When you build a website, particularly for a business, you need to get traffic to that website. This isn’t always easy, but it’s essential and like it or not, small business owners have to be marketers.
The first step to a successful website and online business is building an internet marketing strategy. Getting this right from the start will help you to get the best results and avoid wasting time on stuff that isn’t going to work.
Ready to get started? There is a lot to do, but rushing in isn’t always the answer, so before you start thinking about SEO or anything else, let’s cover a few principals which will be the foundation of your marketing strategy…
Just like marketing in the real world, successful internet marketing must always focus on the customer above all else. So, before you worry about how you are going to get traffic, think about how you can best serve your customers.
Ask questions such as:
Figure out the answers to these and put some effort into thinking about your product from your user’s point of view. These answers will help you to make better decisions later on. Just keep in mind that old saying; sell the sizzle, not the sausage (it really does apply
There are a lot of different channels online. You probably know the main ones already, but the list goes on: SEO, Pay-Per-Click, Social Media, Banner Ads, Affiliate Marketing…
The problem is that try to do it all, or even a portion of it, is pretty overwhelming. You need to diversify enough that you are not too reliant on one stream of traffic, but not so much that you can’t do a good job of each activity.
Consider now, how much resource do you actually have put into your internet marketing strategy? It is sometimes wise to put potentially profitable channels to one side; you can always come back to them later.
By using the questions, you asked yourself in the previous section you can hopefully select the channels with the best chance of success and at least to start with, focus on those.
Data is important in any marketing discipline, but the wonderful thing about the web is that you can find a way to track almost anything. So carefully consider how you are going to use data before you start thinking about channels.
First of all, you should figure out what your key metrics are going to be. They could be sales, clicks on a certain page, sign-ups to a newsletter or even phone calls (these can be tracked too).
Basically, you need to know what you actually want your customers to do – it should be obvious for most websites, but writing it down will help to add focus.
For every channel that you consider you should be asking yourself how you can track its effectiveness, what data will be available and what can you do to improve that data.
Once you’ve sorted out your guiding principles you can move your focus to your website. In online terms this is your shop – and just as you wouldn’t buy a newspaper Ad before you had your shop in order, you shouldn’t worry too much about getting traffic until you know that you can keep it.
Unfortunately, design skills are difficult to acquire; but like it or not, if your website doesn’t look the part it doesn’t really matter how good your content is.
Good design probably isn’t what you had in mind when you started reading a post on marketing strategy, but it’s something you should consider carefully. If you have the resources, then investing in a simple, clean and professional website design is well worth it.
If you are doing it yourself, you might be best to start off by considering your customer again. Look at other websites where your customers spend their time and take note of common styles and colors.
Develop a simple color palette for your site, with perhaps 3 or 4 colors and use that as the basis of your site design. Keep it as simple as possible (simple designs are a lot easier to make look professional).
Design is important, but usability is key and your design should never sacrifice usability or functionality.
Designing a usable website should be fairly simple if you have done a good job of getting inside your customer’s head. The key is to build the website for them and not for you. There is a time and a place for rubbing your own ego, but you want to ensure that when a visitor arrives on your website they find exactly what they need:
If they don’t then they’ll probably leave pretty quickly.
Creating effective landing pages is an important aspect of usability. Well-designed landing pages, with appropriate content will be helpful later on when we discuss SEO and PPC as well as some other channels.
This should really be an aspect of design, but it is well worth noting that if you are selling a product or a service, testimonials can be very effective. They don’t have to be a hard-sell tactic, but with careful placement they can just help to add credibility to your website in general (this can be a big help if you lack the design skills)
Content is absolutely key to any inbound marketing you later do (getting free traffic) and it will also help you to retain visitors, build a brand and generally an effective website. Content is in particular a large part of SEO, but it is in its own section because even if you choose not to use SEO in your internet marketing strategy, you should still ensure that some resource is devoted to your website content.
Writing good content is a skill; you should start by reflecting (again) on those customer questions and always write content for the customer. That doesn’t necessarily mean writing reasons why they should buy from you, just focus on helping them.
This is a part of understanding the internet; if you go out of your way to help potential customers, then they will buy from you when they are ready. When the time comes, they won’t need to be sold to… But in return, you have to accept that not every visitor will become a customer.
So, I’m guessing this is the part of the post you actually wanted to read in the first place. Getting traffic is what it’s all about and without this section, your strategy would be all for nothing.
The previous sections where the critical foundations that have to be in place before you start dragging in traffic. A well-planned marketing strategy will help you to make the most of every visitor you do get.
I’m not going to actually discuss the ins and outs of SEO here, that’s too big of a job. The point of this section is to give you an overview so that you can decide whether you should include SEO in your strategy.
SEO is basically about one thing – getting your website to show up when your potential customers type relevant things into a search engine. Building good rankings takes time, if you want instant traffic then this isn’t the best approach.
But if you put in the investment in SEO, you can build a base of free traffic that to a large extent will continue to benefit you for a long time. Unlike PPC, if you ‘turn off’ your SEO, you will continue to get that traffic at least for a while afterwards.
SEO can offer a great ROI. Once you get some; the traffic is free, which makes this a good option for businesses with relatively high customer acquisition costs or low margins.
PPC stands for Pay-Per-Click. This normally refers to Google’s Adwords platform, but the reality is that there are numerous other options out there.
If you decide that paid advertising is a good option for you, then it is well worth looking into the various other options available as you may find cheaper alternatives to Adwords and it is often worth having multiple traffic streams for comparison.
Pay-Per-Click advertising is very convenient and pretty much instant. Unfortunately, in most niches it is also very competitive and it is certainly not a cheap way of getting traffic.
To make a profit from this type of advertising you will need to have either a fairly unique and high margin product (not necessarily totally unique, just not too homogeneous) or you will need to get very good at optimizing your campaign.
Successful PPC campaigns are regularly tested and tweaked to keep the cost-per-click low and to maximize the conversion rate of the traffic generated.
Social media is used very poorly for the most part. It is one of those things that business think they should be doing, so they have a go, but don’t really get it. On the other hand, if you do it right, Social media can be very beneficial. You can generate a lot of traffic and a good Social campaign is likely to help your SEO campaign too.
If you are considering using Social media you should think about how much your potential customers use it, and how well received your products are likely to be by that audience. The best social media campaigns really take off when the customers actually take it upon themselves to promote the product.
Of course, this only happens if the product is really good, and ideally a little bit interesting. It should be obvious that a low-cost laptop shop isn’t likely to go viral on Twitter unless something out of the ordinary happens.
Have a think about which social networks your customers might be using. There are more than just Facebook and Twitter, so make an effort and do some research.
Some products lend themselves to social media and others don’t. So, do your best to decide on the most promising social channels and then spend some time getting to know how it works.
A poorly executed (and shortly thereafter, abandoned) social campaign can actually be damaging to your brand, so if you take this route, ensure that you have the resources to see it through.
Any business that sells to a mass market should be using email marketing, and most other types of businesses could benefit from it too. Unfortunately, good email marketing is actually very rare, particularly for small businesses.
When thinking about email marketing, consider how you could gain sign-ups and how you could later monetize that mailing list. Here are some common usages:
If you are selling the sort of thing that some customers won’t be prepared to buy right away (anything over about £150 / $200, but often much more) then instead try to capture mailing list sign ups by giving away a helpful guide or some cheaper related product.
In this type of business it’s all about maximizing sales. Every new customer can (with their permission) be signed up to a mailing list so that you can keep in touch and tell them about sales etc… Your aim is to turn customers into repeat customers.
If your main product is something intangible, if you are effectively selling information for instance; then getting sign-ups is vital. People will sign up to an email list more readily than spending money on an unproved product or service. You can then use email to encourage them to take out a free trial.
There are few businesses where email can’t be used effectively and many young businesses could benefit hugely from a well-executed email campaign. If you feel like you don’t have the time to invest in email, you should perhaps consider taking some time away from another aspect of your internet marketing strategy!
Link building is really SEO, and if you are doing SEO you will by definition be doing some link building. But link building and inbound marketing can be a viable strategy in its own right. If you are doing SEO, there are still benefits to treating your link building as-though it wasn’t an SEO activity.
Inbound marketing is all about getting free traffic by whatever means you can. This is often by building links, but the point in the activity isn’t pleasing a search engine, it’s making-sure that you get your business in-front of your potential customers, but in a non-sales environment (such as the one you would expect by doing PPC advertising).
Spending time in specialist forums and even commenting on blogs can be worthwhile. Guest posting on relevant blogs can also be very effective, but try to focus on quality and not quantity. Only post on blogs where you know your post will be seen by your target audience.
A large part of why inbound marketing works is that it gives you chance to tell people about your content. For this to be an effective strategy you absolutely need high quality content on your website, the sort of content that people might share.
A few links in a forum might get you a couple of visitors, but it only takes the right visitor finding some great content and you can often find your website propelled out of obscurity. This is the best-case scenario, but it won’t happen unless you put in the foundations.
Hopefully this article has got you thinking about what sorts of activities you want to include in your internet marketing strategy, but I also hope that there are some things you will be leaving out.
Building a successful website isn’t about doing everything you can to generate traffic, it is about choosing the right activities; the ones with the best chance of success; and doing a good job of those activities.
Another great marketing strategy is getting your loyal readers to spread the word! If you enjoyed this blog post, please share it with your friends and colleges, or email it to your boss!