How To Write A Strategic Online Marketing Plan – Part 3

Part 3 – Prioritization In the Online Marketing Plan!

If you are reading this article, you may want to check the first two parts here:

This is the first article in the series on writing a strategic online marketing plan
This is the second article in the series on writing a strategic online marketing plan

The more I think about writing a plan for a company’s online marketing efforts, I think about all the cookie-cutter, repetitive actions taken out there by thousands and thousands of website owners and marketers. This means people are starting to following standards in online marketing and trust me there are many things you should do and are doing right now! But, in a few cases, I’ve noticed that some things in marketing are much more important and easy to do than others, and just because everybody else is doing it, doesn’t mean you have to do it or should be putting resources into it. Just because the other kids are doing it is not enough…

What I am talking about is making strategic decisions about what is not just easy, but what is going to give you the biggest bang for you buck. Now, that is a very important part of the online marketing plan, such as what to first and then next, and so on. But even before many things can be done, there is and always will be a lot of extra setup work. If you want to have an email marketing campaign system in place, you need to at least have a solution to collect emails, possibly segment them, store them in a database, and then find an email sending solution, and then analyze and follow up. But you can’t get ahead of yourself, in that the pillars of a successful part of your marketing may revolve around the SEQUENCE in setting things up. If you just started sending out marketing email, because you were not patient, from the same server as your business correspondence communications (things like receipts, support and customer interaction) and have not come up with a separate domain for sending your email, you may have gotten things out of sequence… Not the end of the world if you are a start-up, but if you had separate domains you were sending from, you would have protected your business correspondence (your real world important email) from getting black-listed.

So for each area of marketing you need to accomplish for your website, I use a rating system for the priority, ease of implementation, time to implement, and other factors. Then based on these additional factors the priority may change. For instance, getting online with a website is still at the top of this list. One thing that is just as easy is creating videos, that are nicely tagged and have content on Youtube pointing back to your site. The same thing with easy to implement blog software like WordPress or Blogger, which also points back to your site for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) purposes. So things have changed in online marketing. What was first things first 10 or 5 years ago is not the same. Video and Blogs are now ground zero…not necessarily email… Email is important and the core, but it is a layer now above the website, videos, blogs, picture and other stuff you can easily use to draw traffic. What you have to infer from this, is it is a hell of a lot easier to get out a video camera and make a Youtube video than getting a great email campaign in place. Email campaigns mean more HTML, images possibly, landing pages, etc.

So as part of your prioritization in your online marketing plan, you need to come up with all the ways you are going to market online and focus in on a few quick wins. This is especially true if you want to make something happen now. Everything these days is about now, not later. Yes, some marketing efforts will take some time, but things like fixing a domain name to all be www. or buying a domain name can be done today. Things like fixing a title per page or a url per page can be done now, not later.

Help Is On The Way

Like I have said in my previous parts of writing a strategic online marketing plan, there are many, I mean many SEO and marketing firms out there to deliver your marketing program. But, there few, like me, who actually act as your marketing exec and help you write a plan. It is the writing of this plan you can’t leave to a one trick pony SEO firm. It needs to be an in-house, maybe a consultant like myself, developed thing that represents you and your business. Email me at dgudema AT gmail dot com if you want to discuss it…

Just Say No

You can just say no to cookie-cutter marketing approaches, because quite frankly what is good for the gander may not be good for the goose. If you are a law firm, then how you do marketing is different than an online store. Don’t fall into a trap that they are all the same, everybody needs to do the same thing. The only reason you may hear this programmed thinking from your marketing expert/SEO guy/gal is, that is what they know. What “THEY KNOW” is a common problem in the online world, because we are all limited to what we know. One time I went around and asked a dozen different programmers what language to use. Each one gave me a different language because that is what they know. The each sweared that it was the one and only and the best! What they know is not a guide to what you need to do and in what sequence. This is a task for a VP of online marketing, not a third party SEO firm. Remember if you own the website, you use marketing firms to carry out your plan, and rarely do they have what it takes to name the plan and tell you what to do. Control over your marketing and what you are doing is important and starts from home not externally.

There are many ways to cut a cake and marketing is that cake. I recently ran into a technique being used for a website marketing to seniors and they had removed all website links, forcing the seniors to go down ONE and ONE SINGLE path. There was only one way to go through their homepage and it required entering an email address… Why this restriction? What was going on? Well, after I noticed they were using Google Optimizer, an A/B and Multivariate testing tool, I realized they must know something and they tested and in fact it may be a smart move for them. Did the senior really want to go in many directions/places and the answer was maybe not. Maybe 5% were pissed off and left, but the numbers may be high in the conversion rates on those who entered their email address and stayed. This was about herding the cattle, and it raised some interesting psychological issues with website marketing. Some things may be counter intuitive and not straight forward. How do you figure this out? You have to test!

Testing

In the prioritization should be some testing. You don’t know, so you test. Testing is cheap and easy. $50 in a pay per click account or putting up a page to find out if people click through, fill in a form, etc. This is the best way to go about figuring out what works.

There is always more. I will be adding a fourth article coming up on the same topic… Writing a strategic online marketing plan.

Websites.com $10,000 Site Design Contest

The reason I am pushing people to checkout the Websites.com website redesign contest, is I was one of the judges for the very first Websites.com best new site contests… Basically I felt that we did not get the showing that we deserved for the first contest. This means if you enter, and entering is free, you have a chance of winning.

Did I mention that second place is $3000! This is like easy money for some of you designers I know out there, and there is not entry fee. If I were a designer I would be all over this. Not just plugging this because I am currently an employee of NTT, the company that owns and manages Websites.com, but I am saying this is a serious opportunity that someone out there is leaving on the table.

I would say enter it and find out! You have nothing to lose. Actually if you sign up and win, and your firm is a design firm, you will get the clout and notoriety of winning this contest. Also, even if you are not a design firm, you need to enter this redesign contest, because this is the best type of SEO you can get. I did not mention this in my SEO in Overdrive blog entry, but basically any type of PR you can get that is from news articles is great for y our pagerank and links out there. So let me know if you have any questions. I am not available to discuss the contest with anybody directly, because of my involvement, and I am not sure if I will a judge again, but I am definitely letting you know to go for it on Websites.com!

SEO in Overdrive :)

Like may things in the web everybody is looking for the edge. You can go and read the JimBoykin.com site and get some interactive agency to do an audit, but often it is the same SEO stuff over and over.

A couple of years ago, at the beginning of SEO, Search Engine Optimization, around 2001, I was tasked with getting this startup speed dating site as high up in the search engines as possible, because as you can imagine, it is always less expensive to be found naturally, than to be found through PPC, Pay Per Click. Lots of stuff out there and lots of the same stuff where ever you look, so much so, for interactive firms these have become a standard.

Surprisingly, like 90% of sites have yet to meet these standards. These are pretty much the same as when we started SEO around the early 2000’s, plus all the new media stuff like blogging, plus now webmaster tools from Google, Yahoo and Bing like sitemaps.xml files.

There there are some additional small details that you would not think of to round this off. This is what I call SEO in Overdrive. Recently I gave a short talk on what are critical technical issues in getting a site nicely found on Google. So here is my SEO in Overdrive list below. I will probably miss a few things here and there.

1. Choose either www or no www URL.
Choose either www.strategicpoints.com or strategicpoints.com. Having both URLs working on your site will cause Google to count your rankings for pagerank separately. Together, as one domain, this will increase your site pagerank, because these two URL’s pagerank power is diluted. How to do this? If you have a linux server, the .htaccess file can be used. I am pointing to a good refernce to figure this out. If you are using WordPress, then do it for you automagically, and will switch you over to either one or the other based on the choice. If you are using windows…well I am sure there is an answer out there.

2. Localize or specialize each page of a site.
The old days of one title for all 100 pages of a site are like 1999. The top areas are title and Meta Description. As I have found out recently, if you mess up your title, the listing on Google will reflect this. So make sure the title is accurate and contains the key words you want to be found by, first… The Meta Description (if you don’t have top content) will be used by Google to show the descriptive text underneath the title on a Google result page. Take for instance a situation recently where we migrated a site, and the Meta Description was removed from a page. Without the little description beneath the title on the Google Results page, the link looked like an ad, especially since it was showing up first in the rankings. We learn from our dumb mistakes. We put the Meta Description back, and wholla, the link reappeared and so did our traffic.

3. Healthly, always changing content…
The search engines love content, no matter where it exists on your site. This is why having a forum, blog or other interactive parts of your site are so critical. This content is always changing, and this is always freshly indexed on the search engines. The introduction of the blog, and WordPress, which I favor, has really given us an ability to SEO in Overdrive, because it pings out to the rpc servers that update the search engines within 24 hours. This means not waiting for crawlers to come out to your site, but telling the search engines when and where to look for new content.

4. Text Links…
Who knew they would be so important. For sites that do not provide text links on the home page, they are missing out on the ability for both crawlers to go deeper, and the ability to make these links important part of search criteria for your site. Ever notice a group of links below your search results on Google… They determine these for you initially. These are considered the top internal links from your homepage on your site. The calculate it for you if you don’t do it yourself as sitelinks, through Google Webmaster Tools. You can remove these, but you can’t add these I believe… Only having images links is a downer…, and can be a negative impact on your sites. Top sites that want to continue with image links often put <div> based text that is not visible behind the image, that state the link in real text as a way to solve this issue. Either way, always take your links seriously.

5. Images, Site Elements and alt tags.
One of the tricks we used years ago to get to the top of the search engines without violating any code of ethics with Google was a technique I call snow balling. We decided on our top search content words, which were “speed dating”. Then we renamed the /images/ directory to /speed-dating-images/. Then we proceeded to add alt tags to each image, that said the image name with “speed dating” after the name, like “party photo – speed dating”. Then we went on to include alt tags in the links with the name of the link “event xyz – speed dating”.

6. Directories and Virtual Directories.
A newer technique is to create directories or virtual directories with tons of additional terms. No need to create these real directories anymore, unless you are on a windows server. I only know the Linux apache version of .htaccess and this can be used to create virtual directories for SEO. In our case it would have been /speed-dating/, /speed-dating-parties/, /speed-daters/, etc., etc. These so called directory and sub directory structures are really the cutting edge of the web today in terms of getting found on the search engines. No need to work hard and create these directories and subdirectores anymore or even a super .htaccess file. This is why I am lovin WordPress. If you have WordPress, all this is done for you and no need to work about it. WordPress not only can create these for you with real directories, but the redirection program I mention in my enterprise wordpress discussions on earlier blog entries gets into how it works, and why to use it.

That’s it for now. I am going to add some more to this list soon, and as you know there are a hundred other blogs out there with a lot of the same information. Good luck putting your SEO in overdrive. Contact me if you have any questions about the stuff I mention today at dgudema AT StrategicPoints DOT com.