The title sounds stuffy, but I assure you the article won’t be (crossing fingers). Okay so where to begin? By now you’ve Googled your way through some level of knowledge when it comes to online marketing. As I’m sure you are pretty sick of seeing a “top 10 list” of ways to do things, I figure we would change it up and use bullet points instead of creating a numbered list…. (cue in laughs) So here goes nothing…
Here’s our list of steps to creating an online presence for you business:
Step 1 :: Planning
Any project with a successful completion needs to start with a good plan.
- Ideal Client – This is important as a basis for anything you do. Knowing who your target client is and how they find a company like yours online will help you determine if a web presence is even needed. If your ideal client uses the web to find a company like yours, then understanding how they search and what your website needs to say is critical.
- Market Research – Look at how your competitors are handling the online landscape and determine if they are being successful at it. If you don’t have competitors, look at websites that closely relate to your company’s services to see what they do. This will not only help you plan the layout of your website, but it can also help you understand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to strategy.
- Website Layout – Think of your website as a brick and mortar establishment that can be seen by everyone, anywhere, at anytime. Just like office space, how do you want to design your website, what sort of information do you want to include, and what sort of image do you want to represent (branding).
- Goals – This is important because everything needs to have an outcome to determine ROI (return on investment). Success measuring is the best way to describe it. What sort of outcome are you looking for? This will help determine the right online marketing strategy.
Step 2 :: Creating
- Online Marketing Strategy – Depending on your goals, this strategy should include the specific online marketing channel(s) needed to get the job done. Options available are:
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – Having a good SEO program will help your website be found locally or worldwide. SEO is generally considered a foundational marketing avenue and usually requires a longer time period to gain traffic/exposure (using whitehat methods). The key to a good SEO program is keyword/search term research. Knowing the best search term to use can help you optimize each page on your website and not only help build creditability, but be easily found online. Of course other factors such as link building, website structure, and other variables play a part, but it always comes back down to knowing the right keywords.
- Social Media – Social Media is a large subject on its own, mainly because there isn’t a clear-cut method to gaining specific results. It’s a dynamic area of online marketing and requires constant attention. Choosing the right social media outlet is key to not wasting time and money. Many default to Facebook as the answer, but depending on the business, it may not be very effective. For anyone just starting out, our recommendation is to begin with a blog and talk about all the subjects that a potential client would be interested when it comes to your services. Then publish your blog content on different social media websites such as twitter, linkedin, facebook, digg, etc. This will hone your writing skills and expose your company’s capabilities to all potential clients.
- Online Advertising – Web Advertising usually consists of participating in the Google Ad network or Overture Ad network. There are ton of other networks you could use to advertise, but these two are the largest. One thing with Online Advertising is that it can yield immediate results, but at a price. At a minimum companies can spend close to $1,500 per month on advertising online depending on the competition intensity. Having the right combination of ad copy, landing page design, and keyword/search terms is vital for success. If you don’t get it right, than you could be pouring money into an advertising program that doesn’t yield anything.
- Word of Mouth – Sometimes an effective online marketing strategy doesn’t necessarily have to be online. Networking at events with business cards that point potential leads to your website can be very effective.
- Website Design and Development – With your plan ready to go, it’s time to start creating your website.
- Design – The design of your website will help potential clients get a feel of your company’s personality. Having a website that is easy to navigate, easy to read, and fun to be on can mean the difference between more business than not. Just like having the potential client visit your office and read your brochures, you want to make sure the same materials and theme are represented via design on the company’s website. In order to get design ideas, think about websites you like and try to understand why you like them. Based on that you can either find a template online to purchase or work with a designer to help create what you are looking for.
- Web Development – With great design comes great efficient technology to get things accomplished. Having a website designed is great for the look and feel, but at one point, functionality needs to be implemented to help improve the overall experience. An example would be having a Blog integrated into your existing website design and allow yourself and your staff to continuously update the blog with information your client would want to know about. Having the right technology can also help potential clients access the website across many platforms, such as: mobile devices, pc’s, and macs. Not to mention the countless capabilities with social media applications to encourage conversation online. Having a website developed the correct way can boost user experience and help improve search engine ranking.
Step 3 :: Execution, Monitoring, and Maintaining
- This step is essentially the “let’s get it done” step. Executing the online marketing plan, making constant content edits, and watching your website analytics are really the keys to maintaining a traffic build momentum. Not to mention constant social media posting on specific websites or within your company blog. Watching everything and being consistent can make your total plan be a successful one.
That’s it! Now for some this is super redundant and too elementary, but for others who are new to this online game, I hope the article really helped you towards the right direction. If you have specific questions, please feel free to post them up here.