June 30, 2008

Driving Traffic to Online Storefronts Half the Battle of Ringing Up Sales

By Mowad, Michelle

E-commerce is booming. The U.S. Census Bureau reported online sales in the nation for the first quarter of 2008 was $33.8 billion, up from the $29.8 billion for the same quarter last year.

If you are not using a commercial broker to find retail space and buying shelves to display your merchandise, you still need to create a "storefront" or Web site to sell wares online. And just like any other business, you need to market your product and drive traffic to your site.

The first step is creating a user-friendly and search-engine- friendly Web site, according to Staci Brillhart, founder of Quirky Bird Designs Inc., an Oceanside-based Web design firm for e- commerce sites.

"Make sure you do a lot of research ... and make sure the company is who they say they are," said Brillhart about hiring a Web designer. "Also, make sure the company has a number you can call and speak to someone, and that they offer customer service. Inquire about pricing beyond the initial quote for maintenance and other potential costs down the line."

Driving traffic to your storefront or site is the second step, and not as easy as the first. Many businesses are hiring design and marketing firms for search-engine marketing, or SEM.

Succeeding Online

San Diego Internet Marketing, a division of DSD Business Systems, says the best Web site in the world will not turn a dime of profit if no one visits it. Getting visitors to come to a site, stay on that site, and transact business are the three keys to success online.

The local Web design and marketing firm said pay per click advertising does work. It said that a properly set up and maintained pay per click campaign can be very profitable and cost-effective. It reported that research shows the cost to acquire a customer is about $8.50 per search in pay per click, $20 for Yellow Pages, $50 for online display ads, $60 for e-mail and $70 per direct mail.

Brillhart, who is launching her own online retail store this summer, constantly monitors her ranking on search engines and frequently optimizes her Web design site to rank higher in search- engine results and ultimately drive more traffic to her site.

Chuck Longanecker, founder and chief executive officer of digital- telepathy Inc., a San Diego-based Internet marketing and design firm, said a good Web site design means nothing without traffic. Longanecker said he has a holistic approach to online marketing.

"It is not just about your Web site. It is about optimizing everything," he said.

Builds Visibility

Longanecker said digital-telepathy buildd visibility for Web sites on search engines such as Google and placement in other common directories and sites such as craigslist, Wikipedia, Yelp or on San Diego-based MojoPages, an online site for users to post reviews of everything from restaurants to doctors in markets across the United States.

"I don't think you need to own or be number one for every single search item you can imagine for your business," he said. "I think it is important to be in the top of search terms for what is most relevant for what you do."

According to the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, the North American search-engine marketing industry grew from $9.4 billion in 2006 to $12.2 billion in 2007 with paid placement capturing 87 percent and organic search-engine optimization 10.5 percent.

Its State of the Market survey results released earlier this year also projects spending on search-engine marketing to grow to $25.2 billion in 2011.

"The spending statistics show search-engine marketing continues to prove its worth in the larger marketing arena," said Jeffrey Pruitt, president of SEMPO.

Copyright San Diego Business Journal Jun 2, 2008

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