The phrase “Internet Marketing” means different things to different people. The definition can refer to a wide variety of people using the web to promote products and services, from people pushing get-rich-quick schemes to miracle fad diets like the Acai Berry ads that you saw all over the web last year. This term can also refer to spammers and other ‘black hat’ types of underhanded behavior as a whole.
While Internet Marketing as a blanket term also would describe the services I provide for companies with ambitions to increase their digital footprint, it’s vague in its definition and often can be misinterpreted as something its not. For that reason, I prefer to refer to my services as “Web Strategy Planning and Development.”
What is it you do Again?
Web Strategy Development is a process. It’s very involved and requires a variety of steps in order to be successful. It isn’t something that can simply be thrown together without much forethought. The first step is the initial evaluation, where I meet with the client and determine among other things what the client’s goals are for the site. Whether it’s generating leads and phone calls or simply converting visits to sales, it is critical to establish what course of action you’d like the user to take. It is also important to identify who the targeted visitors are, how they use the web and the problems they are looking to solve. The companies who the client identifies as it’s main competition is also important.
After the initial brainstorming session, the research process begins. The first stage of this is keyword research. This is a painstaking effort to discover the phrases and words that your prospective visitors are using. This is also critical in determining what problems the targeted audiences are seeking solutions online for.
After the keyword research is completed, the competitor identification process begins. In order to be successful online, it is critical to find out who is currently operating in the online space in which you will be competing. It is crucial to look at the competitors’ websites, their strengths, their weaknesses, their activities and efforts by way of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns they may be operating, SEO and linkbuilding strategies they may be employing, etc.
It is only once all of the data has been obtained, organized, studied and scrutinized that a web marketing strategy plan can be developed. Without this information, building a website becomes a guessing game; a crapshoot as to whether the design of the website will be effective in executing the companies objectives.
So What is a Web Strategy?
A Web Strategy is a formulated plan to increase the effectiveness of both the website itself and the subsequent marketing efforts based on the results of the researchprocess that must take place first. Web strategies vary from client to client, as no two situations are the same. For some clients, a PPC campaign on Google targeting the relevant keyword phrases to their site is a solid option for driving a fair amount of traffic in a short period of time. Other clients are able to easily rank in the search engines organically due
to the lack of competition in their online space.
For some companies, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are very good ways to drive traffic and engage their prospective visitors; for others however, the use of social media may be much less effective. Other tactics such as banner advertising, article marketing, email marketing, monthly newsletters, blogging, participating on LinkedIn, etc. are all going to apply to the strategy to varying degrees; some methods will be essential, while others will give less than ideal results.
Why Have a Strategy at All?
I once had a friend ask me for advice on how to build a website, as he was about to purchase the popular web development application Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 and he wanted some advice so that he could design a site to support a business he was starting.
I asked my friend, a cabinetmaker by trade if he would recommend that someone with no woodworking experience whatsoever go out and buy a stack of lumber and the fanciest, most expensive table saw he could get his hands on and go to town? Of course he wouldn’t. You don’t just buy some wood and start building cabinets; you have to have a plan.
The thing is, many if not most people who offer website design services simply create a website and turn it live. This service is relatively easy to execute what with all of the latest and greatest webpage creation software. An amateur person or college student with just a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS can create a pretty decent looking page in a relatively short period of time. In and of itself, these entities usually provide a decent bang for the relatively low prices they charge.
The problem is that most companies and web designers simply build a site, turn it live and hope for the best. They don’t put any forethought into how the users are going to interact with the site, what the user is looking for, how people are going to even find the site in the first place, etc. Furthermore, a lot of companies don’t even know why they need to have a website at all – other than the fact that everyone else has one and because Bill Gates says it’s important. This is especially true for small businesses who have already had a great deal of success without the aid of the Internet.
One of the most important things I tell clients is that a Web Strategy provides structure and direction, which is critical when deciding where to focus your marketing time and resources. Everyone already knows about Twitter and Facebook, but not everyone knows how to establish a presence within these tools, how they should be utilized, what they are not to be used for, etc. Same goes for methods like PPC and email marketing. While people may be familiar with the terms, and even may have a basic working knowledge of those mediums, if their website is severely underperforming, chances are they are not operating the most efficient and effective campaigns.
Another benefit of having a strategy is this: organization. I tell every single client that I have the pleasure of overwhelming with the mountain of information I supply at the strategy presentation this one very important nugget: It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the plethora of opportunities and tasks required to be successful. The thing to always keep in perspective is that this is not an overnight process, or a 30 day process, or even a 90 day process. Web marketing is a never ending cycle of promoting, engaging and enlightening your audience and clientele and doing so better than your competition. The thing to stay focused on is not the the giant task as a whole, but on keeping the momentum going. Always be doing something positive and always make the best use of your resources, and good things will happen for your business.