I am often reminded how important it is to develop a well thought out business plan. I speak with numerous clients each day, each having a passion to promote their service, information or product and yet although they may be experts in their field, they do not have the expertise or foresight on how to market the site. Often times the website is destined to stay in the closet and never get the online exposure they need and are hoping for. And often times the client lacks an objective perspective, sort of being amongst trees in a forest and not being able to see to whole picture.

The internet audience has matured and become more sophisticated in its expectations and delivery of information. No longer can one just throw up a site and expect to immediately generate business. Website readiness for online marketing can take many forms. In this and the articles that follow in the next few weeks, we will examine the building blocks to successful web marketing. We will look at:

  1. How to work your marketing budget and timelines
  2. How to work a realistic marketing business
  3. Pitfalls of optimization
  4. Most common mistakes
  5. Optimization complete, now what?
  6. Tiers for small -med -large business, how we customize them

Making informed decisions now will set the stage for easier transitions on future initiatives and this can help minimize your costly investments of time, labour and money. Your website should be viewed as a dynamic entity and it requires your consistent attention and nurturing. This is a cardinal rule.

The Building Blocks….

The following checklist is an excellent strategy for achieving superb organic visibility and stable placement in the search engines. It will also help increase visitor retention and conversion. This information is portable; it does not matter whether you are in the planning phases of starting an online business, already have an existing website or are in need to redesign your presence. Although many of these stages (phases) can run concurrently the list below is presented as what should be implemented first, prior to moving into the next phase.

  1. Marketing budget and timeline development
  2. Market research
  3. Website design
  4. Competitor analysis
  5. Keyword research
  6. Content creation
  7. Content management system and or shopping cart creation
  8. Search engine optimization (SEO)
  9. Link building
  10. Blogs, newsletters, articles
  11. Social media
  12. Website analytics
  13. Pay-per-click marketing (PPC)

Of course, your marketing strategy will be determined on whether you will be intimately involved or delegating stuff in-house or out of house. Do you have the time, energy, expertise for any, some or all of these important tasks? Will you go the consulting route and implement their recommendations? Is your service or product time sensitive? Does it need to be sold by a certain date? Your strategy, timetable and budget will vacillate accordingly.

Perhaps the best actionable word I can offer is to “Focus”. Focus on what it is you are all about and what sets you apart from your competitors. This may sound simple enough, however, try writing down in one sentence what one message you want visitors to receive when they come to your website. Surprisingly, many site owners I speak with have not or cannot do this. Determining such clarity before starting anything else can pay dividends. For example, organic visibility and placement in the search engines largely has been considered a game of inches; will you take advantage of this opportunity and create a keyword enriched domain name?

Market research offers data rich and timely information on what your competitors are doing. This can be approached from two angles and really, it is about how you define your “competition”. Perhaps you are aware of competitor sites from within your industry and want to learn more about how they got to where they are in the search engine result pages. Odd as this may seem, this method for selecting which competitor sites to analyze may not be the most effective route to analyze your competition. These competitors may not be well placed in the search engines and may not be targeting the same keyword phrases that you are. Should this be true, why bother analyzing them. On the other hand, if you have already determined one of your site’s primary keyword phrases you can type it into a search engine and review the resulting index page and choose from the list. The difference here is an important one to consider. Here you select your keyword phrase target and see who is competing for that term. It is not necessarily important who that company is or even what industry they are in. The important consideration is who is on top of the list for the keyword phrase you are shooting for and you are looking for any ammunition you can get to leap frog over their position in the search engine results page.

Market research will produce a blueprint for your web marketing direction.

  1. Competitor analysis reveals information about their keyword targets and how they are positioned in Google, Yahoo and MSN. In looking at several competitor sites one can construct a universe of keyword phrases that have proven successful in the search engines. Understanding this helps determine your keyword phrases and aid in the creation of textual content for your site.
  2. Links can be analyzed for their reputation and their popularity. Where are they coming from and are they paid links or from a link farm? Knowing who is linking to your competitor can make your task an easier one when developing your own link building campaign.
  3. An index saturation analysis will show how many pages a website has indexed in a search engine in comparison to the number of pages actually existing within the website. The purpose of the saturation analysis is to evaluate the various design elements that may be affecting indexing efficiency and to ultimately determine whether saturation is playing a noteworthy role in the website’s (your competitor’s) ranking.
  4. Optimization analysis will determine what (if any) particular optimization techniques are overwhelmingly influencing rankings for internal review pages of each site.

Click the link for more information on Competitive Research Tools.

Not everyone has the budget or expertise for this in depth type of data mining. A more economical approach may be to conduct keyword analysis. Quite possibly developing a realistic set of achievable primary and secondary keyword targets is the most overlooked aspect to any successful web marketing presence. This component will be looked at in the next article.

This article series by Bill Stroll, Sales and Marketing Manager
StepForth Web Marketing Inc.