What is Visible?
One of the biggest problems with this site from a business model perspective is how much free content (including tools) that we give away...as the site was started out of passion with intent to help people, rather than to maximize short term revenues. That lead to me helping people for free way more than I should have, and not earning as much as I could have from paying customers (because I spent too much time helping people who had no intent of becoming customers). Shifting the business model to charging a recurring fee fixed part of that problem...using economics to add a layer to filter out real customers from freeloaders.
Another large problem is that I have asked forum members not to mention specific forum threads without getting permission from other members who contributed this to the thread. People love the forums and leave unsolicited testimonials virtually every day, but rarely do people write publicly about the forums due that restriction.
Khalid Saleh recently highlighted the forums publicly when he referenced me as a top online marketer:
Many top SEO professionals no longer spend time on forums. That is not the case with the SEO book community forum. The caliber and quantity of top seo experts who are ready to answer any question sets the forum apart. Let alone the personal effort Aaron invests ensuring that no question goes unanswered.
But such public mentions are rare due to the above restriction.
The combination of limited public discussion of the paid content with so much discussion of the freebies creates a website that is easy to mention to attract pageviews, but does not convert anywhere near as well as it should because the conversion process is nowhere near as refined as it could be.
This site gets a ton of traffic...but we have enough to where it makes sense to put more effort into sales.
Building the Perception of Value
It is hard for people to accurately value information they do not have access to...which is why many hyped up marketers have systems built around duping newbies with fake testimonials, affiliate schemes, and "launches" promoted through email list spamming. (Everyone is talking about it, so it MUST be good!)
I hate asking people for money, but if I simply do not then this site will only perform at a fraction of its full potential. My wife is a much more aggressive sales person than I am (she did high tech marketing in the past and was responsible for landing a huge deal that ended up getting her company acquired by their biggest competitor for big money). She is always pushing me to be more aggressive. I have been naively reluctant on some fronts, but am slowly coming around bit by bit. ;)
Value systems are built through marketing and publicity. This site makes way more than what it needs to for me to consider it successful, but there is a lot of money left on the table. I bet the upside potential from conversion improvements is at least 200%...maybe way more.
How Much Are Your Internal Search Results Worth?
If a site has conversion issues, the easiest way to fix them is to break down the conversion process into steps and processes. I thought I would take a step in that direction by advertising our community forums and training program on our internal search results.
Generally there is no better place to advertise than on your own site.
Each day hundreds of people use our public facing site search, and they have done over 100,000 searches in the past year or so. My average cost per click on Google's search results is over $1 per click, and yet I have never advertised on my own search results. Think about that number...over 100,000 times people have found the brand then done a specific search on this site with 0 of them seeing an advertisement. As a marketer that is an embarrassing failure.
Advertising on Your Internal Site Search Results
Here is what I did to fix the above issue...
- Signed up for the Google custom search engine to allow us to include their technology into the site. Labeled and feature content from key portions of the site to promote them within those search results.
- Created a custom CSS file for the search page, which allowed me to make the search results skinnier and the related advertising column wider (when compared to other pages on the site).
- Included mini-logos, search boxes, and testimonials from the training section and user forums on the search page.
- Used a PHP page such that I could pull the search variable from the URL string and add the query in the page content (in various places - including headings and search boxes).
Here is how to pull a variable from the URL string
$val = $_GET['q'];
Example Search Result
See how I added the advertisements on this search for page titles.
Was the above worth the effort? I am not certain yet, but I have to imagine so. If it helps convert 1 person a day that is worth over $100,000 a year for the one hour of effort it took to implement. There are aesthetic improvements that can still be made, but at least now that page has potential to build revenue rather than just being a sunk cost.
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