How to Use the Web to Launch a Product

Jan 10, 2007 10:37 PM  By

Throwing a banner ad up, buying keywords on a search engine, and posting a press release to your Website may be your first thoughts when harnessing the Internet for product launches. But there is far more you can do. While terms such as “the long tail of search” can be frightening, they don’t require highbrow, high-priced specialists to navigate. Here are some proven tactics that will benefit your next product launch.

The basics
The linchpin of any launch effort is going to be your landing page, or the Web page you’re driving traffic to. This is where you’ll make the best sales pitch to your online audience. Are you driving potential customer leads to a Web page that discusses the particulars of the product? Is the information in a language your prospects will understand? This could be in terms of nationality, dialect, or terminology. You may refer to a technology in terms your target audience doesn’t (it is surprisingly easy to fall into this trap).

Are you offering the right information? For example, is your product’s purpose and function easily identifiable, or is some explanation about technology advances or alternate uses required? If you’re in a price-driven market or selling a specific pricing structure, potential leads may want to see this information. Would a quick, chart-based comparison to competitive products support your sales proposition? Is there a special pricing offer supporting the launch? If so, post it.

Can customers easily contact a sales representative–via online form, direct phone number, or e-mail address? You may like 800-numbers and “info@” e-mail addresses, but a potential customer may view them as too impersonal, so add an extension to the phone number or insert “Ask for Jack, at 800-…” to personalize the process.

Is your landing page URL easy to remember (i.e. www.product.company.com) or something more creative? The landing page requires the most attention; why drive traffic to it if prospects get lost along the way?

Nontraditional traffic drivers
Identify free, quick-start, and long-lasting tactics. Optimize the product landing page for search engines. If you’re using an independent microsite to host your landing page (a site that is not architected into your company site and stands alone as a separate site), then make sure to submit it to Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and other search engines.

Vertical online directories–sites that focus on listings of companies, products and services–are fast to post your product and company, often keeping your listings live indefinitely. These can be a better starting point than general-purpose search engine advertising, given the vertical directories focus on specific markets. Identify these directories in your market, and make sure your product is listed.

Other good tactics include linking from your home page to the product landing page, and optimizing your press releases, white papers, and media alerts for search engine visibility. These pieces are natural traffic-generation tools that you’ll be creating for your launch anyway, so why not provide recipients with a direct link to the landing page for more information? The media may in fact pick up your link up and run it.

If your industry has a large or influential blogging community, carefully leverage it. Identify the influential blogs with tools such as Google Blog Search and Technorati. Write a friendly note to these bloggers or post it to their blogs inviting them to opine on your technology/engineering/etc. breakthrough (bloggers love being asked their opinions). Check the “sales speak” at the door, however. One of the reasons blogs have so much traction is they represent opinions written by users for users, so sales and marketing language won’t be used at best, and will be ridiculed at worst.

Be prepared to monitor the blogs and respond to questions and feedback. Note the word “respond” rather than “react.” Bloggers aren’t subject to editorial standards, so any information you wish to communicate after a posting needs to be tempered and thought through while maintaining the conversational style.

Traditional traffic drivers
When money is involved, the terminology seems to get more complicated–just look at all the terms generated to describe how to choose the best keyword(s) to purchase.

One such phrase, “long tail of search,” refers to niche search markets created by people searching for specific terms or phrases that despite their specificity have significant sales potential that is often missed by companies advertising via general search terms. For example, the purchasing agent for a maintenance company might search for “ergonomic snow shovels” to get exactly what he wants to buy, rather than weeding through irrelevant results returned by the general keyword “shovels.” A long-tail approach will save you from pricy bidding wars over common terms and return more-qualified leads.

CPC, or cost per click, describes keyword-based advertising models, generally paired with a bidding price model. KPI in this context refers to keyword price index, the average cost of a keyword at any given time; because most CPC advertising options are built on a bidding structure, pricing fluctuates.

If your product is in a crowded market space, consider the vertical search engines for the best return on investment for a CPC campaign. In this instance, it’s likely that many competitors will be bidding for the same keywords, so get specific with your terms.

Leverage the long-tail principle and bid on phrases. Remember to include common misspellings and think about how your target audience searches for products—again, use their terminology, not what you use. Online product guides will give you great visibility too. You’ll benefit from these publications’ continual efforts to promote, optimize, and push traffic to their online guides.

Does your product launch center around a specific season, event, or other catalyst opportunity? If so, a targeted CPC campaign on general-purpose and vertical search engines, directories, and media sites makes sense. Think through the keyword process with the help of free word- and phrase-generation tools such as Google’s Keyword Tool, Overture’s Keyword Selector Tool, and SEO Book’s Keyword Suggestion Tool. Some of these same tools can help you check KPI for your keywords (or search terms, in the parlance of the tools). To estimate your expected spend, see what others are spending on your terms currently. Overture’s View Bids tool is good for this and free to use. The world of CPC advertising moves rapidly, so use these tools often over a period of time to give you a better feel for pricing.

The Internet can springboard your product launch. Identifying nontraditional yet highly effective tactics helps keep a steady stream of prospects coming to your Website in the short and long term. Don’t be turned away by seemingly complicated terminology and misunderstood keyword purchasing process. Dig in a little, and discover how simple and cost-effective it can be to leverage the Internet for your product launches.

Julie Mason is the general manager for Kellysearch.com, a global online buyers’ guide and vertical search engine.

Related articles:

Vertical Reality and B-to-B Search

Beneath the Surface of Search