Online marketing consists of the digital channels (i.e. your website, emails, banners, social channels, videos, etc.) that businesses use to attract and capture customers and prospects. Whereas traditional marketing focuses on reaching massive mainstream audiences using tools like radio and television, online marketers concentrate on reaching niche audiences through digital interfaces.
With the emergence of social media, online marketing has become increasingly interactive. Marketing to customers, prospects and company stakeholders has transformed from a one-way conversation into a two-way conversation wherein customers now consume and help produce brand content.
The different components that make up online marketing, as well as the different tactics used to enhance online interaction between customers and brands, can easily fill a book. However, there are basic principles that underpin many of the best practices that form the foundation of a solid online marketing strategy.
Here are a few tips on how to best leverage those principles and enhance the interaction points that comprise your company’s online brand.
1. Make Your Copy Engaging
If there’s one thing to keep in mind when creating your content strategy, it’s this: The needs of your business should ultimately overlap with the needs of your target audience. By creating a website, social-media profile or other digital presence with your audience in mind, you create content that provides value to customers and brand influencers.
Develop a content strategy that leverages all of your online channels so that you not only entice customers to repeatedly return to your main website, but also reinforce your brand image and messaging.
Moreover, keep these points in mind when developing your online content:
- If you don’t already have one, start with a content marketing strategy or content plan that identifies your core audience, sets goals and defines success metrics.
- Share your content across social media. This will help in social search and get your target audience talking about your content and brand.
- Create at least one to two articles per week, either on a professional blog or designated area of your website that provides insightful and authoritative information for your target audience. WordPress, Medium and Tumblr are just a few of the dozens of blogging platforms available to small business owners.
- Make sure you have engaging landing pages for any marketing campaigns drawing customers and prospects back to your site.
- Monitor customer comments and feedback for future article, blog-post and white-paper ideas. For instance, you can write a series of blog posts that answer customers’ most pressing questions as they relate to your product or service.
- However, if content is “king,” then some SEO experts would argue that the taxonomy of your site is “queen.” Taxonomy is the methodology guiding how your content is categorized and organized throughout your site. These are not just the broad categories, subcategories and tags that structure the content and navigation of your site; taxonomy also includes your site’s URL structure, breadcrumbs and navigation bars.
Ensure your web content is supported by a user-friendly and simple design that users can easily navigate. Furthermore, your website design should be mobile-friendly (more on this below) and render correctly on multiple user interfaces.
2. Increase Your Website’s Visibility in Search
You’ve probably heard that, when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), content is still king. And one of the best ways to keep your site relevant for search engines is to consistently and frequently publish high-quality web content. In other words, keyword stuffing is out, and creating compelling content that people are eager to promote is in.
Since your website’s ranking on Bing, Google, Yahoo and other search engine results pages (SERPs) will be one of the primary ways customers and prospects find your site, you need to increase the importance and relevancy of your online content to improve your chances of ranking well on SERPs.
In short, this means:
- Raising the visibility of the most important and relevant content to the top level of your website pages. This helps search-engine crawlers easily find your best content, rather than having to search for it deep in your site.
- Assigning names and adding alt-tag descriptions to your website’s images.
- Using descriptive anchor text for hyperlinks that lead visitors to other sections and pages of your website. The microcopy you use for these clickable links should also focus on increasing conversion rates.
- Giving each of your webpages unique meta descriptions that briefly describe what visitors should expect once they click from a search page.
- Creating a Local Google+ page so your business appears on Google Maps and gains additional exposure to customers in local search results. This is especially important if you’re a brick-and-mortar business that relies on a local customer base.
3. Listen to and Engage With Customers on Social Media
With the rise of social-media titans like Facebook over the past decade, social media is now an integral part of the online marketing plan. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 52% of adult internet users are now active on at least two or more social platforms.
Social media gives you yet another opportunity to share and promote the web content you’ve worked so hard to put together. That means identifying and participating on the social channels where your customers and prospects will be, rather than spending time and energy on social sites that fail to align with your target market.
For example, if your business focuses on the business-to-business (B2B) segment, then using LinkedIn instead of Instagram will likely be the more appropriate social channel to include in your online marketing strategy.
Below are a few more tips on optimizing your social marketing:
Continue to refine your social strategy
Create a social-media marketing plan if you don’t already have one. If you do have a plan in place, revisit it periodically to ensure it still meets your business and content marketing goals.
Because social-media trends are constantly shifting and evolving, so should your social strategy. For ideas on what components to include in your plan, look at this sample social-media tactical plan by Marketo.
Fold video marketing into your content marketing strategy
Consider investing in video production and video advertising via platforms like YouTube, which is currently the second largest search engine after Google. Having a marketing presence on YouTube gets your business in front of potential customers who more readily digest video content versus text or audio.
Show off your product, discuss the benefits of your service, or recruit satisfied customers to provide online testimonials. By including links to your website and other social profiles in the description area of your YouTube channel, you help to promote your brand and increase web traffic.
Paid-distribution content is also gaining steam as more people visit YouTube to find out about new and established brands. Here’s a neat infographic by Contently that gives a breakdown of the different video ad formats, as well as tips on shooting and editing the perfect YouTube video.
Use social media to gather customer praise and feedback
Don’t just focus on making content that will go viral. Use social media as an additional vehicle for responding to customers’ questions, complaints and concerns. It shows that your business is engaged with its online audience and dedicated to delivering great customer service.
Your corporate blog, Facebook Business Page, Twitter feed and other social sites all serve as potential platforms for fielding customer inquiries, sourcing ideas for new content and enhancing your brand image on the web. Additionally, social content, such as tweets and YouTube videos, will be indexed by search engines, which help boost your content’s relevance and page ranking.
For a broader overview of the social-media landscape, refer to Social Media Examiner’s Social Media Marketing Industry Report. The Content Marketing Institute also provides a slew of templates to help you with your content marketing and social-media planning.
4. Optimize Your Website and Email Marketing for Mobile
According to a study by New Relic, 1.3 million Android devices are activated every day. To put that into perspective, that’s about four times as many smartphones compared to the 300,000 babies being born into the world daily. Furthermore, smartphones have an average of 41 apps installed, with mobile users checking those apps on their phones 150 times daily, or about every 6.5 minutes.
It’s easy to realize that mobile marketing is no longer a “nice-to-have” but a “must-have” if you want to achieve maximum reach with your online marketing efforts. Even if you’ve redesigned your website so that it looks visually appealing and content is easy to find, that one website needs to look great across multiple interfaces.
If you build a responsive website—a site that automatically renders correctly on mobile devices—you’ll remove the need to spend extra money to build a separate mobile site.
To get a head start on your mobile presence, be sure to:
- Check how your website appears in different versions, including on iOS, Android, OS X and Windows.
- Find responsive website themes for web designs that are mobile-ready. Keep in mind that you only need one great design that will automatically display your web content correctly.
- Consider investing in a well-designed mobile app if you think it will provide your customers with a richer, more meaningful user experience. It’s helpful to keep some of these factors in mind when deciding whether a mobile app is right for your business.
The same mobile-marketing best practices used on your website should be applied to your email campaigns as well. If you run a weekly or monthly newsletter, test your template using tools like Litmus to ensure it renders correctly across different mobile devices, email clients and operating systems.
5. Capture and Measure Success Metrics
While success metrics can be invaluable for yielding data on whether your efforts are yielding results, it can still be challenging to pin down the types of metrics to collect and best methods for deciphering data so it informs and supports your online marketing.
For your website, blog and email campaigns, looking at page views, clicks-through, bounce rates, conversion rates and forwarding rates can be a starting point if you don’t already have a web analytics tool in place.
The myriad of metrics and marketing reports used to measure online success can be somewhat overwhelming and intimidating. Luckily, several applications and platforms used in digital marketing have built-in analytics tools that give you insights into your demographics and online engagement.
If you haven’t yet incorporated them into your online marketing strategy, check out the resources below to start aggregating and monitoring success metrics across your different marketing channels.
For websites, consider the following services:
For social-media services, many providers offer in-house analytics suites for free or a small fee. Other services offer external analytics that may provide additional insights over in-house solutions. Notable examples of each include:
For email marketing, consider:
Creating a solid online marketing plan will take time to create and execute, but doing so can help you gain more customers and keep existing ones coming back. Before you build yours, find out what digital channels might work best for you, then tailor your efforts to your target market in those venues. Once you’ve found your niche, leverage it to build your business.
Think you’re ready to start your marketing plan? Be sure to check out our article on building a marketing budget first.