Marketers, we want to hear from you! Take the Survey

Marketing, whether online or offline, is meant to accomplish quite a lot for a business. It must increase brand awareness, attract new customers while retaining old ones, build a company's reputation, and so on. But the most basic goal for any company—and, hopefully, the end result of all the aforementioned efforts—is to increase sales.

However, increasing sales online requires an approach that's slightly different from that of efforts to increase offline sales.

Much as brick and mortar businesses try to increase sales by driving foot traffic, online sales are dependent on the number of visitors that a website attracts. The more visitors, the greater the number of visitors who will be converted into buyers.

However, brick and mortar businesses (restaurants and salons, for example) can be relatively certain that once a patron has walked through the door they are likely to make a purchase. Though a purchase isn't guaranteed (the visitor at a clothing boutique may just be window-shopping, for example) brick and mortar businesses have the unique ability to engage the customer right then and there, in a very personal manner.

A salesperson can address any questions and concerns, build relationships with customers, and encourage them to act—helping to turn visitors into paying customers. Websites, however, don't always have that luxury.

Some visitors may come to your website looking for information, not necessarily to make a purchase. How do you convince them that everything they need is there on your site? How do you convert them into paying customers?

Here are three things websites can do to help increase online sales.

1. Ask your top customers for their opinion

Your best customers are also your repeat customers. They come back to your site again and again. Clearly something about your site resonates with them. Reach out to these super users and find out what they love about your website and what they think needs to be improved.

They love you in spite of any flaws or snags on your site, and chances are they want to help you succeed. As customers, they may have useful insights into the user experience and design of your site that your employees just aren't seeing.

By reaching out to your top customers, you can identify your strongest and weakest aspects of your website. Where do you have room for improvement and what should you focus on to attract even more customers?

2. Put your email list to good use

Send out a survey and get feedback from as many people as possible: past and current customers, leads that went cold, etc. Anyone who came to your site had a reason why they did or did not make a purchase. If a lot of the surveys come back with a similar problem—for instance, the checkout process is too complicated—you know where you need to make the appropriate changes.

Provide incentive so people take your survey; offer a coupon to those who respond, for example. Your super users might do it out the good of their own heart and love of your brand, but others need another reason to provide their thoughts.

3. Check your analytics

How infrequently business owners really sort through their analytics seems amazing to me. That's not to say that you should be checking every day and obsessing over slight losses or gains in traffic, but you need to know what is going on with your site traffic.

What pages are they arriving through? What keywords are they using to find your site? Which of those keywords leads to the most conversions? Which pages have the lowest bounce rate? A goldmine of insights is waiting to be found in your site analytics, if only you take the time to look. Don't guess, check instead. And use the information you have.

Be aware, though, that it's easy to make data fit the conclusions you are looking for. You never want to guess at what the numbers mean. If you don't feel comfortable combing through your analytics, hire someone who is. SEO consultants or SEO firms are able to give you an objective overview of your site based on the data contained within your analytics. They can spot trends and identify problems that need your attention.

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Increasing your online sales isn't quick or easy, and it involves a lot of trial and error. What made the sale for some customers might not work for others. You have to find the right mix of elements to best increase your conversion rate, and that takes time and research.

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Nick Stamoulis is the president and founder of SEO and social SEO firm Brick Marketing. He publishes a weekly SEO newsletter and an SEO blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal. Reach Nick via 781-999-1222 or