Published on Thursday February 21, 2013 by John Oliver Coffey
Online Marketing and SEO in 2013: The Bigger Picture
Don’t throw spaghetti against the wall and see what works. Most readers of this site know about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay-per-click, Facebook fan pages, Twitter, and most of you have felt the pressure to get on board the latest and greatest social network. For those of you with commercial websites I hope you understand how or whether you can use any of these services to grow your business. The purpose of this article is to share where I think Online Marketing is today and where I think you should look if you want to be competitive in the next 5 years.
Google is still king
Google controls the search market in most countries and in January stood at 67% of all searches in the US. In other words you shouldn’t ignore the King. You can buy visibility in Google Adwords or you can earn top position in search engine results pages (SERPS) through having an optimized site, very happy clients, and lots of great links from other sites (there are lots of other factors but these are the main ones). The important point is that most people use Google for search and that is where you need to invest a lot of attention for the foreseeable future. But wait...
Don’t invest all effort in Google
Ask yourself a question - what would happen my business if Google didn’t exist tomorrow? Its very similar to investing money; putting all your money in a single investment is very high risk. There are lots of ways to diversify your ‘investment’ in online marketing, such as looking for other channels by which your target market can find you. This could be facebook or vertical directories (eg. plastic surgeons look at http://guiacirugia.com) or optimizing for other search engines (eg. bing.com) or through an article marketing strategy (e.g. write articles that get published in respected, high traffic websites). Simply put, diversifying your sources of web traffic and clients is a way to future proof your business online.
SEO is the minimum
Search engine algorithms consider hundreds of factors when they decide if your site or your competitors website ranks highest in the SERPS for ‘personal injury attorneys houston’. Not all of these factors carry the same importance and its not expected that your website be optimized for all of them but if your business is in a competitive niche online then optimization is the least that you need to do. The real competitive advantage comes from how you strategically position your site after optimization. Think of it like a retail space: are your clients well served by attentive customer service people, are the products/services easy to find, do you trust that your money will be well spent, would you tell your friends about the shopping experience, how did you hear about the store (word of mouth, media coverage, advertising) and did you get what you expected. All of these questions can and should be translated into your online marketing strategy. In short, an outstanding strategy with a badly optimized site will always perform better than a highly optimized site with a poor strategy.
Online Marketing is not about SEO tricks
The history of online marketing is characterized by SEO tricks that worked for a while then stopped working. Here’s a short history of tricks that don’t work any more:
- put keywords in meta keywords field
- buy lots links with anchor text from directories that nobody uses
- spamming blogs with comments containing links
- buying ridiculous domain names eg. best-personal-injury-attorney-houston-tx.net
- hacking abandoned websites
- buying fans and ‘likes’ in facebook
- using fake reviews in Google +
There are very few online marketing professionals smarter than Google Phd engineers. Tricks recommended by bad online marketing people will work for a while, if you are lucky. But invariably they stop working and in the best case scenario you have to come up with the latest trick that works, and in the worst case scenario your site will be penalized. Online marketing is also a creative process because its about great ideas implemented well. Get the basics right, then develop a strategy that provides a measurable return on investment based on innovative tactics that serve your target audience. They key here is to focus on developing intellectual capital within your strategy not employing the latest short term tricks. Simple right?
More than 55% of mobile phone subscribers owned smartphones in mid 2012 in the US and that trend is growing. What this means is that don’t build a new website unless it is compatible with smartphones and the most popular Pad devices. There are two options: use ‘Responsive Design’ styling or create a ‘mobile’ site. There are Pro’s and Cons to both approaches but whatever you do, choose one or you may be gifting over 30% to your competitors. A good starting point is to look at your web traffic reports to see how many people came to your site using a smartphone.
Measure and Research
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. The great part about internet marketing is the ability to base your strategy on real data. Companies that have a data based rationale for their strategy are almost always among the winners. Create iterative processes for researching, testing, evaluating all aspects of your online strategy. Here’s a short summary of what can be measured and some tools that help:
- website traffic behavior: time spent on your site, number of pages visited, abandonment rate. Example: Google Analytics
- sources of web traffic to your website
- number of transactions, average order value, keyword efficiency. Suggestion: read anything by my friend @Himanshu
- eye tracking: how people literally view your site, where they look, whether they scroll down and what they click. Example: www.crazyegg.com
- competition: quantity, quality of links to competing websites, rate of link growth/attrition. Example: www.majesticseo.com
- demand: what is the size of the market for your target keywords, what is the level of competition for those keywords. Example: Google Keyword Tool
- . testing: multivariate and A/B testing. Example: www.unbounce.com
To summarize, pay a lot of attention to the Google search engine but diversify your investment and risk by at least testing other ways to attract your market. Do your SEO properly but then focus on other ways to grow your market share and create a competitive advantage. Ensure your web presence can be viewed on all, or at least most, devices. Base your strategy on data from market research, testing, and evaluating otherwise you will be guilty of throwing spaghetti against wall, Mama Mia!
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