As a web marketer for over 15 years I know the benefits of a good SEO/Social Media/Conversion Optimization/Content Marketing campaign. The number of businesses who have succeeded by implementing solid web marketing campaigns is beyond numbering. But not every business that places a heavy emphasis on SEO succeeds. Sometimes, SEO cannot save your business, only you can!
When the Pole Position Marketing Pit Crew begins analyzing a website and starts building a web marketing strategy, we see a lot of things that fall outside the scope of "web marketing" in general. In short, we see a lot of the shortcomings built into the business. The fact is, it's impossible for us to develop a successful marketing campaign without first understanding, and second, addressing other business issues. While web marketing primarily deals with how visitors find and interact with the site, if the behind-the-scenes stuff is broken, there isn't an SEO campaign in the world that will make it succeed. Why? Because Google wants to drive people to great sites that people love.
If visitors hit your site and have a bad customer experience, sooner or later the smaller guys who are delivering a great experience will earn enough online authority to push your website down, down, down the search results! For any business to succeed, it must have a clear mission and goals. What are you trying to achieve? Why? For whom? Having a solid grasp of who you are and what you expect are fundamental keys to developing a successful online marketing campaign. Here are several questions you must ask and answer to be effective at business and that will allow you to have an effective web marketing campaign.
Everybody wants a solution. The product or service you sell, or information you provide, is merely a means to that solution. For example, this article right here may be a solution for a business owner wondering why their online marketing efforts are not working. What's the solution? In short, analyze your business model. Do you sell auto parts? Or do you sell top-brand parts for hard-to-find makes and models of cars, trucks and SUVs? Do you sell baby toys? Or do you sell educational toys and activity ideas that stimulate your baby's learning process? Do you sell roofing services? Or do you help businesses and homeowners overcome the obstacles of fixing or replacing their roof after a damaging storm?
Then ask, how do you please your audience? Do you offer guarantees or easy returns? How far are you willing to go to help a customer before and after the purchase? It all comes down to this: how much is a happy customer worth to you, and are you willing to do what it takes to make sure they got the solution they thought they were buying? You have to remember, you have competition out there that is willing to go to all lengths to make their customers happy. Maybe they are new, maybe they are well established. Either way, you're competing against them for customers. Search engines reward businesses that delight their customers. Are you delighting your customers?
I've found that people often oversimplify who their target audience is. "I'm targeting anybody who wants to buy my product or services". Well, sure, that makes sense. But who are those people? Are they parents with kids, single adults, or college students? Are they frugal, well-off, or do they have plenty of disposable income? Are they environmentally cautious or conservationists? Are they indoor or outdoor enthusiasts? Do they own a business, work blue-collar, white-collar or entry-level jobs?These are all important questions to think about and once you start getting some thought behind the answers it opens up the door for more.
The information you gather here will be useful in not only your business messaging, but also with choosing keywords, site design and usability issues, and even determining how your content will be written. Compare your new insights against your main competition. Find out if they are also targeting a similar audience or perhaps going after an entirely different demographic. With all this information in hand you are able to get a good grasp on which direction to take and how to leverage yourself against your competition.
Surprisingly, this is a difficult question for many businesses to answer, but it's a critical one. When you fail to articulate what makes you different or better than anyone else, then you are not giving people any real reason to buy from you rather than from someone else. The most successful businesses are not those that do something unique, they just do something in a unique way. And that's a crucial point to understand. You really need to answer the question, "why you?" That's what Google is trying to determine when analyzing websites and deciding which pages get first page placement. If you can't articulate an answer, then Google will find someone who can and does to put in those top positions.Your customers will do the same!
If you can't do what you do uniquely, then you have to do one of three things: 1) find a unique angle, 2) find another business to be in or 3) simply become the authority on your industry. Do that by providing better content, more robust information and more helpful tutorials or articles on your site and blog. Draw people in, not because you have better products, but because you've gone out of your way to tell them something they could not get anywhere else. Do that well and you will become unique in your own right.
No one would ever say their business goals are to get top search engine rankings. But that's what most people looking for online marketing think is the goal of the campaign. Rankings are just one of the means web marketers use to help you achieve your business goals. Think about what you want to accomplish over the next 12, 24 or 60 months. Do you want to double your traffic? RFQs? Leads? Sales? Another question I like to ask is, if your SEO could help you achieve that without getting you a single top search engine ranking, would you still pay them to do it? If you hesitate at the thought, then there is a good chance you still have the wrong goals!
Set goals that are in line with the nature of your business. If you are purely an informational site that sells ad space then page views are a good measure. If you sell products or services then the sales are the measure, and beyond that, making a profit from each sale. Businesses don't succeed without a plan. Heck, many businesses with a plan still fail. If it's hard enough to succeed with goals and a plan, it's even harder without. If you don't set the proper measures for success then you'll never be able to measure your success accurately, if there is any success to measure at all.
Before you move forward with any marketing campaign, you need to settle on the expectations that campaign will deliver. Most business owners and web marketers fail to have similar expectations when starting web marketing, which leads to frustration, if not extreme disappointment on both sides. Some businesses pass everything off to the SEO team and let them do their thing.Others want to know what's going on each step of the process.
What the site owner or manager expects is important to know otherwise you can be in danger of providing too much information or too little feedback. Either can make you appear as if you're not doing enough of the "right" things. Be sure everyone is clear on what success means and how soon that will be achieved. This involves communication, understanding of strategies, follow-through and solid progress reporting.
Nobody ever said running a business was easy. Being successful at it is even harder. But there are some basic things you need to do so you can give yourself greater potential for success. Don't think SEO will save you, it won't. Web Marketing is just a magnification device. It takes what you have and amplifies it, drawing in more visitors, and hopefully improving your communication and sales processes at the same time. But web marketers don't run your business. That means they are only responsible for so much of your success. You have to take ownership of the rest. Answer these questions above, and make sure you will succeed, with or without web marketing. If you know you are hitting it on all cylinders, let the optimization begin and amplify your success to the next level!
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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