What’s the point? Part 1

As the influence of the internet throughout the consumer demographic continues to grow at an exponential rate, it’s easy for us all in business to get caught up in the minutiae of this fascinating but complicated world. Whether it be your site’s precise rankings in the natural listings, the number of links you have, your keyword conversion rate or the number of followers you’ve scored on your company’s Twitter profile, the accessibility of accurate tracking results and the sophistication of the search engines’ marketing strategies (basic principles of supply and demand – there are only a limited number of sites on the first page etc) mean we are all engaged in an online battle to rank higher, get more hits and be more popular than our competition – it’s all about the numbers.

As a client manager on the Manual Links team here at Addpeople, I’m currently taking on several new clients each week as the business continues to grow. Many of these clients have spent years (and thousands of pounds) trying to establish their sites in the natural listings, and most will have had experiences (both good and bad) with other SEO companies.

I ask all of them the same questions: what do you do, what makes you unique in your marketplace, and who are you looking to sell to? You’d be amazed at the number of experienced businessmen and women that are only able to give vague or sweeping responses, and yet it’s only when you know the specific answers to these questions that you can put together your complete online marketing strategy and identify the knowledge, content and assets needed to get you there. Whatever may have gone on previously, this is where I want to start with my clients.

So to get some perspective on this, I think it’s sometimes prudent to take a step back to first principles and ask ourselves: What is the purpose of my website, and who am I trying to reach?

Let’s look at the basics. Your website is an integral part of your company’s marketing mix, providing Brand exposure to an almost limitless number of potential customers, but just how big a part is it, and what role do you want it to play?

Perhaps the internet IS your business – a retailer that sells exclusively online. Conversely, you might not want to sell anything at all – your website might be the online brand ambassador for your business, a trusted point of reference for customers to find out more about you, what you offer, and how to get in touch. Or perhaps it’s somewhere in between – only you (and perhaps an experienced SEO) can decide.

In conjunction with this, you’ll also need to decide on who your target customers are. If your target demographic is male consumers aged 18-35 years old that buy the latest electronic equipment, you’d employ a very different strategy for your site (tone and length of content, graphics, menu systems, video content etc) than you would for perhaps a target audience of architects looking to purchase building materials for a new project.

So, now you know part you want the site to play (for the time being at least – remember, this might change as your business changes) and who you want to target, ask yourself this – is the site I’ve got now actually fit for purpose? Things to look out for include:

1)      Is it search engine friendly? The way Google and the other engines assess and rank your sites has changed immeasurably over the last few years, which means some sites are just not search friendly anymore. Can the search engines’ crawlers effectively read the site, to ensure they know what you are all about? If the answer is no, then it’s time to upgrade your site to a modern, search friendly version. Why? Because your competition is doing that right now.

2)      Can they read the content on the page?

3)      Is there actually any content on the page at all – after all, content is king! Beyond that, is the tone and construction of the prose and the grammar correct for your target customer? One size does not fit all.

4)      If it’s an E-commerce site, are all the products clearly displayed, priced and easy to navigate to?

5)      Does it have an easy payment system, and a logical route to checkout (if applicable)? You’d be surprised at the number of online shops that struggle with these aspects.

The list is endless, this blog space finite, so I’ll leave it there – needless to say, I’m sure you can all add something from your own experiences.

Excellent – we now know what we want the site to do, who we want to target, and we know our site can provide the platform we need to get us there. Only now can we truly start applying the correct strategy for the website, to ensure we get the right traffic visiting the domain.

Obviously, some things apply universally – whether you are looking to sell products or just provide an online reference point, good positions in the natural listings and an efficient Adwords campaign are going to be the foundations on which you build your online presence, and will need constant attention. But beyond that, there are a plethora of different strategies and technologies you can use in your unique online campaign, and in part 2 of this blog I’ll be looking at how you might apply different strategies to different types of sites with different target audiences.

Website design; Link building and on-page optimisation for natural listings; Adwords; Social Media campaigns; Web Presenters and video blogging – we’ve got the knowledge and expertise to do it all. But it’s all pointless if you don’t know why the website exists, and who you are trying to sell to. So before launching headlong into multiple online campaigns, it pays to take a step back for a minute and assess where you are, and where you want to go with your website. If you need some professional advice to help clear the path a little, give us a call – we’d be happy to help!