I remember the days when you could launch a website and get back to business as usual, knowing that it was likely to provide some value just by existing.
These days, websites remain the key to successful marketing strategies However, online marketing includes much more.
This post outlines a framework for mapping marketing objectives to a more holistic view of your web presence, which extends far beyond your website. It is a model that is meant to help you adjust your focus to the bigger picture, the lens through which we should all be focusing our future forward online marketing efforts.
Web Presence Framework
The image above highlights the most important tools that need to be aligned to structure your web presence properly. The four colored bars in the center are the “pillars”. Let’s look at each of the pillars in more detail.
A few years ago, there was a lot of buzz that branding was decreasing in importance. Based on the SERPs we were seeing, one might have thought this was a trend. Small sites with little to no history were able to rank on page 1 for competitive keywords by using an exact-match domain, optimizing the on-page, and earning or buying a few decent links to the site.
Google has pushed strongly in the opposite direction since early 2011. Now, brands matter as much or more than keywords again. And this is only for SEO.
Overall, your brand is the key to integrating online and offline media vehicles. Things like your logo, your key messages and value proposition, your brand voice, and even your color palette must be pervasive. If you or someone representing your brand are saying anything, it should be done within the guidelines you set. This includes content on your site, content on other sites, your social media conversations, and any outbound marketing you use.
User Experience is a growing discipline in web design, primarily focused on usability and ease of use. While that objective is a huge factor toward the success of your website, user experience is much more.
When taken from the perspective of the customer, user experience heavily influences the impact of your brand. What is it like to engage with your brand? Is it consistent across mediums? Do you meet the expectations that were set elsewhere by ambassadors of your brand and business? Is it a pleasurable, exciting, or boring experience to engage with you?
Take a wider view of user experience, and you will see that it is much more than the color of the buttons on your landing page or the way you build the navigation on your site. It is about how you make prospects and customers feel through your actions and words.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Any good online marketing professional knows that organic traffic is one of the most important success factors for a website. But SEO goes far beyond just ranking static pages of content on your own web property.
SEO now extends in multiple directions. Social is fast growing in influence over SEO performance, as shares, likes, and bookmarks are taken into account for rankings. Author Authority is soon to be a major factor, both for ranking your own content and measuring the authority of content you share.
And if you are diligent and consistent, you just might find that things you say and do away from your own website will rank well for keywords that are beyond the reach of your own site. For example, I often find my Google+ share of blog posts will rank much higher for new keywords than the post itself, at least in the short term. Over time, as the “freshness” of the +1 wears off, the content itself can start to build equity for that keyword.
In the end, everything you do to represent your brand will be able to affect your rankings, which in turn will impact your organic traffic volume. The savvy marketer is already working to get this aligned in preparation for where they need to be at this time next year.
Beyond just the branding, user experience, and SEO, relationships continue to be a key factor in online marketing success. In the old days, before the internet, relationships were a massive influence on our success. Today, with so many opportunities to network and converse online, relationships remain important.
There is a darn good reason the search engines are being forced to accommodate social media activity in their algorithms. Word of mouth has been automated in a way, something that we simply cannot overlook. But we have unprecedented access to others for networking and relationship building today.
If you look at any successful businessperson or thought leader, you will find important relationships that were instrumental in them building their personal and/or business brand. Mentors, online connections, former co-workers, friends and family, the list goes on.
We are all in this together, so what are you doing to help others? We like to look out for those who look out for us, so a little pay it forward can come back to you tenfold. Hold your trusted relationships in the highest of regard.
The Foundation: Content
There is a theme that runs through all of this, and that theme is content. If you are out there saying something, all of the above matters. Those “pillars” provide the framework for you to build your content in the most consistent, engageable, and shareable manner.
How does the content you are authoring support your brand values? Is it in the right voice?
Is it easy and enjoyable for readers to consume and respond to your content? Do you leave points open for discussion?
Are you writing about the work of or topics of interest to trusted colleagues? Sharing their work? Contributing to online discussions and TweetChats about their key content topics?
How to Approach Content Properly
Content for content’s sake is a waste of time. Think about how you want to present yourself, whether you are making it hard or easy for your content to be absorbed, where the content will be found, and how you and your network can collaborate to help all of your ships rise. Then write the content that helps make that happen.
If you ever wondered exactly why content marketing is the rage, hopefully this helps you better understand that it is the fabric which holds this whole online marketing framework together. And as I’ve said before, it works.
How to Carve Out Resources to Drive Content
If content marketing concerns you because of staffing shortages, lack of time, or other operational limitations, find someone external to do it for you. Pull budget from under-performing “Push” marketing programs to fund it.
Content marketing is like a snowball rolling downhill…the more you get done, the more your progress accelerates. So stop wasting money on old school advertising tactics, and give content marketing a try for a minimum of six months.
Contact us if you need help structuring the program, and we can help you save time and headaches in getting it off the ground. This is one of our main areas of specialty.