How to Create High Performing Sweepstakes for Lead-Gen Efforts

OK, I know what you’re thinking … viable leads typically don’t come from sweepstakes and contests. And when not done correctly, that’s exactly right. However, just as any online direct response tactic, this one is no different. Over the years, sweepstakes marketing has become refined through testing and targeting. And since the boom in social media, sweepstakes are more popular than ever. But before you embark on this tactic, there are a few core concepts to know—as well as best practices.

OK, I know what you’re thinking … viable leads typically don’t come from sweepstakes and contests.

And when not done correctly, that’s exactly right.

However, just as any online direct response tactic, this one is no different. Over the years, sweepstakes marketing has become refined through testing and targeting. And since the boom in social media, sweepstakes are more popular than ever.

But before you embark on this tactic, there are a few core concepts to know—as well as best practices.

The Precursors

It’s important to get to know your list to help determine its value and how much you are willing to give away for a lead, such as:

  • What is your average conversion time (how long does it take someone to move from a lead to a buyer—30, 60, 90-plus days?)
  • What is the lifetime value (LTV) per buyer?
  • What is your average revenue per name?
  • What is your average cost per lead (CPL)?

Conversion Time. Monitor a group of new names (perhaps by campaign) who come on your file and see at what point, at what percent and for what dollar amount your leads convert to buyers. This will help you know how much and how long it takes a lead to convert. Let’s say you have a pay-per-click campaign and, in the first 30 days, 20 percent of the leads convert and the average unit sale is $50. This shows you your time threshold for getting a sale. You’ll know when to anticipate revenues and can manage your budget accordingly.

LTV. You take the total your buyers purchased: Let’s say over five years, this group collectively spent $100,000, and divide that amount by number of buyers (let’s say its 500). Your LTV is $200. This will show you the potential long-term opportunity for a buyer’s worth, as well as the loss (if the customer leaves your list).

Rev Per Name. This is more for the current buyers on your file not long term, as with LTV. Take the total your buyers spend at 30, 60 and 90 days; and at each time point, divide that amount by the number of buyers. So let’s say at 30 days, your newest names bring in collectively $10,000 and there are 1,000 buyers. That is a $10/rev per name. This will show you current buyer worth and your threshold for acquisition costs.

Cost Per Lead. When you’re doing an acquisition effort, how much does it cost you per name? Take the cost of the media buy and divide by the number of leads that came in. This will tell you how much you typically spend to bring in a new name. Ideally, you want to keep you cost per lead much lower than your revenue per name and LTV. I like to hover between $5 and $25 CPL. CPLs will be different by channel. However, if you bring in a lead at $50 and you know, based on your list performance, that name will spend $75 in the first 6 months, you can afford to take an initial loss.

The Offer

What are you going to give away? The value of the giveaway should be something that won’t be viewed as too good to be true by users as well, as one you can earn back (based on the aforementioned list criteria and in a certain time period). So knowing your giveaway threshold is important.

In addition to being realistic and appealing, the offer should also be relevant and interesting to your target prospect.

I’ve seen random sweepstakes offers on the Web, as I’m sure you have. One in particular, a publishing company, featured an offer: “Win a free iPad.”

This makes zero sense to me in so many ways …

Unless this publishing company is uploading an app on the iPad with a free online subscription to one of their publications, I don’t see the relevance for the end-user. This publisher will likely wind up with thousands of leads, but they will be unqualified, irrelevant people looking for a free electronic device and not in the other information products they offer.

Plus there’s an out-of-pocket cost for the product and shipping of the product.

This, in my opinion, is typical of the “old” sweepstakes offers where little strategy and direct response knowledge seemed to go into planning the campaign.

However, one website I discovered in my research for this article seems to hit the nail on the head and offer something synergistic to their leads, as well as qualifies the lead for future potential sales via cross-sell and upsell efforts.

Take skin care company, Dermagist. Their sweepstakes offer is for lead generation, touts a “$200 shopping spree,” and is featured on their website and Facebook page. The tactics they are using can be applied to most any industry.

Leads have to “register” by liking Dermagist’s Facebook page, as well as post on Dermagists’ Facebook page why they love the product. Winners are chosen monthly and given a promo code worth $200 toward anything in their store. No purchase is necessary.

What I Like …

The offer is ongoing, so it’s a continuity of new leads (email addresses) coming in on a monthly basis to help build the list and offset any attrition.

The prize is realistic, targeted and qualifies the recipient based on relevant interest—it’s appealing to those interested in skincare products and is a great way to get repeat and referral sales.

Leads have to “register” by liking Dermagist Facebook page, as well as post on their Facebook wall why they love the product. This strategy helps with social media engagement (boosting page “likes,” visibility and credibility), as well as product awareness.

I also liked that on the website’s sweepstakes registration page, last month’s winner’s name was posted. This helps reinforce contest legitimacy.

Location, Location, Location

Where you promote your sweepstakes is equally important for targeting and relevance.

There’s the obvious, such as having a banner ad, header content or interstitial on the website’s home page mentioning the promotion.

You can also promote it on your business’ Facebook page organically (through fan page timeline and wall posts), through apps, as well as through targeted ads and boosted posts, selecting audiences in the Newsfeed that are like-minded with your target customer.

Tabsite has a variety of Facebook-friendly apps for contests and sweepstakes (photos, trivia and more).

A word of caution: If you are promoting a sweepstakes on Facebook, make sure to follow its guidelines or your campaign may run the risk of getting shut down.

Promoting it organically with search engine marketing is another tactic, such as with free online press releases.

And, of course, if your budget allows, you can promote your sweepstakes through targeted media buys (banner ads, email list rental) and pay-per-click. These costs should be factored into the overall campaign effort and cost per lead.

So when you start thinking about your acquisition efforts and how sweepstakes may be used, know that through the evolution of the consumer and Internet marketing in general, this is not your father’s sweepstakes anymore.

Being a creative and strategic marketer will help you take this strategy to a whole new, high-performing level.

Trending: Consumer Review Sites Leverage Content, Social, Search Marketing

If you’re an Internet marketer, you know there are several online channels you can leverage without paying upfront for advertising, such as some banner ads or pay per click. Three online channels that are super-hot and showing no signs of slowing down include content marketing, social marketing and search marketing (organic). Each of these online channels have one thing in common: They all maximize content.

If you’re an Internet marketer, you know there are several online channels you can leverage without paying upfront for advertising, such as some banner ads or pay per click.

Three online channels that are super-hot and showing no signs of slowing down include content marketing, social marketing and search marketing (organic).

Each of these online channels have one thing in common: They all maximize content.

Recent articles in Forbes hailed that “content is the new SEO …” and that “content is king.”

My view has always been that with relevant, useful, valuable and actionable original content, you can’t go wrong. It will always work with the search engines, despite constant algorithm updates.

This is the core philosophy of my “SONAR Content Distribution Model,” but also has become more commercial- and consumer-driven with the use of product review websites.

A recent study shows 47 percent of consumers indicate the Internet is their favorite place to shop, and U.S. e-tails are anticipated to hit around $370 billion by 2017.

With all this Web surfing and shopping, it’s no wonder consumers are becoming more savvy.

An emerging trend in digital marketing is consumer review sites. These sites are populated with pages and pages of unique, relevant content that’s beneficial to the consumer. It’s unbiased. And has the main focus of harnessing the power of its content with the search engines, as well as social marketing outlets.

The website’s pages are crafted with targeted keywords based on the products or services being reviewed—many well-known brands—and honest feedback. Then it’s good ‘ole inbound marketing tactics, such as online press releases, article marketing, content syndication, search marketing and social marketing that drive consumers to the product review website.

The pioneer of this ingenious online marketing tactic was Cnet.com, which was founded in 1994. They have been reviewing electronic and tech products for years.

Other well-known consumer review sites that have popped up recently include Epinions.com and ConsumerSearch.com, which reviews products. CitySearch.com and Yelp.com review hotels, restaurants, entertainment and more. And of course, AngiesList.com, which is a membership site that reviews local service providers.

But recently, there have been some new players in niche and specialty industries that are creating a buzz. One such new kid on the block is BuyerReview.com.

BuyerReview.com focuses on the health and beauty sectors. This includes cosmetics and cosmeceuticals, such as skincare products, vitamins and supplements—a most robust marketplace, to say the least …

… The U.S. cosmeceutical industry alone represents $6.5 billion with a growth forecast of 5.8 percent annually through 2015. And nutritional supplements generated $32 billion in 2012 and are projected to hit $60 billion by 2021.

I had the pleasure of interviewing one of BuyerReview.com’s editors, Peter Stockwell.

I asked him how he would describe the site, what makes it unique and to describe the overall business model.

According to Stockwell, “Buyerreview.com is more targeted than many of the behemoth product review sites on the Web today. Sometimes when you’re too big and review too many things, consumers get lost on your website. Our team of editors reviews specific products in the vertical of health and beauty. We give honest reviews, as well as health and beauty advice.”

Stockwell continues, “Content is the cornerstone of the website. It helps the consumers. And it works with the search engines. With social marketing, it increases our reach and visibility. It’s really a blueprint for online marketing success.”

Stockwell adds, “There are several things that make us stand out: One is our BuyerReview Seal of Approval, which means our experts have reviewed a product personally and found it acceptable. Two, our editors (which, in addition to reviews) provide expert advice on health and beauty, which is an added bonus to consumers. Three, our Top 10 lists, which takes the best of the best we review and rolls it up into an easy-to-read product grid. Four, we offer consumers the option of getting product reviews delivered directly to them wherever they are, via email. And lastly, we offer free, weekly giveaways of the products we review. We like to think of our website as a one-stop shop for consumer health and beauty product interest.”

Stockwell concludes, “Once you have traffic coming to your site based on superior content, the opportunities are endless. Similar product or service review websites have went the advertising model and sell banner ads on their site for revenue potential. Others charge monthly membership fees. There’s many ways to monetize the traffic.”

Bottom line: There’s a way smart online marketers have turned leveraging quality content into a win-win situation that benefits its target audience, as well as generating revenue.

And the vast space on the Web is wide-open for more to jump on the bandwagon and carve out their own slice.

Marketers in most any industry can take something away from this online strategy and see how the fundamental principle can be incorporated it into their online marketing mix … because content will always be king, and consumers will always be curious.

Content Marketing and Copywriting in Tandem

What differentiates the content marketing writing style from direct response sales copy? We hear a lot about content marketing these days, and, at first glance, it seems to be a distinctly different approach than direct response sales copy. But is it really all that different? Shouldn’t there be a plan to move the reader to action with the ultimate result of

What differentiates the content marketing writing style from direct response sales copy? We hear a lot about content marketing these days, and, at first glance, it seems to be a distinctly different approach than direct response sales copy. But, is it really all that different? Shouldn’t there be a plan to move the reader to action with the ultimate result of monetizing the marketing effort? As direct marketers, most of us would agree that getting the reader to buy should be the ultimate objective of any kind of marketing. But each of these skills—content marketing and direct response sales copywriting—can lead from one to the other.

Today we share five recommendations to strengthen both. Before we do that, let’s define each:

  • Direct response copywriting is all about leading the reader to action. It might be a sale on the spot, but it could also be lead generation, or perhaps an action as simple as getting someone to opt-in to a series of emails. Likely media used: direct mail, email, landing pages, video sales letters, print ads and direct response broadcast.
  • Content marketing, on the other hand, is about writing and freely delivering content of value to the reader. It builds trust, confidence and leads into selling from a softer angle. It may not get a sale on the spot, but it should have the reader predisposed to buy when the opportunity is presented. Likely media used: blogs, articles, online press releases, social media, white papers and video.

Content marketing should inform, build trust and credibility with the prospective buyer, so that when harder-hitting, persuasive direct response sales copy with a call-to-action is presented, the response rate is higher. In other words, when both approaches are used in tandem, the sum can be greater than the parts.

Copywriter Chris Marlow suggests, “the term ‘content’ should be reserved for writing that does not have the express purpose of getting a lead or sale.” But she adds that, “sometimes you need ‘content’ to get the lead or make the sale.”

Whether you’re using content marketing or direct response copywriting, here are five recommendations to make both approaches stronger and logically flow from one to the other. Inspiration for this list comes from American Writers and Artists (where I teach a copywriting course), copywriting clients and personal experience:

  1. It all starts with the headline and lead. Use proven direct mail formulas like the four-Legged Stool (Big Idea, Promise, Credibility, Proven Track Record), or the four U’s (Useful, Unique, Urgency, Ultra-Specific), or any one of many other direct response copywriting formulas. The headline formula often works better when you fit your main idea within eight words or fewer. Using a proven direct response letter writing formula can make all the difference in your success.
  2. What’s the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt)? Get the attention of the reader and quickly demonstrate you understand their pain. Most everyone has on their minds fear, uncertainty, and doubt in their personal lives, relationships, finances, career, retirement or health.
  3. Is the message confusing, unbelievable, boring or awkward? Review the copy with a small inner circle of people. Reading copy aloud with someone listening and evaluating it is a must. If it’s confusing, unbelievable, boring or awkward, you’ll hear it when voiced. I was again reminded of the importance of this step after logging several hours by phone when reading a long-form letter aloud with a client so we could both hear it. The extra investment of time strengthened the story, benefits, false close and call-to-action items for the right flow to build the sales message.
  4. Gather a small group to review copy and the lead. Ask each person to assign a numerical ranking (1-10 scale) on whether they’d keep reading or not. If less than 80 percent of the responders wouldn’t read beyond the headline and lead, then the writer needs to fix the headline and lead, or start over.
  5. Is it clear? When your customer or prospect reads your copy (whether using content marketing writing style or direct response copywriting), has the issue been laid out clearly? Was a complex message simplified? Did the message build rapport and trust? Does the copy naturally flow so that the prospect concludes that your product solves the issue? And check the call-to-action. Is there one? Keep in mind that if you’re using introductory content writing, the CTA may be only to opt-in, subscribe or click a link to request or read more in a series.

Bottom line: what are you asking the prospect to do? Is it advancing the prospect along in a planned spaced-repetition contact strategy that leads to your ultimate desired action: a sale?

Whether your copy style is content marketing that is conditioning the reader to make a future purchase, or direct response selling asking for an action on the spot, what you write ultimately needs to justify its existence with a strategy that leads to monetization.

My 9 Insider Tips to Build Your Email List For Low or No Cost!

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, corporation or online publisher, the power of the lead is critical in growing your business … and your email list. Leads, also known as prospects, are typically the entry level point of the sales funnel. 

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, corporation or online publisher, the power of the lead is critical in growing your business … and your email list. Leads, also known as prospects, are typically the entry level point of the sales funnel.

A popular business model by many online publishers is to bring in leads at the “free” level (i.e. report, e-newsletter, webinar, white paper, etc.), add those names to their house list and typically over the course of 30 to 90 days (the bonding time) that lead will convert into a paying customer. This practice is known as lead generation, name collection or list-building efforts.

Today, I’m going to share with you some proven online marketing methods I’ve used and had great success with at some of the top publishers in America. And bonus … many of these tactics are low- or no-cost. Here’s my list, in no particular order:

Power eAcquisition Polls. In my last blog post, I wrote about using polls for lead generation. Incorporating a poll on your website or having a poll on another site is a great way to build your list. It’s important to spend time thinking about your poll question—something that is a hot topic, controversial and relevant to the locations where you’re placing your poll. You want to pull people in with your headline and make the poll entertaining. Your answers should be multiple choice and have an “other” field, which encourages participants to engage with your question. I’ve found this “other” field as a fantastic way to make the poll interactive. Many people are passionate about certain subject matters and won’t mind giving you their two cents. Then, to show appreciation for talking the poll, tell participants they are getting a bonus report and a free e-newsletter subscription (which they can opt out of at any time). And of course, make sure to mention—and link to—your privacy/anti spam policy. After you kick off your list-building efforts, make sure you start tracking them so you can quantify the time and resources spent. This involves working with your webmaster on setting up tracking URLs specific to each website you’re advertising on. It also means looking at Google Analytics for your website and corresponding landing pages to see traffic and referring page sources.

Teleseminars or Webinars. This is a great way to collect qualified names. Promote a free, relevant and value-oriented teleseminar or webinar to targeted prospects. You can promote it through several organic (free) tactics, such as LinkedIn Groups/Events, Facebook Events, Twitter, online press releases, affiliate marketing/joint ventures. Remember, this is for lead generation, not bonding. So your goal is to cast a wide net outside of your existing list, create visibility and get new names. Your value proposition should be actionable, relevant information that your target audience would find useful and worth giving their email address for. The trick is to promote the event in as many places as possible without incurring advertising costs; then your only costs may be the set up of the conference call (multiple lines, 800#) or webinar platform. And, in case you were wondering, I have been involved with teleseminars with non-toll-free numbers and response rates were not greatly impacted.

Co-registration. Co-Reg is another way to collect names, but involves a nominal fee. Co-Reg is when you place a small ad on another publisher’s site after some sort of transaction (albeit a sales or lead-gen offer). So, for instance, after someone signs up to the AOL Travel eNewsletter, a Thank You page comes up with a list of sponsors the reader may find interesting, as well—other free e-newsletter offers. The text ad is usually accompanied by a small graphic image representing the sponsor. The key here is to pick publishers and Co-Reg placements that are synergistic to your own publication and offer. Another important note is to make sure you follow up quickly to these names so they don’t forget who you are and go cold quite fast. I suggest a dedicated auto responder series for bonding and monetization. Co-Reg efforts can cost you around $1 to $3 per valid email address.

Frienemy Marketing. This includes JVs (joint ventures), affiliate marketing, guest editorials, editorial contributions and reciprocal ad swaps (for leads generation or revenue sharing). This tactic is extremely effective and cost-efficient. The key here is having some kind of leverage, then approaching publishers who may want your content or a cross-marketing opportunity to your current list (note: This only works if you have a list of decent size that another publisher will find attractive). In exchange for content or revenue share efforts, you and the other publisher agree to reciprocate either e-news ads or solo emails to each other’s lists, thereby sending a message to a targeted, relevant list for free. Well, if you agree on a rev share, it’s free as far as ad costs, but you are giving that publisher a split of your net revenues.

SONAR Marketing. I’ve written about this many times, but can’t stress it enough. Content is king and you can leverage it via what I call “SONAR.” It’s an organic (free) online strategy that works with the search engines. It’s a comprehensive method of repurposing, reusing, distributing and synchronizing the release of relevant, original content (albeit text, audio, video) to targeted online channels based on your audience. SONAR represents the following online distribution platforms:

S Syndicate partners, content syndication networks and user-generated content sites
O Online press releases
N Network (social) communities
A Article directories
R Relevant posts to blogs, forums and bulletin boards.

SONAR works hand-in-hand with your existing search engine marketing (SEM), social media marketing (SMM) and search engine optimization (SEO) tactics.

Search Engine Marketing. It’s a shame more marketers don’t see the value of SEO or SEM. In order to drive as much organic traffic as possible to your website, you need to make sure your site is optimized for the correct keywords and your target audience. Once you optimize your site with title tags, meta descriptions, meta keywords and relevant, keyword-dense content, you need to make sure you have revised your site to harness the traffic that will be coming. That means adding eye-catching email collection boxes to your home page (and it’s static on all your subpages), relevant banners and obvious links to e-comm webpages. You don’t want to miss a single opportunity to turn traffic into leads or sales.

Smart Media Buying. To complement your free online efforts, you may want to consider targeted, low-cost media buys (paid online advertising) in the form of text ads, banner ads, blog ads or list rentals (i.e. e-news sponsorships or solo emails). You’re paying for the placement in these locations, so you must make sure you have strong promotional copy and offers for the best results possible. High-traffic blogs are a high-performing, low-cost way to test new creatives. I like BlogAds.com network and you can buy placements a la carte and search by genre.

Pay Per Click (PPC). Many people try pay per click only to spend thousands of dollars with little results. Creating a successful PPC campaign is an art—one that I’ve had success with. You must make sure you have a strong text ad and landing page and that the ad is keyword dense. You must also have a compelling offer and make sure you do your keyword research. Picking the correct keywords that coincide with your actual ad and landing page is crucial. You don’t want to pick keywords that are too vague, too competitive or unpopular. You also need to be active with your campaign management, which includes bid amounts and daily budget. All these things—bid, budget, keywords, popularity and placement—will determine the success of the campaign. And most campaigns are trial and error and take anywhere from three to six weeks to optimize.

Viral Marketing. Make sure you have a “forward to friend” feature in your e-newsletter to encourage viral marketing. It’s also important to have a content syndication blurb in your newsletter; this also encourages other websites, publishers, editors and bloggers to republish and share your content, as long as they give you author attribution and a back-link to your site (which helps in SEM).

The following, in my personal experience, doesn’t work for quality list building …

Sweepstakes and Giveaways. You’ve seen the offers: Win a free TV, iPhone or similar in exchange for your email address. This gets the volume, but the leads are usually poor quality or unqualified (irrelevant). The numbers may look good on the front end, but when you dig deeper, your list is likely compromised with deliverability issues (high bounce rates), inactives and bad emails. This is because the leads are not targeted. The offer wasn’t targeted or synergistic with the company. With lead generation efforts, it should be quality over quantity.

Email appends. According to Wikipedia, email appending, also known as e-appending, is a marketing practice that involves taking known customer data (first name, last name and postal address) and matching it against a vendor’s database to obtain email addresses. The purpose is to grow one’s email subscriber list with the intent of sending customers information via email instead of through traditional direct “snail” mail. The problem with this, in my direct experience, is that on the front end your list initially grows, but these names are not typically qualified or interested. At one company where I worked, we tracked a group of email append cohorts over the course of a year to see what percent would “convert” to a paying customer. Nearly 75 percent of the names dropped off the file during that year and never even converted. Email appending is a controversial tactic, with critics claiming that sending email to people who never explicitly opted-in is against best practices. In my opinion, it’s a waste of time and money.

6 Insider Secrets to a Winning Affiliate Marketing Program

Affiliate marketing has been a viable way to help build ancillary revenues by having someone else market your products. It’s generally cost effective and could involve little work. You can go about this through affiliate networks, such as Commission Junction or LinkShare, or simply start an affiliate program on your website and track sales and commissions with affiliate software, such as DirectTrack. Software costs could range anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars … depending on how robust you’d like your features.

Affiliate marketing has been a viable way to help build ancillary revenues by having someone else market your products. It’s generally cost effective and could involve little work.

You can go about this through affiliate networks, such as Commission Junction or LinkShare, or simply start an affiliate program on your website and track sales and commissions with affiliate software, such as DirectTrack. Software costs could range anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars … depending on how robust you’d like your features.

But before you start, make sure you know the critical elements to help grow your affiliate program:

1. Promotion. This is where you’re promoting your actual program on targeted locations, as well as recruiting affiliates to market your program. You’ll want to make sure you list your program on all the top affiliate directories, networks, forums, associations, bulletin boards, websites, listings and blogs (and, by the way, many of these sites are free!). You’ll also want to leverage free classified sites such as Craig’s List, as well as social marketing sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. And, of course, don’t forget to create powerful online press releases (free or paid) promoting the program’s launch and any other noteworthy milestones. Some of my favorite paid and free distribution services are free-press-release.com, PRlog.org, PRWeb.com and PRBuzz.com. You can also distribute these press releases through social marketing and bookmarking sites, including the aforementioned as well as Digg and StumbleUpon. There are many more cost effective ways to promote your program. Just be a strategically creative thinker and the sky’s the limit!

2. Site Awareness. It will be hard to promote your program to a site that doesn’t have a decent Web traffic rank or Web traffic (visits). If your site has poor traffic, a professional affiliate marketer will look at it as a lost opportunity. It will only make his job harder. So make sure to deploy SEO/SEM tactics to improve your site’s presence and traffic before you launch your affiliate program.

3. Online Store. Make sure you know which are your best-selling and most universally appealing products. Those are the ones you’d want to have in your affiliate program. You should also have varied price points. You don’t want to pick prices too low as, after the affiliate split, there won’t be anything left for your own profit. And you don’t want to pick prices too high, as most of these leads are cold, it will be a harder sell. A good range is generally $69 to $300, depending on the product and benefits.

4. Affiliate Rewards. Decide if you’re going to pay out per lead (CPL) or per sale. Decide if you’re going to have a flat commission rate or a tiered system. Do your competitive research and see what other, similar affiliate programs are paying out. You want to be competitive, as that, besides brand recognition, will be your two strongest areas of appeal to a potential affiliate. Some of the best performing programs on the Web are offering a commission of 25 percent of the product price. So do your due diligence for commission rates.

5. Analytics. Make sure you have a robust reporting system. You’ll want the ability to track underperformers and super affiliates, and reward OR incent accordingly. You’ll also want to know which creatives are performing the best and worst and, of course, how many sales and leads are coming in, as well as how long the lead is staying on the file and their lifetime value (sales).

6. Keeping In Touch. Top affiliate programs often have a newsletter or ongoing communication to keep their affiliates engaged … up-to-date on latest products being offered, special sales incentives, updates to program terms, and other newsworthy notes.

Affiliate marketing can help with most all of your online marketing objectives … lead gen, sales conversions, Web traffic, branding and buzz. Not having one could be detrimental to your business.

SEO Vs. PPC: 5 ‘Power Tips’ to Drive Organic Traffic to Your Website

OK, so you have a website. Blood, sweat and tears (as well as cash!) have gone into getting this thing up and running. You’ve used all your creative juices to get the words just right. And you added some nice graphics to make the site aesthetically pleasing. Now what? A website is of little use if nobody can find it. It’s kind of like having a telephone book ad with no contact information … it’s practically useless.

OK, so you have a website. Blood, sweat and tears (as well as cash!) have gone into getting this thing up and running. You’ve used all your creative juices to get the words just right. And you added some nice graphics to make the site aesthetically pleasing. Now what?

A website is of little use if nobody can find it. It’s kind of like having a telephone book ad with no contact information … it’s practically useless.

Mastering organic search ranking has proven to be a fundamental part of the online marketing mix. (By “organic,” I mean the “natural,” as opposed to “paid/PPC,” listing that appears when someone conducts a search on Google or other search engines. Optimal placement is typically within the first 20 listings or three pages.)

Search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO)—the ability to increase your site’s visibility in organic search listings and refine the content structure on the site itself—are critical for market awareness and customer acquisition.

An eye-tracking study showed that about 50 percent of viewers begin their search scan at the top of the organic listing results. Other studies show that about 70 percent of Web surfers click on organic listings before they click on a sponsored link.

Don’t let your site get lost in the Internet Black Hole, when there are five simple ways to help boost your website’s traffic and optimization.

1. Create online buzz about your site, product or service. You can do this by generating free online press releases. There are distribution services on the Web that offer no-cost packages, sites such as PRlog.org, Free-press-release.com and others. You can also post a link to your news release to targeted social marketing sites like LinkedIn (relevant groups), Facebook, Twitter as well as high-traffic blogs.

2. Initiate a relevant inbound link program. Set up a reciprocal link page or blog roll (a listing of URLs on a blog, as opposed to a website) that can house links from industry sites. Contact these sites to see if they’d be willing to swap links with you—a link to your site for a link to theirs. Relevance, rank and quality are key when selecting link-building partner sites. Search engines shun link harvesting (collecting links from random websites that have no relevance to your site), so these links should be from sites that are similar in nature to your business.

3. Give Web searchers great content and a link back to your site. Upload original, “UVA” (useful, valuable and actionable) and relevant editorial to high quality content directories such as eZinearticles.com, ArticlesBase.com and Goarticles.com. There are also more niche directories that focus on topics like health and investing. This is a great way to increase market awareness, as well as establish an inbound link to your site. Content should be targeted to the directory and audience you want to get in front of. There is also a syndication opportunity, as third-party sites may come across your article when doing a Web search and republish your content on their own websites. As long as third parties give your site editorial attribution and a link, getting them to republish your content is just another distribution channel for you to consider. For more information how to effectively master content marketing, search engine algorithms and Google updates, read my blog entry titled, “Is the ‘A’ in SONAR (article marketing) still a viable tactic with search engines and the Farmer/PANDA updates?

4. Website pages should be keyword-rich and related to your business.
Make a list of your top 10 to 15 keywords and variations of those words and incorporate them into the copy on your site (avoiding the obvious repetition of words). Search engines crawl Web pages from top to bottom, so your strongest keywords should be in that order on your home page and sub-pages (the most relevant on the top, the least relevant on the bottom).

You’ll want to do the same for your tagging. Make sure your title tags (the descriptions at the top of each page) and meta tags are unique and chock full of keywords. And your alt tags/alt attributions (images) should have relevant descriptions, as well.

5. List your site in online directories and classified sites by related category or region. This is an effective way to increase exposure and get found by prospects searching specifically for information on your product or service by keyword topic. Popular directories (like Business.com) typically have a nominal fee. But there are many other directories and classified sites (like Dmoz.org, Info.com, Superpages.com and Craigslist.org) that are free and can be targeted by location and product (offer) type.

Most important, before you start your SEO initiatives, don’t forget to establish a baseline for your site so you can measure pre- vs. post-SEO tactics. Upload a site counter (which counts the number of visits to your website), obtain your site’s traffic ranking at Alexa.com or Quantcast.com, or get your site’s daily visit average (from Google Analytics or another application)—and then chart your weekly progress in Excel.

Understand that with organic search, it may take several months for a site to be optimized and gain search engine traction … so be patient. You will eventually see results. And if you set up your website correctly to harness the surge of traffic you will receive, you can also monetize the traffic visits for lead generation or sales.

Best Online Marketing Practices For A ‘Bionic’ Business: Part I

For those of you who are Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, you’ll probably remember a popular TV show from the 70’s called The Six Million Dollar Man. The lead character was Steve Austin, also known as the ‘bionic man,’ as he had abilities to do things at an exceptional level, compared to other people. Well, the following are real-life questions I’ve received from readers, subscribers, clients and colleagues.

[Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a series of three blog posts.]

For those of you who are Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, you’ll probably remember a popular TV show from the 70’s called The Six Million Dollar Man.

The lead character was Steve Austin, also known as the ‘bionic man,’ as he had abilities to do things at an exceptional level, compared to other people.

Well, the following are real-life questions I’ve received from readers, subscribers, clients and colleagues. Little useful nuggets of information and best Internet marketing practices—all to help make your business ‘bionic’—that is—better, stronger, faster.

Today’s best practices focus on online press releases and social media marketing. Enjoy!

Question: When it comes to online press releases, I know that PRWeb.com has been the defacto standard. However, I just came across another one that appears to offer a very well-rounded option called: www.prleap.com. Have you heard of them? What do you use/recommend?

Answer: I try to use ‘free’ online press distribution services whenever possible. PRLeap used to be free, now they charge a nominal fee. They do, however, get good listings on the search engine results pages (SERPs). But if you don’t have a budget for press distribution and you’re looking for top notch free sites, check out www.i-newswire.com, www.prlog.org, and www.free-press-release.com. I use these all the time. Another great paid press release distribution service is, PRWeb.com. They provided added distribution to traditional media outlets, publication and periodical websites. Online PR is great tactic to increase your website’s visibility for SEO and traffic generation.

Question: What are some tips for getting the best results with online PR?

Answer: With online PR, the most important things are creating a newsworthy release which is keyword dense. It should also contain useful information for your target audience as well as media and bloggers. Releases that do well with pick up are usually about a company milestone, contrarian viewpoint, trend or forecast, important statistical data, launch of something (product, book, website) and similar information. The headline and sub-headline should have your top 5 keywords. In addition, your keywords should be sprinkled throughout the body of the release. There should always be a link to the longer version, which should be housed on your website in a ‘Press Room’ or ‘News’ section. And of course, there should be an ‘About’ portion of the release containing information or bio on the focus of the release. Having a call to action in the bio section is another great way to drive readers back to your site. For instance, having a ‘For more information or to sign up for our free enewsletter, click here now’.

Question: Can social marketing efforts be measured?

Answer: Yes, they sure can. Even better, the tools are all free and based off of good old fashioned direct response and public relations metrics—the 3 O’s-outputs, outcomes and objectives.

The tools are all free and based off of the 3 O’s:

  • Outputs measure effectiveness and efficiency. For our example, I’d look at Google Analytics for spikes in traffic and ezine sign ups the days following social media efforts.
  • Outcomes measure behavioral changes. For example, for this metric, I’d look at customer feedback… emails, phone calls, or website comments following social marketing efforts, and ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ on posted articles. Relevant Google Alert results.
  • Objectives measures business objectives and sales. For example: The most obvious and directly related metric is direct sales of the product that are tied to the editorial that may be linked to your social marketing efforts.

For each of the above, I would compare the current campaign data versus the year-to-date (YTD) average and year-over-year data to clearly illustrate pre- and post- campaign performance.

Question: Do I need to market my social media accounts? Won’t people find me with the right keywords.

Answer: Not really. You DO need to market your social media accounts. Sure the right keywords in your account profile and bio page will help, but think of your social marketing efforts as an extension of your brand and implement ‘social marketing branding’. Remember to include your social media account profile name, link, or icon in most everything you do:

  • Email auto signature
  • Ezine issues
  • RSS Feeds
  • Website home page
  • Business cards
  • PowerPoint Presentation cover page, footers and end slide
  • Press releases
  • Cross-market on other social sites