While getting keywords into your website URLs isn’t a “magic bullet” when it comes to SEO, it can help with search engine rankings and click-through rates, says Search Engine Land editor Danny Sullivan. He suggests using plugins that automatically insert keywords into URLs and manually removing prepositions — words such as above, near on or over — from your URLs.
At this time each year we think about what we accomplished over the last year – and what we want to improve on for the upcoming new year.
From a marketing perspective, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the new ideas and bright shiny objects out there to pull our attention away from the marketing strategies that matter most – those that will actually improve your business and expand your marketing reach.
So, in honor of the new year – I present to you the 12 best online marketing strategies to focus on for 2012. There could be more – but these are in my opinion the best strategies to bring you quickly to your business goals using online marketing strategies that work.
Don’t choose them all! Focus on the 2 or 3 that you feel could impact your marketing effort the most – and carve out the time and plan for implementing them next year!
1. Improve your irresistible free offer. Perhaps it’s time to replace that outdated “free report” or “eBook” with an even higher value freebie to offer site visitors. As I referred to in my post about the best freebie out there – my favorite is still the Audio CD – which has huge intrinsic value because it’s a physical “thing” and you can capture mailing addresses in addition to just email addresses.
2. Launch a new product or program. There is always something you can “launch” whether it’s a new product or program. You can also “re-launch” something you did this year that performed really well. My post shares some great methods for launching a new product or program. Think about what you can do differently this time around to make it even more engaging and worthwhile for your audience. Add more bonuses and juicier incentives to help increase sales.
3. Do a new webinar or teleseminar. Each new year is a great time to host a new topic using either a webinar or teleseminar. It can also be a perfect time to switch up the format and see what works best. Been doing a bunch of teleseminars lately? Try a webinar? Doing just webinars? Try a teleseminar. And, choose a topic that is new to your audience and see what kind of response you receive.
4. Connect with a new joint venture partner. Have this year be the year you establish a great partnership with a new strategic alliance or joint venture partner. I explained how to do this in my post about joint venture as a great list building strategy. Someone that you feel can really pull you and help you in a big way – while you can do the same for them. I always like to think outside the box about who to connect with – and expect something great as a result.
5. Create an affiliate program. Perhaps this is the year you launch an affiliate program. Affiliates are a great way to spread your message and build your list – while also supporting your sales of products or programs. Pretty much most shopping cart programs support affiliate programs and are easy to establish.
6. Update your website / blog. Website looking a bit outdated? Perhaps it’s time to hire a graphic designer for that new logo you’ve been craving or hire a website developer to update your entire site. I shared how important design is when it comes to marketing online in an earlier post so don’t skimp on the important details when updating your website. First impressions matter most when designing your website.
7. Be more active on social media. Are you one of the folks who has a Twitter account but hardly ever uses it? Perhaps you’re wondering exactly what to post on that new Facebook fanpage you created? Have this year be the year you’re more “social” on social media. Remember, you can’t be active on these social media sites unless you show up and do the work.
8. Start a pay-per-click advertising campaign. I’m a huge fan of pay-per-click advertising. One of my earlier posts about PPC explains that it’s one of the best and most effective ways to quickly and authentically build your list with highly qualified leads. Whether it’s Google AdWords or Facebook ads – they convert brand new prospects onto your list and you can target very specific groups of people searching what you have to offer. Yes, you have to pay for the traffic – but – it’s definitely worth it in the long run.
9. Add video to your marketing. It’s 2012 and you’re still not using video in your online marketing? It’s time to jump onboard with the most powerful and effective way to connect and build trust online with visitors to your site. With the advances of technology and video equipment costs plummeting – you really have no excuse to do more video and start reaping the benefits immediately.
10. Generate more content. Posting to your blog only once every other week or once a month? This is the year you need to generate a ton more content – way more than you’re even doing now (unless you blog every single day.) Putting out high-content and high-value articles and blog posts is how you get new traffic as well as how to nurture the existing audience you have on your list. Content is king.
11. Be smart about SEO. Still don’t have a clue about search engine optimization or how it relates to your blog or website? SEO is critical for having massive success online – and can’t be ignored or overlooked anymore. Develop a comprehensive SEO strategy about how to improve your search engine rankings for your best keywords and let’s get to work.
12. Email your list more often. Only sending the email newsletter out when you have the time for it? This is the year we get you on a consistent and frequent schedule of emailing your list all this great content you’re now generating. If you’re doing monthly now – consider bi-weekly. Sending the newsletter every other week? Let’s make it happen by sending it weekly. The more you email your list – the higher your open rates and consumption of your content – which is all good.
There you have it! The official 12 best marketing strategies to grow your business with online marketing for 2012.
Until next time – Learn It, Love It, Live It!
Not that it happens often, but sometimes the product itself is the marketing. And in those rare cases, businesses thrive without organized marketing.
Normally, great marketing beats great product. But these are those beautiful “if you build it, they will come” cases that can be especially exciting to watch.
As I write this, I’m reviewing a startup that looks to me as if it could be one of those product-driven successes that thrive without much focus on marketing planning. Yesterday, the founders showed me their video-rich and design-rich web building platform. It looked incomplete, but really good. And the creators had very little to say about marketing.
So there’s the rub. If this is as good as I think, users will like it and recommend it. Then, the user excitement will show up in Twitter and Facebook and Google+. And that means buzz. And buzz becomes marketing. Plan or not.
These people do have some general marketing ideas. They are looking at attending some key conferences, leveraging off strong references in online media and getting some influential names and companies to use their product early on. In short, they are counting on word of mouth, which today means social media buzz.
While the startup seems headed in the right direction, there are no clear responsibility assignments, no dates and deadlines, no metrics and no budgets. So as investors, do we write them off for lack of a marketing plan? What would you do? I’ll tell you what I think, after I review some other examples.
Let’s start with Facebook. It began as a website for university students to check out other students. In interviews, founder Mark Zuckerberg talks about programming; he’s all about the product and very little about marketing. He says Facebook’s success is about “making bold decisions about the products.” Do you think investors sneered at Facebook because it didn’t have a marketing plan? If any did, I bet they regret that now.
My second example is Twitter. Twitter took off in 2007 when usage tripled during the South by Southwest conference. True, attending a conference is marketing, and there may well have been a plan. Steven Levy of Newsweek wrote that, “The Twitter people cleverly placed two 60-inch plasma screens in the conference hallways, exclusively streaming Twitter messages.” Of course, that’s marketing, but it’s all about great product, too. Do you agree?
My third example is from almost 30 years ago. I was on the founding board of directors of a company called Borland International that became enormously successful because of great product. It was in the 1980s, before the Internet, but the general idea still applies.
Entrepreneur Philippe Kahn started Borland on a shoestring budget, with no outside investors, and turned it into a public company with annual sales of $60 million in less than four years. His first product, Turbo Pascal, was sensational, so everybody with a PC wanted it. Less than a year later, he released Sidekick, and everybody wanted that, too. It wasn’t that Philippe didn’t care about marketing. Full-page direct response ads were vital to Borland in the early days, and direct mail became important later. But for Philippe, marketing was always second to product. Yet, Borland was a huge success.
So, getting back to my earlier question, do we discount this company for lack of a strong marketing plan? I don’t think so. Do you?
I believe planning is about decisions and good management and that every business plan and every situation is unique. Despite the common lists of what a business plan should include, there are always special cases where the focus on product makes sense—at least until the product is finished, released and getting its own buzz.
That’s just it…advertising is not simple! It’s kind of like throwing spaghetti at the wall…throw it long enough and something might stick. Possibly the reason social media is the most popular kid in school right now. It’s really a matter of how much time are you willing to spend to discover what makes your customers or clients tick, or do you hire someone to do it for you? Big question! Big answer!
What’s The Formula?
Social media is like everything else, there’s a formula to make it work.
Q:How many times to post.
A: Anywhere from 1-5 on Facebook, 3-5 per day on Twitter.
Then depending on your type of business, it’s the offer, how frequently do you tell your customers/clients, how long does the offer last, etc., etc. *See answer above.
Just like traditional media, only new forum. Most say posting of any kind should occur between 7-9am, 11a-1p, 5-7p and 9p-12a to reach the most people. All of this is very similar to broadcast media.
However, the same rules apply…nothing has really changed except the platform.
It’s funny to me that television, radio and print are now called traditional media. Did you ever think that would happen? Now, it’s Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, oh, and let’s not forget Pinterest…still same goal but now with a moving target.
That’s what got me started on looking at the similarities for one media platform to another. One of the local radio stations just sent me a promotion for Facebook. Television did it last year and they will do it again. It’s another revenue stream, so I think we can pretty much count on seeing a new or revamped promotion for Facebook. Is it any wonder that everyone stays confused or at best…dazed? If “traditional” media (corporate groups with big budgets and big research departments) are looking at the new outlets and trying to figure them out, what hope is there for the local business guy trying to compete in his market? Doing it himself?
Local and small business battle daily with competitors and the big chains. Most have learned what it takes to stay in business and stay top-of mind. They’ve learned what their customers want and how to keep them.
Whether 1972 or 2012, it’s still customer service and recognition that pays off, doesn’t matter if it’s through traditional or social media. People are still a product of their last conversation. The best thing you can do is keep “talking”, cross your fingers and hope it sticks!
“Nothing is so common-place as to wish to be remarkable.”
~ William Shakespeare
“Be remarkable” is the catch phrase used by social media early adapters to answer questions like these:
How do I get more Twitter followers?
My blog doesn’t get comments. What should I do?
How do I attract fans to Facebook?
My car doesn’t start when the weather is cold. What is the problem?
Okay, the last question may be a stretch, but you get the idea. Ask anything about creating an effective social media strategy and invariably the answer will include something about being remarkable.
This advice has some merit. Companies like Apple, Zappos, and Coca-cola have an existing fan base that thinks they are remarkable. They feed that base regularly by continuing to be interesting. It’s little wonder that there is plenty of conversation about them on social media platforms.
What happens if your business is less than remarkable? Your service is good, products are top quality, and customers are happy, but everything falls in the “normal” category. Can you succeed in a channel that expects “remarkable” activity? Why should you even try?
Before answering those questions, let’s look at what social media is and isn’t:
Social media is:
- A great way to connect with customers. This is especially true for direct marketing and ecommerce companies that have little or no face-to-face contact with the people who support them.
- A way to boost natural search results. There is a “SEO is dying” rumor floating around social media circles. It isn’t true. Search is the still the best way to drive quality traffic to your website. And, now that the major engines are indexing social platforms, you have another way to stay in front of customers and attract new ones.
- A tool to expand your reach exponentially. As your community grows and participates with your activities, the potential audience expands. It is critical that you have a strategy with specific goals to take advantage of this opportunity.
Social media isn’t:
- A replacement for traditional marketing. The platforms are evolving into social commerce, but you still need a point of sale to complete the purchase. The best strategies include an integrated approach that uses all of the marketing tools that fit the company’s market.
- For everyone. Your customers may not be participating at this time so SEO will be the only benefit. You should still consider participating because you want your presence established when your customers do join.
- A short-term solution. It takes time to build a presence and see results. A long time. Expect to spend at least a year providing consistent content before you start seeing a return on your investment. It takes a lot of snowflakes to make a snowball, but once it’s rolling, it grows quickly.
Success in social media is different for every company.
Even businesses in the same industry with overlapping communities will see incredible variances. Every organization has a unique personality or corporate culture that is defined by the leadership, employees, and customers. This creates individual perceptions and expectations that affect the experience. Here are some tips to help you succeed:
- Start with realistic goals and expectations. While social media has been around for several years, it is still evolving at a rapid pace. It won’t magically morph your business into a super company, but it can help you improve customer relationships.
- Have a plan. If you’re just getting started, plan first. If you’ve been at it for a while, make a plan for going forward. (Don’t stop your activity while you plan. You’ll lose traction.) What do you want to accomplish? Connect with customers? Find prospects? Improve website traffic? You can do it all, but you need a strategy. If you’re participating without a plan, how do you know what works or doesn’t? There isn’t a point of reference.
- Know your numbers by establishing benchmarks and regularly updating your data. Social media success is hard to measure. You can measure tweets, retweets, likes, and mentions, but none of them come with direct deposit. The purpose of business is to serve customers at a profit. If social media doesn’t contribute, you don’t need to participate. If you have good benchmarks, you can see the effect on the backend.
- Be flexible, but stay the course. It takes time to build an interactive community. Social media is changing rapidly. What works today may not be available tomorrow. For example, contests were a good way to attract people to your Facebook community until the terms of service were changed. The platforms make the rules and change them frequently. You have to adapt as needed.
- Ignore the noise. There’s a lot of it, loud, persistent, and sometimes ugly. Invariably, you’ll do something that others won’t like and there will be fallout. Here’s a simple rule of thumb to follow: If your customers are unhappy, change what you’re doing. If the social media pundits are unhappy, you’re probably doing something right. Even if it is a mistake, as long as it wasn’t malicious, the fallout will be minimal. Social media bullies have short attention spans.
- Be personable but not personal. Everything you do in the social media world should reflect your company’s core values. Chatting about the weather is fine. Leave commenting on world politics to others unless it is part of your business.
- Have an exit strategy. Social media isn’t for everyone, but every company should test it. If it works, customers who participate have higher lifetime values and longer lifespans. If it doesn’t, continuing to participate is futile. When you make your plan, define the length of time you’ll test, amount of resources you’ll commit, what defines success, and how you’ll leave if it doesn’t work out.
When someone tells you that all it takes to succeed is being remarkable, remember this: People who are truly remarkable rarely see it in themselves and never talk about it. People who think they are remarkable rarely deliver on the promise.
One of our most compelling speakers at the 2012 Local Search Association annual conference was Mary Boysman, VP Brand Marketing and Advertising at Aspen Dental, a fast-growing, multi-market health care provider.
Speaking to a crowd of local search leaders from around the world, Boysman described in detail how she and her team developed a comprehensive strategy that drove meaningful local leads for her business and elicited support from the highest levels of her organization.
The presentation left the group buzzing because it outlined the type of innovative and integrated local marketing plan that many local search providers are trying to explore and develop with their clients.
I want to share some of the key learnings I walked away with after Boysman’s presentation. It’s a model for local businesses everywhere looking to navigate the complexity of today’s fragmented media environment. Let’s talk through the steps it takes to create a powerhouse marketing organization.
1. Develop An Understanding Of The Company & Its Target Customers
The first priority is to clearly understand your company’s mission and create a marketing plan to help achieve it. Pinpoint ideal customers by drilling down their ages, genders, education levels and incomes to create distinct “customer target profiles.”
Then, research those profiles intensively to determine associated attitudes towards your company’s services and the specific obstacles in the way to getting target customers in the door and spending on services.
These findings inform strategic marketing messaging and programs that address those concerns directly, as well as provide insight on the types of media channels that should be used. By having clarity on your company’s mission and target customers, you’ll be able to start thinking about ways to bridge gaps between the two.
2. Evaluate & Reconfigure Media Mix
Just a few years ago, many companies’ advertising strategies relied nearly entirely on print; newspapers, magazines, direct mail, and Yellow Pages. But, with a deep understanding of your target customer, you’ll be able to identify areas to diversify and expand the your marketing approach.
Think about refining your advertising model. You may find that directories continue to deliver sales volume, but newspapers do not. Or you may find your magazine spend isn’t performing as well as direct mail. Reallocate your budget where it makes sense and build out your advertising portfolio to channels you’re not reaching if the research supports it.
By adding channels over time, you’ll be able to continuously track progress and position the company to reach a greater number of target customers in the places they are searching most – whether through television commercials, direct mailings, or search engine-sponsored ads.
The choice and designated spend on each platform should be carefully planned based on understanding the attributes of each channel and how they contribute to ongoing success. It’s all about moving consumers through an engagement continuum from building awareness and response to making purchases and recommendations.
An integrated and multi-platform media mix will ensure the strongest visibility for your company. It’s vital to understand the inter-relationship of all media and how they drive awareness and response. It’s also important to create a fluid planning process that allows for implementation of major initiatives but is also nimble enough to adjust for changing trends.
3. Grow digital & Mobile Presence
Digital plays an important role in how target customers find company services. Track Google query demand in your vertical and build out your company’s digital presence to match increases in that audience. Launch a fully optimized website, social media channels, organic and paid search, digital advertising and sponsored content and digital promotions to better connect with new and potential customers.
Also, invest in a presence on local sites including Citysearch, SuperPages, Yellowbook and YP.com. It’s a must to have an associated and integrated strategy for all of these initiatives along with key performance metrics to understand what success looks like for your clients.
4. Measure & Contextualize Results
Measuring success is critical. Don’t lose advertising budget because you can’t prove that what you’re doing works. Keep track of traffic to your company’s online properties – including total Web visits, unique visits and total calls and clicks for each platform.
Determine which marketing tactics are working to convert consumers into customers – whether it’s downloading a coupon or buying a product. Map out increases in revenues to justify the return on investment on advertising activities.
Remember that knowing the cost per click or the cost per call isn’t enough. The best marketers understand how much revenue a call or click generates, not just the cost of the call or click itself.
Additionally, make sure to reserve some budget to test out new tools and tactics on an ongoing basis, even if you’re not assured they’ll initially drive leads. While it’s important to make sure that your marketing influences actual sales, it’s equally valuable to try new approaches. Otherwise, you’ll quickly fall behind your competition in engaging the newest advertising trends.
Follow an approach in which you constantly analyze the outcomes of advertising efforts and make adjustments to capitalize on the positives and dial down on the negatives.
5. Look For The Right Advertising Partners
Finding the right partners is key to ensuring your success over the short and long-term. Make sure you and your team are keeping tabs on the latest new and emerging media and exploring innovative approaches. Meet regularly with local search sales representatives to learn more about their latest offerings and what they can do for your business.
Remember that tying your advertising budget down to one or a few channels simply because of habit or personal relationships is not the right approach for your business. Also, try networking with other advertising leads in similar verticals so you can exchange ideas and advice.
Above all, make sure every advertising option you utilize makes smart business sense. When it comes down to it, proving how media drives revenue is what your job is really all about.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.