“My web statistics are about the same as they were six months ago, so why have I dropped down the top 100 Highest Ranking Web Sites in Learning Technology Chart?”

“Is an optimised site really necessary when most of my prospects come via direct marketing?”

“No genuine prospect in my marketplace is ever going to buy the kind of products and services I offer online so why should my rankings matter?”

We get lots of questions from lots of marketers in webucation every time we crunch the numbers to update the 100 Highest Ranking Web Sites in Learning Technology Chart. Often these are things we’ve dealt with in the past in articles like this one, but every new chart inspires its own batch of queries, so here’s a distilled overview of the most popular Q and A’s we’ve dealt with since we last published.

1. My web statistics haven’t changed much over the past six months but my place in the chart has taken a tumble?

The most frequently asked FAQ this time round, the reason for this is simple:  Some companies have been busy optimising their online sales potential while others have been grazing.  We noticed the biggest improvements from B2B learning tech companies based in India and the US.  Companies like iSpring Solutions, UpsideLearning or Expertus, which didn’t feature too heavily in the rankings last time round, have upped their game dramatically and really taken search and social marketing options by the reigns.

What’s really interesting is that many of these companies seem to be much more interested in international markets than they were 12 or even six months ago: They’re optimising web pages intended specifically for, say, UK, German or French based visitors by adding language options and recalibrating site structures.

Often, these pages for international audiences have been available for some time but have never been given high-priority. Now companies outside of Europe are spending more time researching keywords and phrases that perform well in Britain (like “eLearning NHS”) and some are starting to use Geolocation software (which delivers different content to different visitors depending on where they are) to develop specific campaigns for European markets.  It’s leaner, more efficient competition from outside of Europe which is catching up rather than traditional high-performers falling back.

2. Is a high-ranking website really necessary when most of my prospects come via direct marketing?

Ah yes, the good old trusty database marketing and newsletter combo.  The outbound stuff where you email out some really compelling news and wait for the recipient to click on the hyperlink you sent them.

Direct marketing is fantastic when it gets through to the person it’s intended to reach, but usually that’s not nearly as often as most direct marketing devotees like to admit.   Contacts go out of date and open rates plummet as email systems become more spam savvy.  In our experience, when marketers in webucation do pluck up the courage to track the effectiveness of their direct mail activities, most of them are gob-smacked. When pure-play database / newsletter marketing is working really well, most people seem to be happy with open rates of about 10 percent.  Open rates of 13 percent are usually considered “above average”.

So if you’re happy to create marketing content and campaigns designed exclusively for about 1 in 10 of the identified prospects you already have on your database, direct email marketing is the perfect tool for the job.

The really weird bit here is that most direct marketing devotees make the case for the DM/newsletter combo by saying things like, “We know who our customers are, we know their emails and we know how to reach them”, which essentially sounds more like a hit-man’s threat than a marketing guru’s invitation.

3. No genuine prospect in my marketplace is ever going to buy the kind of products and services I offer online so why should my website matter?

Cheap flights, music downloads, Groupon vouchers for teeth whitening sessions:  these are what sells on the internet right? Not the complex, b2b consultancy based learning and development stuff you trade in.  Well yes, but really it’s all about getting creative with the transaction.  No one’s asking you to bolt an eCommerce system onto the back office and wait for customers to add a Talent Management System to the online cart before proceeding to checkout.

Think about the “information transactions” that your sales people routinely undertake with prospects as they build towards a deal.  At the blunt end there’s all the basic stuff: names are exchanged, email contact details are swapped.  As leads are nurtured, prospects will tend to outline their particular needs in return for personal presentations or product demos.  Ultimately trust is built and sales are achieved through a developing series of connections made between prospects and your sales force.   So how far along the lead nurturing process can your online marketing strategy actually take you? When most marketers really think this through, it’s pretty far.

At the fat end of the pipeline there’s the simple task of contact acquisition, which is what happens when your website’s visitors “transact” their email address for some information you have. Further up the pipeline, with just a little bit of careful consideration, online and social marketing tactics will help profile and qualify your prospects to support the sales process.  Ultimately the complex b2b consultancy based sale you thought you had to make looks pretty simple, because your prospects know more about you and what you do.

Got your own questions about the 100 Highest Ranking Web Sites in Learning Technology Chart?

Just ask us and well get right back to you. Contact us at hello [at] nowcomms.com or join our Marketers in Webucation group on LinkedIn

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