The Internet is a vast, ever-growing entity. It has fundamentally changed nearly every aspect of our lives. Think for a second about how social media has changed how we interact with friends, family, co-workers, and communities. Look up how much retail business happens online during Cyber Monday alone…it’s staggering. It’s really pretty amazing that a technology in its infancy just 20 years ago is now a crucial part of our day-to-day lives.
Websites are at the core of our day-to-day business lives as well. Apps, virtual reality and augmented reality experiences are also fighting for “time” with prospective customers, but business websites remain a primary cog in the wheel of financial success. Website marketing, not surprisingly, is more important than ever. But how do you create real, qualified traffic to your site in a way that’s cost effective (meaning, in a way that generates positive ROI)?
Below is our step by step guide to website marketing that really works. This is a detailed guide to generating brand awareness, leads and sales via your business site, even in an increasingly crowded space.
Start With A Great UX
A great user experience (UX) allows your site’s users to go deeper, explore and potentially purchase with ease – and within context. There’s a natural path to their visit, and key content is highlighted in a meaningful and seamless fashion.
Think about how users scan a page for example. This heat map below showcases an “F” pattern that highlights how users scan a page:
A great example of this is how Uber currently has their home page set up. Note where the CTA’s (Calls To Action) fall. Right in line with the F pattern. “Become a Driver” caps the top of the F, and “Sign Up To Drive” is the lower extension of the F:
Other best practices, for example, allow for quick contact forms on every page where content may create a question, or a need for more information. This is especially true for lead-gen sites or businesses trying to generate new customer inquiries.
Secondary CTA’s should focus on easily allowing customers to sign up for your e-news. *NOTE* If you don’t have an e-newsletter in place, you will need one after you move forward with a content plan as outlined below. Mail Chimp or Constant Contact offer really nice templates that you can choose from, most of which are geared towards mobile users.
For e-commerce sites, ensure that the checkout process is easy and natural, without any undue steps. In-cart upsells are both welcome and important, but only if the related products and offers are relevant and important. Trying to “stuff” unwanted or unrelated items at this stage will lead to increased cart abandonment.
Most importantly, make sure that your site has a responsive framework unless there is a serious business need for a mobile site. Remember, your site needs to be built with mobile and tablet users in mind. A few years from now this traffic will absolutely dwarf desktop users. There may even be an even smaller screen to contend with – smart watches. You can cross that bridge when you get there. In the meantime, a sleek fluid grid starting at the phones and expanding upwards is your goal. Here’s a visual representation below:
When you plan for a great user experience, with their journey in mind and clear goals for each type of user (and device), you are already ahead of the competition.
Using a tool like Lucky Orange can help you understand how people are using your site on an individual level also. Most people don’t get much usable info from Google Analytics’ basic information like top paths or heat maps. Paying for this tool will give you very, very valuable insight.
Plan For Killer Content
Google recently started talking about “Moments That Matter”, defined as the point that users decide that I-Want-To-Go, I-Want-To-Learn, I-Want-To-Buy is where they’re at in that very moment. Craft your content to answer those questions for your industry or your product line. Speak always to your best customers, in the language that matters most to them.
Content isn’t just words, however. Video is content too. Start creating it. Killer video content doesn’t have to be long or expensive. Hell, you may not even create it! User testimonial vids, in-action product shots and post-implementation videos are great tools. Here’s an example of a powerful testimonial that, obviously, didn’t require a big production budget:
Video has other value as well. It helps improve conversions and really, really drives on-site metrics like TOS (Time On Site). These metrics play an in increasingly important role in organic search valuation.
Native video is a fantastic element to use with Facebook marketing as well. We’ll get to that later, but know that video on Facebook gets about 2X the engagement of a static image. Who wouldn’t want double the engagement with their posts and promoted content?
It’s important to remember that images are content too. If you have unique, industry-relevant images, go ahead and make use of them. Image search can be a surprisingly relevant driver of referral traffic, and image libraries that are free to the public can result in some really interesting, natural backlink acquisition that you’d never get otherwise.
Of course, blogging still matters. But don’t fool yourself into believing that “if you build it, they will come”. That just isn’t true. Good UX needs applied to your blog posts as well. Blog posts need to be easily scannable, and get to the point quickly. It’s worth noting though that the average deep index post on Google is about 2,000 words long. The days of 300 words and getting love are way, way in the past. Think about that as you craft your strategy. Also think about how to interlink your blog stories in natural ways that drive deeper engagement. This is best done by creating your content calendar BEFORE you start blogging (or keep blogging). Think about a series, or spin-offs of the most relevant topic that you and your team are experts on. Don’t be afraid to pull stories from employees at every level. There’s stories up and down your company if you just find them! Great stories don’t even have to be your own. Some truly great blogs only produce about 30% to 50% original content. The rest is aggregated and re-shared with a “hot take” on what’s trending at the time.
Your blog should also contain lead capture elements…forms, e-news sign-ups, live chat and possibly even the dreaded popover messages for visitors that stay longer than a few minutes. (This tactic is losing steam, but currently still providing conversions, so it makes the cut for now). You’ll get extra value from asking for and replying to comments on your blog as well. Here’s an example from our own site:
These comments become part of the copy. It’s crawlable, indexable, and adds “freshness” to posts that might otherwise go stale quickly!
Additionally, market your blog where it matters. Consider all the potential outlets including sites like StumbleUpon, BizSugar, LinkedIN, etc. Of course, a Facebook community is a great place to share your content. Don’t be shy to pay to get your own content in front of your own followers. It pays off in the end. And don’t be afraid of content exploration sites as a website marketing option either (more on that later).
Speed, Speed And More Speed
After you get your UX in place, have a great content plan and start creating, it’s important to take step back and focus on site speed. Every second matters. More than a second or two to load and all your hard work goes out the window, especially for mobile users. Ask your dev team if all unnecessary code has been eliminated. Make sure images are optimized for the web as well. A CDN (Content Delivery Network) is always a good investment, especially as your site starts growing its traffic.
A critical element of speed is your hosting provider also. Hosting is NOT the place to be penny wise and pound foolish. Shared hosting is fine, but opt for additional space and a business-pro plan if you can. If you’re hosting this valuable asset in a friend’s basement on Rackspace server…reconsider.
For pages that may not have forms on them, or aren’t offering a downloadable piece of content or checkout page, you should really consider Google’s new Accelerated Mobile Pages. AMP’s are featured more prominently on mobile search, and they really are lightening fast! As of right now, there are restrictions on what they can and can’t do…but don’t let that stop you from using this valuable new tool.
Tap In To Social
Facebook communities and fan pages still matter. In fact, this is probably the best paid advertising you can do – marketing to people who A) already like and follow your brand/company or B) fit a very tight profile of your target customer. Consider Facebook Ads a double-edged sword. One side fills your funnel, the other serves as an outlet for hyper-targeted retargeting. You win whichever way it cuts.
This is a great place to promote the killer content you are making. Don’t forget, just like with what you put on your site, what you put on Facebook really matters. Images matter. Video matters. You can blend both with Facebook’s new Canvas Ads if you don’t mind users not leaving their platform (this is for brand awareness only). Here’s an example:
For really exciting success though, you’ll need to spend time with this and treat it like an science lab. Test copy and images. Be consistent with everything but one variable and test it on the same audiences. Tweak your audiences. Use a variety of video, single images and multi-image ads. Over time (but without breaking the bank), you’ll generate a community of your own and also generate plenty of leads/sales along the way, at really attractive CPC’s.
Facebook also serves ads to Instagram, which is a nice bonus. If you have a really visually stunning brand, Instagram and Pinterest are both outlets to consider. You’ll be hard pressed to beat the return from Facebook also. Don’t worry about Twitter, the ROI just isn’t there. And unless you are targeting a very young demo, don’t worry about Snapchat either (yet). Their day will come though.
A final note on social…we don’t consider LinkedIN as a social outlet. This is a great business tool for individual relationships. InMail has real value and can be worth the spend. Just don’t plan on making this a website marketing tool in your arsenal.
Pay To Play
Pay Per Click will be an important element for you also, if you still have budget after everything above. However, let’s get this straight….aside from Remarketing with Google AdWords…don’t spent money on display (at this point). If you are going to do Display, wait until you can stomach a good programmatic campaign – we will cover that down the page a bit.
When you are choosing keywords to bid, focus on long-tail. Be geo-specific. Use a very robust list of negative keywords. Finally, pay a professional to build it! If you have an in-house PPC specialist, great. If not, find a good consultant for a short-term build. This is still a fantastic tool for effective website marketing.
One of the newer tools (which we cover at length here) is Gmail native ads. Read the post if you like, but know that this is a tool you WILL want to utilize!
We touched on Remarketing earlier. It’s Google’s version of retargeting. One snippet of code lets you follow users all over the interwebs. But doing this right takes time. Don’t use the same ad for every user, and don’t take them back to the same page. Customize user groups based on content they interacted with, or pages they left from. This technology was developed to fight cart abandonment, but it has uses well beyond e-commerce. Put it to use for your website.
Another new tool is Google Maps Local Ads. WordStream does a great job of laying out how these are used in this post. If you’re getting tired of reading, here’s a visual for you:
Note that the top listing is actually an ad, and has a special purple marker on the map. Anything that A) stands out and B) is listed first is great for brick and mortar locations. So use this appropriately!
One final note about PPC as a web marketing component…don’t forget BING! You may find that you can generate about 20% more PPC traffic by using this outlet. Users tend to be older, whiter and, well…guys. If that’s part of your target demo, power to you. It will require additional set-up, but you can use the same language and keywords that you do for AdWords. It’s worth the extra time, that’s for sure.
Digital Public Relations Is The New SEO
Don’t worry about SEO – worry about relationships! I can picture the head-scratching now. Writing a blog post about website marketing and NOT including SEO. The point here is that it can happen naturally over time, and unless you really understand what you’re doing with link-building and link acquisition, you can cause more harm than good. On-page technicals are important, but that’s table stakes as part of your UX from way back at the top of the page.
Again, just focus on building key relationships with bloggers, webmasters and journalists. Put your content in the hands of those that can help. Find influencers that may have an interest and get them “on your side”. Digital Public Relations generates brand mentions, backlinks, coverage and most importantly real, qualified traffic. Don’t think of it as SEO, just think of it as building relationships for your website, one real person at a time.
Use Content Discovery Before It’s Extinct
I’m sure you’ve seen these. The linkbait headlines are a little out of control. Ad-serving sites dominate this set, its gotten so bad that results have started to trend a little downward. Here’s a good example:
Still, Outbrain and/or Taboola can help you reach users not actively looking for your content. It may not seem sexy, but this is also a key top-line traffic filler. Make sure you are promoting your best content here (it can’t be overly promotional). This is a great lead-in to your company. Clicks are often less than .50 each. Don’t skimp on budget though, you’ll need volume to make this work. Note that this is very far down the list. Still, it’s a channel you don’t want to ignore.
The Big Budget Busters
If all the above is no problem, or you’re already doing much of that and still looking for “more meat”, here’s some big guns that require serious budget, but can generate results. These can’t (currently) be scaled down, so prepare to drop a good chunk of change each month to make it work. This includes IP targeting, programmatic display advertising and pre-roll video advertising.
If you have a good list, a really clean consumer list, you can get some great mileage from IP targeting. It’s like direct mail for IP addresses. And if you don’t have a list but have a really large, yet easily definable target customer, programmatic ads can really help you find customers you didn’t know existed. Pre-roll video can generate awareness and create engagement that would otherwise never happen too. Again, all great options, but too pricey to put ahead of the things listed above.
Remember, this list is “in order”. If you don’t have time or budget for the next item, focus on what you do have time for. And if you need a partner to build and implement your strategy, please contact us today!