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Internet Marketing = Traffic Generation + Conversion Optimization


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Pic credit: John Brian Silverio, Island Capture Photography

Sorry about the bad news.  But we’ll get to that in a moment. 

[Thanks Abhishek.  Being an advisor is a role that I am not comfortable with.  Especially since I don’t have those zeroes in my bank to point to as proof of the effectiveness of what I am saying.  But then, this is and for my purposes I have enough examples (okay one!) to show you proof.  

As an entrepreneur that should always be your first filter.  A permanently switched on bullshit meter.  I’ll leave it to you to judge the bullshit level on this post. 

Asha,  owww, stop yankin me! :)]

Okay preamble done.  Now, shut down everything else, grab a large mug of coffee, some pop corn, sink back into your chair, and read on.

Sorry for the bad news.  But your website sucks.  No no no.  There is not one of you who escapes.  Don’t look at your revenue numbers and think: ‘Okay this doesn’t apply to me.  My website is raking in the moolah and this is for the losers.’  

When you open a physical store and 90-99% of your visitors walk in, poke around, and don’t buy anything, do you sit back and grin contentedly just because that 1%-10% of buyers is keeping your head above water?

If you are of the mindset ‘build it and they will come’ or to quote Thoreau ‘build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door’, sorry.  It is my painful duty to inform you that is no longer true.  In the 21st century even if you have a iMousetrap that will trap the mice, automatically navigate to the nearest field, and gently release the mouse there, all the while feeding classical music via a 4G connection, you still need to market (and that too aggressively) your product…. to mice for maximum traction.  And to home owners if you can’t figure out mouse talk.  🙂

There are, of course, exceptions.  For example: teleportation devices.  If you’ve invented one of those then yes, post a video to youtube, tell your friends on FB, and then please sit back, and wait for the moolah to come pouring in.  Also, please mail me directly if you have one.  I am dying to say “Beam me up scottie” and scramble my body’s atoms and reassemble it somewhere else.  🙂

Otherwise, listen up.  

Internet Marketing = Traffic Generation + Conversion Optimization
That’s it.  Nearly everything you do with your site can be clubbed under these two. Sounds a bit too simple, right?  It is really once you think about it.  

As an entrepreneur irrespective of whether you are a pure online play or a real world business with an online presence, there are your only two questions you need to obsess over with respect to internet marketing.

1. How do I get people who want my stuff to my site a.k.a relevant traffic?
2. How do I get them to take action on my site a.k.a conversion?

The important lesson for you the site owner is this: every rupee you spent on the website should directly or indirectly be tied to these two aspects.  

SEO, PPC, Social Media, Blogging and Email Marketing are all traffic generation tactics.

Copy (website content), UI, and UX improvements are conversion optimization tactics.  Watch out for that radically fundoo, sooper cool design that does nothing for your conversion goals.

Factoid: Any kind of speed improvements you achieve is directly correlated to better SEO and Conversion. 

Google’s already on record about site speed being a part of the search ranking algorithm.

Amazon says for every 100ms lift in speed (responsiveness to end user) they see a 1% incr….  Google Maps saw a 30% increase in usage after they decreased the page weight by 30%.

If you haven’t looked at your site speed and you are growing traffic comfortably with decent conversions drop everything else and fix site speed now.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is the holy grail of responsiveness: 1 second.

Also, remember not to demarcate everything on-website as conversion related and everything off-website as traffic generation related.  In most instances this is true but there are enough edge cases to shoot that paradigm down.  For example – Adwords is rolling out new extensions where you can sign up leads straight from the search results page without bringing them to the site.  Yahoo has been doing that – somewhat ineffectively – for a while with display ads.  So that’s traffic and conversion at a single point of interaction.  Whether that particular tactic is effective or not will depend in large part on your industry, your offer, the audience you are dealing with, AND how you define effectiveness.  

Should I focus on conversion optimization first or traffic generation?  
That depends, but generally it is cyclical.  If you are a startup, you need the traffic first.  If you already have a decent amount of traffic then focus on improving the conversion.  Ideally you should have two teams, one chasing traffic, the other conversion ninjas.  And make sure that they both talk to each other.  The ninjas can’t do anything if your traffic team is sending irrelevant traffic.  Extreme example: Bikers being sent to a Fair and Lovely website.  Sounds ridiculous but it has happened.  And that with otherwise intelligent people.

I don’t have any money to spend on SEO, PPC, Social Media, Blogging, etc.
Oh.  Welcome to the club.  🙂  There is a great Distilled article about producing content without a budget that effectively sums it up: to produce content you need two of three things – time, talent, money.  Now if you don’t have money you will need to find the other two.  And please do check in at reality 101.  It is unlikely that you will ever succeed without active marketing.  My favorite example: Sir Alok Rodinhood.  🙂

Things your site needs:

a) High quality content: gobs of it, produced on a regular cycle.  Easiest way to do this is with a blog.  Your production frequency and content mix will be determined by your industry.  Good news for B2B: you only need to produce marginally more content than your competition.  Bad news for B2C: suck it up, grit your teeth, and get down to it.  OR you have to find creative ways to take your once a month post and make it a viral smash hit.  

Good example of that? Sir Alok Rodinhood of course.  🙂  Okay he was more prolific than once a month in the beginning.  But most of his posts were viral smash hits.  

b) Social Media engagement: Get people to like, comment on your shit. (The adjective choice of “shit” is a separate philosophical/spiritual discussion which we’ll need to carry out elsewhere :-)).  Do it sincerely.  Absolutely necessary if you are a B2C play.  Highly desirable even if you are B2B.  Try for Google+ if your audience is there but don’t sweat it if not.  Same goes for Twitter.  Go there if your audience is present and wade into the @replies and win followers.  The social media channels you decide on will be driven by your audience.  The ones you should consider are: FB, Twitter, G+, and LinkedIn.  Remember the second rule of marketing.  Go where your audience is. 

Shoutout: Use by our very own rodinhooder – Kiran.  Once you have some content and you are going nuts trying to figure out engagement, crowdnub is a great way to get your content in front of your FB audience.  Plus I think Twitter also now.  (Kiran?)

c) SEO: Are you doing a) and b)? Oh good.  Go directly to d).   

Okay I am not going to get away with that.  🙂

Don’t obssess over rankings.  SEO has changed radically in 2012.  Keyword driven SEO is on its deathbed.  

Again: Sir Alok Rodinhood’s rant about doing SEO by not doing SEO wins.  🙂 

[But then I still stand by what I say about being able to double the traffic :D]

Okay, okay, sorry this is turning into a praise Alok post.  Just too lazy to look elsewhere.  Besides.  He IS punching all the right buttons.  Right? :))

The short version is that search engines are shifting to social relevance, citations, keyword-site entity relationships (what I call Word Cloud SEO), and not to forget personal search and browsing history to determine ranking.  And they are shifting away from pure anchor text (links) driven rankings.  Please note: this is the general direction in which the google beast is heading and not a prescriptive description of the state of current search algos. 

SEO in 2013 and beyond boils down to this: get people to like (or +1), share, comment, and engage with the content on your site.  That is the strongest signal of relevance and authority.  

For some basic technical chops read this no BS SEO primer from Distilled and grab SEO Fast Start from Dan Thies.  This is the bedrock underbelly on which you should build your site’s SEO.  Why?  

IT ALL GOES BACK TO THE SAME SOURCE.  Now before I drift off topic… onward.

PS: One very important thing to note.  DO NOT and I mean DO NOT let the content you publish on your site be published elsewhere.  Write fresh content for them if you have to but what you have on your site should be unique.  Duplicate content raises a quality flag with the search engines. As with everything there are exceptions but in general be mindful of duplicate content. 

d) Email marketing: Get yourself an email system that supports A/B testing and lots of bells and whistles.   Mailchimp is fantabulous.  But they are known hardasses when it comes to list quality.  Work within mailchimp’s guidelines and you will develop best practices by default. 

Email your audience as frequently as possible  This depends on your list and their responsiveness and engagement with your content.  In some markets you can do it daily and even multiple times a day.  In others they’ll throw a hissy fit if you mail them more than once a month.  Which brings up the first rule of marketing.  KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.  

Best practices say that you should avoid purchased lists.  Good advice.  You can break that rule if you know what you are doing.  BUT remember if you make a wrong move you will end up on the spam list of ISPs (gmail, yahoo mail, hotmail, etc) and once that happens you are up shit creek without a paddle.  In general avoid purchased lists.  There is ninjagiri which is borderline gray hat but dont go there without reading up lots on the ins and outs of email deliverability, spam ratios, list laundering, etc etc.

In general your job is to get people to sign up to your email list from your website and then bring them back to the site.  Email marketing is both a traffic gen tactic as well as the first step in a conversion funnel.

Factoid: Email marketing has the higest ROI compared to any other marketing channel.

For a more detailed breakdown of the ninjagiri involved go read Aneja’s post on email marketing.

e) Conversion optimization framework:  As soon as you get some amount of traffic please START CONVERSION  TESTING.  At this point I should probably get on my knees and beg.  LOL.  

Every site, and I mean EVERY SITE, has conversion goals.  And those goals can be tested and improved.  

Whether you are a content publisher, an ecommerce store, a B2B site or any other type of site, you have conversion goals that you can define and improve.

Here is the short summary from Brian Massey’s awsilicious primer on conversion.  Scroll lower for details about the book.

There are Five Primary Conversion formulas:

The Brochure site: This one is the barebones site.  Depending on your industry maybe that is all you need.  Enquiries will come in because you are known in the industry or because you are the default player in the market.  If the bulk of your enquiries and subsequently sales come in through the web then you are more in the lead generation category.  Ask yourself this question, will I be able to thrive without a website.  Not in terms of branding but in terms of sales.  i.e. If you did not have a site will your business still continue.  If you answer yes to this question.  You don’t need to do anything.  If you answer maybe or no to this question.  Then you better start working on your site.  

The Publication site:  Games2win and Contests2win fit in this category.  So do pure content blogs, news sites, and etc.  Unless you are Wikipedia or totally I-am-doing-it-for-the-love-of-it-and-don’t-care-if-it -is-read-or-dont, you have to pay attention to conversion goals.   The widest possible goal is content consumption.  Which in analytics gets translated to pageviews, time on site.  

Time on Site is also a quality metric for content consumption.  If people are whizzing through your pages at x seconds per page when you know the consumption time should be x+y seconds then you have to look at whats happening and why.

Your conversion goal has to be tied back to a hard monetary number.  The exact formula you use is immaterial.  It should however be predictable and should tie in with your revenue.  You should be tracking this and theorizing ways to improve this number.

E.g. If your revenue is in CPM.  You should focus on both increasing the page views and the Time on Site.  Increase page views to jack up the impressions.  Increase time on site to push up your rates with the ad vendors.  Most ad vendors won’t agree of course but once you get enough traction then you are the boss.  :).  

There are two ways to increase page views.  More traffic.  OR More content consumption.  When you do both you get a double whammy. 

The trick with publication (and this goes for all sites since content generation and content marketing has to be a part of your plans) is to generate more UGC (user generated content) than you can keep up.  That’s when you hit, what Dan Theis calls, the virtuous  cycle.  Your actual contribution can drop way down.  And SEO practically takes care of itself.

And good example of that?  😀 Obviously,  😀

The Ecommerce Store: This is the easiest to track and the toughest to convert.  An average ecommerce store converts at less than 1%.  The top of the range in the category convert at 50%+.  So, buckle up and get down to it.  You have a lot of work to do.

You need to have a solid rationale in place to stand out from the crowd (aka USP).  You cannot buy market share with branding alone.  Our desi ecommerce trainwreck is a good example.  

More than any of the others an ecommerce store needs conversion testing.  Why?  Imagine this:  do you ever walk into a supermarket with the sole intention to browse and then walk out?  If you are the store owner and you have 1000 footfalls a day and only 10 buyers wouldn’t you either commit harakiri or figure out what’s going wrong at every point of interaction?

The consultant site/lead gen site:  I know I know. Half a dozen people will jump on me now and point at my site.  Ashaaaa!!!!! 🙂

I am lazy.  I believe it is all shit anyway.  Part of that philosophical discussion I spoke about earlier.  Actually my site’s dismal state has more to do with laziness and I-am-making-enough-na-so-why-bother than the ‘it-is-all-shit’ argument.

Notwithstanding that.  Here is what happens in this category.  You are selling a relatively high ticket product or service.  You need to talk to the client to help him figure out what he wants.  The client needs to fill up a form to get in touch with you.  Your focus should be in asking the minimum information that will get you quality leads in exchange for some value that is closely tied to your product.  Favorite choice is a whitepaper.  But that’s just one option.  Whitepaper marketing when done right is a great lead gen and sales tool.  

The online service:  This one is relatively easy to convert with a trial offer and with some bells and whistles but retention is hard.  That’s what you need to focus on.  Retention.  

The easy way to build your audience is to have a freemium version with upgrades.  Your core performance metrics are your freemium to premium conversion rates and your retention rate.  

Conversion Testing – The Gateway to More Money

Unless you are measuring, testing, and improving your conversion – you are basically running blind and are more likely to fail.  In bar room talk – you are up shit creek.  

If that doesn’t scare you then take a look at this table below.  

Granted this is a simplified view but this should give you an idea of how the twin pillars of conversion optimzation: traffic & conversion rate, gets your sales numbers moving. 

Note how for the same cost of traffic your sales increases as your conversion rate improves.  Look at the rows highlighted in green.  By improving your conversion rate marginally you are skyrocketing your revenue with traffic growth.  And finally see how as you improve your conversion rate your cost per conversion starts going into free fall and you maximize your visitor value.  

Which is where we started with this article: get the right traffic and get them to convert.  

One of the best books on the subject is Brian Massey’s Your Customer Creation Equation.  The Kindle version is $9.99 and totally worth it.  You can read it off your smartphone (which is what I did initially) and just the reading will pay you back with ideas and insights worth their weight in gold.

The other book is Bryan Eisenberg’s Always be Testing.  This is more suited to an enterprise audience.  

Of the conversion testing tools there are three I can recommend: 

Content Experiments (buried inside Google Analytics) is free but you are on your own for tech support. and Visual Website Optimizer are two others.

I haven’t worked with VWO but have heard only good things about them.    And the little I poked around in the app, I had to suck back the drool.  🙂 And what really kicks me is that they are desi, have refused VC money, and somemany of the top brands in the world are their customers. is awesome and their support is phenomenal.  Usual response window is a few hours during their working hours.  They are chilling it in sunny Mexico and have customers all over the planet.  And they are crazy.  I asked a doubt and they came up with a new feature in a few hours.  

f) Paid Advertising: Contrary to popular opinion, paid advertising when coupled with a rigorous conversion testing framework can bring you an avalanche of profitable traffic.  When you get it right, paid traffic is like a tap.  Turn it on or off as you like.  The catch though is in the phrase ‘when you get it right’.  It takes rigorous attention to detail and testing to discover creatives and traffic sources that bring you profitable visitors who are hungry for your product and services.  

The gorrilla in the room is of course Adwords.  CPC (cost per click) on adwords these days is expensive in almost all markets but if you can crack it, you will be laughing all the way to bank. 

The other ad networks won’t send you as high quality traffic as adwords but depending on your product or service you may find niches that work for you like gangbusters.

Another Shoutout: Okay this rodinhooder is difficult to get on the phone.  Aditya is either blasting it at Punjabi weddings (his friend’s not his :)) or is buried deep inside the code of his app.  Standard code junkie.  And he is at the cutting edge of an industry that is solving one major problem with ad networks. How to reach your audience at the right time and at the most optimal price.  If you have a fairly reasonable budget you should use his platform.

I guess I should stop now eh?  This ramble has gone on for too long.  :))

Questions, comments, doubts?  Drop ’em in the comments below and I’ll get to them as soon as I can.



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  1. whoa! this is a lot of info to process.

    muchas gracias!

    i’m sure a lot of people are gonna be grateful for this one… 

    p.s: the advisor tag suits you!

  2. Abey, sincere thanks for the shoutout.

  3. well, my mom has a saying in malayalam – ‘madiyan mala choomakum’ ie ‘the lazy man will carry the mountain’. I guess this is a case of that.  :))

  4. You’re welcome Jitendra.  You should check out Always be Testing.  Bryan Eisenberg specializes in ecommerce.

  5. 🙂 

  6. Great post Abey. Along with the tools you’ve mentioned, I would also add Kissmetrics to measure conversion (and other event specific datapoints). We are currently going through the steps for our website and this post is a great guide. Cheers!

  7. Very Interesting and Very informative article !!! Cheers and Best Regards!!!

  8. Hey Abey – finally a Malayali @ Rodinhoods. I missed one 🙂 Welcome. And yes, great great article – Adipoli! 😉

  9. Awesome.. Mindblowing description of the whole Online Marketing game.. Wish when I was a newbie, I could have read this stuff..

    @Abey sir: Dont mind, but I will surely use some of the sections in my blogs about Online Marketing.. With due credits, of course!

  10. I guess I should do a separate tools post.

  11. Mohul, please do. But only if you stop callin me sir. 🙂

  12. Lol. Hey Anamika, thanks for the adipoli kudos. Actually am an old rodinhoods hand lurkin in the shadows. Only Asha’s buggin me got me out of my cave.

  13. Yes Abey I have been seeing you around for long with you giving away awesome tips and advice… But it was only today that I came to know about your ‘malayali’ gene.. I am not a Malayali though. But I was born and brought up in Alpy… So I consider myself partially a South Indian 🙂

    The tips which you have given above is so useful that as Alok ji mentioned, it’s going to get referred time and again. Thanks!!

  14. Born n brought up in Keralafonia eh?  Nice!!  3/4 mallu already.  :))

  15. Asha – can you advise Abey about the ‘re-posting’ of content on and how we intend to re-map the urls?

    I am sure he will have some amazing feedback?

  16. shall do!

  17. ooh this sounds like fun, tell me more! 🙂

  18. Great Post Abey .

    Handy collection of daily checklist

    Thank you 

  19. wow this is fantastic article , lots to digest , have bookmarked it …… Right timing for me , we are in the process of redesign of our website. Thanks for sharing. 

  20. Cool Abey!

  21. Himanshu, you should check out Brian Massey’s book.  It has all the gyan you need for a business of your type.  

  22. Thanks Kumar. Hope it helps.

  23. Good one Abey!

  24. you’re next, aji!!!

  25. Yeah, now its your turn.  🙂

  26. 🙂 Sure … I have 65 teen kids and they have external affairs … Kind of large family … they are keeping me too busy … but will sure contribute something.

  27. Paka … just that the company is large now, we have 65 members, training, sales and what not … want to be the best, so innovation, excitement, failures, loss, gain is every day story … loving it … need to find time to write … is our small growing family.

    Very good post. Motivates me to write one soon.

  28. Aby finally you wrote, gr8 post it’s full manual on Internet marketing ..

  29. 🙂 way to go.  🙂

    Draft one of your kids to pump gyan here. 🙂

  30. Ashwin, this is a primer, just to point you in the right direction.  🙂 

  31. Right post at the right time. On the verge of launching a start up and this really helps. Lots of valuable info.

    Many thanks Abey !

    ps: Hello to all the Rodinhooders, I’m new here having spent 2 nights reading as many posts. Pleasure to be part of this community 🙂

  32. Great! All the best.  Pop any questions you have in this thread.

  33. Thanks Abey , adding the book to my to be read list. will update once I have read it. cheers.

  34. wow Aji !! glad to know about your growth 🙂 Cheers to that.  

  35. Read lot of articles on same topic all over the net. Most of them were relevant to US and Europe audience. So that never exactly worked for me. But yeah these tips are practical

    I liked the point on purchasing data for email marketing. And yes it can work but need to take it slow. Not many ‘online experts’ have ever endorsed that tho. But in the end ,what matters is what works

    I wish to add one more point Abey. The guest posts and articles work extremely work.Not in terms of bringing in traffic to the website but in terms of adding value to the site by our Google Sir. The backlink rarely brings 1000s of visitors(unlike in US) but yes the juice provided will help you reach the sky in Google results

    For our site Fintotal, we are aiming for a very simple UX and UI. UI is part of UX. If UX is a nice hot sweet ‘payasam’. then the spoon used is the UI. Please correct me if I am wrong

    Btw very helpful article!

    Also nice to know you are also from the coconut land! 🙂

  36. Aby deserves 5 rodinhood T shirts!!

  37. he’ll get ONE for sure!

  38. Oooh nice! And a rodinstar too! :))

  39. Abdul, I would stop doing in any kind of content or article marketing unless your content is actually being consumed by a ‘human being’ somewhere and they are showing their appreciation by way of likes, comments, shares, and yes maybe click throughs too.  “Backlink juice” from articles without an audience are on their deathbed and totally in the grave if the content is on article sites like ezinearticles and the like.  

    Had a quick look at the fintotal home page.  You need to communicate your value prop better.  Reduce the number of navigation options that users can choose, waay too many.  Drill down into your conversion goals and offer the users not more than three paths to dive deeper into the site.

    Land of coconuts and nurses, yeah! 🙂 

  40. Hey Abey – Congrats for the Rodinstar badge!!!! Well deserved! 

  41. Ezine and the likes are completely COMPLETELY waste of time. Here I wasnt talkin about ezine-qiue sites. I was talking sites like moneycontrol or rediff.

    Anyway Thanks a lot Abey for the suggestions on the homepage!

  42. Yup, moneycontrol and rediff help for sure but the social skew is getting stronger.  Focus more on audience participation.  The algo engine is currently in upgrade and they are machine learning social signals as a measure of authenticity.  Do plus hangouts and stuff.  fintotal is good fodder for G+.  Geeks with money and not a clue how to save! 🙂  

  43. 🙂 thanks Anamika. 🙂

    And oh crap! Take that rodinstar back.  I forgot an image! 🙂

    Hmmmm.  Which actually means it is smack dab right in the middle of the tldr; category. 😀

  44. Hi Abey,

    Awesome post..For a noob like me every word is gold..I had a query…I have been checking out email marketing softwares over the past month or so…I have a list of 3500 customers ( authentic ..not purchased) i see mailchimp as the one with the easy ui…it has a cap of 2000 subscribers ..can I split my list into 2 lists…make the campain..send to one list…then delete the list from mailchimp..upload the second list…and send a copy of the previous campaign again to em…

    Sounds really strange ..i knw..but U for sure definitely know how to run lean ;-)..i am the stingy kinds..:-P…

    Kindly guide me ..

  45. Hi Anand,


    This is not the place to get stingy.  Your aim in all things is to be cost effective not cheap.  Being cheap puts you into a cheap mindset that will cause you more harm than good.  Your suggestion reveals one thing.  You really are not confident about your email marketing prowess.  There is only one remedy for that.  LEARN.

    At the bare minimum what you want to focus on is open rates, clickthrough rates, and conversion rates.  If you don’t have your conversion funnel in place then just opens and clickthroughs.  To get high open rates you need subject lines that will punch through the internet white noise of the inbox.  To get clickthroughs you need snazzy copy that talks to your audience in terms of their interests and needs.  To get conversions you need an optimum offer that your customers want. 

    Getting it right in one shot is never going to happen.  So go for the paid account and leverage all the tools MC offers. 

    The correct sequence for your email marketing should be something like: Research, hypothesize, test, analyze the results, research, hypothesize, test, analyze, research, hypothesize, test…. etc.  Note that you “send” the email in the “test” phase but in effect you have done the heavy lifting in the research, hypothesize, and analyze phases.   You have to become data driven and aim for incremental improvements though of course dramatic lifts are not to be refused. 🙂 

    Without data we are blind.  With data we are merely ignorant as to its utility.  And ignorance can always be rectified…

    This is where your Indian stinginess should kick in – save every scrap of data ‘coz at some point in the future we’ll find some kind of tech to analyze it and probably squeeze some more moolah juice out of it.  :))

    (Though of course I should interject that between “knowledge” and “ignorance”, ignorance is always better! :D)

  46. Will definitely do that…. Please don’t mind ..but when we start up we try to save every dollar and rupee we can… That is all I intended…. but that will never be at the cost of the effectiveness of the effort

    Thank you so much for the kind words and wisdom shared. 🙂

  47. Great! 🙂

    Yes, I understand how it goes and I have been there myself only to later kick myself for the mistake.  :))

    Please share how it works out for you. 

  48. Thanks Anurag. 

  49. Asha, I am grateful that you introduced me to this article and the author. Resolved a lot of worry in my mind.

    Abey Sir, fann ho gai ji hum to aapke :))

    Will keep troubling you now 🙂

  50. 🙂 please do.  

  51. another mallu here. sorry couldn’t stop announcing that

  52. Mallus of the world unite! :))

  53. Brilliant Post Abey.

  54. Thanks Suresh, hope it is helpful.

  55. great post!

  56. 🙂 Thanks. 

  57. Hey comment lurkers: 🙂 For a more detailed breakdown of the ninjagiri involved go read Aneja’s post on email marketing.  Pay attention to the stuff about ISPs, deliverability, spam traps, etc.

  58. Do you have a marketing plan? Your budget will emerge from the plan.  And even then keep it fluid.  A budget is an actually an empirical construct based on past evidence.  In your case since you are a start up there is that crucial piece missing: evidence.  So your first step should be to theorize all the different channels you could possibly use.  Then approach each channel with all the fervor of a religious nut and with all the disdain of the skeptic.  Each channel has a gestation period, for example content marketing will require at least 6 months to see results and even then if you don’t see the results then its unlikely that content marketing won’t work for your niche and more likely that you aren’t doing it right.  Identify the channels that work for you best and do more of the same.  The slippery slope is how you define “works for me best”.  In the case of ecommerce thats fairly easy to define – buyers.  Make sure you are tracking the entire clickstream to purchase and optimize both the entire UX as well as individual steps.  Avoid the danger of making decisions based on insufficient data which can be very tempting especially since you want to avoid a high burn rate. 

  59. H Karan,

    There are a lot of different things you need to consider for your Marketing budget – such as the current Awareness level of your product / site, Geographical location, Competition, Cost of Advertising etc etc. But to simplify things for you, I got down and dirty below. Remember it is a narrow approach, but nevertheless a good starting point when deciding budgets. 

    1) First ask your self what your Sales goal is.

    2) Then, work backwards to determine how many people need to buy your product to hit your sales goal

    3) Then calculate how many people (Visitors) you need to get to your site for some of them to buy your product

    4) Now that you know how many people need to come to your site, calculate the amount of money you will need to spend to get that many people to your site. (Advertising budget)

    5) Remember, not everyone who visits your site will buy the product from you. Ex: If you have a Dhukan in a mall, not everyone coming to the mall will come to your dhukan. Not everyone coming to your dhukan will buy your product. Consider Internet in the same way, off the total number of people coming to your site, expect less than 1% will buy your product initially.

    6) Once you figure out how many people you want to bring to the site, then consider what Digital tactics you will use. The most common tactics used for start ups is Paid Search, SEO and Social Media. Your site must rank high when people search for it (SEO strategy). Set up accounts on Facebook, Twitter etc and get fans to like it. Give them exclusive offers (Social Media). Buy search ads on Google. (Paid Search – Geo Targeted). You will need to know how to set up a campaign, set up tracking, optimize etc. Always start with a small Test budget.

    All of the points I highlighted above are in Abeys post, if you pay close attention. Read the Conversion Testing section closely. Look at how the numbers work. That is how you should think digital.

    Since your area of service is local, I would not completely rule out offline marketing.Offline can work well when your area of business is localized.

    I tried to simplify, but to understand each of the Digital Marketing tactics will require a lot of reading. There are Mahabharatas written on each. 

    The above is one way to approach when deciding Marketing budget.

  60. Thanks Aneja.  Karan, this is a more useful reply.  It was 1 am ish in the morning and I was trying to cram everything into one para.  🙂

    I’ll quote from one of my direct marketing heroes, the late (Sir) Gary Halbert: Q – What do you need to sell?  Ans – A starving crowd.  

    Your marketing budget is the cost of finding this starving crowd and making an effective, persuasive, seductive pitch to them that punches all the right buttons in an ethical honest way that builds and fulfills expectation in every step of the marketing, sale, and post sale cycle.  

    Keep this factoid in mind: A repeat customer is worth 100 new customers.  Hmmm.  Not sure about the number from a statistical point of view but it should be at least 10.  Your cost of acquiring a new customer will be several times higher than marketing to an existing customer.  

    To say all this in another way:

    1. Know your audience <— backed by hard data and evidence, not just theoretical assumptions

    2.  Go where your audience hangs out and engage with them,

    And btw my grammar nazi is jumping all over the place about something: ITS NOT DIGITAL MARKETING ITS INTERNET OR ONLINE MARKETING, EVERYTHING IS DIGITAL YOU….. whoa whoa there buddy thats enough… throttles his vocal cords and puts him back in the box… 🙂

  61. Asha lets curate all this and make a pdf out of it. This is the ramayana of online marketing. The sutra dhar will be Abey Sir.

  62. All the best.  🙂

  63. Abdul, just noticed the UX and UI bit.  Yes, UX is the non-visible element and the UI is just the “form factor” that delivers the UX.  In fact, UX is a huge competitive advantage that your competitors can never see from just looking at your site.  Direct marketers always recommend buying from your successful competitors to understand the experience and to look for holes that you can close.  And that was pre-Internet.  You can actually get away with a shitty UI (g2w!) and still deliver a great UX.  🙂

  64. This is what I told Alok ages ago.  Asssshhhhaaaaa!!! :)) Okay okay I know you can’t do anything about it till ning does something about it.  🙂

  65. 🙂

    thank you for understanding “my NING-hands are tied” issue!

    meanwhile abey, when you have a breather – you could take up bhawana’s idea and compile the gold nuggets amongst the comments into a rejoinder post. what say?!

  66. yeah, i guess i should do that… there’s been some pretty good stuff happening in the comments.

  67. Karn, I will say forget it and just focus on getting out into the market at this stage.  Assuming of course you are bootstrapping and don’t have VC moolah pouring out of your ears.  🙂

    But our MBA addiction to the “plan” will need to be satisfied… Please be aware that in 3 months of going live all your numbers will look like shit and you will need to start over again…. in any case as a theoretical exercise here’s what you can do…

    Find a comparable customer acquisition cost for a site in your niche.  Assume a baseline of traffic on month 1 and assume a 10% increase month-over-month.  Apply the conversion rate to get the orders you hope to win.  The fireclick index is a good benchmark but please note it is a benchmark and not “real”.  Multiply the orders by CAC and then multiply that number by 10 (fudge factor).  That’s your advertising budget out of the gate.  🙂  Progressively reduce the fudge factor by say 1 (M2 fudge factor = 9 and so on) as your sales grow.   And you can get a 12 month projection on your marketing costs.

    Will look very pretty but essentially useless.  :))

    Here’s why: this is all an exercise in assumption.  Your CAC is an assumption.  Your conversion rate is an assumption.  The traffic growth is an assumption.  And as they say ‘assumption is the mother of all fuck ups’.  :))

    What you need to be clear about though is this: do your products have a market?  If you answer that with an unequivocal Yes, then you are ready.  There is a saying in marketing, I don’t remember the exact phrase so I’ll paraphrase: shoot first analyze later.  Something that Alok intuitively grooves to and hence his justifiable disdain for the MBA wallahs.  Dontcha just love Alok.  :))

    The need for analysis is actually a philosophical problem and a misunderstanding of the tool we call analysis.  In an empirical universe analysis is a postmortem exercise or to put it more accurately ‘post fact’.  Any kind of analysis (dressed up as “the plan” and “projection”) pre fact is an exercise is in futility ‘coz real world variables never fit into the cubby holes we try to shove them into.  However, you can study other ecom companies and try to digest their experience from their numbers.  And use that as a guide without getting too hung up on trying to fit into their experience profile.  

    What you need right now is not projections.  What you need right now is – clarity about your direction, an ability to assess the situation and change tack on a dime if needed, an intuitive feel for your audience and how to satisfy them and hook into their emotional gut, a solid grasp of reality, and a dashboard of your key metrics so that you know how the business is doing.  Your mission: get the CAC below your Average Order Value.

    The dashboard is the easiest bit of engineering.  The rest is something you will need to work on as all those will  be at various levels and will require something like inner engineering or the AOL program.  I’ve found inner engineering to be useful.  Though I wish there was somewhere where I could learn air bending.  :))

    What SEO are you doing? I hope not link building crap.  Penguin 2 (or 4 depending on who you talk to) is around the corner, and further decimation is on its way.  If you are using some local SEO firm get away from them now.  The Indian SEO cottage industry that depends on link building and article marketing is going to evaporate.  The rest is good.  Use FBs custom audience (through power editor) feature once you have some customers.  Use remarketing.  And get a content writer and churn out high quality relevant content.  Content writer-marketers are the new rock stars of the internet.  A good one will engage with your audience in a meaningful which is ultimately the core of the new SEO.  When you find a good one, pay them the sky, and chain them to yourself.  I was going to say desk but the writer can slip away with the desk and chain and all.  🙂

  68. SEO update: what to expect in 2013 – watch this video:  

    Also, Pengin 2.0 is live.  

  69. Wow, just came across this one via the FB post. Great tips Abey, and everyone who’s contributed to the discussion. It took me 30 mins or so, to read through everything…now, it’s time to implement.

    We’re just embarking on a product development journey whose target audience is largely offline (SMEs across India), and surely not big fans or have the time to spend on blogs, Twitter, FB, LinkedIn etc. Internet connectivity, mobile penetration while on the rise, is still an issue.

    So, the question we’re currently facing is “How do we bring this largely offline audience, to come to our website, showcase the benefits our product has to offer, and convert them into buying the product?”

    We do have some offline marketing ideas, but any inputs from your side would be welcomed.



  70. Vikram, sorry I just saw this comment.  Not sure when you posted it, but it says “Saturday” so am assuming fairly recent and hope this is still relevant to you.  

    If you have an offline product targeted at SMEs, the first question is do you have a segment within this audience who are online? Following 80/20 rule, it is likely that at least 20% of your audience are online.  

    Go after that 20% first.  Why? Cost of customer acquisition online is usually way cheaper than offline advertising/,marketing.  Note the stress on the word ‘usually’.  

    Once you are able to establish a conversion baseline with your online segment, you then translate the winning elements into an offline campaign directing them to a call center like setup if your offline crowd is web averse.  Thats an extreme case but generally speaking the offline campaigns will direct them to an online url from where you move them through the funnel.  The exact mix of tactics to use will depend on your audience, the product, your pre-sale process, your post sale interaction, etc.  i.e. the complete sales and marketing funnel.  If your audience is mostly offline then consider SMS marketing too. Exact specifics of tactics to use will depend on your audience, your market, your sales process, pricing, etc.  

    Hope this points you in the direction.  Al the best.

  71. Thanks Abey. This is helpful. Regards, Vikram

  72. All the best!

  73. How many of you have tested 301 redirects ??

  74. 301 redirects for what Honey?

  75. For Ranking .

  76. 301 has nothing to do with ranking.  It is a method to preserve link juice when the url of your page changes.

  77. Ok 🙂

  78. Really interesting and useful post indeed.

    But the the end expert person only can achieve targeted traffic to get conversion.

    But it is nice information to start and get know about the sources that can drive traffic towards website.

    SEO is slow steady and take time to get traffic if you do work because its free. But on other hand paid marketing like PPC (Pay per click) is great source to generate traffic and conversions. BUT PPC need technique knowledge that noobs can not do.

    Again, your insights is good to understand internet marketing aspect.

  79. Yep.  Each traffic channel has its own quirks and nuances that needs specific attention and depending on your numbers you would need to get an expert.  

  80. Thanks for this post, now i know wat i need, now i k searching for agencies who can do it for my website.

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