As sophisticated as plastics companies have become when it comes to marketing via print, direct mail and trade shows, there is an element to Internet marketing that too few firms have taken the time to understand: keyword research.
By now, most plastics companies understand the importance of having their site appear on major search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN to drive Web site traffic and leads.
A recent study indicated that 65 percent of business-to-business buyers will use a search engine first when researching a product or service to buy, and as many as 92 percent said they would use the Internet for information at some point during the purchase cycle.
Unfortunately, companies' Internet marketing efforts can be diminished by assumptions about how their target market uses search engines.
Many companies we speak with claim to know their market well enough to identify which keywords would be most important to target for search engine optimization projects. But, without keyword research, it's possible your Web site is focused on keywords that will be little help in driving traffic to your site.
Case in point: For companies that sell injection presses, there are several ways to identify their product such as ``injection presses,'' ``injection machinery,'' ``injection molding presses'' or ``injection molding machines.''
If you're managing your company's marketing budget and are responsible for the content on your company's Web site, on which keyword do you focus?
A company could optimize its Web site content to perform on the major search engines for every variety of the term, but much of that time would be a wasted effort.
Let's look at the ways Google returns results for the variety of ``injection'' searches.
Go to Google and type in each term. You'll find that for the term ``injection presses'' there are 42.5 million results returned, 2.1 million results returned for ``injection machinery,'' 1.8 million results for ``injection molding presses,'' and 2.1 million results for ``injection molding machines.''
Common sense dictates that the term ``injection presses'' is the 800-pound gorilla in terms of delivering site traffic. After all, 42.5 million pages have been devoted to the term, compared to roughly 2 million for each of the others. Surely these machinery companies know their market so well as to have identified the killer keyword!
Guess what? They're all wrong. The term ``injection presses'' generates the fewest number of searches of all those keywords, 41 times less than the best of those terms. So, all those injection machinery companies have wasted their Web marketing effort to be positioned on a keyword that generates very little traffic.
That same scenario has played out again and again in every segment of the plastics industry.
More than 10 years after plastics companies began using the World Wide Web to promote their businesses, Internet marketing continues to vex even the most committed marketing people.
Just as companies learned that adding ``tags'' on their home pages was important, the search engines changed their requirements, ordaining optimized content and inbound links as more important to site performance.
Since then, Google has launched Universal Search, which incorporates site images and videos into the optimization equation. In order to deliver the most impact, each of these elements will require attention to keyword research, to determine the ``money'' words by which a company's target audience will search.
Being found on the major search engines is the most critical path to success for your Internet marketing program. A recent study by search engine marketer Enquiro said 83 percent of technical buyers found the vendor from which they eventually purchased online.
Is your company's Web site in a position for buyers to find it? Without attention to keyword research to identify the top performing terms that describe your business, your Internet marketing investment is no better than a shot in the dark.
Angela Charles is president of Polysort LLC, an Akron, Ohio, Web site design and search engine optimization firm that also operates the plastics and rubber portal www.polysort.com.