All of our steps have led us to this point. We’ve diagnosed our digital deficiencies, arranged to track all of our online activity, checked our competition and their own efforts, and organized our teams to best tackle each marketing challenge we’ll face. Now, we have to put a strategy in place to address all of our various needs and use all available tools in our efforts – both in-house and outsourced. While the specifics of any industry’s planning may be a bit different, the elements listed below should play a significant role in any business’ online efforts if they wish to see any real, lasting success.
We’ve listed each of the elements individually below and provided descriptions of how they work together to deliver optimal results in any online business venture. There may be elements described that you’ve already invested in and that’s all to the good. Your focus now should be on tying them all together in a cohesive marketing strategy and ensuring your team is structured to get the most from your efforts.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization is defined as any and all steps taken to better the search results of a particular URL. This can be any number of technical steps taken in the code of a web property, or the content used across the site’s pages. This value is based on keyword usage, link profiles, and the general health of a URL string. However, there are no “hard and fast” rules for SEO. It comes in as many flavors as ice cream and some can be better for you than others. In fact, some are terrible for you, but they’re too hard to pass up. So, when considering SEO, it’s important to consider the long-term well-being of your website. Penalties can destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to build, so be cautious with SEO – especially when it sounds too good to be true.
No matter what your industry, SEO has a place in your marketing plan. Good SEO, or white hat as it’s known, poses no risk to your business and lasts for as long as your site exists. This is what we call “evergreen” SEO and includes everything from logical URL structure to keyword-rich content that speaks directly to users’ queries. That’s the most important element in onsite SEO – content that has value to your customers. Along with an effective link strategy and meta, content that answers the questions your customers have will always win out with the algorithms. In the end, their only job is matching queries to great content, so fulfilling the business half of the equation will serve you well for years to come.
Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC)
In digital marketing, pay-per-click advertising is the only pathway to instant gratification. Platforms like Google Ads, Bing Ads, and Yelp Ads can put your business in front of the customers you need to reach your goals. Unlike SEO, which relies on the search engine to properly deliver your site to a user’s query, PPC allows you to have your business listed, along with your chosen messaging, on the search engine results pages for the queries and keywords you choose. That means if you need lead generation today then you need PPC advertising.
While each of the platforms is somewhat different, they all use an auction system to decide whose ad will show for a given query. You bid on the keywords you wish to showcase ads for and provide the system with the best possible ad copy you can devise. This presents your business with the surest pathway to the customers you want to find and gives you the control over what you’ll spend to find them. In essence, it’s the ideal digital way to find the online success you’re looking for. And, best of all, any business can get in the game at a budget they’re comfortable spending. As long as ROI is proven each month you can continue to refine your efforts on any of the platforms you choose.
No matter what type of business you’re in, you’re going to want to take full advantage of your local online results to ensure you get as much coverage for your online business as possible. Think of this as reach. You never want to limit your reach – even when it seems the best idea. For example, you’re a mattress manufacturer that doesn’t have any local customers. All your products are shipped far away, so you don’t need to worry about local listings and search results, right? Wrong. Those results, those listings, are free real estate given to your business by the big search engines. You’re not going to use it to the best of your ability?
The Map Pack in Google search results, in Bing’s, in Apple’s, should include your business – even if you don’t accept visitors. You can use a service area instead of an address. You can do a million things to benefit your business, but not doing something is never going to produce results. You know that already. Local SEO is what every business should do to dominate their local results and it has a place in your arsenal – no matter what your goal. When you’re thinking of online success, you need to think about discoverability. That’s the power in search and it’s what Local SEO can help you to achieve. Starting small isn’t a bad thing when you’re trying to conquer the world.
Social Media Channels
Everyone has their own feelings about social media and the influence it has over modern society. However, no one can dispute that it does have power and influence and therefore should be utilized in some way to better your chances at finding online success. This can be tricky as there are no real rules for using social media effectively. In fact, it seems to depend on the industry, the social media persona, and the consistency of the messaging just as much as it does the real value present in the offering itself. This can make social media planning and execution difficult if not accustomed to the vagaries of the medium. An experienced social media manager is an asset that will only grow as time goes by – at least if trends continue.
In any case, you should fully investigate the effectiveness and potential inherent in each social media channel – its benefits to your vertical, the current size of your followings on individual channels, etc. Due to the fact that these profiles are free to setup and manage yourself, there’s no real reason you shouldn’t have them all claimed and ready to be put to use. This proactive planning will allow you to interlink where possible and take ownership of the specific URLs you want for your social portfolio. Remember – once you begin a posting schedule, or content calendar, you must stick with it. Your users will develop expectations and you have to live up to them. Once you’ve begun, you’re on a journey that never ends and you have to be prepared for that dedication.
The final element to discuss is a robust email marketing strategy for your specific business needs. Email marketing isn’t equal in all industries, but it should have a place in your marketing toolkit as it could potentially benefit your operations in a number of ways. First, your newsletter signup on your website is email marketing at its finest. These users have voluntarily agreed to receive promotional materials from your business which means you offered an exceptional enticement, or you have a dedicated following due to your products, services, and messaging being superior to your competition. Second, you can drum up business from an existing email list much easier than you can from a list of “cold leads”, so capturing your customers’ information is vital to developing meaningful, profitable, ongoing relationships with them.
Businesses can also use email marketing to reach an even wider audience if they’re willing to spend budget for marketing lists screened by third-party vendors. These campaigns have tremendous value in specific verticals and have historically converted at rates equal to or greater than print and TV ads – at a fraction of the cost. It’s all about creating an emailer that hits all the right spots with your customer base and this has as much to do with your knowledge of your customer as the words and font you choose to deliver it. In the end, the costs are low and the potential returns are high making email marketing a good move for any marketing team to make.