When we say “internet marketing” we now mean everything from SEO, to social sharing, to general link building, to PPC, to community growth on social media, to CPM, to Pinterest marketing techniques and very strategy for visual social networks in general. Internet marketing can be as small as a Facebook “like” and as huge as a link to your website from CNN.com. It’s the building of your brand in every digital way possible to generate growth and revenue. It’s developing business relationships through social media or email that drive sales or your general authority within an industry. It encompasses guest appearances in real life or digitally (hello webinars!), and it can even be the single factor that makes or breaks your business.
Whew! What a list.
The new, holistic approaches to internet marketing–thanks to changes by Google and other search engines in the last 12 months–are enough to make anyone’s head spin, let alone a small business owner or manager who wears many different “business” hats everyday. Thankfully there are plenty of resources–such as this blo–to help you out along the way to internet marketing success, and in this article we’ll cover 7 rookie mistakes that we’ve found again and again in our nearly 10 years as internet professionals to make those first steps even easier.
Thinking of allocating a budget to outsource the entire process? Feel free to browse these guidelines and send us a message to see how you can streamline the growth of your business by focusing on what you do best instead.
#1 Failure to maintain an on-site strategy focused on quality content
There used to be a time in SEO history where cheap microsites fueled search engine results pages (SERPs) thanks to a huge network of inbound links from websites of a similar, cheap type. However, with Google’s Panda, Penguin, and other algorithimic updates last year, these types of link farms (along with cheap options to purchase batches of links) have been essentially wiped out from relevance.
The fact that these cheaper sites added no real value or quality to a users’ experience on their websites is what ultimately sealed their fate and failure with search engines. Instead, Google now strongly promotes websites and digital properties of the highest quality. Ranking websites on search engines with poorly created strategy or no consistently updated content whatsoever is now nearly impossible.
But what does having high quality content on a website actual entail? Google ranks quality based upon the:
- Quantity and quality of inbound links to the page (1 link from CNN = excellent, 100 link-farm links = bad)
- Quantity and quality of social signals linking to the page
- Grammar and spelling on the page
- Text formatting indications on the page (well organized text with subheads, bold, italics, bullet points is easy to read for readers, and translates into great quality)
- Length of content (masses of poorly written 200 character posts will always rank poorly against longer posts of varying length and higher quality)
- Outbound links from the page (link to relevant websites that are helpful for readers and enhance their experience)
This client maintains an excellent on-site strategy by regularly posting interesting content with a variety of media.
If you’re thinking that these parameters seem pretty subjective: you’re right, and we’ll never have clear-cut guidelines as to how Google ranks websites to ensure no one games the system. However, these parameters are general enough to help create the strategy necessary for valuable, search-driving marketing on-site. Take a look at our Intro to Linkbuilding article from last month to get some initial ideas flowing.
#2 Failure to maintain an off-site link building strategy
All too often managers and owners of businesses spend thousands on the creation of a new website, content, and perhaps a few social media profiles, later expecting an “abra kadabra” moment once these digital artifacts go live. The fact is that the the “bubble” of your own website and social profiles must be broken in order to attract any new leads at all. Remain ensconced and you’ll be left in Internet purgatory with a few measly visits per day.
How does a small business break this bubble? It comes as a surprise to many that inbound links from other websites are the most heavily weighted and important factor in determining your website’s internet marketing success. Google ranks links from high quality, high ranking websites as the most favorable, with the resulting “Google Juice” and inbound links not only driving your website upwards in search engine results pages, but providing invaluable referral traffic and a myriad of business growth and exposure opportunities as well.
While the process of creating inbound links could previously be cheaply outsourced–even as recently as 10 months ago–link building now involves a much more holistic approach, as you can read in our intro article from last month filled with great starting points. In fact, poor link building can do your websites more harm than good, so consider your strategy carefully if you choose to outsource. If you’re staying in house, just focus on quality–not quantity and remember that new inbound links can be found in creative ways. Rather leave this part of internet marketing to professionals? Give us a call.
Just like many things in life, investment in digital marketing can take time to generate rewards. Focus on long term payoffs, and realize that if you “quit” before your marketing campaigns even get started due to discouragement, you’ll be worse off.
SEO and internet marketing should never be considered a short term tactic. In fact, we often suggest that our clients approach digital marketing in a sort of “Warren Buffet” way by focusing on long term returns and reevaluating only after a period of at least 4-6 months has passed. You’re making an investment in your business, so act like an investor.
#4 Poorly allocated budgets
A beautiful website, logo, or brand only makes up “half” of the internet marketing game as we’ve previously explained. As a result, the “web designing” part of a small business project should only make up half of your budget or less over a 12 month period. Needs and goals can vary greatly, so use this as a very loose guide.
Furthermore, you can be sure that you’re only getting the “web designer” or “blog designer” treatment if you’re spending $2,000 or less for an entire project. While one can easily become a “web designer” after a few paid courses and endless weekends brushing up on Photoshop, you may want to consider leaving the success of your business online in more capable, career driven hands. “Web designer” websites tend to have little to no strategy beyond the movement of graphics on a Photoshop document, use pre-made and clunky templates, and will leave you with a buggy platform and poorly planned information architecture and feature flow in the end. Internet marketing strategy is nearly always nonexistent in these types of projects as well.
If you’ve already invested in a beautiful website and social media profiles with even a bit of strategy thrown in, low budget SEO firms around $100/month or less can be alluring. However, these types of companies often provide content that is in broken English, terribly structured, or delivers no real value by the end of a campaign. Many of these low budget firms are also stuck in a pre-Penguin era of SEO where link building was cheap thanks keyword stuffing and other moot tactics.
#5 Badly delegated work
While major brands like the Today Show may have an in-house employee to manage social media and internet marketing, the more affordable option for small businesses is often to outsource to a trusted agency.
It should be clear by this point that it can be difficult for a single person to not only master the art of internet marketing while also running and growing an entire brand, product, or organization as well. Here are just some of the duties a marketer must carry out every day to ensure the success of all digital marketing for a brand:
- Editorial strategy
- Copy writing and editing
- Graphic design for complimenting media and infographics or creative oversight of a graphic designer
- Link building
- Community building and management through a variety of social platforms
- SEO both in and off site
- Analytics for a website and all associated social media profiles
- Constant research to adapt to changing trends and requirements
It’s clear that the field can be vast and complex for some industries, and certainly requires a creative and critically thinking mind to do a great job as well. However, no two businesses are alike, and while content creation from an expert’s perspective for some small business owners might fit very well within their time constraints and budgets, others may find the outsourcing of the entire process to be more helpful.
While hiring an in-house content creation and marketing employee is costly for many, agencies conversely offer teams of experts that work on multiple projects at once and include as many or as few of the tasks in the list above as the client desires to keep costs low and returns high. Complimenting services such as link-building and social campaigns alongside the client’s own production of content on a blog or other dynamic section often yields the best value. Think any of these solutions might make sense for your company? Drop us a line and we’ll be happy to discuss your specific needs further.
#6 Failure to maintain a conversion strategy
This client benefits from conversion points that pull the user into booking an event or signing up for violin lessons.
Update: check out our full article on the 3 keys to excellent conversion optimization strategy here.
So now that you’ve built tons of inbound links, have search traffic flowing, and an absolutely gorgeous website, what specific techniques and strategy are you using to actually convert each visitor into a potentially paying customer?
Somewhat surprisingly, many small business owners have absolutely no strategy built into their websites when it comes to conversions, so you’ll already be better off if you’ve given just a bit of thought as to how you can provoke users to subscribe, contact, share, or click further. Great agencies will incorporate these techniques from the start, but here are some key questions for a conversion strategy that will yield lasting connections, high quality leads, and real sales through your website:
- Is your information architecture or page flow robust and comprehensive while remaining clear and simple?
- Is your user experience and direction pleasant, professional, and built with authority?
- And the most important: What kind of prompts, pitches, buttons, and click throughs are you using to make your users actually complete an action instead of closing the window?
At the very least: collect an email address or social media action such as a “like” on a Facebook page or a subscription to your newsletter. At best: close on a great sale and gain a new customer.
#7 Failure to keep “cool” on social media
While you may be faced with unruly clients every day in an offline setting as a small business owner, the fact of the matter is that social media sees and remembers all. Take the example of this enraged restaurant owner of a high-caliber French eatery in Boston who publicly berated a customer after she left a scathing review on the restaurant’s Facebook page:
“you must enjoy vomit you b**** if you know how much it tastes like. secondly, if you had any clue about eating out, or balls, you would of informed your server you were unhappy with some thing, while at the restaurant , not on face book…………again f*** you, dont come back”
Naturally, this story was immediately picked up, and the owner was ultimately shamed into a public apology and quitting Facebook altogether for a time while business suffered for a single incident.
Remember: keep your cool no matter how rude you perceive a social media commenter to be. As a manager of social media pages and areas where customers can leave public feedback, remember that you often have the power to delete posts and reply privately to dissatisfied customers. At the very least, make sure public replies are calm, clear, and polite.
Want to discuss any of the topics included in this article a bit further? Feel free to contact us at anytime.