Should You Advertise at The Knot

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1 Should You Advertise at The Knot and other things you should know about online advertising before you spend another dime! Chris Jaeger Marketing to Brides Online

2 SHOULD YOU ADVERTISE AT THE KNOT (.COM) Many of my clients ask me, Chris, should we advertise at The Knot? Unfortunately, the answer isn t a simple in-all-cases yes or no. There are some pretty significant qualifying factors and if you re not committed to doing your homework, planning your advertising buy, and being smart about buying online advertising, you shouldn t be buying it - whether it is at The Knot, Wedding Wire, with Google (Adwords), or with any other online publisher. I do like The Knot and their success building a brand over the past several years is impressive. It has put them into a powerful position with brides and grooms both online and offline. The Knot is currently the most well known online wedding planning site they are #1 and you d be hard pressed to find a bride who has never heard of them or visited their website ( In addition to traffic, I also think there is a lot of value to being seen at their website (and in their magazines). There is definitely company recognition value as well as competitive positioning value. For these reasons, advertising and promoting your business with The Knot is worthy of consideration. And because The Knot attracts a lot of women who are specifically planning a wedding, exposure to this targeted audience has a significant value to anyone with products or services who wants to reach them. This very highquality traffic is the type most likely to convert into an inquiry, phone call, or sale, at your website. That said, not all of your website visitors will convert into inquiries and sales and that should not be expected no matter what the source. 2

3 I tell my clients Yes you should consider advertising at The Knot, but ONLY IF a) You are currently getting very good results from your website b) Your website is optimized for conversion and turns visitors into inquiries, phone calls, and sales c) You put the systems into place that accurately measure the specific traffic they send to your website d) You put the systems into place that accurately measure if that traffic turns into inquiries and sales e) You develop a strategy specifically for those visitors that includes using landing pages and special offers f) You monitor and analyze your results to accurately calculate a returnon-investment g) You know where you are being placed h) You will monitor your positioning i) You have a fine-tuned inquiry follow-up system If you are not going to do these things, and instead take a throw mud at the wall and hope something sticks approach, then buying advertising at The Knot, Wedding Wire, Get Married, any other wedding planning website, is not something I recommend you do. Let s look at each of these in detail. 3

4 YOU ARE CURRENTLY GETTING VERY GOOD RESULTS FROM YOUR WEBSITE If you are currently getting very good results from your website, advertising at The Knot is very likely to lead to more inquiries and sales. Unfortunately, most websites don t do a very good job of conversion: turning the brides who visit into inquiries, phone calls or sales. How do you measure your conversion? Let s say you had 2000 visitor sessions (not hits ) at your website last month. Generally speaking, I tell people to take that number and divide it in half. I say this because, based on my experience, one-half of the traffic at most websites is simply no good. It s competitors checking you out, it s people who otherwise are not qualified or in the market for your products and services, it s people just browsing the web who stumbled upon your website, it s people searching for addresses who then send unsolicited offers (i.e. spam). Your adjusted visitor session number is now You carefully tracked and counted 100 inquiries. 80% were probably directly from your online inquiry form. 20% were probably phone calls. Your conversion is 10%. While many of my client s websites convert in the 5% to 10% range, most websites do not. Most convert at under 2% and the primary reasons are: Poor design or amateur looking design Websites made entirely of Flash Weak marketing message and call-to-action 4

5 If you are not monitoring, tracking, and calculating at least a 5% conversion at your website you are probably better off addressing that issue before you buy any online advertising to drive more traffic to your website. YOUR WEBSITE IS OPTIMIZED FOR CONVERSION: TURNING VISITORS INTO INQUIRIES, PHONE CALLS, AND SALES Most business owners set out to build a website that looks great and hope that a great looking website results in inquiries and sales big mistake #1. Most of these same people expect their web designer to understand Internet marketing; search engine optimization, high-quality traffic building, and most importantly, conversion big mistake #2. There is much more to it a website that delivers great results than its appearance and website design is entirely different from Internet marketing. Surely, your website has to create a great first impression and simultaneously create the Oh Yes moment (when a bride says Oh yes, this is the website I ve been looking for ), but it also has to be optimized in such a way to convert visitors into inquiries, phone calls, and sales. To do that you ll need to avoid conversion obstacles. Obstacles to conversion are things that basically turn-off a visiting bride. In many cases, they stop her dead in her tracks and she starts heading for the back button on her browser. 5

6 Conversion obstacles include: Amateur looking design Websites made entirely of FLASH Poor navigation Complex and cluttered looking presentation Poorly written marketing copy with little or no unique value proposition Lack of a WIIFM message ( what s in it for me? ) Inadequate or improperly presented information Inadequate contact information The opposite of obstacles would be conversion facilitators, which include: Creating the right first impression and the Oh Yes moment Easy to read and professionally written marketing copy Easy to identify and use navigation on all pages Delivering the information a bride came looking for ( what s in it for me? ) Fresh testimonials throughout the website Multiple contact options: phone number and contact forms A compelling offer A take-away something a bride can download and print immediately that will help her with her wedding planning Before you buy advertising at The Knot, I highly recommend you do your homework and know your conversion ratios for the past three to six months. With that information you ll be able to decide if driving more highquality traffic to your website is likely to be a good investment. Alternatively, you can buy an advertisement and hope it works but don t blame The Knot if your website does a poor job at conversion. 6

7 YOU PUT TOOLS INTO PLACE TO MEASURE THE TRAFFIC SENT TO YOUR WEBSITE With today s inexpensive and readily available technology there is absolutely no excuse for not tracking and analyzing your website traffic. You should know exactly where your visitor sessions are coming from and if these visitors made an inquiry as a result of visiting your website. With the right technology in place you ll know if advertising at The Knot, Wedding Wire, or any other website is delivering the results you expected as well as the appropriate return-on-investment. Buying advertising at The Knot will result in more high-quality traffic being directed to your website, the question is how much and how well does it convert? The first tool you ll want to have in place is Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a free website traffic and statistics tracking tool from, you guessed it, Google. While there are many other types of tracking and statistics tools, Google Analytics is the best and it s free. Frankly, I don t understand why webmasters and programmers don t all recommend it to their clients, but many don t or see the value of using it. Google Analytics is easy-to-read, will send you traffic reports automatically via , and also provides much better data and more sophisticated analysis tools than AWStats, Webalizer, StatCounter, and Go Stats. Even if you have these packages as part of your website hosting, and most do when they host with Go Daddy, Hostgator, or any of the bigger hosting companies, I still recommend that you use Google Analytics at your website. 7

8 And if that s not enough, in my opinion, there is another very valuable reason to use Google Analytics: the more Google knows about your website the better! With Google Analytics in place you ll know exactly where your traffic is coming from as well as what it is doing at your website. You ll be able to tell exactly how much traffic you are getting from your advertising buy with The Knot. To find this information you ll want to drill down in Google Analytics and review your referrers, looking through the list of websites sending traffic for Start from your Google Analytics Dashboard and drill down from the left column expandable options: Traffic Sources Referrers Websites YOU PUT SYSTEMS INTO PLACE TO ACCURATELY MEASURE IF THAT TRAFFIC TURNS INTO INQUIRIES AND SALES Let s assume you have Google Analytics in place and you re watching your referrer traffic and see that The Knot is sending you traffic. Let s say they are sending you 5 visitors a day. While that doesn t seem like a lot, keep in mind that s 1,825 brides a year! Convert 10% of that traffic into inquiries (182) and then just 30% of those inquiries into sales and you ve got 54 new customers. In addition to Google Analytics, which will track the raw number of visitors referred to your website from The Knot, you ll also want to implement additional tracking systems. 8

9 To do this you ll need to use tracking cookies and some custom programming at your website that tracks a visitor from their arrival through the inquiry process to the thank you page after making an inquiry. This isn t very difficult to do but is not something you re likely to be able to figure out yourself. Talk to your webmaster/programmer and develop the appropriate tracking system, using cookies and session logging, to follow all of your referred traffic, but specifically, in this case, traffic from The Knot. If these visitors are not making inquiries, which then turn into sales, you have to ask yourself Why not? Again, because the traffic at The Knot is high-quality traffic - brides who are looking for help planning their wedding and looking for local wedding services - the answer to the Why aren t they converting question is very likely that there are problems at your website creating obstacles to that conversion. YOU DEVELOP A STRATEGY SPECIFICALLY FOR THOSE VISITORS THAT INCLUDES USING LANDING PAGES AND SPECIAL OFFERS Each online advertising buy you make should have a clear strategy that includes using what are called landing pages. Yes, this is more work, but it must be done if you are going to properly evaluate your advertising buys and ultimately get the best results from them. Many people I ve talked to bought advertising at The Knot and had it redirected to their home page. In most cases, this approach will not deliver the best results. Again, if your website converts well it should deliver good results, but I m talking about optimal results. To get the best results you ll want to use landing pages. 9

10 Landing pages are web pages at your website, that are not linked into your navigation system, specifically used with an advertising buy. Many studies have shown that well designed landing pages increase conversion significantly - 20%, 40%, or even more! Here s an example: Google Visitor A bride finds your website listed as the result of a search at Google, clicks on your listing in the search engine results page (SERP), is redirected by Google and lands on your home page. The Knot Visitor A bride from The Knot sees your advertisement at their website, clicks on the link to your website and lands on a specific page at your website, other than your home page, designed specifically to catch visitors from The Knot. A landing page can be designed in many ways, but generally speaking I recommend: It clearly identify the traffic referrer ( Thanks for visiting us from The Knot ) It is a long(er) page than many at your website with comprehensive information about your company It has a compelling offer, a take-away, or some other incentive for a bride to make an inquiry or provide her contact information It might have a link to your website s home page, but only at the very bottom of the landing page 10

11 Think of a landing page as a mini-one-page-all-inclusive website that should give a bride pretty much everything she needs to make a decision to make an inquiry. There is no magic formula for landing pages and they must be carefully designed as well as tested over time. You ll also want to use A/B testing. But make no mistake, landing pages work and they do increase conversion. Using the previous example: Let s say The Knot sends you 5 visitors a day. 1,825 brides a year visit your landing page for The Knot. You know this exactly now because you can see it in Google Analytics and there is no other way for someone to get to this page except from The Knot. LANDING PAGE TIP: You might even put a unique inquiry form on this landing page and tag it so you know it came to you from this page! (i.e. subject line might be Inquiry from The Knot landing page. ) YOU MONITOR AND ANALYZE YOUR RESULTS TO CALCULATE A RETURN-ON- INVESTMENT (ROI) With the right systems in place, including Google Analytics, tracking cookies (with reporting), and use of landing pages, you easily and quickly have the variables you need to accurately determine your return-on-investment (ROI). 5 visitors a day from The Knot 1,825 brides a year 10% conversion 182 inquiries 36 closed sales (20% of inquiries) 11

12 YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE BEING PLACED Now that we have some of the technical issues related to buying online advertising behind us, let s talk about good old common sense, which in some cases people leave behind. When buying advertising at The Knot, Wedding Wire, or any other online source, make sure you know exactly where you are being placed as well as your position on the page. Is it static or does it rotate? How many impressions will you get (ask your sales representative for this information), and how many other vendors are on the same page competing for the same eyeballs as you are? Knowing where you are being placed and knowing the dilution factor is critically important. For example, if you are a San Diego wedding Minister you might find that you are listed on a page with 10 other San Diego wedding ministers. That s not bad. But if you re on a page with 100 other San Diego wedding ministers, that s different and important to know. You must know the exact page at The Knot where your advertising buy appears and you must check it regularly. You may want to consider premium placement which puts your advertisement above others. Similar to the top listings on a search engine result page, advertisements that appear at the top of a page at The Knot (.com) are going to get more exposure, more visibility, and better results. 12

13 SUMMARY Advertising at The Knot is an effective way to get more high-targeted traffic to your website. But you can t just blindly buy online advertising at The Knot, Wedding Wire, Get Hitched, or any of the other popular online wedding planning websites and hope it works. It takes proper planning, having the right tools in place to measure the results, and using an effective strategy to convert that inbound traffic into inquiries and ultimately sales. If your website currently doesn t do a very good job at conversion turning the brides who visit into inquiries, phone calls, and sales your advertising at The Knot will unlikely generate an appropriate return-on-investment. Sadly, 9 out of 10 people I speak with don t know what their conversion rate is when I ask them. Advertising at The Knot also has exposure value that builds your company s reputation and helps you stay competitive in your marketplace. Keeping your company name in front of brides and grooms and building your company s name recognition is never a bad thing and over time creates tremendous value. Unfortunately, this type of value is harder to measure in terms of dollars and cents and ROI. Dilution is a problem at almost all of the big online wedding planning websites. The lower you are in the pile, or the bigger the pile is in general, the less likely you ll be to able to get the return-on-investment you want. When your advertisement appears along with 80 others on a page you are adversely impacted by dilution. 13

14 You ll get better results and more traffic from The Knot if your advertisement appears above your competition in a premium position, but you ll also pay more for this. Knowing where your placement is, checking to confirm you stay where you think you are, and then measuring the traffic and results you get, are part of any advertising buy. If you re not committed to doing all of these things then I don t recommend you buy advertising for your website at The Knot - or anywhere else for that matter. Finally, if your product/service margins are narrow, and you don t have a working budget that allows you to advertise at high-visibility sites like The Knot, which usually command a larger investment ( you get what you pay for ), you probably are better off investing in other more Guerilla type tactics to promote your business and drive traffic to your website. 14

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