact Info, Call to Action, Assurances, etc.]”

Mine Your Customer Data

On a related note, I also find it irrational when I hear from a company that “We get the same questions from customers over and over again.” I would simply ask, “Have you reviewed your website to make sure the answers to these questions are obvious?” It may be a fix as simple as adding another FAQ, adding additional product specs, or making a button bigger and more noticeable. Look at your customer inquiries. Talk to your customer service staff. They are a great resource to help you get inside the heads of your customers, because they are the ones actually interacting with them. Even reach out to your existing customers and ask them what made them become customers in the first place.

Build a Real Customer Profile

Now that you’ve asked the questions, can you use the answers to build a customer profile to get inside their head and understand their concerns? Their uncertainties? Their needs? Imagine if you proactively addressed all of these in your website copy and what that might do for your conversion rates! Rather than marketing “at” your potential customers on your site by rattling off features, you could instead actually be speaking their language and showing that you truly understand them. Your product or service is the solution to whatever problem they are facing or addresses their needs and you can provide it in such a way that they feel comfortable doing business with you. Wouldn’t you be more likely to buy from a company that you thought really understood you and presented a clear value proposition?


Customer Service Is Not Enough. Customers Need to Be Surprised

Retail companies such as Amazon, Zappos, Bonobos, and Apple, as well as service businesses such as Virgin Atlantic (or Virgin America,) Disney theme parks, or USAA (insurance) have long been raising the bar for customer service excellence. Customers have come to expect it, or perhaps even take it for granted. In most industries there is simply too much competition; too many choices for customers to accept anything less than a great experience when dealing with a company. When is the last time a friend bragged to you, “I just ordered from company X and everything came right on time and just as described!” Or, “The waiter at that restaurant was totally fine!” Just meeting expectations doesn’t get anyone talking about your brand. Dramatically exceeding expectations gets customers spreading word of mouth about your brand…and so does dramatically disappointing customers.

Don’t Just Be Great. Be Memorable.

The truly memorable experiences are when brands surprise you with their service. When I placed an order with Zappos at 11 PM and got my order at 10 AM the next day (back when overnight shipping was standard for everyone,) that was surprising. And I told people. Even though overnight shipping is no longer automatic, Zappos still surprises customers with free upgrades to overnight. When I had dinner at a nice restaurant and the valet had my car waiting for me by the time I got out the front door because the host had radioed ahead to tell him that I was on my way out, that was surprising. And I told people about that, too. (It was Flagler Steakhouse in Palm Beach, to give them credit.) Those experiences stick with you and that is what branding is all about. At my previous company, I created a proprietary system that took digital photographs of each order as it was packed for shipping and additionally recorded the name of the person who packed it. This served multiple purposes. It allowed us to verify the contents of each shipment in the event that a customer claimed there was a mistake with the shipment. It recorded how many shipments were packed by each member of our shipping staff so that we could track various efficiency metrics. But the main reason I built it was so that we could surprise our customers with something they had never seen before from other retailers and provide a memorable customer service experience tied to our brand. When customers received an email informing them that their package had shipped, they didn’t just get a tracking number. They got a personalized email telling them who packed their shipment as well as a picture showing their items in a box ready to be sealed and shipped. And our customers wrote about how surprised they were to receive the photograph in their email. Not just to us, but posted it on other sites as well, resulting in great word of mouth marketing.

Once You Raise the Bar, You’re Left Holding it There.

One important point worth noting is that if your brand becomes known for customer service excellence, it is critical to uphold that level of service because any failure to meet the standards you have set for yourself have the opposite effect…the customer feels even more let down than normal because their expectations were so high. Ironically, I contacted Zappos customer service more recently when I happened to forget to pack a pair of dress shoes for an out of town event. I called them on a Thursday evening and asked if there was any way they could get me a pair of shoes to my hotel by Saturday.  I wouldn’t expect an average company to accommodate this request. But that’s why I didn’t call another company. I called Zappos, because I expected them to say, sure, we can either get them out tonight to arrive tomorrow (Friday,) or even send them out Friday and pay the extra for Saturday delivery. Instead, the rep quite curtly said there was nothing they could do. I hung up the phone in a haze of disappointment and disbelief, turned to my wife and said, “Zappos just told me they couldn’t help me.” And that stuck with me, too. The bar continues to be raised higher and higher. Soon Amazon will have a distribution network that will be one business day (or less) away from nearly the entire US population. Products and even many services often become commodities, making service the differentiator. So what experience can your business provide  that would surprise your customers? [button size=”extra-large” color=”mystic-red” url=”www.getonlinewithme.com/contact”]Help Surprise My Customers[/button]

hiring a freelancer

Hiring A Freelancer For the First Time

Often the hardest decision for a small business owner is when to hire another employee.


Hiring a freelancer or an independent contractor can be a highly effective way to grow your small business.


Perhaps the best aspect is that it allows you to delegate certain responsibilities based on the amount of work you have available, even if you cannot justify a full time employee.  If you have a repetitive task in your daily routine that is not the best use of your valuable time, you can hire a freelancer to assist you, even if it’s an hour a day.


This frees you up to focus on growing the business.


Additionally, depending on where you source your labor, their hourly rate could be significantly lower than what you would pay for an in-house employee. Plus, you’re not paying for additional employment costs such as office space, equipment, or benefits.


Furthermore, you can choose from such a wide talent pool that you can find experts in the specific tasks that you require. Whether these experts are at a lower rate than an in-house employee (which is often the case,) or even a higher rate, hiring a high quality freelancer can save you significant time and money in the long run.

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8 Simple Questions for Google Analytics to Improve Website ROI

Google Analytics can be overwhelming in that it provides so much data and reporting options. Particularly with inexperienced users, you can get lost for hours sifting through it in order to find key, actionable metrics to improve your website ROI. While there are numerous other useful reports that can provide important insight into specific user behavior and provide clues about how to improve website ROI, for small businesses with limited time and resources, start with the simple, “low-hanging fruit” and you might be amazed by the results.

Using Analytics to Improve Website ROI

Here are some simple questions to ask Google Analytics (or another website analytics application you are using) that can help you quickly and easily identify areas for improvement:

1. How much traffic am I getting?

Obviously the most basic question is how many people are actually visiting my site. While in theory you might want this to be consistently increasing and generally as high as possible, keep in mind that for practical purposes you will want to understand more details about this traffic and focus on attracting relevant, targeted visitors to maximize your website ROI…particularly if you are paying for any or most of your traffic.

Additionally, if you have very low traffic, it will be more difficult and time consuming to optimize your site because it takes longer to accumulate enough data to get statistically relevant reports. High traffic means you can make constant tweaks and quickly see if they are having an impact.

Your overall traffic is an aggregate baseline from which to measure your efforts against.

2. What is my conversion rate?

I blogged previously about how important conversion rate is to website ROI. In analytics, you can track numerous goals, from making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or “liking” your page on Facebook to even watching a video or increasing the amount of time users are spending on a page.  You can set up multiple goals for your site and track how well your site is converting. You can even track which sources of traffic or pages are converting best (and worst) and make adjustments as needed.

3. What is my bounce rate?

Bounce Rate is the percentage of visitors that land on a particular page, visit no other pages in your site, but instead leave your site completely.  Typically this means a visitor didn’t find anything related to what they were interested in or intended to find at your site. For example, they searched for shoes and landed on a page of your site that sells umbrellas, so they left without exploring anything on your site. Investigate the sources of the traffic visiting your high-bounce rate pages and tweak the content to better match what customers are looking for or to help them find a path towards potentially relevant content on your site.

4. Where is my traffic coming from?

Your traffic comes from a variety of sources, including search (organic or paid,) direct (they type in your URL or click from a newsletter,) or referral (clicking a link from another site.) You can learn where your visitors are coming from, which websites are sending you the most traffic, which keywords are sending you the most traffic, and which source is sending you the most traffic. This is extremely valuable to identify potential marketing targets for your offerings, whether it’s sites within a particular industry, keywords to focus on for SEO, or how your email and social media marketing is performing for you. If you are getting other sites to link to yours, you can also use tracking URLs to help you easily identify these sources in your analytics and track their performance.

5. What search terms are people using to find my site?

Uncovering what terms people are using to find your site can help you understand what they are looking for (and make sure you are offering it,) trigger ideas of new content or products to add, and where to focus your efforts for additional search engine optimization.

There have been some changes to the way Google provides organic search term data in analytics where most keyword data is missing (AKA “not provided”). KISSmetrics has some good tips to uncover those missing organic terms.

6. What are the most popular pages on my site?

Looking at the most popular pages on your site can help you determine where to concentrate on for conversion optimization (start with the most popular pages that have a lot of room for performance improvement,) how to best merchandize your site, or where to focus your efforts expanding your marketing. Finding and focusing on your most popular content first will help you see a quick boost to your website ROI.

7. Which pages do customers most often land at when they arrive to my site?

A landing or entry page is any page on a website where traffic is sent (or naturally arrives at as the result of a search of clicking on a link) specifically to prompt a certain action or result.  Sometimes you may want to set up specific, customized landing pages where you will intentionally direct traffic that originates from certain sources (an email campaign, a banner campaign, etc.) Other times an entry page may simply be a search engine or site linking to a specific page within your website other than your homepage. To maximize website ROI, make sure your landing pages and top entry pages are optimized to convert a lead or at least push them down the conversion path.

8. From which pages are customers most often leaving the site?

Exit Pages are the pages from which visitors leave your website. That sounds a bit like “bounce rate,” right? The difference is that the visitor may have been to other pages on your site before exiting, whereas when a visitor “bounces,” they only viewed the one page they landed on. Which pages are your visitors most often finding a dead end? To improve your website ROI, it’s important to understand where they are getting stuck or hitting dead-ends and make adjustments that help move them through your funnel towards your goal.

Improving Website ROI – Conclusion

The longer you work with your analytics to optimize your website ROI, the more questions you will have, causing the depth and complexity of those questions to deepen. You can then start to expand into new areas or even create custom reports and segments of traffic particular to your business.

Remember, these incremental changes you make to your site have a compound effect that can really start to snowball as you continue to make improvements. Additionally, investing in optimizing your website means that the improvements in ROI will not only be lasting, but have a positive impact on every new marketing tactic you deploy.

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Small Business Marketing Ideas from Self Empolyed King

19 Creative Small Business Marketing Ideas

Fellow entrepreneur, Inc. 5000 honoree and proponent of small business marketing ideas, Mike “Self Employed King” Kawula, posted a list of 19 Creative Marketing Ideas to Grow Your Business. I was happy to be asked to contribute some thoughts on PR to the list and enjoyed reading other small business marketing ideas on networking, web marketing, leveraging customer loyalty and other practical ideas for small business owners. I use many of these small business marketing ideas myself and many can be done without a huge commitment of time resources. 


What is Conversion Rate?

conversion rate

Conversion rate is simply the percentage of visitors to your website that achieve a certain goal that you set as your objective.

Your objective might be making a purchase of a product, filling out a contact form, signing up for a mailing list, registering for your site, or whatever else you are trying to achieve.

If you are spending time and money to draw visitors to your website, increasing your conversion rate may be the single most important metric to focus on to grow your business and improve ROI.

Yet many businesses don’t focus on this and instead just spend more time and money trying to attract new customers, when they aren’t maximizing the customers they already have at their site!

Imagine you own a retail clothing store…

Customers are walking in on their own and browsing the racks. But instead of your sales staff tending to them, making suggestions, trying to convince them that they would look great in that new dress they are eyeing, and helping them check out, they are all standing outside holding up posters asking random strangers on the street to come inside the store. How many of those customers who were just a small step away from becoming a paying customer might instead walk out empty-handed?

It’s easy to see a similar impact in nurturing the customers on your website.

As a website operator, you might spend 5 hours writing a newsletter for your company or you spend $500 on a banner advertisement on a relevant website with the objective of acquiring new customers.  If you double your conversion rate, that very same 5 hours you spent or the same $500 would actually generate twice as many new customers.  And it’s not a one time thing, either. When you improve your overall site conversion rate, every piece of marketing that you do will provide a better ROI, forever! Because every newsletter you send, every advertisement you run, every visitor is now being driven to a better performing website that achieves more of your goals with the exact same amount of effort.

Ok, what else can conversion rate optimization do for me?

Conversion rate optimization doesn’t just help increase the ROI of your existing traffic, it creates great new opportunities for increased marketing to really accelerate your growth.

All businesses should have a target cost per acquisition (CPA) which is the amount it costs you to get a visitor to achieve your goal.

If you get 100 new registrations for your website from an advertisement that costs $1000, your cost per acquisition is $10. If you spend $12 on pay per click search ads to get one new customer, your cost is – you guessed right – $12. Your target cost per acquisition is influenced by your margin, overhead and lifetime customer value.

A simple example would be if you’re selling dresses for $100 and your cost is $50, perhaps you’re willing to pay up to $25 to obtain a new customer, leaving $25 in gross profit to cover your other business expenses and have some profit left over. As your conversion rate increases, your cost per acquisition decreases. Doubling your conversion rate means the $1000 that used to get you 100 new registrations now gets you 200. The PPC ads that used to require $12 to get a new customer now only cost you $6. With PPC bidding getting more and more competitive, conversion rate optimization can be absolutely critical in maintaining profitability.

But wait, there’s more!

Think about how many new keywords you wanted to bid on or other ad campaigns you wanted to run to acquire more customers, but they were just too darn expensive. You’re thinking, “I’d love to be there, but there’s just no way I can justify the cost of that ad if I’m only getting 1% of my site visitors to convert.”  When you increase your conversion rate, all of a sudden ad campaigns that were once unable to produce a sufficient ROI now are affordable, helping you to grow your revenue and scale your business faster.

How do I improve my conversion rate?

Renown Venture Capitalist Bill Gurley, who writes at Abovethecrowd.com, makes an important point: “Unfortunately, conversion improvements typically are the aggregate gain of 100 tiny improvements, not one silver bullet. Rarely will you find one single change that is going to have a 5% lift in conversion (you might if you have never tried, but this type of win will go away quickly). Rather you will find 30 things on a page that all have a tiny impact, and the overall impact, after months of work might be 5%. You have to be willing to toil in the minutia knowing that the impact on the overall system will be the combined result of many tiny little changes.”

Don’t get discouraged. These small incremental changes really start to build over time and have an exponential impact. Stay tuned for new posts on some great ways to test and find ways to perform conversion rate optimization or contact ME to help you with your conversion rate optimization.
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How He Built and Sold a Multi-Million Dollar Company Using Freelance Workers

How He Built and Sold a Multi-Million Dollar Company Using Freelance Workers – Interview with Michael Epstein

Many thanks to Jonathan Taylor at the Beginner Internet Business podcast for asking me to speak to their listeners on the topic of outsourcing and utilizing freelance workers.

We covered some great topics, including:

  • How I was able to save over 70% in labor costs and remain competitive in an industry with significant pressure on margins
  • What outsourcing service I use for getting top talent at a reasonable price.
  • The biggest challenges that most entrepreneurs face with outsourcing and how to overcome them.
  • How to make sure your project deadlines are met by VAs (virtual assistants)
  • and so much more!

Learn how you too can take advantage of freelance workers and outsourcing to help grow your business!

Find more details and listen to the entire show including my interview here.


freelance workers

Conversion Rate Optimization Funnel for Healthcare.gov

Healtcare.gov Could Use Massive Conversion Rate Optimization!

According to the latest statistics released yesterday, there is indeed significant interest from users in the new government healthcare exchange portal, Healthcare.gov, with almost 27 million visitors, or 8% of the population. However, here’s where things go south. While there are around 900K users either starting or completing the application for healthcare plans (around 3%), which would be an important “goal” to track on any website, actual “conversions,”  people who selected a plan from the exchange are only just over 100K, or less than .4%. Yikes! That represents only about 1/5 of the Congressional Budget Office was projecting by this point. Another fail.

That is a pretty ugly looking conversion funnel (I posted a graphic showing stats from the first week,) with massive drop-off at every stage of the process. Imagine you just made a huge investment of resources, financial and time (in the case of Healtcare.gov, the most recent reports quote the tab at $174 million), to get people to your ecommerce site and 97% of them never even added a single item to their cart. And of those that did, almost 90% of them never completed checkout. Obviously there is a big disconnect and you’ve got your work cut out for you to bring up those conversion rates. That’s where conversion rate optimization comes in.

Conversion Rate Optimization

Conversion rate optimization is the process of identifying and testing changes to the website by utilizing tactics such as surveys or split/testing changes that increase the amount of users on your site who are actually achieving what you have defined as your goals (I.E. submitting a request, signing up for a service, purchasing a product, etc.) Clearly there are big issues with users likely not finding what they are looking for, confused about how to go through the process, feeling overwhelmed and not getting the reinforcement or answers they need to proceed, and surely more hurdles that they are unable to overcome to convert.

Now that the site appears to at least be more technically stable, I sure hope they have a team of conversion rate optimization specialists analyzing the data and deploying simple, effective tools and testing to improve performance. We’ll talk about these conversion rate tools and tests in more detail in future posts, but you can see how important this is as you start investing time and money to drive traffic to your site.





SEO (Search Engine Optimization) vs PPC (Pay Per Click) – What’s Right for My Business?

You just built a beautiful website for your business. Now, how do you get anyone to actually find it? This is probably the most common question I get asked by friends and clients and, while there are many more great ways to drive traffic to your site, usually the initial question I get asked comes down to focusing efforts on search engine marketing through either search engine optimization (SEO) or pay per click (PPC).

Search engine optimization is the process of attempting to get your website to show up towards the top of the organic (aka FREE) search results on Google and other search engines for a variety of keywords related to your business. For example, if you sell athletic shoes, you’d be in pretty great shape if your website showed up in the top few results when someone searched for “running shoes” or “Nike shoes.” You cannot pay to influence where you appear in these results and best of all, every click your website receives costs you absolutely zip.

Pay per click in the context of search engine marketing refers to the sponsored results that appear on the top and side of search result pages (SERPS) as well as on other websites that display targeted ads served by the search engine. For example, if someone created a blog talking about the latest and greatest running shoes, perhaps they would choose to allow Google to display ads on their website related to running shoes in exchange for a share of the revenue generated from the ads. With PPC search engine marketing, you have the ability to pay to show up in the search results, or on these targeted third party websites. More on how to determine how much this costs and where you appear later.

Ideally, you should be working on a dual-strategy that incorporates both approaches. However, if you are a small business with limited time and resources, it’s understandable that you may need to pick one or the other, at least at first. The main factors to consider are:

Time Requirements – SEO vs PPC

Both search engine marketing strategies strategies require an investment of time, especially initially. Both require you to identify the types of keywords that your customers would be seeking. As a side-note, you’ll want to focus on “long-tail keywords” which are more specific, niche phrases because they will generally be easier to achieve rankings for in SEO and less costly for PPC. For example, don’t expect to get the #1 ranking on Google for the word “marketing software” and furthermore, bidding on the word “marketing software” is not only going to likely be expensive, but generate an enormous amount of less-than-ideally targeted paid clicks that will burn through your budget and likely not convert well for you. Tools like Google’s Keyword Planner can help you identify keywords and estimate costs.

After you identify some good keywords to focus on, you’ll have to incorporate these into the pages of your site for SEO, or build a structured, scalable PPC campaign to target these keywords. (More on creating efficient, manageable campaigns in a future post.) Note – if you’ve already built your website before considering a SEO strategy, you’re already late to the dance! Take the time now to go back and ensure your existing pages are optimized for keyword-rich content.

Once you have a core, keyword-dense site up and/or a basic PPC campaign built, both strategies require some ongoing time commitment. This is generally greater for SEO if you want to increase your likelihood of achieving good rankings. There are numerous methods and tactics to utilize to bolster your organic rankings that require their own posts to describe in detail, but generally one of the fundamental and most effective is the continued creation of unique relevant content within your site. This may include such things as a dedicated blog or other informational content pages such as how-to articles, announcements, additional product or service detail pages, and even videos. Creating this content regularly helps establish your site as a leader in the field and can improve how the search engines deem the importance and relevance of your site. (Additionally, this content is great for “inbound marketing” which I will elaborate on in another post.) Creating this content can be time consuming and you can determine how frequently you’re prepared to do it, but try and stay on a consistent schedule whether it’s a couple times a month or more so you don’t lose momentum. PPC does require monitoring to identify what is and is not working well for you and to optimize your ROI. However, very basic, small campaigns don’t typically require a large ongoing time commitment to make incremental tweaks  here and there.

Time should also be considered in the context of how urgently you need to start generating traffic. Many businesses want and need to start driving awareness of their site immediately. SEO is a long-term strategy. Top rankings may take a significant amount of time to develop and are not guaranteed, especially for keywords that drive significant traffic. PPC can be up and running almost immediately and you can jump right to the top if you’re willing to pay for the privilege.

In the long-term, however, SEO can be an excellent investment. These links continue working for you indefinitely, sending you free traffic. In analyzing our sources of revenue at my companies, I would constantly find very old pages still generating traffic and sales. PPC on the other hand is like a faucet. You simply turn it on or off, depending on your budget and ROI criteria.

Search Engine Marketing Budget

If you are developing and executing your SEO strategy yourself, your primary investment is time. Time to learn the search engine optimization methodology, time to implement it, and the continuous time investment in content and tactics to improve your ranking position.  To expedite the process, sites such as Scripted.com can help match you to freelance content writers in your industry, or service providers such as myself can assist in your overall strategy development and efforts.

For PPC, every click comes at a cost. Unlike SEO where the more clicks you generate, the better and even un-targeted clicks don’t do any harm, with PPC you actually want to eliminate as many clicks as possible from users who are unlikely to convert into leads or sales. Optimizing your PPC campaign allows you to achieve better ROI as well as expand your PPC efforts to as many keywords as you can find that meet your ROI requirements.  You can set an overall budget for the campaign per day (useful especially when you’re just getting started to ensure there are no surprises) and you can also control the maximum amount you’re willing to pay per click. There are also various filters to help you focus your budget on visitors likely to convert such as location, type of online browsing device, and “negative keywords” to block your ads from appearing on unwanted keyword variations. If you sell athletic shoes and your target cost per acquisition (the amount it costs you to generate the sale) is $10 or less, that means if 1 out of 10 people who click your PPC ad purchase the product, you can bid up to $1 per click to stay within your target cost per acquisition. (We’ll discuss ways to improve your site performance through conversion rate optimization in future posts and why conversion rate is so important.)

A great aspect of PPC is if you have such things working for you as a short sales cycle, good margins, and/or fast payment terms, you’re in a position to rapidly scale your PPC campaign budget provided it’s within your ROI target. Because unlike traditional advertising where you might pay a lot up front for an advertisement that appears and leads come in later and over time, with PPC you’re paying for the clicks that come in and are immediately generating revenue for you. If you’re getting paid quickly, the more you can grow your PPC campaign, the more revenue you’re generating.

Search Competition

Think of PPC bidding as an auction for each keyword, happening in real-time, every time someone searches for that word. If your ad for athletic shoes gets clicked on 1 out of every 10 times someone searches for athletic shoes and you’re willing to pay up to $1 per click while another company is willing to pay up to 50 cents per click for the same keyword, if they also get clicked on 1 out of 10 times then you’ll only pay 51 cents to appear above them in the search results – the minimum amount over the next highest bidder to achieve a better placement. However, what if someone is willing to pay $3 a click for the same keyword? Can you still show up higher? Yes! If their ad gets clicked on 1 out of 50 times and yours gets clicked on 1 out of 10, you’re going to show up higher. Search engines obviously want to maximize their aggregate income, so if they know that they will make $10 off your ad for every 100 searches (10 clicks out of 100 searches at $1 each) or $6 off the other advertiser (2 out of 100 searches at $3 each) guess who shows up first? You! *Remember, you don’t necessarily want more clicks, you want more likely to convert  clicks. The big players in your industry can and will outbid you particularly on broader terms, not just because they have bigger budgets, but also due to factors such as a larger and more comprehensive product selection, more brand awareness, or higher margins,  this means they have more opportunities to monetize that customer, their maximum cost per acquisition criteria may be higher, and that customer represents a greater lifetime value to them. So again, the more targeted and specific the keyword (I.E. “pay per click bid management software” instead of “marketing software”) the more likely will it be available at a lower cost because there is less competition for it and the more likely it is to convert into a lead or sale for you, improving your ROI.

Competition has a similar effect on SEO efforts. Imagine competing with the likes of Zappos for the term “shoes” or Microsoft for “software” or even the thousands of other companies in any sizable industry that have been around for years, have hundreds or thousands of relevant pages, thousands of links pointing to them, and even teams focused on SEO. Banking on getting to the top of those rankings is probably an even worse idea than banking on your product getting named as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things. As a small business, break down your specific areas of expertise as narrowly defined possible and start developing content around that. Find the terms that are relevant to your business that aren’t already saturated with advertisers. Demonstrate how you are an authority on those subjects. You can always expand from there as your company expands. Granted the traffic you receive from these niche keywords is going to be lower, but there is a cumulative effect of putting out content that is always working for you and driving incremental traffic over time.

SEO vs PPC Conclusion

So who wins in the battle of SEO vs PPC when it comes to your search engine marketing strategy? While PPC is the fastest horse out of the gate, SEO is the one who hangs towards the back of the pack and then creeps up to go neck and neck down the home stretch and perhaps even winning by a nose at the end. Especially for a small business just starting out, a PPC strategy to start generating immediate traffic and data to analyze can be essential. But SEO should always be considered during the initial planning of your online presence and in all of the content you add going forward because it will start to work on your behalf without costing you anything. Take a look at some of your most popular pages right now and try and find some instances where you can replace a generic term – like “software” – with a search engine optimized keyword – like “hosted PPC bid management software”. Keep making those constant incremental improvements and watch the momentum start to build.

And no matter what, make sure you are tracking all of your site activity and conversions with Google Analytics or a similar product from the get-go. This data is pure gold and the more historical data you have, the more opportunities and insight it will provide for you in the future. Soon we’ll talk about how to optimize all of this new traffic you’re getting so you can potentially EXPONENTIALLY impact your revenue.

Do you do PPC, SEO, or both? I want to hear about your experiences, questions, and requests for more posts so leave a comment below!

All the best,


P.S. – So I’m quickly discovering for myself  that each new blog post spurs numerous new ideas and opportunities for more posts. While I’m trying to stay on topic and keep things concise so you’re not overwhelmed, it’s hard to resist not to going off on a tangent when I get to an exciting new topic. I’ll continue posting more detailed explanations of various marketing strategies and cross-link previous articles to make it easy to stay broad or get into more detail on each topic.

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