How Your Landing Page Is Sabotaging Your Google Ads Success

You’ve read all the tutorials. You’ve spent countless hours poring over demographic data for targeting, crafting the perfect ad copy, and tweaking your campaign. In fact, you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do — but you’re still not seeing any success with Google Ads. Does this sound familiar? If so, the problem probably isn’t with your ad campaign. Instead, look to your landing page for answers.

Here are five ways your landing page could be sabotaging your success with Google Ads.

Your Landing Page Doesn’t Match Your Ad

I’m big on the concept of congruence, which is a fancy way of saying that your ad and your landing page need to make sense together. A landing page is your opportunity to expand upon the copy in your ad. Rather than thinking of your ad and your landing page as two separate pieces, think of your ad as the synopsis or introduction to the landing page on your site.

If you own a furniture store and you’re creating an ad for bunk beds, but your landing page goes to a category page for all beds, it’s frustrating for your customer. They want to click the ad and see exactly what they came to your site for. The more they have to poke around your website to find what they need, the more likely you are to lose them in the process.

It’s also important to note that Google also wants your landing page to match your ad — they give higher quality scores to landing pages with text that is relevant to the text in the ad.

This leads us to our next mistake…

Your Homepage Is Your Landing Page

Repeat after me, “My homepage is not a good landing page. My homepage is not a good landing page. My homepage is not a good landing page.”

I’ve reviewed countless Google Ads accounts that were making this mistake and it was costing them hundreds to even thousands per month. If you’re advertising a service, your ad should go directly to a landing page focusing on that particular service; if you’re advertising a special deal or promo code, your ad should go directly to a landing page explaining how customers can take advantage of it.

To further expand on a point from above, you simply can’t expect potential customers or clients to find what they need. People are busy, impatient, and they don’t want to do the work. Hold their hands and guide them to the actions you want them to take. Create unique landing pages customized to all of your ads. Is it a bit of work? Yes. Is it worth it? Also yes.

Visitors Are Met With a Wall of Text

There are some boilerplate landing pages out there that are heavy on text, with a “Buy Now” button placed between every other paragraph. These are old school, but you still see them around occasionally and even businesses that don’t use these templates often borrow from the concept.

People aren’t interested in reading a dissertation about your product, service, or offer. That’s not how you make a sale. Instead, use bullet points, headings, and short paragraphs. Incorporate images and graphics and have a good headline that is congruent with your ad copy.

Your copy should be clear and concise—your landing page isn’t the place to write bloated SEO-style text that uses a lot of words to say very little. Keep it snappy and include calls to action.

It Loads Slowly

This one is self-explanatory so there’s not much more to add here. Google hates slow sites and so do consumers. Audit your site speed and replace or eliminate any code or plugins that are causing lags. People aren’t going to sit around waiting for your site to load — they’ll just click the back button and try another site instead. This is especially true for mobile, which leads to…

Your Site Isn’t Optimized for Mobile

It’s 2020. Smartphones have been around for a long time now. There’s no excuse not to have a site that’s optimized for mobile. These days, there are people who do virtually all of their internet searches on their phones. If your site requires a lot of pinching, zooming in, scrolling to the side to read long lines of text that don’t fit on the screen, etc., not only are people not going to bother, it also sends a message that your business is behind the times.

Want More Help With Your Google Ads Campaigns?

Click here to grab a copy of our Ultimate Google Ads Checklist.

More Rules and Regulations for Content Marketers

So, content marketers, let’s talk about the regulatory environment more broadly, because one thing is for certain: the web, as wild and woolly as online discourse may be, is no longer the Wild West. Online marketing is now being held to a much higher standard.

Privacy protection, accessibility, and copyright —  oh, my!

Last time around, we talked about data privacy regulations as they apply to non-transactional sites. As confusing a landscape as those regulations currently present, they’re not the only regulations with which you need to be aware and compliant.

So, let’s talk about the regulatory environment more broadly, because one thing is for certain: the web, as wild and woolly as online discourse may be, is no longer the Wild West. Online marketing is now being held to a much higher standard than it has been, so you’ll want to be sure you have a plan in place to build your site by the book and to remain compliant. Otherwise, you risk spending more time talking to lawyers than to prospects.

Accessibility

If you built your website without accessibility in mind, chances are you’re not going to be happy when your website developers tell you what it’s going to cost to make it compliant. In many cases, it can make more sense to start from scratch, given the investment involved.

On the plus side, the cost to design and build a new website with compliance in mind is only incrementally greater than building that same site without WCAG Level AA compliance as your goal.

There is some extra work to be done, but for the most part, compliance requires a change in mindset for designers and some slightly different coding tactics for the dev team. Once that’s in place, it’s really only a matter of making sure new content additions are made in a compliant manner. (Image alt tags must be included, for example.)

You’ll want to include an accessibility statement on your site that includes a way for visitors who are having trouble consuming your content to contact you and seek remediation.

Privacy and Data Protection

As we’ve discussed, you need a privacy policy and you need to abide by it. If you haven’t told people that you’re planning on selling their email addresses to the highest bidder, you probably can’t. (Regulations differ by jurisdiction and industry; check with a lawyer.)

Once you have a collection of data, you need to take steps to keep that data safe, both in storage and in any transmittal or other use. Again, your industry may have specific compliance standards that you have to meet, and you may need to document the protections you’ve put in place.

Copyright

If you don’t own it, don’t publish it. This should be obvious, but often marketers make mistakes that can be costly.

Images are the most common area where errors occur. Doing a web search and then publishing any old image you find is a recipe for disaster. Going through a respected stock image library and paying for the images you use is the safest approach.

If you’d prefer not to go that route, you can use the Google Advanced Image Search tool. It is an excellent way to search for images to use in your digital marketing if you filter to include only those that are “free to use, share, or modify, even commercially.”

Don’t even think about trying to use an image from a stock image library without licensing it. They can and will find you. They can and will demand payment, usually well beyond what the initial license would have cost. (Also worth noting is that technically, for most stock image libraries, any image you use should be licensed under your firm’s name rather than by your design agency. That approach is also just smart business, because you may not always be working with that design team.)

When copy is purloined, it’s even easier to track down. Even if you get away with it, the search engines may very well penalize you for publishing duplicate content. There are other ways to get on the search engines’ bad sides, so be careful if you’re republishing content from other sources, even if it’s content that you have the right to republish.

Finally, think twice before stealing code. It’s an open source world, but that doesn’t mean you’re free to take and use anything you find in your travels. At the very least, attribution may be required. Most code libraries, snippets, etc., may require license fees — regardless of how they’re used. Some require payment only if you want updates or support. This can be harder for marketers to police, so be sure to have a regularly scheduled review with your dev team.

Spend Time on This

These regulations — and whatever may be coming down the pike in the future — make investing in digital expertise ever more important. Your team needs the time and mandate to stay on top of what regulations apply to your business and best practices for remaining compliant.

How New Data Protection Laws Affect Your Non-Transactional Website

Good news! Regulatory agencies are taking privacy policies and data protection more seriously than ever. Bad news! Regulatory agencies are taking privacy policies and data protection more seriously than ever.

Good news! Regulatory agencies are taking privacy policies and data protection more seriously than ever.

Bad news! Regulatory agencies are taking privacy policies and data protection more seriously than ever.

The increased regulatory activity is certainly good news for all of us as consumers. As marketers, that silver lining can be overshadowed by the cloud of fear, uncertainty, and doubt — to say nothing of the potentially enormous fines — attached to these new regulations. Let’s take a look at what your responsibilities are (or are likely to become) as privacy regulations become more widely adopted.

Before we begin: I’m not a lawyer. You should absolutely consult one, as there are so many ways the various regulations may or may not apply to your firm. Many of the regulations are regional in nature — GDPR applies to the EU, CCPA to California residents, the SHIELD Act to New York State — but the “placelessness” of the Internet means those regulations may still apply to you, if you do business with residents of those jurisdictions (even though you’re located elsewhere).

Beyond Credit Cards and Social Security Numbers

With the latest round of rules, regulators are taking a broader view of what constitutes personally identifiable information or “PII.” This is why regulations are now applicable for a non-transactional website.

We are clearly beyond the era when the only data that needed to be safeguarded was banking information and social security numbers. Now, even a site visitor’s IP address may be considered PII. In short, you are now responsible for data and privacy protection on your website, regardless of that website’s purpose.

Though a burden for site owners, it’s not hard to understand why this change is a good thing. With so much data living online now, the danger isn’t necessarily in exposing any particular data point, but in being able to piece so many of them together.

Fortunately, the underlying principles are nearly as simple as the regulations themselves are confusing.

SSL Certificates

Perhaps the most basic element of data protection is an SSL certificate. Though it isn’t directly related to the new regulatory environment it’s a basic foundational component of solid data handling. You probably already have an SSL certificate in place; if not, that should be your first order of business. They’re inexpensive — there are even free versions available — and they have the added benefit of improving search engine performance.

Get Consent

Second on your list of good data-handling practices is getting visitor consent before gathering information. Yes, opt-in policies are a pain. Yes, double opt-in policies are even more of a pain — and can drive down engagement rates. Both are necessary to adhere to some of the new regulations.

This includes not only information you gather actively — like email addresses for gated content — but also more passive information, like the use of cookies on your website.

Give Options

Perhaps the biggest shift we’re seeing is toward giving site visitors more options over how their PII is being used. For example, the ability to turn cookies off when visiting a site.

You should also provide a way for consumers to see what information you have gathered and associated with their name, account, or email address.

Including the Option to Be Forgotten

Even after giving consent, consumers should have the right to change their minds. As marketers, that means giving them the ability to delete the information we’ve gathered.

Planning Ad Responsibilities For Data Breaches

Accidents happen, new vulnerabilities emerge, and you can’t control every aspect of your data handling as completely as you’d like. Being prepared for the possibility of a data breach is as important as doing everything you can to prevent them in the first place.

What happens when user information is exposed will depend on the data involved, your location, and what your privacy and data retention policies have promised, as well as which regulations you are subject to.

Be prepared with a plan of action for addressing all foreseeable data breaches. In most cases, you’ll need to alert those who have been or may have been affected. There may also be timeframes in which you must send alerts and possibly remediation in the form of credit or other monitoring.

A Small Investment Pays Off

As a final note, I’ll circle back to the “I’m not a lawyer” meme. A lawyer with expertise in this area is going to be an important part of your team. So, too, will a technology lead who is open to changing how he or she has thought about data privacy in the past. For those who haven’t dealt with transactional requirements in the past, this can be brand new territory which may require new tools and even new vendors.

All of this comes at a price, of course, but given the stakes — not just the fines, but the reputational losses, hits to employee morale, and lost productivity — it’s a small investment for doing right by your prospects and customers.

An SEO Consultant’s 4-Point SEO Holiday Wish List for Santa

This year, I want to take a more childish approach and write an SEO wish list for Santa. Here are four things that I want from Santa. These wishes are not big, so I hope Santa can deliver this list.

As I write this post, Thanksgiving and the rush to the end of the year are upon us. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, for it is filled with good cheer, good eats, and no expectation that gifts will be exchanged.

In the past at Thanksgiving, I have written about gratitude. But this year, I want to take a more childish approach and write an SEO wish list for Santa. Here are four things that I want from Santa. These wishes are not big, so I hope Santa can deliver this list:

  • Make all of my clients’ sites super-speedy
  • Teach all of my client teams how to write unique, valuable content — faster
  • Make all client structured data instantly accurate, complete, and error-free
  • Fix all mobile search/usability problems, immediately

Why Is This My Wish List?

Although each of these wishes are for client sites, this is, in fact, a selfish wish list. Fast sites are still the gold standard — table stakes for good SEO results. If Santa will supercharge all of my client sites, then the other SEO tactics that I recommend will have a firm and fast base to run from. It is foolish, read borderline delusional, to assume that a slow or marginally fast site is going to deliver a successful search optimization project.

Content Team Challenges Grow

Today, the message that high-quality content is an SEO must-have has finally seeped deeper into organizations, beyond just the SEO team. As the understanding the impact of content on SEO results grows, it is this SEO’s expectation that content teams will be tasked with creating more and more high-quality content. To meet the demand, content development teams will need to create more content, faster. This wish benefits the SEO consultant and the client.

Structured Data — A Key to Stronger Results

Structured data provide information that search engines can use to understand a site’s content and provide the best search results possible. Adding Schema markup to the HTML improves the way a page displays in search results pages (SERPs) by enhancing the rich snippets that are displayed beneath the page title. The rich results give searchers cues that a page may, in fact, address what they are searching. Clearer signals will result in improved results, but the structured data vocabulary is still evolving. My wish for instant, accurate, complete, and error-free structured data for client sites is a wish for an easier path.

Unaddressed Mobile Problems Are a Brake on Results

Mobile is firmly entrenched as the device of choice for a growing majority of searchers. To deny the importance of mobile is to fly in the face of reality. If a site has mobile issues that are flagged by Google’s Search Console, then it is fair to say that these will act as a brake on the search optimization program’s results. Mobile errors are — to use a sports metaphor — the equivalent of unforced errors. Quickly fixing mobile search/usability problems limits the damage; hence, my wish.

Perhaps, if you believe in Santa, you may get your wishes granted. I know Santa will bring me these four little wishes, because I’ve been very good this year. Maybe?

3 Tips for Search Engine Optimization on a Budget

You do not have to break the bank to get quality SEO results. But you do need to figure out the metrics that matter when it comes to delivering a return on your investment. It is also important to temper expectations, when it comes to results. Search engine optimization typically takes longer to drive leads and sales, when compared to PPC advertising campaigns.

You do not have to break the bank to get quality SEO results. But you do need to figure out the metrics that matter when it comes to delivering a return on your investment. It is also important to temper expectations, when it comes to results. Search engine optimization typically takes longer to drive leads and sales, when compared to PPC advertising campaigns.

Getting the Most for Your Money

Let’s go over some ways that companies can make their sites SEO-friendly, without breaking the bank.

1. Get the Architecture Right

If you are going to spend money anywhere, make sure some of it goes toward building a quality website. It should have a clean design, an intuitive navigation experience, and be accessible to search engines. Menus, content, and other information should be organized in a way that makes sense and is easy to find. There are plenty of SEO-savvy developers capable of providing a new website or revamping your existing one for a reasonable price.

Google and Bing both offer free webmaster guidelines that businesses can use as a guide to creating search-friendly websites. They are an excellent resource for businesses, even if they are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of technical SEO.

2. Small Details Matter

With SEO, small details can make all of the difference in your rankings.

Here are some cost-effective ways of upgrading your website’s SEO.

  • Page Titles — Google uses the page title (aka, Title tag, or <title> in HTML) as a shortcut to know what the page is about. Think of it like the chapter name in a textbook. Include the most relevant keyword(s) you’re trying to rank for in the title so that Google knows the page is 100% relevant to those search phrases.
  • Meta Descriptions — Take the time to fill in the meta descriptions for your website content. Search engines like Google will use this as the excerpt below the hyperlink to your website. A clean, precise description can be the difference-maker in getting a visitor to click through to your site.
  • Header Tags — No one likes reading big walls of text. You could have the most amazing, enlightening content on your web pages, but no one is going to read it without proper formatting. Headers and subheaders are vital in making content easier to read and absorb. Search engines also use the headers to better understand what the page is about, so make sure to include variations of your target keywords in your page headers.

3. Use Free SEO Tools

What better way to understand how Google views SEO than by using the tools it provides? Google Search Console (formerly known as Webmaster Tools) gives you incredible insight into your SEO, all for free! Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to evaluate your website speed and identify opportunities to improve. Plus, with Google’s move to a mobile-first Index, you’ll want to take the Mobile-Friendly Test and fix any issues right away.

For a more advanced analysis, I highly recommend the Screaming Frog SEO Spider. You’ll be able to quickly review all the pages on your website to identify issues with your page titles, descriptions, headers, and even broken links.

Final Thoughts on SEO on a Budget

Businesses can use a variety of resources to improve their SEO without breaking their budget. Improving the architecture of a website is a great place to start, because a poorly structured site will be very difficult to rank high in Google.

And pay attention to the details. Make sure your page titles, descriptions, and headers are all optimized for search engines.

Lastly, take advantage of the free tools and resources available online. Just because they are free, doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable. In fact, many of the tools mentioned above are as good or even better than the paid options.

Want more tips to improve your SEO?  Click here to grab a copy of the “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”

 

Striving for Continuous Website Marketing Improvement

Taking small actions on a regular basis are likely lead to more meaningful improvements to your website marketing than a large investment in a website “refresh” or relaunch every two or three years.

It’s a mistake to think about your website marketing efforts as set-it-and-forget-it investments.

You’re probably thinking, “Well, yeah. That’s pretty obvious!”

It’s unlikely that you aren’t aware of the value and importance of a steady stream of fresh content on your website at this point in the maturity of the web as a digital marketing tool. And you’re almost certainly already aware of the necessity to integrate your website into your marketing more broadly, from your email marketing to your social media efforts to your CRM system.

All of which means you have a pretty dynamic website. It doesn’t look the same today as it did six months ago.

But that’s not where your growth-focused thinking should end. If you seek to continually improve your marketing performance, you have to implement incremental changes to your website on a regular basis.

Finding the Right Frequency for Marketing-Focused Website Updates

How frequently you make these changes will depend on your site’s traffic volume and the resources you have to identify opportunities for improvement and to make the necessary changes .

Regardless of frequency, the key is to make changes systematically and track performance so you know what’s working and what isn’t.

The improvements you make should be based on three kinds of data:

  • Straightforward analytics metrics
  • Feedback from prospects, clients, your sales team, and other client-facing staff
  • Your gut

That last one is sure to be either a shock to your system or to make you sigh with relief. Even with data-driven marketing being all the rage — and justifiably so, in most situations — there’s no reason not to lean on your years of experience and what your inner voice is telling you.

For example, a client of ours didn’t have a lot of data to back up the changes she wanted to make to a section of her website that was neither outperforming nor lagging behind other content. She just had a hunch that changes would have an impact on engagement and lead generation.

We helped her update the presentation of this particular content in a way that made it more useful beyond the website, easier to connect to through her email marketing, and far more sharable on social media.

We also worked to update her analytics so that future updates in this areas could be based on metrics, as well any hunches the client had.

What Will Move the Marketing Needle?

Not sure what might move the needle? The best places to start include these:

  • Calls to action
  • Content gating strategies
  • Progressive profiling parameters
  • Page layout and design
    • Colors
    • Pull quotes
    • CTA placement

Changes to any one of these could yield measurable improvements in engagement or conversion rates. And taking small actions on a regular basis are likely lead to more meaningful website marketing improvements than a large investment in a website “refresh” or relaunch every two or three years.

Overall, the key to continuous improvement in your marketing is measurement. Experimentation and adjustment can easily become change for change’s sake, if you’re not measuring impact.

I would also caution against chasing after the latest shiny object. That’s a real danger, if you implement a policy of incremental changes without a long-term plan documented and agreed to by your entire team. Know where you want to go in the long-term and take short-term actions to move you closer to your digital marketing goals.

Increase Traffic Using Direct Mail With Geomapping

Are you driving enough traffic to your business or event with your current direct mail campaigns? Personalized direct mail pieces with an added personalized map can help increase your visits and event attendance. Direct mail with geomapping allows you to create customized maps.

Are you driving enough traffic to your business or event with your current direct mail campaigns? Personalized direct mail pieces with an added personalized map can help increase your visits and event attendance. Direct mail with geomapping allows you to create customized maps based on your prospect or customer’s mailing address and the location of your business or event.

There are many ways to do this and different features. Let’s take a look.

Map Style Options

  1. Driving or Walking Directions For people who are really close, you may want to offer walking maps.
  2. Fastest or Shortest Routes The fastest routes are not always the shortest distance, so you have your choice of which one you wish to offer.
  3. Map Size Depending on your design, you may want a larger map size.
  4. If you have Multiple Locations, you can have maps for each one, or choose the location closest to the individual you are mailing to.
  5. You can Add Your Logo to the Destination on the map.
  6. Pick a Route Color for Your Map Stand out with vibrant colors.
  7. You can Provide Travel Time.
  8. Add Turn-by-Turn Directions, if you wish.
  9. Multiple Route Options on the Same Map, with different color highlights.

As you can see, there are several options you can choose from. Not only can you use these maps on your direct mail pieces, but you can use them in multichannel campaigns, as well. Remember, the more touches you have with prospects and customers, the more likely they are to respond. It’s not every day that you get a mail piece with a custom map on it. That level of personalization makes your customers and prospects feel special.

The personalized maps are not only eye catching, but super functional. Show people how easy it is to reach you. You can also remove people from your list who are too far away to want to drive to your location. That way, you save money by not sending to people who will not attend. Not only that, if you have multiple locations, you can list three choices for them, with maps to each one. List the closest one first, followed by second and third. This is very helpful when you have events on different days at different locations. They now get to choose what works best for them. Your prospects and customers want to know how long it will take to get to your location or event. So tell them.

Who can help you with personalized geomapping? Here are some providers:

Maps are a great way to grab attention and drive traffic to your location or event. They also help you connect with your prospects and customers at a deeper level, because you are talking directly to them with an easy way to reach you. Some businesses have seen a 6% or better lift by adding personalized maps. Are you ready to get started?

MarTech Profile: How to Turn Anonymous Website Visitors Into Leads With Stirista

Collecting information about website visitors, a standard practice in B2B marketing, is now becoming available to consumer marketers. I recently had a chat about it with Karl Van Delden, who heads product management at Stirista.

Collecting information about website visitors, a standard practice in B2B marketing, is now becoming available to consumer marketers. I recently had a chat about it with Karl Van Delden, who heads product management at Stirista.

His latest product is Visitor ID Graph, which allows consumer-driven companies to identify the visitors to their websites. Using VIG, site owners can now capture the contact information of as many as 45% of their visitors, for analysis and ongoing marketing communications.

Ruth P. Stevens: Karl, I’d like to ask you some details about the new Visitor ID Graph capability from Stirista and why it’s such a powerful tool for consumer marketers. As I understand it, VIG lets website owners identify the actual names and contact information of visitors to their websites. Please explain how it works.

KVD: We start by enabling the site owner to do first-party visitor tracking. It’s a small piece of code they can quickly attach to their site’s header. It doesn’t capture any PII, or personal information. It’s the same scope of data used with Google Analytics and similar reporting tools.

The real value happens when we match those captures back to our opt-in consumer data file, to provide the name, email, and postal information. This also allows us to enable the user to leverage additional insights, such as demographics and geolocation, to help the site owners to further segment their visitor audience.

RPS: So you’re delivering both the contact info and the demographic of visitors. This has big implications for consumer marketers, right?

KVD: Yes, this data is really valuable. These are people who have come right to your online front door, with a clear interest in what you are offering. You get everything you need to re-engage them effectively through your preferred marketing channels.

RPS: Traditionally, the only way to de-anonymize your website visitors was to make an offer and persuade visitors to fill out a form or sign up for a newsletter.  But you typically only get a small percentage of visitors to do that — like maybe 1% or 2%, if you’re lucky. With VIG, what kind of match rates can we expect to get?

KVD: Typically, for a consumer-facing business, we see anywhere from 25 to 45% match rates.

RPS: So, I can expect to identify 25% to 45% of my site visitors and add those names to my marketing database. And what does it cost?

KVD:  Subscription plans start out at $500 per month, to activate one website and download up to 2,000 contacts. That’s the base, so it really only gets cheaper from there, whether you need more contacts for your site, or to activate another site entirely. These plans cap out at 12,000 contacts, which can support up to six sites, but it’s also possible for us to create custom plans above these volumes.

RPS: So, $500 gets you 2,000 names. That’s a great deal; especially since these people have already visited your website. So they’re much more qualified than an ordinary list. What kinds of clients are using the service so far?

KVD: All manner, really, but I’ve been surprised with its popularity with retail, brick-and-mortar shops. Everything from furniture stores, to auto dealers, and beyond. They can then retarget or even just identify some of the countless visitors that bounce off their site.

RPS: You’re offering a free account, like a free trial, right? So I can set VIG up for my site, or various sites I own, and see the names of the visitors as they match up, and then when I want to download the names and use them in my marketing, I can choose a payment plan.

I can see marketers salivating at the chance to identify visitors who come by from all kinds of sources, from campaigns, from SEO, over the transom, whatever. Now that VIG is launched, what other features and functionality do you have planned for it?

KVD: Well, so far, we have a pretty good hold on the essentials — setup, reporting, getting the data, and some supporting features to give flexibility to users. The next big focus will be providing new options for how to use it. This will include a built-in CRM and integration points for popular third-party CRMs and CDPs.

RPS: And if users want to get help, or find out more, or give you suggestions for how to make the product better, how should they get in touch with you?

KVD: We would welcome anyone who is interested to email us at info@stirista.com, to set up a consultation or demo. You can also visit visitoridgraph.com if you want to jump in for yourself.

As I mentioned before, everything shy of the data purchase step can be done on a free account, so I would invite anyone even remotely interested to check it out, see how simple it is to begin tracking your site, and, of course, see how many data matches you get.

A version of this article appeared originally in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Does Marketing Require Your Website to End in ‘.Com’? If Not, Here Are 7 Options

There is no definitive answer to the value of TLDs besides .com, but deciding on one is a marketing conversation more than an IT discussion. The value of the myriad other options available will depend on your brand personality, your message, and who you are trying to reach.

Whether you know what “TLD” stands for or not, you’re probably thinking that a discussion about top-level domains is likely to be pretty technical. It can be, but we’re here to talk about TLDs from a marketing perspective.

So stow the eye glaze (you know, for when your IT director really gets going and your eyes glaze over …) and lets dive into what to consider as you assess your domain name options.

First, let’s acknowledge that it’s the web’s enormous growth that has led us to a point where the domain name you’d like — yourcompany.com —  simply may not be available. Certainly, just about every single-word .com domain has already been registered, even if it’s not in use. So what are your choices?

Changing Your Firm’s Name to Get the TLD You Want

If you can’t register the domain you want, you can change your firm’s name. Typically, that’s going to be a pretty radical option, though this is more palatable if you’re just starting out. If you are launching a new venture, you should find (and register) the domain name you want even before you have your attorney do a legal search for the viability of the name you’re considering.

Variations on a Name

You can also choose a variation of your name. For example, the social media management tool Lately arrived on the scene too recently to register lately.com, so they’ve opted for trylately.com. That works exceptionally well as a domain name for a marketing site.

Relocate Away From .Com

Another option, of course, is to select a TLD other than .com.

The options here have exploded over the past few years. Which option you choose should depend on your market and your audience. Some choices will feel more traditional, while others may provide a level of differentiation. Your choice should be based on your brand’s needs.

Once you’ve determined that a TLD other than .com is your best bet, there are still a lot of choices to be made.

Custom TLDs

One option is a custom TLD, as Google has created. (Which it uses for sites like https://sustainability.google/.) The expense of these TLDs — $185,000 — makes them an impossible investment for most companies, other than very large consumer brands.

Restricted TLDs

Sticking with existing TLDs, you’ll find that some are off-limits to anyone outside of the groups they’re meant to serve. These include .gov and .edu addresses, as well as some country-based TLDs, like .com.au. Domains using that TLD are reserved for businesses registered in Australia.

Country Code TLDs

Other country-based domains are open to outside registration. “Co” implies “company” to most folks in the U.S., which is why the .co TLD is quite popular here, even though it is actually Colombia’s TLD. It ranks just above the .us TLD here in the U.S.

We’ve seen an increase in .io sites over the past few years. It’s not 100% clear why this is a popular TLD; though, the fact that it rolls off the tongue nicely and is shorter than .com when most other newer TLDs are longer certainly helps. (In case you were wondering, .io is the TLD assigned to the British Indian Ocean Territory. All of you “Old MacDonald” fans should also note that eie.io is currently available …)

TLDs to Avoid

On the negative side, there does seem to be a growing consensus that .info sites are often home to some of the less savory businesses on the internet. You may want to avoid that TLD, even if your site is purely an informational site.

Defensive Measures

Type the name of your favorite mobile phone provider, airline, or cable company into your browser’s address bar with “.sucks” appended to the end. You’ll see why owning that domain name for your company under the .sucks TLD is a smart defensive move. You don’t want a competitor or disgruntled former employee creating a site ranting about your firm.

Wikipedia’s list of TLDs organized by type can be a great resource to see if you can find a domain name that works with your company name. (We’d love to own andi.go if there was a .go TLD.)

So while there is no definitive answer to the value of TLDs, deciding on one is much more than a conversation for your IT department to have by themselves. It’s tough to argue with .com as a known quantity. You should always register the .com, if it is available. The value of the myriad other options available will depend on your brand personality, your message, and who you are trying to reach.

.com and TLDs

Improving Website Engagement Means Getting Your Site Visitors to Stay

Getting website visitors to stick around is critical in moving them through the buying cycle. Here are the aspects of your site to focus on to increase engagement and conversion.

On Saturday mornings, the station my clock radio is set to play “Living on Earth,” a show about environmental topics. After a brief intro on the show’s topics, the host Steve Kirwood says, “Stick around!” before cutting over to the local news.

I’m not sure if his jaunty delivery makes more people stay tuned in through the news break, but it sure has stuck in my head. And it comes to mind today, because getting visitors to stick around on your website is a critical component in your site’s marketing and lead generation success. Here are some tips for encouraging deeper website engagement.

What’s in It for Them?

Make it impossible for your audience to miss what’s in it for them. Forget your years of experience and and your awards and how great you are. That’s not going to get them to stick around. (Yet.) More on this below. Make sure your value proposition is front-and-center.

Be Entertaining

Often overlooked in the focus on being informative — which clearly is critical — you should also pay attention to whether your content that is fun to read, view or listen to.

B2B shouldn’t mean “Boring to Boring.”

We’re all people — even when we’re in the office — and we all like to enjoy even the mundane moments of our day. No, you’re not likely to make your B2B site as bingeworthy as the latest Netflix hit, but you can make people smile. And that’s going to help keep them engaged.

Be Informative

Because you can’t be Netflix, you have to be valuable. It’s just that simple. People aren’t coming to your site primarily to be entertained, anyway; they’re coming to learn more about how they might solve a business problem. Help them do that, and they’ll not only stick around longer, they’ll be back more frequently.

Write Well

All of the above implies good writing, but it’s worth pointing out that your content has to compete with a lot — not just other firms offering the same service, but all the fun stuff on social media and everywhere else. You have to craft more-than-passable prose.

If you can afford to hire a good writer, do so. Work with her or him often enough so he or she knows your company and your products inside and out and can craft a strong story.

If budget is an issue and you have to do the writing yourself even though you’re not 100% confident in your skills, go against your instinct to write less. Write more. The more you write, the more quickly your writing will go from questionable (or wherever it is now) to captivating. That’s your goal.

Perspective Matters

In your writing and the way you organize your site, think from your prospect’s perspective. If you’ve presented your value proposition properly, you’re well on your way. Keep that value central to all your writing, as well as your site’s navigational controls and structure. Even your calls to action should follow this principal and answer the question, “What would someone who’s just consumed this piece of content be interested in next?”

Ask for the Sale

Speaking of calls to action, find the balance between overdoing it and never doing it. You may not be literally asking for a sale, but you should be asking your audience to take the next step in building a relationship with you. Get them to take that next step by making the next step logical and rewarding.

Track Engagement

With these ideas implemented on your site, you should see an increase in engagement metrics, like average session time and number of pages viewed per session. You are tracking these data points, aren’t you?

By they way, if you’re wondering why I have an alarm set on Saturday mornings, so am I. Our dogs always have me up before the alarm goes off, anyway …