The Beginning - A Very Good Place to Start

  |  June 1, 2010   |  Comments

The first step to solving your online marketing problems is knowing which questions to ask and discovering the "known unknowns."

I’m sitting on a Megabus, heading home to Cleveland from Chicago.

I was in Chicago to do an online marketing workshop.

This was for a large company that has a very smart and full team of marketing and technology people.

As with most workshops, I started by asking the group what they want to get out of the workshop.

They had great questions:

  • What will give us the most return?
  • Customer service is important. How do we use social media for that purpose?
  • How do we measure these channels?
  • How involved do you get in these channels?
  • How do we mitigate negative search returns?
  • What are the pros and cons of insourcing vs. outsourcing?
  • What are the best practices to drive acquisition?
  • How do we know if PPC (define) is worthwhile?
  • Is behavioral targeting and retargeting worthwhile?

These are common questions at these sessions. But I thought they covered the gamut of issues in their questions very well.

The first step to solving your problems is knowing which questions to ask. These are "known unknowns." They’re issues that we know we don’t know anything about. They’re actually much easier to solve than "unknown unknowns."

I would guess that most businesses, when it comes to Web marketing, have many more unknown unknowns. They just don’t know what they don’t know.

So, the first step in beginning a solid Web marketing strategy is asking good questions.

The list of questions above would probably be a good start for most companies putting together a Web marketing plan.

These questions came from a large corporation. But they certainly apply to companies and organizations of all sizes.

The next step I like to take is key phrase research.

So much of what we do in Web marketing involves talking like our customers and prospects.

Many companies, large and small, have an internal vocabulary that is completely different than the vocabulary of their customers.

Not using the same words as our customers does two things:

  1. It causes confusion and isolation for the very people we are trying to win over.
  2. It makes us miss the SEO (define) target.

If you want to come up in the search engines, in the natural search results, you have to use the words your potential visitors are using to search for your company. It’s just that simple. You can’t come up in the search engines for phrases you don’t use on your site.

There are many great key phrase research tools available today.

Here are some good free ones:

So, there is no excuse for not doing key phrase research.

The key to key phrase research is to:

  1. Find the phrases that are most relevant to your business.
  2. Organize those phrases by most searched to least searched.
  3. Be realistic about how likely you think it is that you will be able to compete for the phrases you chose.

At that point, you will have a list of key phrases that will become your road map for what content you will include on your website.

You are now beginning the first steps of meeting your customers and prospects at their level.

The key to successful online marketing programs today is to give your visitors what they want...not what you want.

The next step is to consider the beginnings of how to engage your visitors in the way they want to be engaged. This could include things like:

  • A blog
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Photo sharing

Most successful Web marketing strategies have a public communication option. Online visitors are becoming more comfortable in this realm.

If you want to increase conversion rates online, you have to be willing to meet these people at the place they want to be met.

If you don’t know where that place is, see if people have started reviewing your company.

Go to Google Maps and do a search for your company name. You might have to include the city and state. So, for my company, I did a search for: SageRock Akron Ohio. That pulled up my Google Places listing and showed me the reviews I have received.

I have a review on Insider Pages and another on Citysearch.

These could be opportunities to encourage people to post more reviews on these places. Or you could use these sites as places to offer your side of the story.

Once you are at this point, the next steps will often become much clearer.

Often, you just need to start at the beginning with incremental steps. It will make the whole process much more manageable and successful.

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Sage Lewis

Sage Lewis is the president of SageRock Digital Marketing. SageRock has been a leader in Web marketing since 1999, offering search engine optimization, paid search marketing, social media marketing, and analytics.

Sage speaks nationally with SES and other prominent Web marketing organizations. He is one of the most sought after speakers and coaches in the field of Web marketing. From coast to coast, Sage has trained, coached, and consulted with some of the largest brands and conferences in the country.

Sage is also "The Web Marketing Video Guy" with nearly 500 Web marketing videos published. Sage writes as an expert for ClickZ in the "Search Engine Marketing" section. He lives in Akron, Ohio with his wife, Rocky, and son, Indiana.

His columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive.

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