1. A product or service that people actually want or need.
This should go without saying, but many business owners have their heads in the sand. I was just watching one of my favorite shows, Shark Tank and there was one business woman, Lori Cheek, who had started a new breed of dating company called Cheek’d. Her idea was to hand out “cheek’d” cards to those you are meeting in real life. On the cards was a snarky saying and an invite to visit the website and enter a unique number listed on the card. I do not remember her numbers, but not many folks had jumped on board. She had very few paying customers and her company was broke.
The Sharks were not impressed, and thought the idea went against the very concept of online dating. This isn’t to say that they are the end all be all in business. However, Ms. Cheek would simply not listen to their advice, putting her head down and moving forward. She was all in and invested everything she had, but had made no money and the idea had not taken off. She received no investment from the Sharks, and to date the company looks like it is floundering. The website was still not working as of June 2014. The lesson to be learned is that sometimes we do need to wake up and smell the coffee. Sometimes quitting is winning.
2. A website.
No website = no online marketing. Today, for most companies, the website is the hub to communicate with both their customers and potential customers. Your website can be your best employee. It can work 24/7, requires no health insurance or benefits, never complains and never asks to go on vacation. Don’t get me wrong, there is a cost to having a world-class website that will achieve your goals for you and it does take ongoing investment, but it’s well worth the time and money.
A few tips for having a great website:
- Fully understand your target market and what they want. Not what you want – what you want on your site does not matter. It is all about the consumer.
- Identify what information you want to track on your site. Conversions? Downloads? Sales? Understand what data you need to track so you can make good business decisions. Knowing this before you develop can help in properly setting up the website.
- Use responsive design. This allows you to scale the site to fit properly on all devices. With the huge movement toward the mobile forum, this is becoming more and more critical. More on Responsive Web Design can be found here.
- Design the site to be functional first and pretty second. The goal here is to get leads and sales, and you can’t have confused customers. There needs to be a sense of intuitive navigation. If a user cannot figure out what to click on next on your site they simply leave.
- Design for speed. Load speed that is. Visitors are becoming less and less forgiving of slow sites. Plus, Google has started using this in their ranking factors.
- Invest in professional photography. No stock photos. This one thing will separate you from the pack. You can showcase your place of business, your people, and unique attributes your business has to offer. Great pictures say more than a thousand words.
3. Organic search strategy.
The voices shouting that SEO is dead are bonkers. Just think of the last time you were online. How did you search for the product, service, or information you were looking for? You probably typed a key term or question into a search engine. What is happening in SEO is that it is becoming harder and harder for websites to rank for the terms you desire. See some interesting Google history here.
The number of new websites is incredible. According to internetlivestats.com, we have gone from 17,087,182 sites in 2000 to 672,985,183 sites in 2013. Searches in 2013 have been reported at 1.2 million. See statistics here. As more and more sites come online and get indexed, it only stands to reason that the competition is getting greater. This does not mean SEO is dead. What is dead are the days that you can rank for competitive terms quickly and sit back and collect the money. It takes a lot more strategy and long-term planning today than it ever has.
The expectations need to be realistic. It is an ongoing chess game with three players, the players being the searcher, the search engine, and your competitors. You must observe and adjust your strategy based on the actions of these players. If you stay static, you will die a slow death over time. This takes continual effort on many fronts.
4. Paid search strategy.
There are many platforms in which a paid search strategy can be carried out. Google Adwords, Bing, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Banner Ads, Sponsored ads and more. The different platforms work differently, but in general you are paying either for clicks or impressions. Let’s take a look at Google Adwords because it’s the dominate paid platform.
So what is paid search? A searcher types in a search term in the search bar and based on that term Google will return the ads it believes are most relevant to the term. The ads shown on the top and the left as seen in the image below. You can either choose to use pay per click or impressions. Impressions are how many times your ad is served and viewed. Most people select CPC (Pay Per Click) in Adwords. If no one clicks your ad, there is no cost to you. You get a branding impression for no cost. If the searcher does click, you pay a determined amount based on your bid for that keyword. This “keyword bid” can range for .05 cents to over $100 per click for extremely competitive keywords. You can estimate your keyword cost using the Google Keyword Planner.
Tip: Managing the cost of your campaigns is a science and if you are in a competitive industry, it should not be done on your own. You will waste an extreme amount of money. Hire a professional to help you.
Once the searcher clicks on the ad, it will direct them to your choice of landing page. I am amazed at how many companies are still sending searchers to their homepage. This is a colossal waste of money. The landing page should be relevant to the keyword term the searcher used. For example: If you search for Blue Frisbee Deals – not only should you use those terms in the ad, but the landing page you send them to should also have a headline that uses those terms, and the page should be specifically about Blue Frisbee Deals. This creates a very tightly themed flow for the user, increasing your chances of conversion.
Facebook works a little differently. Instead of keywords, you select your target audience and there are several ways to do this. Check out this post here. Again, you can either use pay per click or impressions. On Facebook, it is important to test which will work better for your business. You can run two ad groups, one using pay per click and one using the Facebook OPM setting. Compare the results and then optimize further.
Many business owners ignore this important part of online marketing. There is an eternal tension for business owners – should I pay or should I not pay? Not paying could be a big mistake for a few reasons:
- First: There are only 10 spots on page one results and positions first through fifth get 95% of the clicks. If you are not in those top 5 spots, you will get very little traffic.
- Second: Not only do the top 5 spots get the majority of clicks, but Google is passing less and less data to site owners about the keywords searchers are using to find your site. You see these listed as “(not provided)” and today they are accounting for up to 85% of your organic traffic. With paid search, we can still see the search term used, giving you the information you can act on. The paid search data can be used to help you hone in your organic strategy. By analyzing the keyword data and conversations you can better determine which organic keywords to work on ranking. This way you can be confident that you are working with what we call “money terms” in your organic strategy.
- Third: You can better determine the landing page you send the traffic to on your website. You can design specific sales pages that best communicate the offer. This can drastically increase your conversion rate and in the end be more cost effective. But only testing will reveal this to you.
Every business is different and will have a different strategy, both short and long term. These strategies will need to be reviewed at least every 6 months to make sure you are still on track to achieving your goals. How much you decide to spend on paid traffic versus organic traffic is going to be determined by your budget and where your potential customers hang out online.
Come back next week and I will finish off the 9 absolutes. Here is a sneak peak:
5. A social strategy.
6. An offline promotion to support.
7. Automation & data collection.
8. Daily attention & adjustments.
9. Internal system to support the effort.