Last month I discussed various questions a small business should consider, prior to developing their internet marketing strategy and plan. At this point you should already know the basics such as your brand positioning, target customers, high level goals, etc. Now it is time to develop your action plan.
But where should you begin and what components should you include in your plan? This is where things get a bit tricky and overwhelming. As the web has become more and more critical for businesses and people in general, it has also gotten more complex. To start with, let's list the basic components of internet marketing that should be considered. This certainly isn't all inclusive, but it covers the basics and is a good start for a small business.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- On-site (optimizing your own website)
- Off-site (link building, social media, etc.)
- Email Marketing
- Online Advertising
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) or Paid Search
- Onsite (banners, etc.)
- Affiliate Advertising
- Social Media/Marketing
- Public Relations (PR)
- Mobile Marketing
- Video Marketing
Hopefully your business is already involved with some of these web marketing components already. But if your business has just recently launched or has been around awhile, but relied exclusively on traditional sales or marketing tactics, you may not know where to start.
So here is my suggestion. First of all, plan on starting with the basics and adding new components (initiatives) only after your understand and see value in what you have already bitten off. I've seen a number of organizations that can say they are doing lots of things like social media or online PR for instance, but in many cases, they really don't know if those initiatives are adding any value to their business. Also keep in mind that most small businesses are not utilizing all the components I listed above. Some components are better suited than others for the type of organization you're in and the make-up of your company.
With that said, I suggest you start with the first three components I have listed above, which are all closely related: your website, search engine optimization, and analytics. Starting with your website is a no brainer. In today's day and age, your website is the face of your company. Whether you send a prospect there for information or they find it on their own, they will form an opinion of your company based on what they see. If you want credibility, you must have an informative, professional looking website. Your site will also become the center point for all your future online initiatives. If you look at the list above, almost all the other elements drive people to your site (SEO, email, blogs, advertising, PR) or leverage your site to increase participation in their activity (social media, email, blog registration). So spend the time and money to create a professionally designed website and have a plan to manage it. Think through both your human resource requirements (internal and/or external) and how you can leverage a web content management solution that simplifies your online marketing and allows you to keep fresh content in front of your target customers.
Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the next component you should start with and it should be part of your basic website planning. SEO can be very complex, but I am only suggesting you start with the easiest component of SEO, what I call on site SEO or onsite optimization. On site SEO is simply the process of optimizing your website, based on your specific business and services, so that people (prospects, customers) can easily find your site via search on the various search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. Optimizing a website requires the website designer or developer to understand two things:
- Your business and how people choose to find it on the web -and-
- The components that need to be included on your site, which search engines utilize in their search (page rank) algorithms.
Some of these components are URLs, title tags, Meta descriptions, page titles and relevant content. Off-Site SEO, which refers to search engine optimization techniques that are not performed on your own website (linking strategies), should be considered later, but start by getting your site optimized first. To learn more about SEO, check out Google's SEO Starter Guide.
The last element you should start with is an analytics tool, so that you that you can understand the results of your internet marketing initiatives. Measure from the beginning so that you have a baseline and understand the value your site brings to your business. Set some basic goals and adjust them as needed. Many small businesses have some sort of analytics in place, but it is amazing how many of them never look at the results. Basic information such as the number of visitors you get or the pages they visit can help you understand what people are using your site for and how certain content can change the results. Start with the basics and try to add more valuable metrics over time such as registrations, leads or sales. Google Analytics is free and provides better data than most small businesses know what to do with, but there are lots of great analytics vendors if you need something with greater functionality.
If you don't start out on the right foot with your website, on-site SEO, and analytics, it will be more difficult to be successful with any of the other marketing elements listed about, so get these right first. Next week I'll follow-up with my success factors that cross all the components of your internet marketing plan.