To gain success from online searches you are going to need to pitch to the niche. This is because the masses, the people in the middle of the bell curve, are almost impossible to reach. The people who eat the burger and fries rather than the Focaccia, drive the Toyota rather than a Touareg, they buy the same popular products in their millions.. – they are already heavily targeted by the big players.

bell curve

The “masses” are where the big volumes are and the big money, and there the small business marketer has to generalise too much to define them. They also need to compete for keywords from the big players, we’re talking paying $20 or more per click with Google’s Adwords. What small business has that kind of budget?

There are 2 kinds of searches on Google.

  1. Paid – usually at the top of searches with a box that says “Ad”
  2. Organic (free) – the unpaid natural search results below.

We really want to rank organically, to receive a stream of customers to your website without paying to get them there.

The good news is, the niche audience now have a place to congregate, and its online, where they can be found and marketed to. Generally these people are ignored by the Kmarts of the world but they can be affordably targeted by the small niche player. The strategy is to narrow your focus and aim your online business at one type of consumer rather than “everyone”. Focus on one type of person, and expand from there.

This means choosing keywords less well used, but not so obscure there is not enough market to sustain a business.

While tweaking the website for organic search success, you can still market your site offline, like using traditional media or paying for Google’s Adwords or Facebook’s advertising as a way to achieve earlier sales.

Suppose you eventually achieve regular daily traffic to your site:

Will customers browsing on your website and start buying right away?

In a word. No. Online purchases don’t work like that. Take the kind of visitor common to a bricks and mortar store. He/she goes in and browses around, see something they really like, ask the assistant about it, then wander off. They keep it in mind, even mention it to friends, along with the price. They tend to look at the competition, mull over the price, wonder if its good value etc. and keep that store in their memory as a possibility. Then maybe make the purchase the following month.  This is how the online consumer is. It takes a lot for them to reach for the credit card on a small eCommerce site.

To have the trust of the consumer the online store needs to be in business for a (relatively) long time and has a significant website. This means having a story, in the About Us page or in a blog. Also, engage with the customer onsite, there needs to be a review section for customers to talk about the product. Customers believe the comments from fellow customers more than do from vendors.

A negative review from a customer is an opportunity. When I see a response from the vender with a solution (a free replacement etc) I’m impressed. Its a cheap marketing expense.

It’s a kind of build up of reputation and goodwill that takes time. Google takes time to rank the site too. If there is a steady flow of quality traffic, i.e. a low bounce rate – visitors who stay on the site and look around for 10 minutes or so, Google will boost the site’s ranking. A high bounce rate, where users disappear within a few seconds of arriving says to Google the site has the wrong keywords attached to it, and Google will punish a site like this. Google aims to rank sites which are genuine as it is in their interest to have searches working properly.

Users will be browsing your site directly as a result of typing in a product or service they are thinking of purchasing.  This is target marketing at its best, and the kind of activity you want, eventually your site is in the mind of many potential customers and after a period of time (searching everywhere else) they start rolling in with their credit cards out.