Waterstone Mortgage: the ultimate lead generation kit for lead generation geeks.

Obviously, Waterstone Mortgage is in the mortgage business, but in this fiercely competitive arena, it’s more like they’re in the lead generation business. When you meet with their people, you rarely hear them talk about mortgages, real estate or other stuff you’d think they’d talk about. But no, it’s all about keywords, conversion rates, remarketing, landing pages, and on and on.

So this website I created for the domain specific http://twincitieshomeloans.com/ (can’t use the main domain for a variety of reasons I can’t go into) along with a boatload of Adwords display ads, pack a nice little one-two punch that yields enough leads to keep a office full of hungry mortgage brokers busy.

That’s the intent anyway. Word on the street, it is converting quite nicely.

 

How YouthHockeyHub.com attracted over 12,000 visitors in its first 30 days.

search engine traffic success

In late October, it was nothing more than a pipedream. Today, YouthHockeyHub.com is a thriving new blog/website claiming over 12,000 engaged visitors during its first month of operation.

When someone starts a new blog or website, the goal is usually to generate a high volume of engaged visitors. So, if one generated over 12,000 in the first 30 days, it’s safe to say that would qualify as a rocking success. That’s precisely what has happened with YouthHockeyHub.com.

And it didn’t happen by accident.

So what is YouthHockeyHub, and why the sudden success? The site is a joint-venture between ZoselCo (Scott Zosel) and Multiply Communications (Tony Zosel, aka Tony Scott). Yes, my brother and I, both being youth sports enthusiasts, took a hard look at the marketplace for youth sports and saw some exciting opportunities looming. Our idea was to create a blog-style website covering Minnesota youth hockey, complete with feature stories and editorials. The primary drawing card would be weekly team rankings for both boys and girls hockey ages 9-14. Our long-term goal is to monetize the site via affiliate programs and advertising revenue.

However, you can’t just throw the site up and expect over 12,000 to beat a path to your door. If you want to generate big traffic numbers right out of the gate, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.

In a nutshell, here is our formula for success:

  1. Find a large under-served market —  After exploring the marketplace for youth hockey, we saw that mnhockeyhub.com claimed some 70,000 visitors at its peak in March last year (see graphic below). This level of traffic volume will support several players. We wanted to be one of them.
  2. Find a marked loaded with engaged customers — Simply put, youth hockey parents and coaches are insanely engaged, and will spend big bucks at the drop of a hat (sticks, skates, ice time et al). If your ultimate goal is monetization, your market must have this essential characteristic.
  3. Connect with key influencers one-by-one — One of the chief reasons to offer weekly rankings was to attract visitors interested in seeing how their kids’ teams were doing. However, to offer rankings, we needed coaches and parents who would login to the site and rank teams in their division. Recruiting them meant finding them through their local hockey association website, individually emailing each one of them, and inviting them to become a ranker. To get the job done, we simply paid high school kids to plow through this tedious task. Once we had over 100 rankers in the fold, things became viral, as they invited many others and traffic really grew. One-on-one emails were critical; email blasting would have been futile.
  4. Work the forums — Like I said, youth hockey followers are insanely engaged. There are a couple key youth hockey forums where hundreds of key influencers congregate daily to discuss a variety of topics, including team rankings. Over half our traffic comes from one forum, and will likely continue if we participate. We also have a forum on our site where participation is growing daily.
  5. Contacting key influencers = exponential visits — Because we already have a personal dialogue with parents and coaches, it’s easy to create stories about the teams they’re connected with. And whenever we do this, traffic usually comes back tenfold. Let’s say we run a story on a Squirt A tournament preview, we’ll send a email notice alerting this particular group of 12-15 parents. This generates 300-400 visits.

 

 

Why Google adwords and landing pages are essentially Direct Mail 2011.

If you’re wondering how to get started with an effective Google Adwords campaign, you need to take a look back in history.

The 1990’s was the golden age of database marketing — direct mail, catalogs, Val-Paks, and dozens of other marketing vehicles designed to deliver an offer to a targeted list in hopes of snagging a new customer. It was an era was all about the direct mail package — the offer, the message, the teaser, the buck slip. Copy was king. The mantra was test, test, test until you optimized the elements that would deliver ROI.

Copy is still king. The messages, offers, and teasers you used to see on direct mail envelopes are still alive and well. The same proven fundamentals of outbound database marketing are now used primarily in Google adwords campaigns and custom landing pages.

When John Q Consumer is searching for polo shirts, pool supplies, or the cheapest tree trimmer, he turns to Google. In the old days, he might have turned to the yellow pages or had a coupon he received in the mail. Now when searching google, it’s your 95 characters of copy in your ad that persuades a prospect to click through to your custom landing page whose job is to close the deal.

 

Hook, persuade, close. Same fundamentals, new medium.

Briefly, here are the basic similarities between direct mail and Google adwords campaigns, and how to make them work for you:

1. Hook with Google ad copy (the envelope teaser) — Envelope teasers like ‘wake up and see the world’ are akin to your Google ad copy, because those few words will determine whether the offer resonates with your prospect enough for them to take the next step, open the envelope. With Google, your teaser, or ad copy has to hit a little bit harder. So, for the same product, your offer with Google may be a little more straightforward such as ‘eliminate dependence on glasses or contacts.’ With Google ads, you only have text, no pictures, so simpler is better.

 

envelope-teaser-google-adwords

The direct mail envelope teaser.

google ad vs direct mail teaser

The Google Ad Copy.

 

2. Persuade with your Landing Page (the direct mail letter) — Once a prospect clicks your ad, they have essentially opened your envelope, and are considering your offer. In the 80s and 90s, marketers tested direct mail letter formats in much the same way search engine marketers test landing pages. The layout, bullet points, copy, headlines, captions and graphic elements are mixed and matched until the right combination steers prospects to take action. Marketers use arrows, bursts and testimonials much the same way on landing pages as direct mail letters. The goal is always to use enough elements with enough persuasive copy to get the prospect to take the next step.

 

custom landing page design

Example of landing page coming from PPC ad.

direct mail letter

The direct mail letter, full of promises.

 

3. Close with you Conversion Form (the BRC) — In the old days, you had three ways to get a prospect to convert — the business reply card (BRC), the 800 phone number, or god forbid, the fax form. Today, it’s still the same mentality. We walk the fine between asking the prospect to give just enough info so we don’t turn them off, but just enough so we know they’re a qualified prospect.

the business reply card

The BRC - business reply card

 

 

 

 

 

The SaunaTimes.com: Number one with a bullet.

Saunatimes wordpress website

Saunatimes.com is the brainchild of entrepreneur Glenn Auerbach whose goals is to create a high traffic informational site for sauna enthusiasts. Targeting the top four keyphrases for the niche — free sauna information, sauna party, build your own sauna, and health benefits or sauna — Zosel&Co successfully themed these phrases into title tags, URLS and content to land www.saunatimes.com on page 1, position 1 for ‘free sauna information’ after only five days after the site launch.

That’s what designing a site with SEO in mind will do for you.

It’s just one of many examples of companies, individuals and organizations creating inexpensive WordPress websites.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am with the setup of my wordpress site. I think the concept (static image, static 4-5 pages, posts, and category layout) is very logical. It’s still a work in progress as farr as my content goes, but the site is like a house, shelled and roofed., maybe even sided. It’s usable and the framework is such that I can do the finish work on my own time, “ said Glenn Auerbach, www.saunatimes.com

SEO keyword strategy helps Bearbeats.com squeeze more conversions out of crowded music loops market.

BearBeats
When Music Producer Mike Berens created an ecommerce site to sell his huge inventory of free music loops, drum kits, and instrumentals, his challenge was just beginning. Bearbeats.com hired Zosel&Co to help him with search engine marketing: good old fashioned organic search engine optimization and a pay-per-click adwords campaign. With a well researched list of the most popular keyword phrases, Zosel&Co created all the under-the-hood on-page optimization including re-writing all the content to ensure proper keyword saturation.

Berens said, “Scott Zosel is an expert at what he does. He creatively thought out-of-the-box to market my website in a highly saturated market. My website has increased activity by 300% thanks to Scott. I highly recommend Scott if you are looking for someone that will work hard for you and will deliver incredible results.” Michael Berens

Pay Per Click Advertising: four reasons why it’s a marketer’s best friend during a recession.

recession

As advertising budgets get slashed here in 2009, there’s one area that you might want to spend a few dollars on, even if you have never spent money on it before. Pay Per Click advertising (PPC), Paid Search, Search Engine Marketing, Adwords or whatever you know it as, offers some immediate benefits to companies in need of website traffic, lead generation, or just some really helpful market research.

  1. Pay Per Click Commands Generous ROI — In 2007, according to Marketing Sherpa, online marketers ranked PPC and email marketing as one of the most profitable channels with the highest ROI. AdWords can average five times stronger ROI than other online marketing channels, including email marketing.
  2. Instant Targeted Traffic — If you have a new website, PPC ads are your best bet. Invest a minimum of $100 a month, and PPC gives you immediate traffic which can help generate sales right away. While organic site optimization (SEO) offers long-term benefits, its bottom-line results can take months or years.
  3. Test your website, landing pages, or promotional offers — The moment your PPC brings traffic, you’ll have immediate feedback about your site’s effectiveness. You’ll know your convertion rates for sales and leads, which pages generate the most interest, and above all, you’ll know your site’s bounce rate — the key metric that tells you if viewers are abandoning your site after viewing one page.
  4. Branding — If you’re simply looking to put your company name in front of your target audience, PPC also works quite sell. For every click you buy, PPC exposes your brand’s name, message and offerings to the most qualified prospects, not just to everyone. But make sure your branding has a measurable conversion goal, like an email sign-up.

SEO Primer: Designing your site with SEO in mind.

Building_Blocks_thumb

If ranking highly with Google is important to your business, here are some basics to follow when designing a website.

For the novice, Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the technique of publishing information and building links that makes search engines rank your website high in the organic search results. As more and more companies are seeking these desirable high ranks, SEO consultants are getting rich. No disrespect to SEO consultants, but these guys are not rocket scientists, just ordinary guys who understand how search engines work, and how to make them rank sites high.

SEO is not as hard as SEO professionals would like you to believe. Anyone can do it if you understand the basics. In a moment I will explain the fundamentals of designing a website with the proper search engine structure in mind. But first, I’d like to clarify a few common misconceptions about SEO in general:

You do not need to pay a small fortune to rank highly. If you know a few simple techniques, you can do a credible job of promoting your site. And if you still feel like hiring a consultant, remember, pricing for SEO can be all over the map. So shop around.

Here the top eight most important items to consider when designing your website, in order of importance:

  1. Keyword research – ideally, this is the best place to start when designing a site. Unfortunately this is not where most companies begin. Only by using keyword research will you be able to accurately identify and quantify your internet market niches. You can use a keyword research tool like wordtracker, for instance, to accurately show you which keywords are searched for the most, and have the least competition. For example, if you’re selling office lighting, the broad search term ‘office lighting’ is highly searched for, but a highly competitive phrase. Yet terms like ‘office ceiling grid lighting’ or ‘office fluorescent lighting’ may not offer the same high volume of searches, but have far competition.

Point to remember: keyword research is your foundation, or quantified roadmap to follow for internet marketing successfully receiving the most relevant traffic with regard to your target market.

  1. Domain – URL currently holds a lot of keyword weight. You may already have a URL, and it may or may not be descriptive or relevant. However, if you have the opportunity to start from scratch buy one that is short and somehow contains your most important keyphrase. As you probably are aware, there are not many short, descriptive URLs available these days. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create one. For example, for office lighting, you may be able to purchase www.officelightsweb.com or www.officelightsmn.com (localized) or other URLs contain your keyphrases. You’d be surprised what terms are still available.
  2. Title Tag – This is the 2nd most important part of design with regard to SEO. Your page title is what shows up in Google and shows searchers what you have to offer. That’s why search engines place so much value on this. Page titles should clearly reflect your primary key phrase and try to stay under 65 characters. Also, make sure every title tag is unique. So for www.officelightsweb.com/products/desk-lighting/ my title will be ‘Office Lighting | desk lighting, desk lamps’. For my root page www.officelightsweb.com it could be ‘Office Lighting Solutions for Business’.
  3. URL Structure – Simple and logical is best. Also always keep your keyword phrases in mind. In my example website, http://www.officelightsweb.com, because our product (and keyword phrase) is office lighting, I will probably have this URL structure: www.officelightsweb.com/products/desk-lighting/. I use dashes because most of the Search Engines see that as a space. The idea is to keep it simple, and straightforward so your site structure is easy for Google to navigate. You could add other pages in this fashion using more specific popular keyphrases in this fashion: http://www.officelightsweb.com/products/office-ceiling-grid-lighting.
  4. Content – Relevant content is king with search engines. The more content you have with your primay keyphrases included in a contextual manner, the more the search engines will value your site. Creating a blog, news, articles, and other sections of your site that are regularly updated with content is the foundation of a internet marketing website. The first 200-250 words are most important. Try to have your keywords phrase appear here at least twice. It does not have to be exactly the same and should not sound unnatural. See our section on content management to learn how to update your web content.
  5. Heading Tags – I try to match the h1 tag with the title tag. Which also happens to be your keyword phrase. Or at lease contain it within your h1 tag. Try to have it come right after your body tag so that it is the first thing crawled. It should only appear once on a page and corresponding h2, h3 tags should hierarchically relevant.
  6. Meta Keyword – This should simply reflect the keywords specific to that page. Not as important because it is only really used by yahoo right now. The more key words you have, the less value each one is. That is why each page should be very specific.
  7. Meta Description – Hard to say how much weight is put on here but it adds some value in click through rate. I usually try to put my keyword phrase in this twice. Once all together and once broken up.
  8. Images – If they are not in the CSS they should have alt tags that are descriptive and utilize some keyword phrase