Basic Training for a Strategic Marketing Website
My definition of a strategic marketing website is a website designed for the purpose of attracting customers, educating them on your product or service and providing them opportunities to take actions that result in the purchase of your product or service. If a website is not attracting, educating and providing calls to action, it’s not a marketing website.
First impressions are everything
When I see a stranger for the first time I automatically have thoughts and opinions about them. I’m making judgments and evaluations and I can’t help it. These automatic, rapid-fire decisions about who someone is or isn’t all have meaning and inform me as to whether or not I’m attracted to them. Truth is, everyone does this.
This same process takes place when someone new visits your website. They automatically make judgments and evaluations about the look and feel, the content and myriad other things. It all informs as to whether they’re going to stay or leave and whether you have the opportunity to attract, educate and provide opportunities for them to take action.
Knowledge is power and keeping yourself informed on the latest advances in strategic website marketing is critical. You don’t have to be a technical geek, you merely have to be disciplined at keeping your website ahead of the competition. The following will allow you to put your hands on some of the levers and dials that control the effectiveness of a strategic marketing website.
Brand identity – your public dirty face
Branding is a word that gets thrown around like a Frisbee and, depending on whom you ask, has a different meaning from one person to another. Brand identity on the other hand is less slippery and can be defined as the look and feel that represent an organization.
This includes the logo design, type style, colors and standards by which they are applied. Like being tall or short, thin or heavy, brand identity makes a statement about who you are.
If your brand identity is tired and old and your website looks like an unmade bed, it’s hurting your business. Period. What this costs you is far more than what you would pay to hire a professional graphic designer; someone who can give your organization and your website the professional look and feel it deserves.
The Human Factor – after all we are humans
Detail after detail after detail, every step I took into this fabulous hotel left me mesmerized and amazed. The experience was new and exhilarating. My walk from the entrance to check-in at the front desk set the stage for a stay that has had me return several times over the years.
Someone caused this to happen. Someone took the time to stand in the shoes of the customer and at each touch point ask the question—What is the customer experiencing right here and right now? The answer to this question gave them access to a unique set of insights revealing what the ultimate guest experience could be.
That is the human factor.
It’s no surprise that few organizations exercise this process in their strategic marketing websites; after all, taking someone else’s perspective isn’t a default setting for humans. If you’re willing to employ the above process at every touch point on your website, you too will attract more visitors, keep them on your site longer and have them return more often.
Approaching business like it’s war
Strategy as defined in the dictionary is a term associated with winning wars. Long before it was part of the curriculum in our business schools, it was being taught in all of our military institutions. Applying strategy to business and specifically to building an effective marketing website actually is about war—especially when you consider the competition is in a battle for the same things you are: Attracting customers, educating them, and providing opportunities to take action.
Content Strategy — What’s in your garage?
“High-quality web content that’s useful, usable, and enjoyable is one of the greatest competitive advantages you can create for yourself online.” ― Kristina Halvorson, Content Strategy for the Web
You can tell a lot about someone by looking in his or her garage. My neighbor on the right has several motorcycles, a workbench and lots of tools in a big toolbox.Next to the bench hanging on the wall is a motorcycle-racing poster showing him going around a turn on a racetrack barely off the pavement. On the other side of the bench are his leather riding outfits neatly arranged next to several colorful bike helmets.
My neighbor on the left has a motorcycle in his garage too. He also has a pinball machine, several computers, a surfboard, sewing machine and a variety of old signs and gardening tools.
Question: If you needed information about buying a motorcycle, which neighbor would you choose?
A strategic marketing website is like a garage, it’s contents make a statement about where you’re focused and how much of an expert you are. It communicates a strong and unique point of view about your products and services. It leaves people with a clear understanding that you’re the best choice for what they’re looking for.
Entry-level content strategy:
- Clearly define your organization’s unique area of expertise
- Promote that unique expertise throughout your website with content that demonstrates your depth of knowledge and experience
- Establish your organization as a thought leader by writing and adding valuable new content to your website frequently
- Grow a loyal following of people who look to your website and the information you disseminate for guidance
Making your website attractive to search engines like Google is one of the most important things you can do to have a successful website. When people type in their search criteria (keywords) a page of listings related to the search appears.
You’ve probably noticed there are two types of listings; shaded listings at the top and un-shaded listings below them. The shaded listing and the listing in the right hand column are called Adwords. Advertisers pay the search engine companies to place them in a prime position and every time someone clicks on one of the listings, the search engine gets paid a small fee.
The listings that are un-shaded earned their position through a process called search engine optimization (SEO). I favor SEO because it’s natural, free and based on performance and popularity. In either case, paid search or SEO, having a high ranking and being on the first page of the search engines is always the goal.
There are search engine specialists who can help you optimize your website so that your listings rise to the top. Finding talented professionals who do this is a critical part of building a website that attracts, educates and provides opportunities to take action.
Choose your keywords wisely grasshopper
Used car salespeople remind me of sharks, always circling at the entrance of the lot looking for fresh meat and ready to go in for the kill. The worst thing anyone can do is show up without knowing specifically the car they want to buy. Arrive unprepared and no telling what you’ll drive off in.
The same is true for doing a search on the Internet where, guess what— sharks are also circling. Keywords are the terms people use to be directed to a specific place on the Internet like your company and your products rather than your competitors.
Choosing the right keywords is both intuitive and technical. Intuitive because it requires standing in the shoes of someone searching for what you have to offer and determining what search terms they will use to find you.
The technical part of keywords is evaluating them through the use of software and online programs that determine the viability of search terms and whether enough people are searching for those terms to make it worthwhile. An SEO specialist has these tools and it’s important to know that investing in your keywords promises to provide a nice return on your investment.
Landing pages, a beauty contest judged by spiders
The men of the Wodaabe tribe of Niger Africa are known for their beauty and are judged in contests where they dress in make-up, jewelry and colorful clothing, all in an effort to attract the available young women. The victors are the men who go all out with the biggest smiles, brightest eyes and best moves. Those who don’t go all out and give it their best stay lonely, at least until the next beauty contest.
Landing pages are like Wodaabe beauty contests for search engines where the winner’s prize is being placed on page one of the search listings. Search engines are so sophisticated today they actually send spiders out into the web universe to scan pages on websites looking for thought provoking, leadership qualities. Qualities that can be displayed with charts and graphs and bold headline statements and calls-to-action inviting people to sign up for newsletters and to read blogs.
Landing pages are the portal to the rest of your website and should have an abundance of content and valuable information that entices people to look at other parts of your website in the hopes of finding more of what they’re looking for.
Adding content to your website is like compound interest
When I was 8-years old I walked into the local Bank of America and plopped my $5 bag of change on the counter and asked the teller to open a savings account for me. My dad had taught me about compound interest and how over time your money would grow and grow just by letting it sit there. I liked that idea, however, after I made the initial deposit I never added another cent. When I checked the balance a couple of years later I was very disappointed at the amount of interest accumulated.
Taking the time and spending the money to create a strategic marketing website and not adding new content every month, year-in and year-out, is the same as investing five dollars dollar in a growth account and never adding another cent. No brain, no gain.
An effective way to add content to your website is in the form of a blog or newsletter. Doing this flags the search engines that there’s activity on your website and they love activity – not just any activity but activity that includes thought leadership, breaking news and information updates on the latest developments and most noteworthy, things going on in your business.
To stay on top in the search engines, you must grow your website every month by adding 2,000 words minimum of content. If you do, here’s what you can expect:
- Ever increasing traffic coming to your website looking for what you have to offer
- Loyal followers
- Elevated web presence to Thought Leader
- Being known as the go-to resource for quality information in your area of expertise
If a website is not attracting, educating and providing opportunities to take action, it’s not a marketing website.
First impressions are everything. Make sure your website is inviting by giving it a look and feel that says this is a professional organization.
Establish your company as a brand. Have your logo, colors, look and feel make a strong statement about who you are. If your website lacks identity, hire a professional designer to give your organization and your website a professional look and feel.
Standing in the shoes of your website visitors and employing the human factor will allow you to attract more visitors, keep them on your site longer and have them return often.
Develop a content strategy that showcases your strengths and is demonstrated through the valuable information published frequently on your website.
Make it easy for people to find you on the search engines by researching and choosing the most powerful keywords to represent your product or service.
Create landing pages filled with provocative information including charts graphs and calls to action.
Add new content every month that shows your visitors and the search engines that your company is on the forefront of new industry innovation and thought leadership.
If all of this sounds like too much work and effort, rest assured, it is. The good news is you’re not the one to do it. Your job is to simply understand how it works and hire the right strategic marketing firm to implement it for you.