What some Internet marketers don’t want you to know

In my nearly 20 years of being heavily involved in Internet marketing, I have spoken with thousands of companies — ranging from Fortune 500s to very small firms — and have answered countless questions. When the opportunity presents itself, I ask this question to anyone wondering how to get more sales leads online:

How do you define online success and how do you know if you’ve achieved it?

The answers I receive vary drastically, from “When I search my company name, my site pops up,” to “I checked my analytics and my traffic is up.” Overall, what I’m hearing is a costly lack of awareness about the difference between leads that come from people Googling company names (branded searches), and leads that come from people Googling the products and services they want to buy (nonbranded searches).

A dirty little secret is many Internet marketing firms over-leverage branded search terms for their clients, which creates an expensive shell game.

Unknowingly, working with an Internet marketing firm that focuses on getting branded traffic to your website means you could be paying for the same lead multiple times, drastically driving up your cost per lead (CPL) and sales costs.

Here are a few examples of the most common channels where your brand can be over-leveraged:

Pay-per-click marketing — The worst offenders are Internet marketers who bid on your company’s name in Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc., and call the campaign a success. After all, this strategy is cheap and will convert into leads because anyone searching for your brand or company name online obviously wants to find you. The problem: You would’ve received those leads anyway, meaning you paid twice for the same leads — first by establishing your brand in the marketplace, and second by purchasing your branded name as a paid advertisement in search engines. The solution: Don’t allow your firm to spend more than 15 to 20 percent of your budget on branded phrases. Your PPC campaign should primarily focus on nonbranded keywords and phrases, which are more likely to bring you new customers.

Social media outlets — Social media has received considerable buzz throughout the past few years, but compared to PPC and SEO, social media is not as efficient in generating nonbranded leads. For example, if you type any nonbranded search phrase into Google, like, “roofing company Atlanta,” you’re more likely to find the mythical creature Bigfoot than a Facebook page. The problem: Because Facebook and Twitter don’t rank well for nonbranded keywords, they won’t bring you many new leads. The solution: Use social media to promote current specials, showcase your work, and share reviews from happy clients, letting followers build naturally over time. Well-established Facebook and Twitter pages can boost credibility and trust, which can have a positive impact on your website’s conversion power.

Search engine optimization — By its very nature, SEO is a minor offender when it comes to over-leveraging a brand. The problem: Some SEO companies blur the line between nonbranded and branded traffic, making it difficult for you to determine which keywords brought traffic to your site. The solution: Start reviewing the “top landing pages” report in your Google Analytics. Most branded traffic tends to hit your home page first. Logic would suggest that other pages in this report were visited due to non-branded searches.

Let me conclude by summarizing how reputable online marketers define success. After all, without defining what success means, how will you know if you’ve achieved it?

Did the Internet marketing campaign bring you new, unbranded traffic, meaning visitors weren’t already predisposed to your company through other advertising programs?

Did your website effectively convert those new, unbranded visitors into leads?

And finally, were they quality leads that converted into meaningful new sales?

The best advice I can give anyone embarking on a new Internet marketing campaign can be boiled down into one word: Disclosure. Insist upon it. Make your Internet marketing company prove not only what channels your leads came from, but also whether the leads were branded or not. Only with full disclosure can you know if your brand is being over-leveraged online. QR