This article was updated in 11/2016 to reflect changes in the digital marketing industry.
Online marketing has changed dramatically in the past few years. When Google released search their Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, many website owners were sent scrambling as they watched their site’s rank slip.
But not all online marketers found Google’s updates to be devastating. Those who built a strong foundation in white hat online marketing practices weren’t affected like marketers who cut corners and tried to game the system. These sites found their rankings plummet, and deservedly so.
Unfortunately, there were also those website owners who were stuck in the middle. Companies and individuals without a dedicated marketing team to test and tweak their strategies also saw their rankings dive. Most of the websites in this category were run by business owners focused on day-to-day operations.
Marketing is only a small fraction of daily operations, which means they didn’t have the time to understand the practices and testing that goes into online marketing. Instead, these business owners picked up techniques here and there, but were often unaware of how and when to use different practices.
If this sounds like you, this overview will help you understand basic online marketing practices and how to use them.
Understanding the Basics of Building an Online Marketing Strategy
Building a successful online marketing strategy is just like building anything – it starts with a solid foundation. That foundation comes from understanding three basics of online marketing:
- Search Engine Optimization
- Content Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
But, knowing what each facet does isn’t enough. As many people discovered after the recent Google updates, applying even well-established marketing techniques incorrectly way can hurt your ranking.
To maximize their benefits, you also need to understand their shortcomings.
Search Engine Optimization
When people think of online marketing and the search engines, SEO is usually the first thing that comes to mind. SEO is used to create a site that the search engines will rank as one of the most relevant pages for a given term. The fact is, 95 percent of searchers click on a page that appears on the first page results for Google, Yahoo! or Bing. You can see that search rank is a big deal!
Building a solid SEO strategy consists primarily of selecting relevant keywords and providing valuable content related to those keywords. In the past, SEO was driven by factors like keyword placement, keywords density, and even how many times a keyword was used to link to that page.
But the search engines quickly discovered that keywords could be easily manipulated. A page that had nothing to do with a keyword could be ranked in top three, just by optimizing the page. Today, this means that sites who rely solely on keywords are often ignored by the search engines.
- Relevant Keywords
- Valuable Content that is Shared
- A Website that Loads Quickly
- Both Images & Content
- Backlinks from Respected Websites
Content marketing is not a new concept. In fact, John Deere started the trend in 1895 when they released The Furrow, an agricultural magazine. Other companies like Jell-O and Michelin followed suit with recipe books and automotive tips. Content marketing is important because it helps build your brand and inspire confidence in your company. In fact, six out of ten consumers say that after reading a custom publication, they feel better about the company.
Online content marketing has expanded the field to include blogs, training videos, podcasts, and even video games. But like every other online strategy, content marketing has its downsides. Low-quality content is the most common mistake and can affect your rankings and damage your brand. For example, content riddled with grammar and spelling errors makes you look careless and unprofessional. Providing statements without verifying the facts can make you look foolish. Remember that the content you put on your site might be the first impression a prospective client gets of your company.
Another mistake many businesses make is to pull away from content marketing all together. This likely results from a trend against guest blogging before the recent Google updates. Aggressive marketers were creating guest blog posts, and then submitting them to anyone who would publish them in return for a backlink to their site. These backlinks were thought to be the perfect marriage of content marketing and good SEO.
Google, however, thought differently. They saw poor quality content of no value used for nothing more than backlinks. So Google took action against these aggressive marketers, and online marketers became concerned. Many dropped guest blogging and content marketing entirely, worried that their ranks would fall.
But Google never said guest blogging would result in poor rankings. They said marketers should provide valuable content and host it on reputable sites. Which should have been the plan for most marketers to being with.
Social Media Marketing
For some, social media is nothing more than a way to stay in touch with old friends. But for businesses, social media is a way to tie SEO and content marketing together. Search engines take into consideration the number of shares a page receives when it ranks that particular piece of content.
Social media is also quickly becoming the primary way content is shared. Sites like Twitter, Google+, Stumble Upon, and Facebook all allow consumers to share valuable content with others in their network. Research shows people are more likely to trust content shared from people they know, so a share is akin to a 4 star rating!
A common mistake in social media marketing is thinking a large number of followers is all you need. In fact, many businesses have sprouted up offering to sell you 100 or 1000 ‘real’ friends or fans. Keep in mind that friends and fans are not enough – you need to build engagement. Friends that are purchased are often not your target demographic or are fake accounts. Neither will help you accomplish your goals.
In order to make the most of a social media marketing strategy, you need to interact with your fans and create a true community. Show that you are accessible by allowing people to ask questions, voice concerns, and even complain. Then address these issues in a professional manner. Provide them with content that interesting, not just promotional. Remember, social media is first of all social!
These three components are just the foundation of building a successful online marketing strategy. But without an understanding of how these three areas lay the groundwork for your overall strategy, you could find your efforts wasted. By building a solid online marketing foundation, you can begin to build a successful strategy that works for your business.
To learn more about SEO, read SEJ’s The Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
Featured Image: ImFine via Depositphotos
In-post Photo #2: dadartdesign via Depositphotos