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Claim your leadership position

How you can stay ahead of the curve with digital media

By Melynda Batchelor

Consumption of digital media is second only to television, and that gap is predicted to decrease. Audiences are spending an ever-increasing amount of time with digital media; however, many businesses are still focusing a disproportionate amount of marketing spend on traditional media.

There are three online areas— website, social media, and e-marketing— every business should focus on to stay ahead of the curve and take a leadership position in their market.

1. Invest in your website and get prospects to it

Your company website may be the first and last impression your potential customer ever has of your business. And it’s not just about looking sharp; it’s about the target audience finding your business and having a relevant experience during the research and buying process.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Try this: Search for your product or service (not your company name) on Google. Take note of how many results are returned based on the query. It’s very likely to be in the millions. Every business is vying for those generic searches made by consumers contemplating a purchase. Search engines use hundreds of criterion to determine the most relevant Web pages to include in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Here are a few important factors.

•Domain name: The website URL is a huge factor in ranking high on SERPs. Shorter is not better; more descriptive is best. You can always buy a shorter domain and redirect it to your company’s website if a shortcut is desired, but the primary domain should have a descriptive keyword in the URL. For example: If you sell tires, “tire” needs to be part of your company’s domain name.

•Content: Check out the Web pages ranking well for your target keywords. They are likely to be very rich in relevant content, such as copy on the page or a search-friendly video. Make sure your website is keyword-rich and that search engines can index it. If you look at the source code of your page, which can usually be done by right clicking and selecting “view page source,” you can see what the engine spider is seeing.

•Metadata: This is the file within the page that purposely tells the engines what the page is about. Unique page titles and descriptions are a must-have for every website.

User experience design. You need website visitors to explore your offering, connect with it, and convert from window shoppers to buyers in order to achieve business goals. Guiding users from point A to point Z is achieved by leveraging User Experience Design, a discipline honed by experienced professionals.

It takes only seconds for a visitor to decide if they’ve found the right company or not. Think about that initial experience; make it clear what you offer and what you want the visitor to do. This is likely going to be to contact you or to purchase, so make those options prominently available from all of the points of entry. Note that from a SERP, any page on your website could be the entry point, not just the home page.

When seeking professional help, ask to see examples of websites designed and the analytics on how they are performing. A reputable agency will provide both and explain clearly what they can do for you. Sure, your neighbor’s kid knows how to build Web pages, but would you trust him with designing your storefront? Of course not! Think about your website as your virtual storefront and carefully evaluate the experience you want prospects to have when they come through the door.

2. Think social, get social

The online social phenomenon cannot be ignored. According to eMarketer, in 2011, 63.7% of United States Internet users will use social networks on a regular basis, amounting to nearly 148 million people. Businesses need to get involved to determine the best possible way to leverage online communities.

Listen. First, understand the social buzz about your brand and category. There are many great, free tools out there for doing so. Try www.addictomatic.com to search for business references. This tool will scour the Internet for all mentions of your company and serve them up in an easy-to-digest interface. For category insights, use www.search.twitter.com to tap into conversations about any topic and learn more about your target audience.

Connect. There are almost a million LinkedIn Groups established. At minimum, your business should complete its LinkedIn business profiles, and identify relevant social groups to join. It’s free and the listing gives you more credibility. A secondary benefit is having another Web experience that could rank in SERPs.

Optimize your LinkedIn profile with the same keyword-rich phrases as your website. Don’t be afraid to repeat keywords in your business name, title, and history. Use LinkedIn Groups to learn from others, keep abreast of industry changes, and share business knowledge, which will establish you as a leader and could result in new business.

Engage. Engagement is tougher because a strategy is needed to do it well. Establish how you can leverage social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to achieve business goals. Keep your business objective in mind. You can’t just set it and forget it. After documenting objectives, think about the communication strategy. What do you want to say that’s relevant and interesting? How will you grow your fan base? What’s unique that you can offer that will keep fans interested? Think about why a person would want to follow your company and then deliver that content.

3. e-Marketing

E-marketing is proactively marketing in the digital space, and can include both paid search and paid media, among other tools.

Paid search. The largest and most common type of e-marketing is Search Engine Marketing, which for direct response campaigns is probably the best bet. Think about it—where do people start the buying process? They “Google it.”

Google’s Sponsored Links are generated by businesses bidding on a particular key phrase. This works like a real time auction where the highest bidder gets top billing. You only pay if a user clicks on your ad. And, these are real, qualified leads because users are actively searching for your services.

Check out www.google.com/adwords to learn more. It’s easy to get started, but difficult to be really good at it. There are so many different levers to pull to optimize a paid search campaign, use a professional unless you have time to study the techniques and monitor the campaign daily.

Paid media. If your company or service targets businesses, try LinkedIn ads. If you’re trying to reach consumers, consider Facebook ads. You can learn more about the specific targeting available on each by “Googling it” or going to the specific social networks, www.facebook.com/advertising or www.linkedin.com/advertising. Facebook just started monitoring actual conversations and testing the use of that data for real-time ads. So, someone posting, “I love pizza” could get a real-time offer for $10 pies. Can your marketing be more relevant and timely in traditional channels? No way!

Regardless of the industry, adults in the U. S. are spending 41% of their media consumption time with Internet and Mobile, but marketers are only spending 20% of their advertising spend in those channels, according to eMarketer, March 2011. It’s time to re-evaluate and reallocate your marketing spend to maximize the return on your marketing investment.

Melynda Batchelor is director of digital strategy at Burdette Ketchum, a marketing consulting and communications firm. She develops and implements comprehensive digital marketing programs for the firm’s clients. She can be reached at 904-645-6200, mbatchelor@burdetteketchum.com, or through www.burdetteketchum.com.


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