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Archive for August, 2010

Google Places lets you define your service area

August 28th, 2010 No comments

Last April, in Google changes name, adds features to Local Business Center,we told you about Google changing the name of their Local Business Center to Googled Places, a geo-location service tied to their Local Business Listings.

The Google Places folks made this short video to give you a brief overview of Places and the Service Area feature.

Essentially, you use Places to define your service area – the area in which you service your customers. You can select your service area by city name, county or zip code.

And once you have defined your service area, you ca hide your business address. This comes in handy if you operate your business out of your home or primarily through a post office box or mail drop.

Retailers might find this useful to define the areas they wish to do business in. Installers and transporters can show the areas they serve. And Google can display your business on Google Maps in search engine results pages (SERPs) for your area(s) and your keywords.

Adding Places service area information to your Local Business Listing is really a “no-brainer” if your business services customers in areas other than just your home city.

AWeber Makes Manufactured Housing Email Marketing Simple and Effective

August 25th, 2010 No comments

AWeber logoAlthough I’m not big on pushing other’s products in these posts, there are times when a tool is just too good not to share.

My latest MHMSM.com article, Online Marketing 1-2-3, Part 2 – eMail Marketing explains why email is just as important to your marketing efforts now as ever.

In consulting with clients over the years, we’ve gone back and forth discussing the merits and drawbacks of various email deliver software or services. And there are pros and cons with every system. In this video, an AWeber user demonstrates just one reason why AWeber is the email application of choice for anyone who is serious about marketing online.

Would you like to:

  • Email your list automatically every time you make a new post to your blog or website?
  • Update your Facebook and Twitter accounts every time to send an email to your list?

These are just two of the many features of the AWeber application that will help you build your business.

There are tons of advantages to using AWeber over other providers. To learn what they can do for your business, visit the AWeber website</a>.

Or take a FREE test drive of the AWeber email marketing software today!

Refreshing Your Manufactured Housing website – why?

August 22nd, 2010 No comments

…you can’t have a revolution without change.

As stressed in The Manufactured Housing REVOLUTION, you can’t have a revolution without change. Several times in the past month or so, we have mentioned the necessity to keep your website information fresh.

You may have changed models, prices, options or other important information. Sometimes the website lags behind. That’s not a good thing because according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), some 80% of home purchases begin with the buyer doing research online.

Outdated information on your website can cause them to conclude that your business is out of touch with the market and may lead them to eliminate you as a possible source for their new home without further consideration.

Web design that hasn’t been refreshed in a long time (5 years is way beyond the optimal lifespan of a website design), can leave your business looking as outdated as the design itself. But that is a topic for another post.

There a lot of reasons why the information on a retailer’s or community’s website becomes outdated. One of the most common that I hear is that the web designer has disappeared, gone off to college or gone out of business – the recession has taken a lot of good web designers out of the field.

When the person that designed your website becomes unavailable to do updates, for whatever reason, the website tends to recede into the background of company concerns.

An out-of-date website’s effectiveness as a marketing tool becomes quickly compromised.

Bad move. An out-of-date website’s effectiveness as a marketing tool becomes quickly compromised.

Does your business or community website have current information on homes available right NOW at your location. If not, why not?

Is it because there is no provision for that information on your website? Or is it because there is no one available who knows how to do it? Or is it just too difficult and time-consuming to keep it updated?

Those are all common reasons for not having an updated homes list on your website.

How about your customer or community newsletter. Do you have one? Do you send it by direct mail or physically distribute it in your community? Do you email it? Do you keep a current issue and an archive of past issues on your website?

Again, if not, why not?

If you don’t yet have a website for your business, now would be the time to get one set up …

If you don’t yet have a website for your business, now would be the time to get one set up as the situation improves both in the general economy and in the Manufactured Housing industry.

What you are looking for is a solution that is easy to update for you or your web designer. An easy to update application will save you both time and money and simplifies keeping your website updated

Adding one or more blogs to your current website or creating a new website with blogging capability is the answer to creating a newsletter or listing single properties in a Search Engine Friendly (SEF) environment.

The Search Engines L-O-V-E blogs – blogs are (or should be) updated on a regular basis and they archive all of the information published to them in an organized archive. Search Engines try to supply searchers with solid, up-to-date information and a well-organized, organically growing website gets their attention.

Your chances of achieving a high search engine ranking in your region is greatly increased by having a blog, and you can have more than one blog attached to your domain.

For instance, MHMarketingSalesManagement.com has the main database-driven website with over 900 items and has blogs like this one that feature individual writers such as myself, Editor L.A. ‘Tony’ Kovach and Tim Connor as well as the Industry Voices and Inspirations blogs.

A blog (or blogs) can be added to any existing website fairly easily. A blog can also be the primary website by using pages more prominently than posts. A good example of this is the website I created for a limousine company in Danville, Kentucky and which now holds the #2, #3 and #4 spots for it’s keywords in Google’s Search Engine Results. It has all pages and no posts at this time and so functions as a traditional website.

The takeaway from this is that whether you have a website or not, you should consider adding a blog to your online marketing toolbelt. Use it to share new homes you have available, keep customers updated on what is happening in your company or community, get that newsletter online or perform any number of other online marketing related tasks.

Lifetime Value of a Manufactured Housing Customer

August 15th, 2010 No comments

When planning a campaign to place a business on page one of the search engines for a given set of keywords, one of the criteria used to establish a reasonable ROI to achieve that result is the lifetime value of a customer.

“Successful companies, [Frederick] Reichheld (author of The Loyalty Effect) points out, have three things in common: loyal customers, loyal employees and loyal owners. The customers are often loyal, not so much to a bank, for example, as to employees that they know and trust who work for the bank.”

While we aren’t sure what the future holds, history suggests that the average homeowner will be back in the market in 5-7 years. For our purposes, I will use the higher figure of 7 years. This means a manufactured home retailer may have the possibility of selling a customer two or three homes in a lifetime.

Multiply the average price of a home over the next 25 times the number of homes that customer may buy in that timeframe and you have the expected lifetime value of a customer.

Other factors

When you sell a customer a home, is the quality of their buying experience such that they will be likely to return to your place of business when they want to:

  • Upsize
  • Downsize
  • Re-locate
  • Move for Personal Reasons

If it isn’t, you need to ask yourself why?

As an industry, we need stop thinking of our customers as “one-time” buyers. The same retailer can, over a lifetime, move a buyer from an entry level, to a larger more upscale home and beyond.

Much the same as a Chevy owner, having had a good experience might upgrade to a Buick or Cadillac, or a Ford owner might move to a Lincoln, your customer having had a good buying experience will have a tendancy to come back to you when the time comes to move up.

It’s all about establishing loyalty to the product, the manufacturer and the retailer.

There is an excellent article on Frederick Reicheld’s The Loyalty Effect here.

It’s about the quality of the experience – and that page one Google ranking wouldn’t hurt you either.

A couple of things you need to know about website stats

August 11th, 2010 No comments

Screen shot of Urchin web stats reportWebsite stats. They have all the charm of 12th grade algebra. But they are very important in the world of online marketing. In this post, we’re going to look at a couple of web stats and what they might mean to you.

Annually, monthly, weekly, by the day or hour are the most common ways of looking at them. Any date range can be specified so you can have a look at your websites performance in large chunks or tiny slivers of time.

Two of the most important web stats are “sessions” and “pageviews.” Other very important stats are “bounce rate” and “length of session.” Most web statistics programs such as Google Analytics and the Urchin software it is based on can display web stats in a variety of ways. There are a variety of other web stats analysis applications that may already be on your web server.

A “session” is recorded every time a visitor arrives at your site for the first time since the expiration of their last session. Session expiration occurs when activity ceases for a time specified in your server configuration or when the visitor leaves your site.

The “sessions” graph shows the number of visitors your website had in a given time period. In the example graph below (from the logs of a server I use for testing), you can see I had a range of session numbers from 2 to 13.

Urchin Sessions Graph

A “pageview” occurs when a visitor enters a page on your website. A visitor can visit multiple pages during a single session. Pageviews are often mistakenly called “hits” which are a different stat entirely. Calling a “pageview” a “hit” is a lot like calling a Manufactured Home by the “T” word.

The pageviews stat tells you how many of your web pages are being looked at in the specified time. Now we’re ranging from 2 to 126. I like to see 3 or more pageviews per visit on my site – more is great, but less could simply be the result of having a site with few pages to look at. Here is the pageviews graph from my test server.

Urchin Pageview Graph

“Hits” are the most misleading and worthless stats on a web log. A “hit” is recorded every time a page element is loaded. So if you have a web page with 5 images, a link to a JavaScript and a link to a CSS stylesheet, the log will record 8 hits. Anyone can increase their “hit” count by inserting more graphics, even single pixel transparent images.

When you hear someone describe how many “hits” their website is getting, it’s a good bet you can divide that by a factor of 10 to 25. Ask them how many pageviews their site gets. If they can’t answer that, as Lyndon Johnson used to say, “I put my hand on my wallet.” NEVER give advertising money to a website based on the number of “hits” they get. If they use the improper term, it could be an honest mistake (some manufactured home pros still use ‘trailer’), but they should know the difference and should be willing to share the correct data.

Here is a “hits” graph of my test server for the same period as the other two charts. Notice the difference, especially in the Saturday and Monday stats. Do you see how inflated the “hits” stats are? 1,171 hits for 85 pageviews? That’s a ratio of 14 hits per pageview on a site with minimal graphics.

Urchin Hits Graph

“Bounce rate” is determined by the number of visitors who leave your site after viewing only one page. They can “bounce” for any number of reasons (for more, see the blog post What is Bounce Rate? What does it mean to you? on BobStovall.com. A decent bounce rate could be anywhere from 33% to 67%. Some one-page sales sites have a bounce rate of 100% and do OK. But if you have a multi-page informational site and you have an unusually high bounce rate (67%-95%) you need to have a look at your site and see what is driving visitors away so quickly.

“Length of Session” is another “tell-tale” stat. It tells you how long the average visitor is spending looking at your web pages per session. It might seem odd, but 2-3 minutes is a pretty good session length. if 66% of your visitors are leaving immediately, the other 33% are staying for 6-9 minutes and that is quite respectable.

There are a lot of other things your web logs can tell you, such as what percentage of your visitors are using Macs or Windows, how many are visiting using Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer or Safari, what pages they are entering on, what pages they are leaving from and more.

We’ll delve into more web stats in the future, but I think you now have a good basic understanding of which stats to keep an eye on and what to look for.