What this book will do for you? – This book does not provide a miracle or a solution. What it does provide is a comprehensive knowledge of what you need to know to implement a successful internet strategy for your business. Following the step-by-step processes outlined here will help you avoid mistakes that many businesses understand after a site is designed. This is the reason why a very large percent of businesses have already redesigned their website multiple time s and still are unhappy with the results.

You will be able to formulate an internet strategy for your business and manage people working on your website design/marketing effectively after reading this book. Depending on your skills, you may be able to implement some of the steps listed in the book.

However, you will NOT Become an expert of internet strategy who formulates and executes internet strategies on your own. It takes time to become an expert in formulating strategies, and even lon ger to be able to execute it. My advice is to hire an employee to formulate and execute it; or outsource this to companies that do website design and web marketing for their livelihood.


Reasons Why You Need a Website:

Here are some reasons why small businesses need internet presence more than a large business:

  • A vast majority of consumers go to the internet when looking for a product or service. if you are not found, then you do not exist for them.
  • Because you are a small business, consumers are unlikely to know about you, hence will not type your website address when looking for your service.
    • For Example: Someone looking for a soft drink is highly likely to type Coca Cola or Pepsi on the search engines because of their name recognition. However, someone looking for a transcription service is unlikely to type gmrtranscription.com (a small transcription company).
    • Thus it is more important that gmrtranscription.com is found through the search engines than Coca Cola or Pepsi.
  • Consumers like to research a company over the web before setting foot in the door. If you do not have internet presence, you lose them. Large businesses have no such problem because of their better name recognition.
  • Large businesses have distribution networks that give them regional, national, or global presence. Internet presence is the only option for small businesses to get national or global presence.

Internet presence does not only mean a website for your business; it means that your website is found when your prospects are loo king for the product and services you offer; and a percent of those who find your website convert into your customer.

The good news is that you can quickly compete with your larger competitors through a well-planned and well-executed internet strategy. Moreover, the cost of the execution should not be very high if the small business uses some creative internet presence options available through website design and marketing companies.

Make sure that your website is an extension of your overall marketing and positioning strategy. Your website design and message should reflect your business philosophy and your unique value proposition.


Basic Website Usage Facts:

The majority of consumers now use internet to research providers or products/services and do background search of companies before setting foot in the physical location of the business. Make you website a one-stop place for finding information about your company, and products/services you offer.

  • Consumers scan website pages, they do not read it – With the exception of sites that are about stories and articles, consumers generally scan the web pages; they do not read the contents word by word . While there may be several reasons for scanning vs. reading, it is a fact and website pages need to be designed for scanning. Some suggestions for pages designed for scanning are
    • Clear page title that tells a reader what to expect from the website.
    • Page description that further confirm the promise by the title.
    • Educate the customer in the body of the pages by using bullets as much as possible.
    • Call to action that is obvious.
  • Consumers generally stop at the satisfactory solution rather than compare and get the best solution –

    Contrary to the common belief, consumers stop when they find a satisfactory solution rather than keep on looking for the site that gives them the best solution. This means that focus on offering what the page promises in the page title, making the site user friendly, and offering very clear call to action would result in the most effective website. The chances of losing a customer because he/she is confused on your site are much higher than losing one because other sites offer a better value. Having said that, the price needs to be within the spectrum of what consumers expect to pay for yo ur product services.
  • Consumers look for what they want your site rather than read instructions on “how to use” –

    People have a tendency to start using a site rather than read complete instructions. In fact, the chances of someone leaving your site because they could not find what they want are significantly higher; even if you have detailed instructions on the site . Thus a site that is easy to use would result in more visitor staying on the site rather than go to a next one. Website design that follows the “current” layout and provid es site map would prevent visitors from defecting to another site.

Three Website Challenges for Small Businesses:

Are you looking to design a website for your business, or redesign your existing website because it is not generating results? If yes, here are the three obstacles that you need to overcome so that you can start generating your share of the internet revenue from the website:

  1. Website design – while fairly complex, this is the easiest hurdle to cross.
  2. Getting visitors to the website – the magnitude of difficulty is many times more than getting a website designed.
  3. Converting visitors to customers – now you are talking about real business; thus complexity is highest.

All three challenges are intertwined in the sense that there are many common elements of a website that impact design, visits and conversion. The key is to plan the site upfront.

Small Businesses can overcome these three challenges with a well defined and executed strategy before even starting the website design. The key is planning – knowing what you want the website to do for you before the first code for the website is written.

Always look at your website as your store/office and make sure that it follows the basic layout of your store/office. For example, if your website is to follow a store layout, it needs

  • Name that reflects what you offer (either a brand that people know or a name that identifies your business – Ex. Pizza Restaurant tells you that it is a Pizza shop. Domino’s conveys the same thing because it is an established brand).
  • Walking in the store (site visit) instantly confirms that you offer what the name of the store suggests. You can accomplish this result on your website through appropriate page design and its title/description.
  • Your store visitors find items by following signs for the item or category that the item belongs to. You can use the tabs and other visual aids to guide a visitor to the product they are looking for.
  • Store visitors see details of items, put it in the shopping cart for purchase and checkout – replicate this in your website by providing relevant information about your product.

The following pages provide the seven simple steps to complete a internet strategy of your business. However, please be aware that you need to have a complete strategy in place upfront because the three challenges are connected to each other.


Seven Simple Steps to Complete Internet Strategy:

Website of your business is the most important marketing material for most of the small businesses. You need to plan for the website like you would when planning any major marketing program. Below are the steps required for launching a successful website:

Step 1: Preparation

Your strategy for internet is no different than your overall business strategy – it needs to be grounded in the marketplace reality and your business’ unique value proposition (USP). A well designed profit-generating website starts with a plan based on researched data and your company goals. Gather the following information before you launch your internet strategy:

  • Know your customers

    Your website layout, design and contents are going to be solely influenced by your customers’ expectation and needs. You first need to start with researching and gathering information to help you execute your strategy and optimize results.

    Here is some basic information that is needed before you launch your internet strategy:

    1. Who is my prospect?
      • Demographic information
        • Where do they live?
        • What is their income group?
        • What is their age group?
        • What is their family size?
        • What is their profession?
      • Psychographic information
        • What is their lifestyle?
        • What are their beliefs?
        • What are their radio/TV watching habits?
    2. Product usage information
      • What is their hot button issue that your products or services address?
      • How do they use your products/services
        • How much?
        • How often?
        • How much money do they spend?
        • What are their expectations from the products/services that you offer?
    3. What is my prospects internet usage behavior?
      • What percent of your prospects look for your product/service on the internet vs. Yellow Pages?
      • What keywords or key phrases do they use to search products or services that you offer?
      • What percent of your prospects purchase your product/service over the internet?
      • What makes them decide to buy on the web vs. in store?

Step 2: Identify Keywords that your customers use to find your products /services through search engines.

Your customers will typically find your products or services by searching for a particular keyword or ke y-phrases on search engines like Google, Yahoo & MSN. Internet users are getting more sophisticated every day, and have learned to use keywords that give them best results for what they are looking for.

Small businesses with a local presence and prospects can be found by using keywords or key-phrases and adding their locality. For example, keyword“Realtor” is very generic and would probably bring websites of national players, or organizations related to the Real Estate business. However, a consumer is typ ically looking for a real estate agent (Realtor) in a specific area like say Irvine, CA, and they know that they do not need a “Realtor” but a “Realtor in Irvine, CA”; hence they are more likely to use “Realtor in Irvine” key-phrase for their search rather than “Realtor” keyword. These help a local Irvine, CA Realtor plan and design a website which will get found ahead of the websites of national competitor for the “Realtor in Irvine” key-phrase.

Here are some ideas to build a massive list of keywords for your website:

  1. Visit competitors website and check their titles and meta-tags
  2. Check your customers’ testimonials to see what keywords they use. This will also help you build a customer-centric keyword list.
  3. Check all synonyms – use a good Thesaurus
  4. Use both singular and plural keywords.
  5. Use hyphenation and variation – Ex. Off-shore, offshore.
  6. Use domain names of other businesses – Ex. CNN .
  7. Use tools available for keyword identification. Some tools are
    • Fee Based (for most comprehensive list of key words and key phrases used for your products/services:
      1. Word Tracker (www.wordtracker.com)
      2. Trellian (www.keyworddiscoery.com)
    • Free Services (generally sufficient for most small businesses needs)
      1. Yahoo Search Marketing (www.inventory.overture.com)
      2. 7Search.com (www.7search.com/KST)
      3. Use abbreviations and misspellings of popular keyw ords
      4. Use acronym. You can find acronyms at acronym generator www.acronymfinder.com.
      5. Combine keyword phrases to one – Ex. Vitamins and herbs, vitaminsand herbs and vitaminsandherbs
      6. Use “+” with keywords – Ex. vitamins+herbs
      7. Visit crossword compiler, plug keywords and identify additional words. Check www.crossword-compile.com and other similar websites.
      8. Use permutation/combination of keywords – Ex: Affordable website design and design affordable website. Check sites like www.keywordtumbler.com.

Building a keywords list is not a one -time process; it changes with consumer usage behavior. Focus on the keywords being used currently to start your website and make adjustments as the usage behavior changes.


Step 3: Create unique landing pages for all important keywords

We discussed in the internet usage behavior section that

  1. You have three to seven seconds to grab a visitor’s attention and communicate that they are a t the right website, and
  2. Consumers scan a web page, not read it.
  3. You also know that your website visitor has probably landed on a web page through a search engine using a keyword or a key phrase.

Thus, it is imperative that a consumer sees the keyword or key phrase immediately after landing on the web page. You can accomplish this by:

  • Creating keyword focused web page – Your prospects would know that they have landed at the right website if they see the keyword or key phrase in the page title, and mo re of them would stay on and read the page content.
  • Quite often, it will make sense to create a separate website for major keywords or key phrases for your business; especially internet based business.

Another benefit of a keyword centric page is higher ranking with search engines.


Step 4: Know your competition

You need to perform basic competitive analysis in order to make sure that your website competes well with your competitors. Do the following analysis:

  • What are the keywords that my prospects use to find my products & services?
  • Which competitors show up on the first page of search engines for the keywords?
  • How successful are those competitors?
  • How is their website designed?
    • Title
    • Description
    • Keywords focus
    • Layout

Analyze the above information to identify the following:

  • What are your strengths & weaknesses vs. key competitors?
  • What are the big opportunities?
  • What are the major threats?

Step 5: Design your website right.

Here are Ten Website Design Recommendations

Here are ten recommendations for website design for the highest effectiveness:

  1. Immediately tell your visitor what your site is all about

    You typically have three to seven seconds to convey to your visitors what you offer. Thus, the website should convey:

    • The product or service that you offer
    • Why consumer should use your product/services
    • How do you differentiate yourself from competitors

      You can insure the website effectiveness by:

    • Website address that communicates what you do
    • Company name and a tagline that conveys your business
    • Graphic design of the site
    • Creating a clear visual hierarchy that amplifies key messages on the webpage.
    • Follow conventions currently used by leaders of your industry. Designers generally do not like conventions – fight them.
    • Break up pages into well defined sections – this helps consumers quickly scan a page.
    • Make clickable links obvious – whether it is tabs on the top of the page that leads to a page, or anchor text leading to a website, make it very obvious that it is clickable. Follow existing conventions of successful and heavily used sites to clearly communicate this fact.
    • Make sure that web pages are not cluttered.
    • Keep your messages short and exclude needless verbiage – give n that consumers only scan a page, not read it, use the least number of words to clearly communicate your message. Keep the message on consumer WIIFM (what is in it for me) rather than info about you.
    • Provide clearly defined search bars for finding contents on your site.
    • Make sure that every page has a title and description that clearly explains what the page is all about.
    • Keep the page scan-able by using bullets.

  2. Tailor your message to your customers – focus on “you” not “me”.

    Consumers purchase a product or service for their benefit, not because you are offering it. Many small businesses fall in the trap of talking about themselves (we syndrome) rather than what benefits they offer to customers (you). This explains why a web page that starts with “Welcome to our website” is rarely effective.

    Given that you have only three to seven seconds to grab the visitors’ attention, you do not want them to figure out whether you are the right website for him or not.

    • Here are the four components of effective web page content writing

      • Title – title of the web page is the most important part of your page. It conveys what your website is about and builds the expectation of the benefits that the visitor can expect from the site. Effective title have some or all of the following:
        • Consumer hot-button issue that the webpage is addressing
        • Keyword that consumer used to land to this page
        • Statement of a problem
        • Promise of a solution
        • Facts, not platitude (Ex. “Highest rated car by J. D. Power & Associates” instead of “Best Car”
        • Special Offer (discount, free etc.)
      • Description – This is typically your sub-headline or the paragraph that immediately follows the title. The description serves the following purposes:
        • Confirms that the page is about what the title promises
        • Builds the expectation for the reader
        • Helps transition to the detailed contents
      • Argument – This section is the body of the page where consumers get to decide why you are the only/best business for their needs. Build an effective case for your business by
        • Stating facts that support your arguments, no platitudes
        • Talking about your processes that differentiates you from your competitors
        • Providing examples of past successes
        • Focus on consumer benefits rather than you. Do not emphasize that you have been in business for 100 years unless it has direct benefit for the consumers.
        • Testimonials of your customers
      • Call to action – every website page should include a call to action to help visitor take next steps. Here are some examples:
        • Discounts for buying “now”
        • Free reports by signing up
        • Enter drawing for prizes by purchasing or filling up forms
        • Limited time specials
        • Memberships

  3. Leave white space – you may want to leave sufficient white space on the webpage. Cluttered sites make it hard to find information and are distracting to the readers. This increases the probability that a reader will give up and go to another site. A site with lots of white space makes it easy to follow the page and increase the potential of the visitor seeing the call to action offer.

    Your webpage should follow a clean outline. Leave adequate space between each section. Do not cram too many pictures and ads.

  4. Severely limit animation & flashing objects – you want to limit excess animation and flashing object on the website. Excess animation and flashing objects
    • Distracts the visitors away from the primary message o f the site· Increases load time of the webpage, which could result in loss of the visitor.
    • Dilutes the positioning of the site Animation rarely helps in positioning your site , and while flashing object points to the area that you are trying to highlight, use these features sparingly.
    • If your product presents better in multimedia, then give your viewer the choice of viewing it in multimedia; do not force it on them.

  5. Keep consistent navigation – the page layout of the index-page should be same for all pages on the site. You may have different links in inner pages, but make sure that Home, About Us, Contact Us, Testimonials and Site Map tabs are present in all pages and linked to the respective pages. This will make your website easier to use.

  6. Make sure that text linked to a page is obvious – It may make sense to keep all links on your page in blue. Consumers have started to associate blue text with links (hyperlink); use the color to clearly convey to your visitor that clicking on the word will take them to a word -specific page.

    Title links appropriately; don’t use misleading or cute names; it will only confuse your visitors.

  7. Make sure that the website loads quickly (under eight seconds) – Research suggests that you can lose 1/3rd of your visitors if a page takes longer than eight seconds to load. Here are some things you can do to make sure your page loads quickly:
    • Do not use flash unless it add s huge value to the site
    • Do not use too many graphics
    • Make contents available in HTML
    • Use XML for database drive n websites with more than 15 pages.
    • It may make sense to use XML for your website if you are using content management tool for making changes in the site through database.

  8. Use “Site Map” – This will minimize confusion for visitors, especially for large websites.

    Site map also helps search engines crawl all pages of your website which could result in higher page ranking and optimization for higher search ranking.

  9. Test content spelling – misspelled words in your website contents can be distracting for your visitors in the best case scenario and lose credibility in the worst case scenario. You can check spelling for each page by simply copying and pasting it in your MS Word and do spell check.

    There are web based solutions that you can use. However, I suggest that you use your own due diligence to make sure words are exactly what you want. This issue is too important to trust software to do the job for you.

  10. Test the site before launching – before you officially publish your website, do the following tests
    • Test to see if site loads in all browsers
    • Test to make sure that all links are working
    • Test for any site errors
    • Test for spelling errors
    • Test for site load time

      Once you publish the site, periodically review server log data and analyze all metrics. Make improvements based on the metrics on a regular basis.

Here are the Website Design Don’ts:

  1. Too much animation and flashing objects – Too much flash distracts a visitor from the key message of the site.
  2. Putting all products/services you offer in one page – consumers are typically looking for a unique product or service over the web. Over 80% of the searches are done through keywords. Putting all of your products/services on a page would take the focus away from the particular item that a visitor is looking for. Create a unique landing page for each product or service to maximize sales from your site.
  3. Asking visitor to download program in order to see your site – people are distrustful of downloading anything from sites they do not know. If you ask them to download something in order to view your sites, a vast majority would move on to other sites.
  4. Scroll sideways to see the entire page – make sure the whole content of the web page fits on the screen.
  5. Frames – website built in frames are currently not search able through search engines.
  6. Construction page – this is the most complained feature of a site. If a web page is incomplete, do not show it.
  7. Optimizing web pages for keywords – the biggest mistake you can make is to optimize a page for keywords for a higher search engine ranking. Always optimize the page for your visitor first, then figure out how to make it search engine friendly.
  8. Too many graphics – this will slow your site considerably and typically does not help convert a visitor to a buyer.
  9. Website de sign/managed by a programmer – Would you let a printer write copy or design creative work for your brochure? If not, why would you let a programmer design a website for you? Let a marketing professional design the site and write web page contents.

Step 6 : Getting Visitors to Your Website

If you thought that creating your website is complex, getting visitors to your website is exponentially more difficult than creating the site. However, as you will see below, your success in driving traffic to the site starts with the website design itself.

Over 80% of all visits to websites occur through search engines when searchers type a keyword or key phrase to identify websites. The rest of the visits are from people who know your site or have seen traditional advertisement that mentions your site.

Getting visitors through website advertising:

Below are some tactics that would bring visitors to your website:

  • Visitors through search engine:

    There are three ways you can get these visits
    • Organic Search Vis its -- by making sure that your website shows up in the generic search for keywords that your prospects use when looking for your products or services.
    • Visits through internet advertisement.
    • Popularizing your site through traditional marketing

You typically need to use both processes to optimize visits to your website. Below is the process for getting visits

  • Organic Search Visits

    You accomplish this by making sure that your prospects find you on the search engine results. Search engines design robots that scour the internet and inde x websites for specific keyword or key phrase relevance. Once the web page is indexed for specific keywords, search engines rank the page in comparison to other web pages and give it a specific rank. The page is shown in sequence to its rank for the keyword. For example, if a web page is ranked 67, the web page will show up 7th on the 7 th page for the keyword. All engines use its specific algorithm to index and rank a web page.

    Research suggests that almost 100% of consumers never go beyond the third page of the generic searches for a keyword. A vast majority would go to the second page only if they do not find a relevant site on the first page. If the search engines are doing their job right, then a consumer should always find relevant sites on the first page – which makes it absolutely critical to show up in the first page for relevant keywords.

    Competition for higher ranking is usually fierce; with the number of web pages for a keyword can be just a few dozen to hundreds of millions. You will obviously find it much easier to get your site on the first page for keywords with few web pages vs. ones with millions of web pages. As a result, it makes sense to identify the keywords used by your customers and try to get your site at least on the first page of the search engine for as many relevant keywords as possible.

    Here are the factors that affect search engine ranking of your webpage:

  • Domain Name – Your website address can be a tell-tale sign of what your site is about – both to consumers and search engines. Unless you have millions of dollars to educate customers regarding what you are about (like amazon.com did), you may want to make your website address explain what you do. For example, suppose you want to start an ecommerce website to sell cell phones. You are better off naming the site cellphones.com. If you check, you will find that the address is taken. But a name like yournamecelphoneestore.com will be most likely available. The name clearly tells a consumer and search engine robots what to expect on your site.

  • Design components – Once someone (a customer or a search engine crawler) visits your website, your site should be designed such that it makes it clear that this is a cell phone ecommerce site. You can simply design the site with pictures of phones for sale with description (since search engines typically do not read pictures, you will need to describe the picture as “alt tag” for the search engine robots), and steps for purchasing cell phones on your site. Designing the site to clearly convey its intent is absolutely critical for higher search engine ranking and would result in better sales from the website.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Your website needs to be optimized to get found when your prospects are searching for your products/services by using a keyword. Below are some ideas for optimizing your site for search engines:

    1. Get your website ready for optimization:
      1. Create a site map for your website
      2. Add a Google sitemap on your website
      3. Make sure that your coding is not blocking search engine robots from crawling the site.
      4. Describe all pictures on the site in the source code of the page (alt-tag).

    2. Identify the keywords that your prospects use to find your product s or services.
      Identify the competitiveness of each keyword by

      1. Checking the number of WebPages contain the keyword
      2. Use tools provided by sites like www.wordtracker.com to identify competitiveness.

        Identify keywords with least competition and target those for optimization first.

    3. Create separate landing pages for each keyword and add them to your website. Make sure that there is a link from your keyword - centric page to your homepage, and all pages are listed in the site map of your website.

      These keyword -centric pages should be well written with

      • A page title that includes the keyword/key-phrase
      • A page description (below the title) that briefly describes the page and includes keywords in the text
      • Copy that explains your service (in bullet form to ma ke it east to scan). The copy should contain keyword/key-phrase
        whenever appropriate.
      • Call to action (what you want a visitor to do)

        A well written web page will get a higher page ranking from search engines and will also maximize sales to the website visitors.

    4. Make sure that keyword is in the first paragraph of the copy. Around 2% of the text should be keywords in the first paragraph.
      Google especially expects around 2% of the copy content to be a keyword for indexing the page for it.

    5. Make sure that the source code of all web pages has an appropriate title, description, keyword meta -tags, and alt-tag; and is consistent with the web-page content.

    6. Use keyword hyperlink – word linked to another page that has additional content using the keyword. Search engines usually
      follow the links and may credit the site if the page hyperlinked to a keyword is highly relevant for it.

    7. Submit all keyword centric webpage URLs to search engines; in addition to the homepage URL.

    8. Include your website to your industry -specific directories and trade sites. This increases relevancy of your site for the specific
      industry in search engine eyes.

    9. Add RSS feed in each webpage for the appropriate keyword and bring in relevant information related to the keyword from other sites.

    10. Create a Blog for each keyword and write Blogs regularly. If you are pressed for time, get it written regularly from writers who will ghost-write for you. Make sure that your webpage address is mentioned in the Blogs. See the Blog section in this book for
      details of how to create and market your Blog.

    11. Regularly write and post press releases about relevant issues for your business and post it in the press release boards. Make sure your website address is included in the copy of the press release.

    12. Join relevant forums and mention your webpage address when relevant.

    13. Add content to the webpage regularly.

    14. Generate incoming links to your webpage from other websites. Search engines take it as a vote of confidence when other sites point to your site; especially from well-ranked sites.

    15. List your web page in directories and get incoming links to your web page from other related websites.

    16. Monitor page ranking of each keyword regularly and track progress.
    17. Check the sites that show up on the first page of search engine and analyze what they are doing different. Doing the steps above may not bring you in the first page of search engines for all keywords; but you will be successful for enough keywords to make your website extremely profitable. SEO is an ongoing proce ss; either hire a dedicated resource for SEO or let a vendor professional internet strategy company take care of it.
  • Internet Marketing Programs

    Organic search engine programs usually takes longer to show results and you may never get on the first page of the search engine because of the competition. The following internet marketing programs are widely used to get targeted visits to your site rather quickly.

    • Pay-per-click Advertisement

      Pay-per-Click (PPC) advertising at major search engines or other websites – this advertisement media lets you advertise keywords at major search engines in lieu of payment per click. The fee depends on the competition for the keyword; but you decide how much you want to pay per click and what is your daily, weekly or monthly budget. Pay-per-click helps you analyze effectiveness of your website when it comes to converting a visitor to a customer. Below are some helpful hints for pay-per-click advertisement success:

      1. Test your ads at Google, Yahoo & MSN. User profiles of these search engine users are different, so expect different results at each search engine.
      2. Make sure you use conversion tools provided by the search engines to analyze the results of clicks.
      3. Analyze the results and make changes to increase conversion. You may need to create several landing pages for important keywords with different messages and see if a particular message increases conversion.
      4. Once the page is optimized, start advertising for PPC at all other search engines.

    • Affiliate Programs

      This program enables you to create a banner for your site that can be advertised on other websites. The banner comes with a tracking mechanism to help you identify hits from a site and whether the visitor filled-in contact form or purchased something from your site.

      You can offer pay-off based on

      1. Purchase by the visitor
      2. Visitor filling a lead sheet
      3. Per visit

        Once the program is created, you will need to contact other websites to show your program, and list your program on sites where other webmasters visit to look for affiliates to add to their site.

    • E-mail Campaigns

      An email campaign is one of the most cost -effective marketing programs available to small businesses. However, the effectiveness of emails has dramatically decreased due to the proliferation of spammers. Irrespective of what these spamming companies say, mass mailing your advertisement to a public list is a waste of time and money.

      A successful email program needs work from the beginning. Here are some simple steps for developing an effective email marketing program for your business:

      1. Build only 100% opt-in list for sending emails. This will take time to build a substantial list, there is no short cut. Guard that opt-in list with your life and never-never sell it or even loan it to other businesses for sending spam.
      2. Make it easy for your customers to sign up for email campaigns from you. They can sign up at your website, payment counter, store front, business cards etc.; make sure that your prospects can sign up for the emails at every point of contact with your business.
      3. Create targeted list of prospects who have agreed to accept emails from you. Make sure that they know what you will be sending for opting-in for getting your emails. The reasons for signing up could be
        • Receiving your newsletter regarding issues relevant to your customers.
        • Receiving ads and specials from you.
        • Receiving special announcements
        • Results of drawing
        • Other similar programs Whatever is the reason, make sure that your prospects know what they will be receiving f rom you.
      4. Send information “only” about the reason they have signed up for. However, it is OK to do cross-promotion. For example, suppose someone has signed up for your newsletter; it is OK to put a small banner ad about ‘specials of this month”, linked to the page that is about the specials. It is not OK to send emails regarding your specials to prospects who have signed up for newsletter.
      5. Quality is more important to quantity – send only quality emails. Get professional help to make sure you are doing the best possible job. However, try to send emails at least once a month.
      6. Always ask your readers to forward your mail to others who they think may be interested in the content. If possible, provide incentive for forwarding it to others by creating a form.

    • Viral Marketing

      When your visitor finds something interesting on the site and sends it to his/her friend, and their friends, in -turn, send it to their friends, it is viral marketing. Viral marketing can be the most effective website marketing tool for reaching an increasing number of visitors. One of the most successful examples of viral marketing is myspace.com; the community site where people create their own profile and then send the profile to their friends and ask them to create their own profile. Myspace.com was the most visited site by the end of 2006.

      You need to provide a compelling value before someone will send your page to a friend. Some ideas are:

      • Letting visitors create their own page – like myspace.com
      • Unique information
      • Free downloads
      • Online interactive games
      • Online MLS (multi-level marketing) programs

        Simplify the process for sending your page by visitors by adding“Send to a friend” feature where the visitors just need to add email addresses in a box and your system emails their comments (with your sales pitch) to them.
    • Blog

      Blog is a simple web page where visitors can come and read (see) your article and which can be updated regularly. By definition, Blog needs to contain contents that prospective readers would find useful.

      Blog is great for businesses because it helps the writer (business owner) build credibility as an expert in their area, lets readers respond, and generate incoming links to your website when done right.

      Several free Blog creation sites are available. Prominent among them are blogger.com, createblog.com, blogstream.com. There are some paid Blog sites like typepad.com, blog.com etc.

      Below is a simple step -by-step process for creating and marketing your own Blog:

      Creating your Blog

      Your Blog has two identitie s: Name & URL. Think over them and do your keywords research before deciding on your Blog title.

      It also has a description section that is crawled by Search Engines. The URL address of your Blog can be of two types, one with extension of the software provider-for example

      http://yourblogname.blogspot.com or http://yourblogname.wordpress.com.

      The other option has the Blog hosted on your website - for example http://www.<yourblognamehere>.com

      Blogspot & wordpress are two popular blogging softwares.

      For those of you who prefer goggle’s software:

      Click on the link if you have a goggle account: https://www.google.com/accounts/Login?service=blogger&naui= 8&continue=http%3A%2F%2Fwww2.blogge r.com%2Floginz%3Fd %3D%252Fcreate -blog.g&alwf=true&skipvpage=true If you do not have a goggle account click on https://www.google.com/accounts/NewAccount?naui=8&service= blogger&continue=http%3A%2F%2Fwww2.blogger.com%2Flogin z%3Fd%3D%252Fcreate- blog.g&sendvemail=true&followup =http%3A%2F%2Fwww2.blogg er.com%2Floginz%3Fd%3D%252Fhome

      Blogger by goggle also has an option of hosting a Blog your the web server. If you want to go for it Click on ->Advanced.

      If you are not a fan of goggle or you like to explore other options go to: http://wordpress.com/signup/

      Once you have decided on the blog’s name, URL and location make a note of it.
      Your Blog now has three areas 1. Template 2. Settings 3. Posting

      Step 1: Templates

      Decide on your Blog template. While choosing a template is a personal choice, keep in mind the type of Blog you are setting up. For example an information Blog, would look better in a formal template, while a chatty Blog would look good in an informal setting. If you are familiar with HTML or XHTML you can fiddle with the templates according to your liking.

      Step 2: Settings

      Comments: After choosing the template now we come to Blog settings. One of the first reasons for setting up a Blog is that you want feedbacks. So we come to settings on comments. If you want unfiltered comments, viewers can straight away publish their comments on your Blog. Otherwise you can set up a filter. That way, the comment is first emailed to you and you press the publish button.

      To filter your comments: enable comment moderation

      If you want to know if some one has left a comment on your Blog give your email in the comment notification address.

      Profile: Fill in your profile in an interesting and arresting manner. Most visitors to your site will view your profile and it will decide your likeability factor in the early days of your Blog.

      Step 3: Posting

      Now that your Blog is more or less set up, you will need to start posting. Click on the-> create post button. A new window appears. You can type your text directly or copy paste from notepad. Unfortunately Blogger is not totally compatible with MS Word, so a lot of formatting features are lost. The best strategy is to copy and paste the text from notepad or any other text editor and then format the text.

      After you are done, preview your post, then hit the publish button.

      Congratulations! You have just made your first Blog post.

      Popularizing Your Blog

      Well, you have now created your Blog and made the first post. Of course, you want everyone to know that you have a Blog and you want everyone to read it.

      So how to go about it.

      One thing why blogs are popular as well as good publicity tools is that they are easily updated. Those interested can subscribe to your Blog and can read it as soon as you have added new content to your Blog. Its good for Search Engines too.

      Step 1: is submitting your Blog to Blog directories.
      Most Blog directories automatically convert your Blog into a feed. To make your Blog known everywhere, here’s a link where you can register your blogs. http://www.toprankresults.com/blogsubmit-list.htm

      Step 2: Create your own feed, put a link on the Blog and submit your feed to other feed directories. If you don’t know how to, start with http://www.feedburner.com. Just enter your Blog URL and feed-burner, automatically will convert it into a feed. Once the feed is entered, you can view the number of subscribers, viewer etc.. to your Blog.

      Step 3: Though it is ideal to update your Blog everyday, make sure to update it at least once a week. Your content is king where a Blog is concerned. Make sure your content is informative, precise and helpful. Search Engines may not be intelligent, but people, searching for content really are!

      Step 4: Read related blogs. What your competitors are writing, why are they popular, what issues are they addressing in their Blog. This goes a long why in giving new ideas.

    • Other Marketing Programs

      You need to use traditional advertisement to get your prospects to your site. Here are some ideas for popularizing your website:

      1. Make sure that you add your website address in your· Print/Radio/TV advertisement – whether it is your business card, flyer, direct mail piece, radio ads, TV ads, or print ads in newspaper/magazine, always ask prospects to visit your website.
      2. Just adding your website address is not sufficient – give people an incentive to visit your site. Some examples of incentives are
        • Daily/Weekly website only specials
        • Website Only price
        • Entry form for drawings
        • Valuable reports on the website (white papers, how -to information, etc.)
        • Free resources – coupons, gifts etc.
      3. Create a signature with your website URL and special offer (if any; like visit www.yoururl.com for free marketing tips) for every email that you send.
      4. Announce a contest that someone can participate in by visiting your website.
      5. Offer “Add to Favorites” feature on all your web pages to help people remember your site. Adding your site as their favorites would also help you in getting a higher search engine ranking.

Step 7: Converting Visitors to Customers

Now that you have built a site and started generating visits to the site, you can maximize the returns by making sure that the highest numbers of visitors convert to a customer. As discussed earlier, your success of conversion starts at the time of design. You would find that most of the information here was covered in either the website design or marketing sections. This fact further amplifies the need for preparation and defined website strategy from the very beginning.

The following issues need to be clearly identified for the highest conversion of visitors to customers. In other words, for getting highest return on your website investment:

  1. Goals

    The most important requirement for the success of your website investment is a clearly defined objective of your website. Below are some basic steps you can take to clearly define your objective:

    You need to first clearly define the result you want from your website if you want optimal return on your website investment. Once the objective(s) is defined, you need specific tactics to make sure the objective(s) is met.

    Here are some examples of possible objectives:

    • Increase sales through ecommerce by:
      • Tapping the growing pool of customers who purchase products and services over the net. Example – Best Buy offering their products through their bestbuy.com website.
      • Expanding your business to prospects that live beyond the geographic region where you currently operate. Example – Several small businesses that have expanded their business geography nationally, or even internationally, through internet.

    • Provide information to the growing number of your prospects who research businesses and products before they set foot in a store or office. Example – Research suggest that over 80% of car buyers research cars on the internet before they set foot in a car dealership.
    • Generate le ad for your business by letting your prospects send you inquiry based on the information and content in the website. Example – Consumers calling or filling up a form for mortgage loan or insurance.

    • Offer online brochure for your products and services to help your sales process. Example -- Many businesses use their website as a place to find information about the company – restaurants post their menu, stores show what they sell and when they are open, etc.

    • Internet based business aimed at generating revenue by offering your products or services to the ever growing population of internet users. Example – Lead generation companies that generate lead from the internet and sell it to businesses.

    • Customer support site where your customer can find answers about your products or services.

      Whatever is your business, you need to have a clear objective before you start your website.

  2. Well -defined Target Audience – as explained in the site design section, you need to identify the target audience for which the site is getting published and then design the site around your target audience.
  3. Site Structure – A site needs to structure in such a way so that information can be found quickly and it is easy to navigate. Especially, it should be easy to find
    • What is where on the site ?
    • How to find that information?
    • How to quickly go back to any page?
    • Keep main navigation on the tab of the webpage template consistent for all pages.
    • Add a site map so that a visitor can quickly find what he/she is looking for.
    • Intuitive process for finding products/services.

  4. Site Content – Tailor your message on the web page for customers as you have generally between three to seven seconds to convince your customer that they have landed on the right website for what they are looking for.

    Here are the four components of effective web page content:

    • Title (or Headline) of your web page is the most important area for convincing your visitor that he/she is at the right website. The goal of a headline is to interrupt the customer by stating their problems or talking about something that is familiar to the customer.

      Following are the components of an effective headline:
      • Headline should address your customers’ hot-button issue that your products/services address.
      • Headline should include the keyword/key-phrases that the webpage is optimized for.
      • Headline should clearly promise the benefit to the consumer that you offer.

    • Description of the page (2-3 lines) – follow the title with a brief description of the hot button issue that is listed in you r title. Make sure that you use the keyword in the description. Description confirming the issue of the title would assure visitors that he/shehas landed at the right webpage. This also helps search engines index your page for the right keyword.

    • Body of the page -- Detailed description – this is your chance to build a case to educate your customers about why you are the best company to fulfill their needs.

      Follow the instructions below to get best results from the site:
      • Keep the content simple and use bulleted approach of explanation.
      • There is a very good chance that your visitors browse web page rather than read it. Make sure that the essence of the contents can be easily browsed.
      • Use keywords for the page whenever it makes sense; do not stuff the page with keywords. This will distract your visitors and you may get black listed by search engines.
      • There is no size limitation so long the content makes sense. However, it is a good idea that a webpage contains at least 300 words.
      • Call to action – eve ry webpage should include a call to action. It can be an offer to buy, contact you or sign up for a newsletter. Offering “free” anything would increase the chances that a visitor will take the next steps that you want him to take.

  5. Graphic Design – Graphic design of a website, if done right, can make a big difference by converting visitors into customers. Make sure that
    • The design communicates the theme of the site.
    • The theme is consistent with your business.
    • The site is easy to browse.

  6. Test/Test/Test - testing is the most important thing that you can do. Test conversion by
    • Trying different landing page designs
    • Different landing page message
    • Different landing page offers for call to action
    • Different customer visits – For example, user profiles of Google may be different from the user profile of MSN. Make sure that your message, design and positioning is appropriate for the visitor.

  7. Give reason for your regular customers to come to the site. Offer
    • Weekly specials
    • Web-only rates
    • Contests
    • Drawing , etc.

Conclusion & Parting Comments:

This e-book will not make you an internet strategy guru (no one book can), but this should arm you to understand the basics of internet strategy so that you can evaluate if your website designers and web marketers are doing a good job. Getting your fair share of the internet marketplace can be achieved by following the steps outlined in this e-book. In many instances, you may get even more than your fair share because so many businesses do a very poor job of executing website strategy.

You can maximize returns on your website investment by

  • planning before you start
  • researching your customer and competitors
  • website design that follows steps outlined in this book
  • website marketing, both internet and traditional
  • analysis and readjustment

Your website should reflect ongoing changes that every business goes through, and should evolve as your business evolves. Re gular testing and adjustments are needed to keep up with the evolving internet usage behaviors and competitive situation. As businesses have started to understand the need for website, internet marketplace is constantly changing with literally 100s of websites popping up everyday.

It is important to understand that your internet strategy should be a n addition to your other marketing programs; not in lieu of your other marketing programs. You should obviously make sure that the marketing dollars spent gets you the return you need. It may make sense to allocate some of the other marketing dollars to internet, but it will seldom make sense to allocate 100% of your marketing budget to internet.

Several internet marketing programs take time to yield results, so keep your expectations realistic. For example, it can take more than six months to show up in the first page of the search engines for keywords and key phrases if things are done right. Anyone promising instant result either works for the search engines or is using methods to rig search engine algorithm. While it is not illegal to trick search engines in getting you ahead of other deserving sites, it seldom stays there in the long run, and can even get you unlisted by the engines.


Free Website Tools:

  1. Meta tag analyzer to check if your content is optimized for keywords that your prospects use to find your products & service -- http://www.submitexpress.com/analyzer/
  2. Link Popularity – see how many websites are linked to you -- http://www.submitexpress.com/linkpop/
  3. Keyword popularity tool – see how many people are using particular keywords to search for your business -- http://www.submitexpress.com/keytracker.html
  4. Yahoo ranking of your website for keywords -- http://www.yahoosearchranking.com
  5. Google ranking of your website by keywords -- http://www.googlesearchranking.com
  6. Publish articles for Blog -- GoArticles.com
  7. Publish articles for Blog -- ISnare.com
  8. Submit articles for many publication on several articles website -- SubmitYourArticle.com
  9. Free articles for reprint on your website -- ArticleCity.com
  10. Free website conte nt by keyword -- ExchangeNet.com
  11. Free wire service -- http://www.prweb.com/
  12. Free wire service - www.emediawire.com/
  13. Free press release -- http://free-press-release.com
  14. New website list -- http://click2newsites.com
  15. Free press release distribution center -- http://i-newswire.com
  16. Free website performance and diagnostic website -- www.dnsstuff.com
  17. Free website design resources -- http://www.gmrwebteam.com/small_bus-resources.shtml
  18. Useful advice to small businesses -- www.eventuring.org
  19. Identify fonts used on a website -- http://www.myfonts.com/WhatTheFont/
  20. Spell Check for your website...EVERYONE needs this one! -- http://www.siteowner.com/sitecheck.cfm

About the Author:

AJAY PRASAD is the President of gmrwebteam.com, the marketing consulting and strategy firm in US. In his role of President, Ajay guides small and medium size companies through designing their website marketing and advertising campaigns, which have immense impact on the prospects. Ajay's contribution is aimed at designing and marketing websites such that the prospect concludes that the specified company is best fit for his/her requirements regardless of price. He helps companies increase their sales and profit substantially without spending more money on advertising and marketing. Gmrwebteam.com customers have experienced 4,000%+ increase in sales through website strategy.

Prior to GMR, Ajay had over 20 years of marketing & business management experience at senior executive positions in marketing at large, medium size, and start-up companies. His past work experience includes Vice President of Marketing & Product Development for car navigation products, Director of Marketing Strategy for the world leader of digital map developer, Head of $100M division as Category Manager for a large Oil Company, and Vice President of Strategy & Franchising for a $1B restaurant chain. He also led sales & marketing for a location based information delivery start -up with $15M VC funding in the Silicon Valley as their Vice President of Sales, Business Development and Marketing.

Ajay's functional expertise includes website strategy, marketing management, business development, consumer research, market analysis and strategic planning. His industry experience includes consumer electronics (GPS based navigation system), enterprise software (digital map software used in GPS enabled devices, location-based services), and consumer marketing (restaurant, toy). He has used his marketing and strategy skills to develop several successful marketing campaigns in US & Europe, introduced several companies to the Asian markets, and strategic alliances between US & Indian companies.

Ajay was a speaker in J D Power & Associates conference on the emerging technologies for the automotive industry (2000) where he shared his vision of the car navigation market potential with the industry leaders of the automotive industry. Ajay has been quoted in major newspapers (Dallas Morning News, San Jose Mercury News, The Wall Street Journal, etc.) about his views on car navigation. He also presented pricing strategy for the restaurant industry to the marketing executive group of Nation's Restaurant Association. Ajay earned Masters of Management Science Degree from University of Georgia.



The guidelines listed in this book are based on authors 20+ experience in the field of marketing and knowledge gathered by reading marketing books, magazines and research. The steps are author’s belief and do not guarantee any set result to businesses that follow the steps.


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