Date: April 24, 2002
To: Elota Patton
From: Ben Richie, Jenna Rosenthal, William Zahn
Subject: E-Marketing: If You Build It, Will They Come?
“Setting up a website is like building a storefront on a dead-end street. If you want any
shoppers, you must give them a reason to come.” Dr. Ralph F. Wilson (Five 1)
After creating a well-designed web site, how can you effectively drive first-time
traffic there? Marketers employ a variety of strategies to drive web traffic, including:
Search engine strategies – pure search engine optimization, pay-per-click search
engines, and keyword buys
Linking strategies – link and banner exchange programs
Viral strategies – electronic word of mouth, pass-it-on, and service-based viral
Traditional marketing strategies – traditional market communication channels,
such as advertising and public relations, as well as the traditional marketing mix
of product, promotions, distribution, and price
E-mail strategies – free newsletters, discussion lists, and update publications
Advertising strategies – banner ads, paid listings in portal sites, pay-per-click
links and pay-per-sale advertising ads in targeted e-mail newsletters, and opt-in e-
When developing a plan for increasing site traffic, marketers should carefully plan
which strategies are appropriate for their site and budget. Once a plan has been
developed, the key is to measure the results. The greatest benefit of marketing a web site
is generating traffic and customers. A key benefit of online marketing is that measuring
results is fast and easy. Traffic increase or decrease following a marketing action tells the
marketer whether or not the strategy is working. Using traffic data and constantly
tweaking the online marketing plan based on this analysis will lead to maximized site
traffic. A marketer must consider the budget, purpose and content of the site, and the rate
that traffic converts to desired actions, such as sales, when choosing how to incorporate
online marketing strategies into their site.
Search Engine Strategies
Most people use a search engine (such as Yahoo!, WebCrawler, or Google) to
surf the Net; it is vital to “advertise your web site to web search engines” (Wilson, Eight
1). The trick is doing it right.
Promoting a Web site through search engines can take patience and money.
Results of searches are listed by matching “targeted keywords” in domain names, as well
as “META tags” (Beal 1). META tags are HTML tags on the site that are hidden from
view and describe the content and other aspects of a web page. Search engines use
META tags to rank web pages in search results. There are three important META tags
used by search engines when ranking pages. One is the title tag, visible at the top of the
browser window. The description and keyword tags are hidden and are not displayed by
the web browser. The description tag includes a short text description of the page. The
keyword tag includes a list of key terms related to the page. Taking the time to write
fully descriptive keywords will improve a site’s position on search engines, but META
tags and descriptive keywords will not guarantee success in marketing via search engines.
The following example shows how a computer supply company did almost everything
correctly, yet suffered from the one thing they failed to do:
You purchase an optimized
Example Meta Tags:
domain name [a domain
matching your keywords],
research your keywords and
optimize your META tags.
Then you go and blow it all
by creating a Web Site that is
full of images, with very
little text and not one <title>Travelocity.com - Go Virtually Anywhere! Airline
Tickets, Hotels, Cars, Vacations and Cruises.</title>
mention of computer <meta name='Description' content='Find low air fares on the
Internet with best fare finder, make hotel and car reservations,
supplies. (Beal 2) and research vacation destinations online at
Search engines scan the text within a <meta name='keywords' content='online airfare airfares hotel
car reservations travelocity airlines tickets airplane air line air
site before it is displayed on a results fares airfares airline low fairs fares cheap tickets flights book
information flight itinerary itineraries online reservations
page. If the text has nothing to do online tickets online travel agents vacations cruise cruises
cruiselines business travel business corporate hotels discounts
with the keywords, the site will car cars rental lasvegas tickets travel reservations online
travel travel bookings online bookings book airfare fare wars
receive a lower position. The page discount fares sales lowest vacation planning information
travel agencies travel sites disney world florida orlando
content, description META tag, miami atlanta ATL Dallas DFW DCA LAS LAX NYC ORD
SFO atl dfw dca las lax nyc ord sfo Washington D.C.
keyword META tag, and title tag all washington dc los angeles Los Angeles new york New York
new york city New York City San Francisco sanfrancisco
are important in determining page family trips family vacation family vacations'>
ranking in search results. Page content is vital.
Another marketing tactic is paying for placement. Search engines like
Overture.com offer advertisers paid placement in the top three results for various
keywords. Advertisers bid on the amount they are willing to pay per click for traffic from
the placement. For example, to be the first result under the keyword MP3,
mp3grandcentral.net pays sixty-three cents per click (Owens).
Another way to increase targeted site traffic is to pay for keyword buys. This
tactic places an advertisement on the results page for various keywords. For example,
when a user searches for “domain” on excite.com, the results may return an ad for
register.com, a domain registrar (Owens).
Unless you spend more money, you may wait a long time for a search engine to
review your site, much less give it a high position on the results page. “You may even
have to pay them $199 to agree to consider within one week whether to advertise your
site,” warns Dr. Wilson (Wilson, Eight 2). Paying the application fee helps promote
immediate review and search engine posting.
The search engine strategies best suited to your site will depend on the resources
available to you. While optimization, the practice of tweaking META tags to improve
rankings, is the least costly approach to using search engines, it is incredibly difficult to
do right. It has created a cottage industry of search engine optimization services such as
Microsoft’s b-central service. To get an idea of the complexity involved in good
rankings, one need only visit the search engine features page at
http://searchenginewatch.com/webmasters/features.html. Because there are so many web
sites registered with search engines, it is a good idea to budget money for strategies, such
as pay-per-click and keyword buys.
Search engines are a great place to begin, but “marketing on the Web should
encompass more than search engines” (Sullivan, title 3). Because only 7%-8% of
website traffic is generated by search engines, a wide variety of other marketing
techniques, on and off-line, should be used to promote a web site (Sullivan, Direct p).
Linking strategies are another essential component of driving traffic to a web site.
Many search engines count the number of links to your pages, as well as the content of
those pages, to measure the quality of your site. The idea is that the popularity of your
site with linkers is indicative of quality content. The other, more easily understood
advantage of linking is the increase in traffic it can generate (Wilson, Web 2). Repeated
links to the site will place it closer to the top of a search results list.
However, a web site shouldn’t necessarily establish links with as many sites as
possible. Link valuation becomes very important when judging which sites to use in a
linking strategy. Link valuation "describes the value of one link pointing to your site
versus another link pointing to your site…a link to your site from Yahoo! has a higher
link value than a link to your site from JoeBobs-Link-A-Torium" (Ward, Building 5).
Judging the value of links isn't always so obvious, but it is an essential task.
When a link has been established, it is important to have the second site
complement your site's intended image. For example, an educational site for children
would benefit more from a link with a library's web site than an adult magazine site. Erin
Whalen, Assistant Marketing Manager of Cielo Wind Power, contacts trade organization
sites, such as the American Wind Energy Association, to request links. If you swap links
with a reputable site, the quality of your visitors will improve (Whalen).
After a site manager has established a linking exchange with a web site, he must
constantly verify that the link is working. Review the site to "make sure it hasn't dropped
the link or put up a porno banner right above your link" (Ward, Linking 12). The way a
site is advertised can influence your potential audience’s perception of that site.
A disadvantage of exchanging links is that although you build traffic from some
sites, you also lose traffic to other sites. Decreased traffic may result in an increase in
traffic to competitive sites. For this reason, in recent years, linking strategies have
become less and less popular. However, one-way links from a site directly to your site are
a great way to increase traffic. Linking strategies are most successful if there is some sort
of complimentary relationship between the two sites (Srinivasan).
Linking strategies allow others to carry your marketing message for you, much
like viral strategies.
A third method of site promotion is viral marketing. Three of the most common
forms of viral marketing are word-of-mouth, pass-it-on, and service-based. Viral
marketing is “one of the most successful e-marketing methods” because of its ease of
implementation (Low 1). In fact, it is considered “a massive secret weapon” for the
success of marketing any web site (Lustina 3). And viral marketing has the potential to
greatly increase site traffic. Viral strategies enable you to “encourage others to carry
your marketing message, using their own network of relationships—and preferably their
own resources” (Wilson, Eight 3). Which viral strategy to implement depends heavily on
the content of your site.
Word-of-mouth strategies are most commonly implemented as the “recommend
this to a friend forms” seen on numerous web sites like http://www.abcnews.com (Low
2). In order for word-of-mouth to be effective, the content must be informative or
entertaining enough to make the user willing to recommend the site to others.
Pass-it-on strategies, a “popular activity for most e-mail users,” also require
creative content (Low 4). And they can be an effective way to promote your site. When
people are given funny or interesting material via e-mail, they generally pass the message
on to their contacts, who then pass the message to their contacts, etc. This “snowball
effect” allows the original sender to reach “hundreds of people within a few hours” (Low
4). Many comedians have unknowingly publicized their web sites using pass-it-on
strategy (Hockin 1). By sending fun or interesting content via e-mail, and including the
site’s URL, the pass-it-on viral strategy can promote a web site to hundreds of consumers
within a few hours. Locke argues that this is the best way to market using the Internet.
He says build a community focused around an interest area on the site will spur a grass
roots marketing effort by everyone who enjoys the site (Locke, Gonzo).
Service-based viral marketing is perhaps the most widely recognized viral
marketing form. MSN’s Hotmail service is viral marketing at its best. Each time an e-
mail is sent via a Hotmail account, a Hotmail URL is included on the bottom of the
message. Service-based viral marketing is best utilized by a web page offering a service.
When choosing a form of viral marketing, it is important to insure that the
strategy blends with your overall marketing strategy and site content. If a site offers a
service, it is best to incorporate service-based viral marketing into the site. If a site offers
especially informative or entertaining content, then enabling automated word-of-mouth or
tell-a-friend features is a good strategy. Any site may be able to drive traffic with a good
pass-it-on e-mail that is entertaining or novel. All of these strategies are most powerful
when combined to build a community. Incorporating a community into your site is the
best way to get more people passionate about your site, resulting in an increase in both
awareness and traffic (Locke, Gonzo). Viral marketing, linking and search engine
strategies are new marketing techniques for web pages, but they cannot totally replace
traditional marketing techniques.
Although marketing is done via the web, traditional marketing should still be
implemented, because “most people get the majority of their marketing messages through
traditional channels” (Wilson, Eight 3). Ads in trade publications, as well as public
relations and news releases will help promote the web site. The key is to place the URL
at the bottom of each ad, letterhead, card, and envelope the company displays.
Kenny Love suggests placing ads in “inexpensive resources known as ‘shopper’
newspapers” (Love 1). Shopper newspapers are thin, cheap tabloid-size papers
distributed locally and regionally. Three benefits to shopper newspaper ads are:
Advertising costs are extremely cheap
Many e-zines are published weekly, giving your message a decent
lifespan on the street
Shopper newspapers are filled to the brim with advertising and very
little, if any, editorial content, as opposed to newspapers (Love 1)
Traditional Marketing Mix
The traditional marketing mix (product, place, price, and promotion) should blend
with online site promotion. Product and promotional packaging should display the URL.
Strategic placement of an ad is imperative. The product/service your web site offers
needs to be advertised in appropriate venues. Make sure the URL is visible on the
advertisement, whether marketing the product on billboards, buses, or in magazines.
Pricing is important, because if the product is ordered online, sales tax is often subtracted,
while shipping and handling charges are added. Finally, promotions can encourage first-
time users to visit your site. There are many options to consider when choosing a
promotion. On-line discounts and coupons encourage customers to browse and purchase
from your site. These incentives can include coupons such as “buy one, get one free,”
“15% off your next order,” or “$30 off a purchase of $100 or more.” Some sites offer
free shipping. Joint promotions with other companies expand your target market, and if
carefully chosen, benefit your reputation. For example, MSN has joined with Best Buy
on their computer sales. With the purchase of a specific computer, MSN offers a free
year of Internet service. MSN also paired with Radio Shack, co-branding portals with
kiosks (Foster). MSN posted their name and web site on all kiosks selling Radio Shack
products, strengthening consumers’ brand recognition of the MSN site. Contests are
another way to boost traffic to your site, since customers are always motivated by a little
competition. The first 100 people to visit the site might receive a prize. Or on
www.mastercard.com, students can submit an essay to win a summer music internship.
An endless variety of promotions and combinations of promotions are available to
The advantage of using offline marketing strategies is that it increases exposure to
people who are not often on-line. These strategies can sometimes become expensive,
depending on how they are incorporated onto the overall marketing plan for the site. Each
marketer must evaluate his site’s content, and consider both the level of off-line
marketing required and the type that best fits the constraints.
Whether a site offers a product, a service, or information, traditional marketing
techniques can still direct new prospects to your web site. But once they visit your site
how do you keep them coming back? Get them involved with the site.
The best way to get consumers involved in a site is to get them to sign up for a
free newsletter, a discussion list, or an update publication. E-mail publishing is
“primarily a way to conserve the people who have shown some interest in your business
by coming to your website or responding to one of your offers” (Wilson, Eight 4). E-
mail publishing is a good way to build trust, because consumers rely on the site for
consistent, valuable information. This trust results in enhanced brand-retention with your
customers, because “as long as the information you supply to your prospects is useful and
of good quality, you will build credibility and a loyal customer base” (Rickman 1).
Remember, it is best to receive permission from customers before you e-mail them
because “people respond better to a marketing message they have agreed to receive”
(Wilson, Eight 4).
Un-moderated discussion lists are places where “members send posts to a
dedicated e-mail address and every member receives a copy of each e-mail sent to that
address” (Foote 1). Members can receive the list e-mails either live or as a digest, listing
each posting from that day. There are also moderated discussion lists, where a “list
moderator, usually the list-owner, reads each incoming post and chooses to either
approve each for forwarding to all members, or to disallow the distribution” (Foote 1).
Like the un-moderated lists, moderated lists can be received either live or as a digest.
One-way lists, such as newsletters and e-zines, are more tailored to the consumer, but,
lack the interactive involvement of the list postings. Marketers should evaluate the type
of mailing to use based on the web site’s needs, content, and resources.
As with word-of-mouth strategies, e-mail marketing can benefit a site by creating
a community. The Internet, ideally, is a pull system. You attract web surfers to your
home page and they come eagerly. Community building is the best way to encourage a
grass roots pull for the site and increase traffic. The disadvantage to e-mail marketing
messages is that they typically generate a low response. This is largely because these
messages tend to ignore what people really want; it doesn’t appeal to their passions,
interests, or their need for community. (Locke, Gonzo)
Paid advertising will, of course, usually increase exposure. There are many
advertising options available, including: banner ads, paid listings in portal sites, pay-per-
click links, pay-per-sale advertising, paid ads in targeted e-mail newsletters, and opt-in e-
mail advertising (Wilson, Eight 5-7). While it is important to consider budget
constraints, some methods might be worth the investment.
Banner ads, usually sold on a CPM (cost per thousand page views), are “468x60
pixel animated and linked graphic ads that appear at the top of a commercial webpage”
(Wilson, Eight 5). Although they can be expensive initially, each sale decreases the
Paid Listings in Portal Sites
Another way to get noticed is by paying for a listing under a specific category in a
portal site. The investment necessary is either a percentage of the sales or a flat fee. Web
sites, such as MSN, offer package deals to clients. MSN strategically places the company
name in several different verticals, or channels (Foster). For example, Fossil watches can
be found in the Shopping channel, as well as the Love and Relationships channel as a gift
for a loved one.
Pay-per-click Links and Pay-per-sale Advertising
There are two basic ways to pay for advertisements: pay-per-click (PPC) and pay-
per-action (PPA). Pay-per-click advertisers are paid based on the amount of traffic they
generate, regardless of the resulting sales or desired actions. PPC search engines allow
you to “basically buy your way up the ladder” of search results, with a very short
turnaround time (Ward 1). PPA advertisers are only paid when sales or subscriptions are
generated. According to Scott Owens, the type of advertising used depends on the
conversion rate, what portion of visitors buy or perform some other desired action, and
cost per conversion for each type of advertising. Owens suggests that a company request
pay-per-action billing, so there is no cost if revenue is not generated from the advertising.
Web traffic tracking software allows you to generate reports of page requests made on
your site. It is important to count not only the page requests, but also where the requests
came from. This way, you can see where your advertising is most efficient (Litteken).
There is a continuum of risk as you move from sponsorship-based to commission-based
or pay-per-sale-based advertising; the risk for the advertising is transferred from the
advertiser to the site containing the ad. In a sponsorship advertising arrangement, the
advertiser pays the same rate regardless of the number of hits the site receives.
Additionally, there is no risk for the site hosting the advertisement. With banner ads,
there is less risk for the advertiser and more for the site hosting the ad. The advertiser
buying the banner pays for each view regardless of clicks generated. These banners are
the on-line version of a traditional pay-per-placement ad. The pay-per-click model that is
most commonly used is paid for like a prospecting fee and transfers more of the risk to
the advertisor. If the site does not provide traffic from the ad, they do not get paid. The
commission model, also referred to as pay-per-sale or per-action, transfers all the risk to
the site hosting the advertisement. They earn no money if no sales result from the ad.
This practice is sometimes structured as an affiliate program (Srinivasan).
Ads in Targeted E-mail
Purchasing a short,
compelling text ad in an e-zine allows you to reach a specific target audience without
spending a fortune (Rickman 1). Some web sites offer help with choosing online
publications and web sites to post announcements on. These personalized promotion
plans can be “tailored to your situation and Web site promotion services” (Rickman 1).
Opt-in E-mail Advertising
Finally, opt-in e-mail advertising “involves sending a stand-alone ad for your
business to individuals who have volunteered to receive information” from you or your
business (Wilson, Eight 6). The purpose of opt-in e-mail advertising is to build up a list
of people who are loyal to your site and interested in what you have to offer. It is
important to get consumers’ permission before including them in the mailing list.
Otherwise, they are involuntarily placed on an opt-out list, demanding that they
unsubscribe if they do not want to receive messages. As with all the email strategies
above, the more attractive the e-mail, the more effective it will be. It is best to use HTML
formatted e-mails, if possible (Ellis). The pros and cons of each paid advertising strategy
must be carefully weighed before choosing to invest in the promotion.
Banner ads can be useful in driving site traffic, although they seem to only give
the benefit of increased exposure and brand recognition, poor strategies for sites that must
justify their costs. In most cases, unless the ad is particularly catchy, banners do not lead
to a high click-through rate. For this reason, many advertisers demand pay-per-click or
pay-per-sale pricing on banner ads. Often, pay-per- placement rates are too expensive
because of poor click through rates (Wilson, Pros).
Similarly, paid listings in portal sites, such as ads with Yahoo, can be hit or miss
depending on how they are displayed. When the ad is displayed as a placement in search
results, such as www.overture.com, a paid listing can be extremely successful. This is
especially the case in search engines with wide distribution. The disadvantage to paid
listings is that buying a listing under poorly selected keywords words can get expensive
quickly, because they generate clicks from visitors that did not intend to view that site.
For example if a site that sells organic strawberries bought the keyword fresh fruit they
may end up paying for clicks from customers with no intention of buying strawberries but
instead are looking for other fruits or fruit baskets. Once people realize they are on the
wrong web page, they quickly leave without buying. Therefore, the best strategy is to
carefully consider which keywords to buy and evaluate the results often (Sullivan,
Google). Pay-per-click links and pay-per-sale advertising are different from traditional
off-line advertising, because the advertiser has less risk in paying for an ad that produces
no results (Srinivasan). The key is to consider the amount of risk that you are willing to
incur with the ad. The pay-per-sale model or pay-per-action model also reduces the risk
to the advertiser but often at a high cost for actual results (Owens). Ads in targeted e-
mail newsletters can also be costly depending on the pricing model. The same
considerations apply here in the choice of pay-for-placement versus pay-per-action and
pay-per-click. Opt-in e-mail advertising for your own list is a great way to build a
community around your site and communicate regularly with your customers. Just like
other e-mail marketing strategies, the message in the e-mail must be something that
interests your customers; otherwise, the response rate will be extremely low. The
advantage of using this strategy is the relatively low cost to the advertiser.
At first glance, these strategies may seem overwhelming, yet they can greatly
increase targeted traffic to any web site. Be sure to thoroughly explore each strategy and
how it applies to your web site’s content and purpose, as well as the pros and cons
associated with each concept. Not every site will benefit from utilizing all of these
strategies, but different combinations can be created when developing an e-marketing
plan. We have discussed search engine strategies, linking strategies, viral strategies, e-
mail marketing, traditional marketing, and paid advertising, but there are always more
options available. New strategies are continuously emerging; some fail, others succeed.
Just as television and radio commercials have improved in their ability to reach mass
audiences, the Internet is emerging as a new medium to reach people around the world. It
combines the use of both traditional and new methods to improve the success of driving
targeted traffic to web sites. It is important for you to continue to explore new methods
of attracting people to a web site. For now, these strategies will serve as a starting point
in creating and implementing an e-marketing plan. When you market it well, they will
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