Thursday, May 15, 2008

Virginia Internet Marketing Training - Ask Kelly & Ted - More Traffic?

Here's a recent question that came to us - while it's a question we obviously hear a lot, there aren't a lot of places to go that succinctly summarize the steps to take (at least from our Internet Marketing, Media and Communications perspective):

"What are your recommendations to generate more traffic, etc? When do you guys get involved - during the page designs, build or post build?"

Our answer:

"Generating more traffic" is a big part of our business - but it's not the "end-game" of your business or our relationship. The "end-game" is more business for you, meaning more sales, referrals, publicity, etc. So, "generating more traffic" is a large and necessary piece of the puzzle, but there are also many things to do before and after the traffic is generated.

To actually generate more traffic, it's going to involve AT LEAST the following activities, each of which requires research, content design and generation, monitoring and updating. (Note - many businesses do just some of the following - determined by their budget, marketing plan and particular competitive positioning).

1 - SEO (search engine optimization) - optimization of the website; there's a long list of things to do, many of which may be peculiar to the specific site. Things like the right metatags, keyword density, html optimization, anchor and alt text, etc. Note that optimization for search engines needs to be balanced against optimization (i.e. usability) for people - the end game is not just traffic, but conversion of landing pages (i.e. people actually take action).

2 - SEM (search engine marketing) - distribution of optimized content and backlinks to sites and directories on the web - the specific form of the content (includes multimedia) and where it's placed will be specific to the site, its business and reputation, and the marketing plan. Note that "marketing" means both "free" placement, and "paid" placement (like Google Adwords). Creating and maintaining Adwords campaigns is a real science - that's why you should only hire "certified" professionals. These campaigns can range from $30 to many tens of thousands of dollars a month in pay-per-click charges - it's serious business.

3 - Social Media Marketing - this is like SEM, but much more "conversational", and there's a certain amount of reputation and community building that needs to happen, among the "right" sites, and very carefully (i.e. you need to play nice in the sandbox). Marketing formats include everything from text comments to videos. Think Facebook, stumbleupon, delicious, etc.

4 - Plain 'ol Online Marketing - this is not necessarily targeted at search engines (but should always consider copywriting that's optimized for keywords) - this includes email campaigns (with associated "opt-in" harvesting), classifieds, banner ad placement, and affiliate marketing (which presumes some digital content has been produced to offer or sell). This also implies some degree of digital content management - meaning, the various content and digital assets are managed and coordinated as they're created, distributed and tracked for performance.

5 - Online/Offline coordination - Northern Virginia media advertising and communications (and elsewhere, obviously) happens with flyers, by mail, broadcast on the tv and radio, on billboards (print and electronic), and at in-person meetups - a coordinated campaign on and off the Internet should be leveraging the same copywriting and graphic themes and messages.

6 - "Communications" - the broad industry we represent is called "Marketing AND Communications"; not all digital or physical content generated for broadcast or individual consumption is for advertising purposes. Much is simply for business communications purposes, whether to simply inform existing customers or to let broader audiences know what you're up to. Like press releases. Press release in particular, however, should be well-coordinated with your marketing campaign, in terms of keywords and backlinks. Other communications might be for individuals and organizations in non-profit activities - like creating an online social media resume.

"When do you guys get involved?"

It's always better to get started on the marketing campaign, and translating it into web content, as soon as possible - so that a new website has "built-in" SEO and SEM features, and so that the search indexes can get started indexing the site and building up the page rank. The answer is, therefore, "as soon as possible, even long before your website or digital content is created".



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