You Need an Online Optimization Model

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Online marketers have no shortage of tactical things to do, so there’s not a lot of time left to step back and think about strategy. This is a shame, because without a solid strategy, no matter how good your ads are, however strong the contrast is between your main CTA and your theme, regardless of how tied your navigation elements are to what people are actually looking for, you still won’t move the needle. 

Every company needs a plan for the three major points of their digital presence, and it pays to regularly revisit the questions for the online optimization model:

1. Acquisition: How are you getting prospects?
2. Conversion: What are your macro- and micro-conversion points?
3. Retention: How are you getting customers to come back?


Acquisition is about all the different components that drive new eyes to your business.  This includes things like search engine optimization and ZMOT, display advertising, pay per click, content marketing, (not just blogs- videos, webinars, podcasts, slides, etc.) social media, third party and in-house mailing lists. 

There are a few things to think about to find the low-hanging fruit:

1. Where are you devoting most of your efforts?
2. Are you getting a high return rate for your investments there?
3. What obvious channels are you missing that tie well into your business?

All of these channels should tie into something you’re tracking. If you’re not converting your search traffic into business, you should find and test the high-traffic low performers. If you’re not sure what value you’re deriving from Facebook, you should test the lift on other channels based on Facebook nurturing

It’s critically important that you don’t drive all the different people into the same place. 

People looking for your brand should get to your home page, those researching something you offer should get to a category page, the ones looking for a targeted offering should be deep-linked into your product page, and the ones coming from an ad should go to a stand-alone page you have tested.


Whereas in the attention phase, companies are typically screaming to get noticed in a busy channel, in the conversion phase, it’s all about staying quiet and focused. Staying on top of the conversion phase means understanding the different conversions of your web site; it means asking the right questions:

1. What are people trying to do on your web site?
2. How often do they succeed? How often do they fail?
3. How difficult is it to perform the different tasks on your site?

Conversion is about testing and putting hot triggers in front of motivated people. It’s about a quiet probing of whether people are just discovering who you are and what you do, or if they are interested in something you offer, or if they are ready to purchase, and then customizing the elements on your site to move them along that decision process.


Just because people have transacted with you doesn’t mean your job is done - it’s more pricey to get new customers than to retain existing ones, even if having a new top search term on Google may grab attention from management more.

Focusing on the initial sale is great, but that will only take you so far. You should focus on the customer lifetime value - the total profit from relationships with customers. To do that, you need to think about ways of continuing the conversation with them, and getting them to come back. You have an array of tools at your disposal:

1. Social media
2. Email
3. Rewards and loyalty programs
4. Blogs and blog feeds

It’s important that you segment new from returning visitors when you’re analyzing behavior, and if you have Voice of Customer tools like iPerception or OpinionLab, you can have a segment for existing customers and then figure out what they need most.

Just because you understand attention, conversion, and retention doesn’t mean you’ll dominate your space, but working on all three provides you a better roadmap for what needs to be prioritized. If you keep the online optimization model in mind, you’ll know what your important channels are, you’ll be able to diagnose where you’re weak, and perhaps most importantly, you’ll know how to fix that.


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