Last week I had the opportunity to talk to a leading industry analyst about a number of potential small web site investments that marketers and publishers could make to yield the biggest possible pay-off. The premise being, of course, that in economic hard times site owners needed to stretch their budgets to do more than ever – and generate real returns.
While we are hardly entering the hardscrabble environment of a previous Internet-era, it’s always good to revisit first principals when it comes to website design and development. Namely, that everything can be continuously measured (and optimized) and the digital medium is accountable: we can truly measure its impact to the bottom line. No guessing about what audience saw what ads here!
Our conversation ranged from the impact of search to social application widgets, like those from Rock You, to advanced analytics. So, for struggling site owners, here are my three quick web hits for hard economic times:
1. Acquisition: Reaching new customers or audiences is key. To do so as efficiently as possible, investments in Search Engine Optimization and Paid Search advertising efforts are key. Consumers aren’t searching any less in tough times (and given the fact that there’s no cost, they may be doing even more searching), so optimizing one’s pages for natural search engine optimization is critical. Think of every page as a homepage, an inventory that can be accessed in any conceivable manner regardless of typical ecommerce or content flows. Ditto for investments in paid search and paid inclusion. Now’s the time to really revisit these strategies.
2. Conversion: Optimize conversion flows endlessly. Digital properties are all about â€œflowsâ€ or the paths that consumers take through a site or application on their way to completing a task. As I’ve written about before in Our Brave New Beta Future: Site-side analytic tools like SiteCatalyst, Hitbox and WebSideStory are great for serving up general reports on success ratios but yield few clues as to why users exit a flow. That’s because users exit on a page, not going from page-to-page. To ensure that you are designing for maximum conversion, Avenue A – Razorfish employs a proprietary tool called Advanced Optimization that allows us to track user behavior at the page level.
This allows us to see exactly where users click on a page, the amount of time spent filling out form fields, how far users scroll, how much time they spend watching a video, interacting with a flash module and more. Using a solution like this typically yields fantastic returns. I’ve personally seen clients get 25% lifts to their conversion rates and “based on sales volumes” have seen yearly revenue increases of $2 million or more based on slight, strategic, design tweaks. Also, don’t forget about implementing multivariate testing as well (think of it as A/B testing on steroids) to determine the best and most effective mix of creative, copy and page design elements.
3. Retention: If you haven’t experimented with social media or other participatory digital concepts now is definitely the time. It’s just as important to maintain an ongoing relationship with existing consumers as it is to acquire new ones. Social media, if nothing else, is geared towards fans of your brand or site. Whether it’s chunking up your video assets for distribution on YouTube or launching a new campaign or page on Facebook, it’s definitely time to consider small initiatives here. A couple personal favorites are working with emerging web application providers like RockYou (which has incredible reach) or creating custom social media experiences, such as Red Bull’s Roshambo on Facebook. These speak to brand loyalists in meaningful was (most of the time) and may even net you a convert or two.
Of course none of this can be done too cheap, tiny budgets still won’t get you a whole lot, but these tactics are the perfect remedy for hard economic times. And, come to think of it, maybe even for not-so hard times.