They say what goes around comes around and nowhere is this more true than with Internet marketing. Although this route to market is new, the savvy young generation of Internet marketers are discovering that it pays to go back to the basics of customer satisfaction.
A little background to start with: the first node of Internet went live in 1969 but Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web has only been in existence for about 22 years. And it’s only with the advent of internet browsers 18 years ago that the web has really evolved into a vehicle suitable for marketing. The early adopters took longer than expected to turn a profit – 7 years in the case of Amazon but persistence paid off and they capitalised on their first-mover advantage.
The keys to a good website are generally accepted as being:
- getting search engine love – in other words, producing a site which Google likes
- producing pages with information which can be scanned – few people read web pages on a first pass
- a good user experience – a site which is easy to navigate and has relevant high quality content which solves customers’ problems
Getting search engine love is difficult. Google is smart and keeps changing its algorithm to avoid being tricked into giving a higher ranking than it ought. In the early days it was possible to get promoted by repeating keywords in “invisible ink”. Nowadays it’s much harder and a whole search engine optimisation industry has been spawned.
The second point – producing pages which the human eye can scan – is where we are going back to basics. It’s the same principle that was applied to direct mail during the 1970s. Eye cameras were used then to track the way in which letters were read, which is why so much importance was placed on subject headings and P.S. statements. Nowadays, web pages make use of regular headings and bullets to facilitate the same process of scanning.
Achieving a good user experience (customer satisfaction) and providing high quality content has become a priority for successful websites. Amazon, for example, enable visitors to preview books before buying. On a smaller scale, Rapid Welding (a client of mine), includes document libraries and live online technical advice. There is a significant investment in doing this but it is valued by customers and has helped drive internet sales by 35% over 3 years.
As marketers, we are at last learning how to interact with customers more effectively in this virtual world – and in many areas it’s a case of going back to the sales and marketing basics.