Shoot While the Geese are Flying, and Other Advice that May Not Translate Well to the Web

I’m working on a website for a company of duck hunting guides. Since I’ve also been working on an e-commerce site this week, as well as updates for sites offering public speakers (with and without books to peddle) and services, I’ve been thinking about the old saying, “Shoot while the geese are flying.”

In marketing, that means that you should catch people when they’re ready to buy. In online marketing, that means you should optimize your page for specific product words, whether they be “duck hunting guides near Memphis” or “8 inch Lumistick glow bracelets.” The idea is that the people searching for those specific terms are the ones who are actually ready to whip out the old credit card and pay for the thing they seek. These, the theory goes, are the visitors who will convert best. People searching for things like “best times to go duck hunting” or “glowstick party ideas” aren’t going to convert as well, so you should let them go elsewhere and they’ll come to you when they’re ready to buy.

The alternative approach is to capture people at all stages of the buying process. The person who visits you with a search for “unique wedding favors” will, according to this theory, come back to buy a few hundred white mini glowsticks when she’s ready to buy, because she has come to like you and your website. She’ll recommend you to all her friends and link to you on her Facebook page, too, because you will have developed a relationship.

Both theories have their merits. Hunters do shoot while the geese are flying, after all, but they don’t just pop out in October with their guns. They also scout around and hang out in their blinds for hours getting cold and wet while they develop rapport with the waterfowl. Rapport, when it comes to waterfowl, means convincing the birds that you are either a bird yourself or a harmless bit of scenery. Rapport, on a website, means showing your visitors that you are a good source of useful information or entertainment as well as a place to buy stuff or hire services.

Here’s a quiz to help you determine which of these approaches is more appropriate for you:

  • Do people spend a lot of time thinking and dreaming about their purchase? A duck hunting vacation, probably so. A glow bracelet, probably not. If the buying process is lengthy, chances are good that your visitors will develop a relationship with you before they buy.
  • Is your item a commodity? If the items you sell are pretty much the same no matter where you buy them, then you have to provide an experience and a relationship — or rank well for the name of the item you’re offering, so that people who pick the first result in the search engines will pick you.
  • Can you rank well for the name of the item you sell? The particular e-commerce site I’m working with deserves a high ranking. However, if you have a new website and you’re competing with Amazon, Walmart, and Target, you need to focus on being the helpful information site where people will choose to buy because they value you.
  • Are you paying for traffic, either in the form of PPC ads or of additional bandwidth? If so, conversions are the priority. If not, it doesn’t hurt to have people at different stages of the buying process wandering into your site.

Before you make your decision, though, think about a couple of things.

First, hunters do both: they shoot when the geese are flying, and they also put a lot of effort into those other hunting techniques. You should certainly optimize sales pages for the products you’re selling. That doesn’t mean that you can’t also create content that will bring visitors in at other points in their buying process; you don’t pay extra for additional visitors with organic search. Even if you rely on PPC, you can increase organic search and get some additional sales that way.

Second, anything you do to improve the value of your site to visitors will improve your online marketing results. Your search rankings will increase in general. Your advertising costs per conversion will probably lessen. Your conversions will increase.



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