Strategies and Approach
While there are some components of online marketing that are pretty well agreed upon, there are other strategies and tactics that serve varying degrees of priority and usage. Some online marketing firms emphasize mobile media and mobile marketing, insisting that it is the wave of the future, and most consumers make purchases from mobile devices on the fly. Others insist that social media is currently the most important element of online marketing, because of the enormity of online trend and the availability of self-identified, micro-targeted audiences.
So, which strategies are best, then? What marketing priorities should you focus upon? What approach is best for an online business or ecommerce site, and what should take a benchwarmer seat?
There are plenty of online marketing strategy “packages,” so to speak, and a lot of it will depend upon business industry, competition, the size and complexity of the website, current visibility/SERP ranking, and plenty of other factors. As a business webmaster or website owner, there is no possible way for you to learn all of the inside tricks of the trade that marketing professionals know from years of experience. However, it is possible to cover some of the basics of online marketing strategies and tools.
Online marketing basics can be outlined as such:
1. Keyword research, on-site content/web development/SEO
2. Link-building strategies
3. Organic and paid marketing strategies/SEM/PPC
4. Social media strategies
5. Mobile strategies (optional/conditional)
* not all campaigns include – or even currently need to include – mobile strategies.
These four or five steps can help aid in creating an online marketing plan for your business website or e-commerce site. Be advised, though, that while you may have an outline, or even research and development of a basic approach, it is wisest to comply and adhere to professional marketing consultation, campaign management, input and direction. Successful, professional marketing firms with proven results did not get to where they are by being wrong about online marketing strategies, and they have expert, inside industry information aside from what is covered here.
On-site Web Development/SEO/Content & Site Navigation
Working from your website basics and on out is usually a good place to start, which will help with an understanding of how SEO and SEM are important to marketing a business online.
Keyword research can be done with a Google Webmaster account using their keyword search tool. This also, in part, answers at least one area of which online marketing tools to use. Keyword research is crucial in order to optimize a business website for search engines, and for users to find your site. The best choices for keywords are those that have a high amount of monthly searches and low competition. Keep in mind though, that low competition keywords are not available in every business or industry, and you may have heavy competition ahead of you, depending upon what keywords are targeted for your website content. Here are some tools you can use for keyword research;
• Google Keyword Tool
Once a list of the most advantageous keywords and key phrases has been set, on-site page optimization is next. This may be a tedious task if this was previously overlooked, and it could take many hours if the website is very large, with many pages. However, it is absolutely necessary in order to obtain satisfactory search engine rankings. For those who need to go back and optimize on-site web pages for meta-data and keyword content, this is also the best time to perform a website “clean-up.”
Why is a website clean-up necessary? For a couple reasons: The Panda updates to Google’s algorithm added changes that consider negative counts for duplicate content, poorly written content, over-emphasis on keywords, content with a lot of grammar and spelling errors, factual errors, and anything else that would make it rate low in the eyes of both users and Google alike – as negative counts against your website, which manifest in lower SERP rankings. Many high-ranking, very well-known websites and content farms like Suite101 and eHow saw a dramatic decrease in SERP rankings for a high number of their content pages, because of low-quality content.
This brings us to the most important feature of on-site optimization: high quality, original, regularly updated content. This was always important, but since the Panda 1 and 2 updates – and just recently released, Panda 2.2 – high quality, useful content is crucial for optimizing a website’s ranking in search.
Along with keyword targeted, valuable or useful content that is regularly updated, on-site optimization should also include completed meta-data on every web page. This means meta descriptions, meta-tags, page titles and URLs should all be keyword optimized consistently. Here again, be sure not to have duplicate keyword targeted URLs – Google sees this as duplicate content. Be sure every content page is original, with an original page title and URL.
Once your website is cleaned up, duplicate content and poorly written content removed, meta-data coded into all pages, optimized page titles and URLs, and all user interface components and site navigation maximized for user experience, you are ready to move onto the next step in an online marketing plan.
A link-building strategy is necessary, in order to prevent a waste of time and money by creating links to your site, and within your site – helter-skelter all over the web. Users find sites and URLs through links online, and so it is only logical that you create a kind of “link map” to your website.
First, you must ensure that there is at least one page, if not more, from which all web pages of your site can be accessed, whether a homepage menu, or some other design. This not only makes it easier for navigation, but it is a Google-friendly, search-friendly way to organize your website for web crawlers and indexing.
After this is accomplished, you can begin your link-building strategy. There are three basic types of links to include in a link-building strategy:
Internal: These are the links within your own site
Incoming: A link from somewhere online – whether another web page, blog, article, forum, or any other source – that leads back to your site. There are two types of incoming links:
– regular inbound links that lead to the homepage, landing page, or another primary web page
– deep links – these are inbound links that lead to an “inside” web page, usually to a content page or article, and are the most valuable of inbound links, especially when from high quality sources.
Outbound: A link leading from your site to another site, blog or online source.
Link-building is often created into a complex system of interlinking URLs and web pages; several links within that system can lead to one page, while others exist as a kind of “connector” link: one incoming link and one outbound link.
The value system that is created with a link system is determined by the type of link, with outbound links and internal links being the least valuable, and high quality inbound links having the most value, because these cannot be created through article marketing, blogs, or social media. High quality inbound deep links are valuable because they are like a “vote” for your site to the search engines, indicating your site has value to others.
The similarity in industry, topic, business or niche also matters. For instance, if you have a printing business and are linked to from website that sells air purifiers, that link will not be nearly as worthwhile as a link from a publishing business, or a freelance writing website.
Something to keep in mind when building a link strategy, is not to focus on numbers, but on quality and relation to your niche. The numbers will follow when a sound linking system is set in place.
Organic and Paid Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
There are several online marketing tactics that can be done without cost, aside from what you pay a marketing firm or company. Some webmasters and business owners may be able to do some of this on their own, but the reality is, in order create significant boosts in SERP rankings and online visibility, it takes months and months of effort and consistent, time-consuming work. This fact, in addition to in-depth knowledge and expertise that can really make a difference, is why online marketing companies are usually employed to implement online marketing strategies for a business website.
One of the most widely practiced forms of nonpaid SEM is article marketing and forum activity. There are several article directories and ezines created simply for this purpose, such as EzineArticles, Buzzle, and GoArticles. In the past, many business site owners would outsource article writing to the cheapest possible writer, give them a list of keywords to insert a designated number of times, and use these articles in as many directories as possible. This is exactly what not to do, and since the Panda updates, can actually work against your site.
The best method for article marketing is to write well-written, informative, useful content and stick to just a few directories. When you compare 10 inbound links from 10 different article directories versus 10 links from the same 3 sources, chances are the links from the same 3 sources will be given a higher value. Remember, it is the quality of the link source, and the content quality that matters to the search engines. In other words, 3 inbound links from the ReadWriteWeb, for example would have much greater value than 13 links from practically invisible sites, blogs or directories. Also, keep in mind that well-written, useful content will naturally attract traffic when they read something valuable, consider that the author or source may have more to offer, and click through to your site. This is how article writing can be a useful SEM tool.
Similarly to article directories is the use of community content sites like Hubpages and Squidoo. These are different from regular directories because of their user interface, and because of the social networking features these two sites incorporate. These sites are preferable to most article directories because they have better credibility, trust, and higher pageranks – which means they are higher quality than your run-of-the-mill article directory.
Social bookmarking sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Del.ic.io.us, and some others are tools that can be used to create links as well. Again, the better the content being bookmarked on these sites, the greater chance that it will attract traffic, and the right kind of traffic. Again, these are very basic things that could be done. For more advanced SEO strategies, you can always contact us.
Paid SEM – PPC and CPC
Search engine marketing must include a paid advertising campaign at some point, with a CPC (cost per click) program, in order to help conversion rates and create a business presence online. However, webmasters should never just jump right in, buy the first keywords they think of, and start throwing out the ads. Keyword and meta-description testing is vital at this stage of online marketing. Many PPC campaigns create a double test strategy, so there is a way to compare each keyword/ad. Through testing and keyword analysis, you will find what keywords and ads generate the highest traffic and the best conversion rates.
Email marketing is sometimes used at this stage as well, depending upon the nature of the business. Business services will often create a landing page for users, linked to from the ad, where they invite the visitor to opt-in to a mailing list. Then the business service has a place to start to begin retaining visitors/customers and create branding. However, email marketing is not appropriate for all business websites, and even if so, at various stages within online marketing. Consideration of email marketing use should always be preceded by a consultation with a professional marketing company or experts.
Paid search marketing through CPC/paid ads are an extremely significant part of an online marketing campaign for two main reasons. The first reason is, while any website receives far more organic traffic than paid traffic, organic traffic is much, much more difficult to convert, contrary to popular belief about conversion. Why? Because of traffic and visitor intentions, the first time they come to a site – or even multiple times thereafter. Most users rely upon and click on links in SERPs for information – not to make a purchase. However, with sharply targeted keywords connected to your paid ads, the 15-20% of users who click on the paid ads already have intentions of making a purchase. This is why keyword research and selection is so important. The only way to have success with a PPC campaign is to use exact user search terms and keywords with product ads.
The second reason paid advertising is significant is because of the control and buyer behavior that can be monitored to the extent it can through a PPC campaign. While a paid ad campaign is in process, there are many, many valuable website analytic tools that will tell you how buyers come to your site, how they respond to various call to action sections, what they are drawn to, and much more. Paid campaigns are unparalleled in measuring this kind of in-depth buyer behavior and website analytics. However, remember that website analytics can also be monitored – and should consistently be done – when you are not in the midst of a paid campaign.
Social Media Strategies
Not everyone uses social media to its fullest potential within online marketing – but as stated earlier, the smart marketing campaigns do. With the availability of targeted information that users give away within social networking, there is no reason that social media shouldn’t be seen as a valuable commodity for online marketing. Not to mention, it provides more sources for inbound links, online visibility, branding and customer base building. Social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn provide targeted advertising, so that the ads you place appear on the pages of users who they are most relevant to, which can mean a goldmine of conversion rate increases. If you have a vacuum cleaner product business, social media sites like Facebook will place those ads on the walls of mothers and housewives, hospitality groups, house-cleaning business owners and other relevant users. If you have a college recruitment service, your ads will be placed on various college and university websites and administrator pages, as well as their personal pages. This kind of ready-made, no-research required advertising is why this has been called the golden age of marketing.
Remember to use the right social media tools. An example of how this is important is the American Dental Association using Twitter, but taking up to 14 days to approve Twitter posts. Obviously this was an impractical tool for them, and they would probably be better suited to use LinkedIn, or another platform with less emphasis upon time relevance.
Mobile marketing is definitely something to consider as well for a business, especially in order to get a leg up in competition. Mobile marketing is still in its early stages of development, but those who get into the game early, especially local businesses and e-commerce, may find that the investment is worth it, as more and more users are making purchases on the go, and often substitute their laptops with their smartphones for access to the web, shopping, and local business finds.
All in all, each business should ideally have an online marketing strategy and plan tailored to fit their needs, budget, and reasonable goals. A small business with a brand new published website should not expect to plan a marketing strategy that will have them on the first page of Google within a couple weeks. It is also important to realize that while different tactics and strategies within marketing will be active and then inactive, the consistent implementation of SEO is ongoing, and should never be considered “done.”
Whatever marketing company you select to assist you with your online marketing plan, should have the above tactics factored in from the beginning, and have them calculated in the estimate. If they don’t, it’s a well-advised idea to move on to another company. Contact us today, we can help.
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