How are you going to drive traffic to your landing page? Ads? If you are launching a new business or trying to grow your email list you should think twice. Think outside the ad.
I know, I know, Eric Reis told you in “The Lean Startup” that you can just setup a landing page and promote it with a couple hundred dollars of adwords in order to test your idea. Genius! Right?…. Wrong. This is a bad idea today for several reasons. The rules have changed… literally.
The downside of Adwords
A healthy business should ultimately be driving only 5-15% of their conversions from Adwords. You need diverse traffic sources because…
1. Your Adwords results are going to get worse every month. It’s the law of crappy click throughs.
If you find a niche that works Google will start recommending those keywords and a higher spend to your competitors. It’s happened to us and our competitors. It’s in Googles favor to anonymously create an arms race around keywords that convert and they do it well by subtly suggesting each week some new keywords and a higher dollar amount. To stay ahead you have to constantly be nurturing your Adwords account to come up with new approaches… that’s time that could be spent elsewhere.
2. Google will eventually block your account and shut you down. SEO isn’t the only place Google likes to change the rules.
Check out the full set of Adwords Policies. Specifically check out the policy on “Information Harvesting“. Basically they can block ANY site they want that requires an email address in exchange for something… which is basically any site on the internet that they would like the block. We’ve been blocked in the past and seen several customers blocked for inexplicable reasons and vague policy violations that have nothing to do with dealing drugs online.
3. Adwords are expensive and getting more costly every day.
Since Eric wrote The Lean Startup the average cost per click on keywords has increased ten fold. Are you targeting a popular keyword or a large market? Good luck. These costs aren’t coming down any time soon. It’s how Google makes most of their money.
4. When you stop spending money your business will drop like a rock.
Paid traffic is a great way to get a name outside your current audience… but as soon as you stop spending money you’ll get nothing back. Other sources (content marketing, for example) will keep bringing traffic and business year round.
5. If you don’t learn now you never will.
That lean startup test may tell you if there is a market, but it won’t teach you to market. You don’t want your growth constrained by the ammount of money you spend on Google. You should learn, during launch, how to market outside of Adwords.
The alternatives to Adwords
If you’ve looked and found that more than 15% of your business comes from Adwords it’s time to consider some alternatives to building your tribe online. Here are just a few ideas that we frequently coach our customers on.
1. Participate on behalf of your company in online discussions related to your business.
About 35% of our business has come from simply participating constructively in niche communities related to the business of online marketing.
Answering questions on Quora, industry blog comments, and other online marketing forums helps you build a reputation around your business as an expert as well as driving traffic as people discover those conversations. Don’t be spammy… just add a link in your signature or specifically to a resource on your web site that helps answer the question.
2. Contribute and promote content on sites like Slideshare or 9Slides.
In this case, rather than discussing content, you are contributing it to a larger audience. Somewhat accidentally we posted an early pitch deck on KickoffLabs to Slideshare and every month that presentation tends to refer a couple more customers. It’s not that big each month, but relative to the time spent creating the content after a couple of years it’s been very worthwhile.
You can convert these people even better if you send them to a dedicated landing page that targets the content that was published. The folks at Makerstool posted a good overview of this strategy here.
3. Capture beyond your landing pages.
Think about all the other places on your web site where you could be promoting your newsletter, offer, etc. This is why we’ve built widgets you can leverage to compliment dedicated landing pages.
We sign up about 50% of people to our landing page course from the landing page and another 50% from the widget that non-customers see on our website. A landing page is NOT a campaign… a campaign is something that’s unified across your properties.
4. Blog with a call to action.
Unless you are blogging for the personal satisfaction of writing every piece of content should have a call to action. Remember that every page on your site is, itself, a landing page. You should be making good offers to your blog readers just like you would on your primary marketing site. Check out all the great calls to action on the side of the KissMetrics blog. (I hear the post is pretty good too! )
5. Leverage existing customers
This is why we build a referral program into every conversion generated by KickoffLabs. Your existing customers/subsribers are your best source of new customers. Give them some incentive to share your link with their friends or simply make them so happy they feel compelled to do so.
6. Advertise somewhere else.
Google is NOT the only game in town. You still have all the problems that come with advertising, but you could find the barrier to success lower by advertising on Bing, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Stumbleupon, etc. At least your costs will be lower to reach a comparable audience.
You can even directly advertise on several niche communities. We run, for example, one cheap add directly on a website dedicated to the Bootstrap web framework. This ad is profitable every month and costs much less than adwords for compatible results. Check out http://buysellads.com/ and find a site that speaks directly to your customers.
It’s also possible to advertise directly in niche newsletters. There is a service called LaunchBit that we’ve used in the past with success as well. They sell in-email advertisements that will let you reach out to your target audience.
– Josh, Co-founder KickoffLabs