As online marketers, we are continuously faced with a myriad of new challenges, but it’s been my experience that one that is always looming is the necessity of discovering new and cost-effective lead sources. Throughout the online evolution a handful of events have significantly affected the tactics that marketers need to employ in order to grow their new business coming from the Internet.
One circumstance that has impacted businesses is major shifts in the organic algorithms of the engines, particularly Google’s. Most of the noise (after the fact) emanates from folks who had prominent natural rankings and then lost them through the reorganization of the engine’s index. The laws of physics tell us, however, that for every business that dropped down, others got a favorable bump, a corresponding boost in natural traffic and a reduced lead cost as a result.
Within paid search, two instances stand out when changes within the engines caused a significant adjustment in the way marketers operated. The first occurred in 2002 when Yahoo changed the way they displayed their Directory results. It used to be that by paying Yahoo an annual fee of $299, a business could attain a front page position on their search results. Granted, the submission had to approved by their editorial staff for relevancy and appropriateness, but once paid and in the door, all traffic was free, i.e. Yahoo was not monetizing the traffic.
Businesses were literally built on that early traffic channel. As CPC began to gain traction, that section of real estate on the search results page became too valuable to essentially give away and the Directory results were relegated to a tab off the main search results page. Today, the tab is hidden even further under the “more” tab at the top of the page.
Google Premium Sponsorships eventually suffered the same fate. You may remember that before AdWords, Google allowed businesses to buy the top positions for a fixed rate, regardless of the number of clicks that the ad received. This was a costly transformation for businesses in competitive industries, but it opened the door to a host of new advertisers and was a revenue bonanza for Google.
So enough with the nostalgia and onto the goal for Q1. The goal is figuring out one new lead source for your business that can both deliver cost effective results and can be expanded upon with incremental successes. For some of us, that may be most efficiently achieved by revisiting a channel that had been attempted in the past (successfully or not). For others it may involve venturing into new tactics altogether.
There are too many possible marketing channels to mention, but I will offer one suggestion. Think in terms of quality, not quantity. While discovering a limitless source of qualified traffic would be fantastic, finding a single application that delivers a consistent stream of new prospects who convert well is more plausible.
If history remains a true indicator for the future, then you should anticipate that some “lead” channels that have been fundamental to your efforts may become less effective or too costly in the future. With that in mind, the next few months are the ideal time to experiment with new programs to see which make the most sense for your business model. Charge confidently into Q2 2008 by firmly establishing at least one new way to drive business prospects to your website.
I hope you have a safe and enjoyable holiday season and a healthy and prosperous 2008.