Best of 2012: September

Today in our greatest hits of the year, we round up some of September’s best articles, including a couple from a series on designing the perfect product page, as well as a warning about spending money on SEO, a new web design technique, a reminder where every one of your prospects will start looking for suppliers, and a tip from me as a former editor. So here are some of the things we discussed…

1. A product page is not some sort of “advert” to get people to “download” a PDF document containing the full information. I believe the primary requirement is to include all the information you can about the product. There are no excuses for presenting just a summary of the product information, and forcing people to “download” (i.e. look at) an inconveniently-formatted brochure or data sheet to find out the whole story. Why do so many of us do this? I’ll tell you why: sheer laziness.

2. For most companies, the objective of their product pages will probably be for the prospect to get in touch to request more information or to ask for a sales call. It’s amazing how few pages really work hard to “close the deal” in this respect, leaving the visitor to do all the work. Everything on the product page should be geared up to luring the visitor into taking the next step and somehow engaging with you, whether it’s requesting more information, asking for a sales call or even buying the product directly, if appropriate. That is the aim of the page, not the cop-out of “downloading” a brochure, which so many marketing managers seem to consider to be some sort of successful outcome.

3. Long-time readers will know that I’m skeptical of whether most businesses need outside SEO help on an ongoing basis. The more important part of successful SEO is building links to your site, and I simply don’t believe outside agencies can do a particularly effective job here, especially for businesses in specific technical industries. The reason is that good link-building requires a good knowledge of your business; few (and probably no) SEO consultants will have this. You need to pull in favours from contacts. Lean on suppliers. Take opportunities (such as exhibitions and conferences) as and when they arise. You need to know the good news websites – or even blogs – in your sector, and write content for them in exchange for links in the article. Outside agencies can do that, but it’s a PR agency you want there, not an SEO consultancy.

4. A new, although not conceptually innovative, technique is coming to web design, and it might be something you should consider as a development to your website, especially if you have quite a few pages which scroll down “below the fold”, as they say. It’s called “sticky navigation” and it makes a lot of sense.

5. Search engine “pay per click” marketing, such as Google AdWords, has changed everything. Does any prospect start looking for suppliers anywhere other than Google? It’s hard to justify publicising your company anywhere else now, unless you’re completely exhausting the potential of this advertising outlet and have money to spare. Or unless the main reason you advertise is to impress your own managing director and board.

6. Almost every magazine plans out its year in advance with an “editorial calendar”. Although these are as much for the benefit of advertising sales as anything else, they do ensure that all readers get served. You should have the same. If I could give one piece of advice to every marketing manager, I’d say it’s to work out a schedule (or at least a checklist) of items which you can go through during the course of the year. This will be your bedrock of content creation, which will be added to, of course, by anything new which crops up.

Quote of the Month:
A product page headline which just consists of a label (the product name) is a terribly wasted opportunity. Why make the first element on the page just “The Blue Widget” when it could say: “The Blue Widget: saving you money with faster setup”?

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