Why a Business Website Just Isn’t Enough Anymore

digital-marketingOnce upon a time, in a digital land far, far, away, websites for business were an optional idea. Nowadays, however, they are considered a basic requirement when starting any new business. You cannot just HAVE a website to say you have one, and stop there. It is extremely important to note that now what matters is WHAT you have on your business website. You need great content that reaches out to your potential, current and past consumers. You want to engage in a conversation with them about your brand. This builds brand awareness and trust for your brand.

Just having a website setup for your business should not be the end point of your digital marketing efforts. You spent time and money in your website for it to be found in the search engines by potential consumers, but that isn’t enough. So let’s take a look at what else should be included in your digital marketing efforts.

Components of Effective Digital Marketing:

  • Content Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Paid Search Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Video Marketing

So you ask yourself, why bother with these other forms of digital marketing? Isn’t just a having a website enough? Nope. First of all, embarking on these other forms of digital marketing will offer additional ways for your potential consumers to discover you. Who doesn’t want maximum exposure, right? Keep in mind that not every single one of your potential consumers are going to just go directly to your website. They may not even find you by traditionally searching in a search engine. By engaging in the other digital marketing efforts mentioned above you can reach your potential consumers where ever they are online, not just when they are particularly looking for you.

As an additional benefit, most of these efforts also help you with the search engines. Content marketing, including blogs and other forms of content,  benefit your search engine optimization efforts, while paid search advertising can also help you when customers are searching for your brand or keywords relating to your brand. You can also utilize paid search advertising to retarget website visitors after they leave your website.

Social media can help you to be seen and found.

When the content from blogs and videos get attention from website visitors, such as social shares, that can signal to search engines that your site is relevant and helpful.  This can help your search engine rankings. Without these signals your website would have to battle on its own with your competition, who are all also including extra efforts in their digital marketing strategies.

Basically, even if you have an amazing website that converts potential customers like crazy, it certainly cannot do as much on its own as an entire digital marketing strategy could.

The Role of Your Website in Your Digital Marketing Strategy

So, where does your website fit into all of this digital marketing you ask?

Well, for starters, it’s the foundation of the rest of your digital marketing efforts and eventually the destination for sales. Each of the aforementioned components should be driving traffic back to your website, where you have optimized it to convert visitors into customers.

Paid search ads including display ads, for example, should direct people back to your website.  Your social media can include links to the blog articles you are posting. Your email mailing list grows from a contact form on your website and your email newsletters should also offer multiple links back to your site. Your website even offers videos a guaranteed home destination, regardless of where else you post and share them. Everyone gets pushed back to your site.

In other words, the focus on your digital marketing efforts should not be about making the sale immediately, but about driving people to your website. If your website is designed and optimized well, it should be primed to make the sale for you, which takes that burden off of your other digital marketing efforts.

Therefore, while it is important to do more with your digital marketing than just a basic website, you also want to make sure that you have optimized your website as much as possible for conversions. Since it is both the foundation and destination of your other online marketing efforts, it needs to perform as well as possible to convert customers.

Once you get your website launched, do not make the mistake of dusting off your hands and say that you are finished with that project. If you want to be truly successful online, you are going to have to do more digital marketing efforts than just a basic website.

Image credit: Shutterstock Maksim Kabakou

Beware of Your Digital Agency

BewareThat sounds like a totally crazy thought right? The reason you hired a digital marketing agency was to grow your business. You want to increase your sales and build your brand awareness. So how could a digital agency actually be giving you the exact opposite results? It could be lack of effort, lack of expertise, or even both!

Them

Digital marketing agencies come in all shapes and sizes from the small, boutique agency to the large corporate agencies. One thing they know how to do is sell themselves by telling you how awesome they are. After all, they have case studies to back up their supposed results right? In the end the equation goes like this: you pay us money and we give you miraculous results. We have all seen this.

You

For a small business owner, you are trying to grow your company. So the digital agency comes in and gives you analysis. They tell you that we need to get you a new website design. It needs to be optimized. You need a “fresh, new look”. Doing this is going to explode your business and put you at the top of the search engines in no time. You are going to get more leads with your sales sky-rocketing.

Truth About BAD Agencies

Now let’s look at what is actually happens in this scenario. The agency will indeed build you a new website. This process will drag out over a few months for a basic website but one thing is for sure, they will not drag out the process of getting you an invoice each month. Then after a few months the new site will launch which is great news right? Unfortunately not. After the site launches, you will not hear much if anything at all from the agency.

Are they building your brand awareness as agreed? What about your search rankings results? If you’re lucky you MAY get an automated report from them every couple months. There has never been any strategy written–no actionable items listed anywhere. Everyone is going into this battle completely blind. Wow, now THAT is a winning strategy. What are they doing on your account each month? You have NO IDEA. So now what do you do about all this?

Hold Your Digital Agency Accountable

it-is-your-moneyWhile refreshing your brand and getting a new website design is great, it is not enough. This is just the beginning of the process. After this is done the digital agency should be executing a full-blown strategy for you including inbound marketing and a content marketing strategy. It may also include paid search strategy as well as social media strategy, depending on what all you agreed on.

The ultimate goal of all this is to bring in more customers to your business increasing your sales and revenue. No doubt about it, the customers are out there. It is a matter of your digital agency getting the customers to you. Let’s take a look at some crucial areas you need to consider before choosing a digital marketing agency.

1. Inbound Marketing 101

Giving an old website an overhaul or a totally new website does not guarantee success with any business. No matter how cutting edge your site design with all the bells and whistles, if people can’t find your site that is all just a waste of time and money.

Having an effective inbound marketing strategy will help your business to be found by potential customers. This holds true no matter if your business to B2B to B2C. There are several tactical parts of an inbound strategy. You have to create effective content that is relevant to your potentials customers, meaning content that they find useful and that helps them. This content can be delivered across several different channels in various forms. It could be blogs, ebooks, white papers, case studies, videos, infographics, webinars, Google Hangouts On Air, etc. It can also be via social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Vine, SnapChat, etc. The most crucial point to remember is that the content that is delivered has to be useful for the potential customer. It must address their needs with clear calls-to-action to easily convert the customer from a potential customer to an actual customer.

Here is a clear warning sign: Beware of any agency who does not lay out a clear content marketing plan that will begin once the new website or redesigned website is launched. Also, be leery of any digital agency who is unwilling or unable to dig deep with you strategically. They should be asking hard questions on the front end of a project that force you to define your point of difference and value proposition to customers. It’s not enough for an agency to understand what you do, they need to know and understand who you are—because that gets at your brand essence. That is what defines you from the your competition and makes your business unique through the eyes of the customer.

2. Ongoing Content

The keyword mentioned above is ongoing, as in a continuous flow of content. Not just a one hit wonder. Now that you have attracted potential new customers to your site, you have begun a conversation that is designed to be everlasting. You cannot just turn on the stream of information then shut it off. If you do, if you are erratic in the consistency or quality of information you deliver, those potential/current customers will leave, or at least abandon your site.

Much like a personal relationship, your business relationship with customers is an evolving process. There is a very tangible life cycle to each and every customer; and they are all at different stages. You need to hear the customers, knowing their needs and desires. You need to understand these needs, as soon as they arise, or even before they arise. Otherwise, your business will not be able to provide real solutions at every particular point during the sales cycle- from the minute they seek you out to the engagement process,and then to the actual conversion.

Contrary to some schools of thought, the process does not end with the sale; it accelerates. Once you have captured a new customer, once they have purchased, the task is to continue the conversation.  You have to make sure their experience is positive, or gain insight as to how it might even be better. From there, your goal is to satisfy and delight your customers with anticipatory service, continued relevant information, and authentic gestures of appreciation so that they ultimately will become brand advocates for you.

More agency warning signs: Be very aware of a digital agency that does not think or talk about your long-term goals. They should not just talk about the short-term, “quick fix” goals. Digital agencies have a way of swooping in, demanding a bunch of money on the front end to cover the intensive “design and build phase,” and then they disappear like a thief in the night.

Typically, agencies like this will lay out a three- to six-month period of work that abruptly stops. The assumption being that you will have everything you need after that time period, so you can simply sit back and count your money as the sales flood in. The reality is just the opposite, the agency should work just as hard or harder after you go live to ensure qualified prospects are finding you and entering a very nurturing sales process.

3. The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Factor

It used to be that businesses had to be wary of digital agencies that did not fully grasp the concept of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or Search Engine Marketing (SEM). The challenge was to separate the self proclaimed “gurus” from those who were actually legit and delivered effective, results-driven data to support both their paid search and organic search recommendations.

Today, you still have to be wary because the biggest concern now is to be on the lookout for digital agencies that overpromise with SEO, especially as the rules of the game are shifting. Why? Because Google has systematically implemented key changes to their algorithms to prevent companies from manipulating search engines. Instead, they want them having a conversation directly with actual consumer, giving them what they want.

Also, with the recent Hummingbird Algorithm, Google has literally encrypted data for SEO practitioners with the infamous “not provided”. Again, this is all in an effort on Google’s part to ensure that brands are giving their living-breathing customers the type useful information they are wanting/needing/craving, and NOT trying to “write for search engines” in order to improve page rank and better results. Those days are ove and likely are not coming back. So the function of SEO should be to optimize customer-facing content that has been created for actual prospects and customers. It should support and inform the customer experience and the story the brand is telling as it relates to real customer needs and expectations.

bewareofsnakesYet again, another warning sign: Search Engine Optimization is not a science, it is an art (some say it is both). And, the canvas is forever shifting, thanks to Google, who has declared war on sleazy opportunists who employ black-hat tactics such as duplicate content, keyword stuffing, and spammy link-building schemes. So be on the lookout for any SEO company that promises cheap, quick, easy solutions. We’d all like to believe that’s how it works, but reality is quite different, especially in light of Google’s recent algorithm updates. Also, make sure whomever you work with is Google-certified, follows best practices, and most of all, is transparent. Any vendor who is unwilling to “show you the guts” of his or her research, data and methodology is probably up to something shady, or at least ineffective.

In conclusion, ask strategic, long-term questions to make sure you have the right team or agency to help your company build brand awareness, drive leads and ultimately gain market share. There are a number of legitimate, highly skilled agencies around who not only know what they are doing, but have your best interest in mind. But, there are many more who do not. Every brand needs to, on every agency, examine whether or not an agency understands marketing strategy and if they are capable of providing solid strategies before signing a partnership.

Consider well the three areas discussed above—Inbound Marketing, Content Strategy, SEO Plan—so you can spot any of the warning signs mentioned above. By asking the right questions, you should be able to identify an agency partner that is right for you and, like a good marriage, will continue happily ever after and not have to end in a nasty divorce.

 

Image Credits: Shuttertock, Aapthamithra, VT750 , crossstudio

Learn How To Use Excel With the Google Analytics API – Annielytics Dashboard Seminar & Discount

not so ugly data

Annie Cushing, who blogs all things data at Annielytics, is doing a three-day seminar on how to use the Google Analytics API to create interactive reporting dashboards in Excel. By the end of the third day you will have the skills necessary to take data from a Google Analytics account and build out a reporting dashboard that will update with new data with little-to-no manual effort on your part.

AnnieCushingAnnie is known for making data sexy, and she will be sharing her secrets for how to make your visualizations beautiful without being distractingly busy or garish. If you are afraid that you aren’t going to be able to master these skills in three days, don’t worry. You will have so many resources to refer back to whenever you need to create data visualizations of your own that it’ll be like riding a bike.

Excited? We are. But that’s not all. Annie has offered the coupon code AUTHORITY to our readers for a $150 discount when you register. Find out what seminar location is nearest to you, and sign up for an Annielytics Dashboard Seminar today!

How to Create Awesome Linkbait

linkbaitContent marketing is a bit of a blunt instrument. It’s a number’s game, after all, designed to boost metrics like site visits, conversion rates and Shares, Likes, Tweets and Pins. You might not always feel like there’s a lot of subtlety at your disposal when you create marketing content, but the truth is a little more complicated. The very best content marketing is capable of doing two things at once: (1) Contributing to a rich marketing campaign to entice prospective customers and (2) Offering something of real value to the audience.

The word “linkbait” might sound at first like something exploitive or cheap, but the fact is that its place in an effective content marketing campaign is assured for the foreseeable future. Here’s a look at why that is.

What Is Linkbait, Anyway?

Linkbait can mean the difference between content that’s “just okay” and content that just begs to be shared, right now, with everybody. The name itself might be unpleasant; the word “bait,” after all, is an integral part of phrases like “bait and switch.” The good news is that there’s nothing inherently dishonest or exploitive about linkbait, despite the relatively inelegant name.

In fact, the Internet is full of editorials from experienced marketers that give linkbait their wholehearted endorsement as a sound marketing practice. To put it simply, linkbait refers to a type of content that readers will be compelled to click on, because they expect it to benefit them in some way. Linkbait can take many forms, but the endgame is always the same: to entice readers to click a link with the promise of high-quality content. Of course, delivering on that promise is another story entirely.

What Does Linkbait Look Like?

If you want to take advantage of linkbait as a method of capturing the public’s attention and loyalty, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the types of linkbait that are at your disposal, and take a look at which ones have proven track records.

Some of the very best linkbait out there are articles that promise to teach the reader something. As a result, articles with “How To” or “Beginner’s Guide” in the title can be highly attractive.

In addition, readers are always on the lookout for useful resources about the topics they’re interested in. Consequently, another type of linkbait you should consider is an extensive resource list, such this one, compiled by 12 Keys. Because they maintain this list, they have gotten many high-quality links from universities, health organizations and other health institutions. If linkbait is about offering the best of the web, then turning your website into a valuable and credible resource for readers is a great way to ensure not only that they return again and again, but also that they’re sharing your resources with their friends and family.

Quality linkbait can also be highly visual. If the information you hope to pass on to your readers is numbers-based, you’ll probably want to spend a great deal of time thinking about the best way to visualize your data. A great way to go is to build an infographic. Infographics offer an uncomplicated way for your readers to learn about your brand, the issues that matter to you or the values that you stand for.

Is Linkbait Future-Proof?

As one of the driving forces behind content marketing strategies, Google has a tendency to make the SEO and marketing worlds nervous any time they introduce a change to their search algorithms. Most of the time-honored SEO practices are still alive and well, but with each algorithm update, Google has propelled us closer to the end of link building as we know it.

While link building is still alive and kicking, it’s our approach and even our very definition of the practice that needs to change with the times. That’s where linkbait comes in.

Link building is the process whereby quality online content is encouraged to go viral. Marketers take advantage of the influencers in their niche and their own contributions to social circles and online communities to distribute their brand across the web. The thing is, Google is actively forcing content marketers to pursue more organic approaches to link building. Linkbait, coupled with a sound social media campaign, could prove to be that missing link.

No matter what Google does, and no matter how radically they redesign their framework or their algorithms, high-quality content will always be the order of the day. Where and how that quality is shared is changing, however. Today, quality linkbait thrives on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, where passing on a piece of content that inspires laughter, thought or self-improvement is as simple as hitting the Share, Retweet or Pin button.

As marketers, we’re the ones who get the ball rolling. Fortunately for us, the tools to do so are already available. Thanks to Google, Facebook and the rest of the Internet giants, we really don’t need to actually build a new framework. Instead, the task that falls to us is as straightforward, albeit somewhat difficult: to use our creativity to provide something compelling and valuable for our audience.

Social Media Experts: Real vs. Fakers

social mediaSocial Media is one of the hottest areas of digital marketing today. Everyone is on social media. Companies small and large are jumping into the pool of social media. That also means there are companies out there that have no idea what they are doing or where to turn when it comes to their social media. They are trying to incorporate it into their marketing efforts but with truly just don’t know where to begin.

So of course, when they start searching for help with this area, they find so-called social media “experts”. Not everyone claiming to be an “expert” in social media or any other area of digital marketing for that matter truly is an “expert” at anything other than BS. People are just dying to become Internet famous no matter what the cost!

So let’s take a look at some key points of a true expert vs a fake:

First of all, an expert should be active on social media and not just on one social media platform. They should have update their social media profiles often and also blog on their own blog or have some sort of blog platform perhaps through their work—somewhere to share their voice and skills.

They should also know and keep current on the latest news and trends with social media and digital marketing in general. In this industry, things change daily and an “expert” should know this. You have to read and research daily to stay up-to-date on everything in this industry.

An expert should know more than just Twitter and Facebook. Those are pretty obvious these days, but now we have so many other social media platforms depending based on niches, Pinterest, Google +, YouTube, Snapchat, Vine, Instagram are all dominating the social media atmosphere at the moment. An expert should be aware of these and others. They should know where the people in their niche can be found. They should be active on these networks, not just have an account. It is important to note that Social Media covers a very large area so no one can be an “expert” at every aspect of it.

Buying Likes and Follows

If the “expert” has tons of connections, but low quality connections then chances are they are a fake! They tend to buy followers because to them quantity is more important that quality. This is NOT a numbers game people! Buying “likes” on your Facebook page or paying for followers on Twitter doesn’t make you an “expert” on anything but being a fool. You want to naturally earn your likes, following, and such. I mean who in their right mind wants to pay $3 or more per follower on Twitter!

A social media faker will often only utilize their social media to promote their own agenda or company’s agenda, but provide little engagement with their followers. An true expert will actually respond to comments, tweets, etc and also share others’ content as well as their own. If all you see on their social activity is self promotion of their latest and greatest program or service please beware of this faker.

Fakers often have zero business sense. They could not run a legitimate business if they tried. They are just throwing crap against the wall to see what sticks. They don’t know how to turn followers and fans into customers. If they do, it’s usually broken promises and flat out lies. These people only see dollar signs and will never do any actual real work for anyone.

If someone you follow is  overly eager to get your business, make sure you watch them closely. If they sound like a used car salesman swearing that this is the only way or that is the only way—WATCH OUT! We’ve all met those types. There isn’t just one magical way that works in digital marketing. It takes several different moving parts to make things successful in marketing. It is also different for every business. For example, Facebook ads make work great for one business whereas they may be a total fail for another. Social Media should be used to complement all other forms of marketing. It requires careful planning and strategy to make social media work in your overall marketing plan.

These social media “experts” unfortunately aren’t always genuine. Many of the fakers have given social media a bad name and made it harder for truly knowledgeable people to prosper much like most other areas of digital marketing. Then there are the social media certifications as well but that would be another blog post in itself so we will have to examine that idea later. What do you think about the influx of self-proclaimed social media “experts”?

Image Credit: Shutterstock Bloomua

Guest Blogging: Why I’m Starting Now

guest blogging

Today, Matt Cutts dropped a metal folding chair on the SEO community’s head.

He declared, once and for all, that guest blogging is dead and you should stop doing it.

So, naturally, I decided that now is the perfect time to ramp up my ambitions that have been festering for a few months: I’m pitching myself for guest blogs more.

Why, you may ask?

Well, this kind of post from Mr. Cutts is a perfect way to scare away the low-end of the guest blogging pitches. SEO’s who were abusing this practice just tucked their tail between their legs and let those who’d like to post high quality, relevant and useful content on others sites much easier.

Hopefully the deluge of webspam targeted at many webmasters will slow down. Hopefully an email from a digital marketer outreaching for relationships to share content and expertise will carry more weight. Hopefully it scares away spammers.

I think that was the whole point of Matt’s post. Those up in arms about sites like Moz, iAcquire and others accepting guest posts are totally misguided. Matt specifically mentions this in an update to the article:

There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they will continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I am talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.

That’s a much more fair assessment of the way to intelligently do guest blogging. Guest blogging with high quality content is here to stay: spammy guest blogging is on the way out. This isn’t anything new, it wasn’t a revelation and those who suggest otherwise were scanning headlines.

Perhaps the most interesting part for those who are abusing this tactic is the following quote:

I’d expect Google’s webspam team to take a pretty dim view of guest blogging going forward.

This, right here, is a classic Cutts carpet bomb. I’d expect to see a swift update punishing these types of guest blogs on both ends: the site that allows spammy guest blogs will be punished along with the site that’s being linked to. If you have abused these tactics in the past, I’d even consider proactively removing much of your keyword rich anchor text links. I foresee a future where a Hummingbird release knocks down the authority and rankings of websites abusing this at scale.

But, for those who are looking to pitch themselves for more guest blogs, I think the door just opened a little bit. Websites and brands running authoritative blogs will hopefully see the volume of their pitches drop some and it may let in more people trying to start guest blogging for promotion of their personal brand, authority and knowledge.