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Marketing your website – the magic formula to success as defined by a couple of chicks

I have had two meetings in the past week with bewildered clients who were thrilled with an upturn in traffic and phone calls with a few SEO quick fixes before the holidays – and now only a few short weeks later are questioning whether they are “doing enough” to generate business or if their website is being “found” by their perspective customers.

I have also had confused clients who are asking what the Alexa ranking is and how many “hits” to the website they should be getting, and many simply looking at me asking me to tell them with the “magic formula” is to a successful website.

So I can now confidently say to them and to anyone else who is reading this that there is a magic formula to a successful website!  So now you want to know what that magic is right?  Ok – I am going to tell you.  I will break it down to 10 steps.

The magic formula consists of the following 10 steps:

1. A good product and a Plan of “attack” – a website strategy.
2. A visually pleasing and user friendly design – test test and test.
3. Good quality and relevant content to engage a customer and prompt them to act.
4. A basic understanding of SEO best practices (or an SEO consultant that understands that this is secondary to the above 3 points)
5. Simple site architecture (with Flash, sound and other forms of media embedded into the pages of the site and not directly on the home page)
6. An understanding of what your customers are looking for – and a call-to-action to give them what they want.
7. An Online Marketing Budget (if the website needs to generate traffic/revenue)
8. Want targeted traffic immediately?  You can always pay for it with pay per click or paid search marketing.
9. Commitment to continually providing relevant and new content that both your customers and the search engines will love.
10. Implementing and monitoring of  Google Analytics (or another web analytics tool) to measure the success of the website and tweak accordingly.

That’s it!  That is the magic formula!  Ok – so perhaps a further explanation of each might be helpful.  You might also want to keep in mind that although this is the magic formula – this does not mean this can be done without resources, commitment and some dollars.  This is why you want to make sure that step #1 – the Plan of Attack is in place so that you understand your goals and can measure your success accordingly.

1. A good Product – pretty self explanatory.  This is what you do best!  You know your product and you know how to sell it!  Now the plan.  Map out how your customers might find you online – and how they might navigate your site to a purchase or other objective you may have. (an email sign up, a registration etc.) Have your website tested by friends and colleagues to make sure that your website properly sells your product.  You may be surprised with the results of some user testing.
2. Visually appealing and user friendly design is essential with any form of advertising whether it is a print Ad, a Billboard or a website.
3. Good quality and relevant content – now this one is important.  When the search engines are indexing content, they are looking to serve up the most relevant result for a search query so that a searcher can find what they are looking for.  That is really all there is to it.  Search engines are not out to trick us marketers – they are just trying to serve up relevant results to searchers (and make a little money too of course!) Search engines cannot read graphics so content really is king.

SEO (search engine optimization) really can’t be about “tricking” the search engines to index a website for a keyword or phrase if that website is not relevant because if it is not what the searcher is looking for – they will leave.

4. Some basic SEO best practices are as follows:  Proper keyword research to understand what words your target audience are looking for – use tools like the Google keyword search tool, add those terms to your written content and your websites meta data, add hyperlinks from those keywords to other pages within your site with relevant content around the keyword, make sure your titles/tags and descriptions (meta data) contain these keywords as well and are written by you and not your webmaster – make them unique for every page of your website and write them properly to describe the page.  For more on SEO best practices – see www.acoupleofchicks.com or search “SEO best practices”.

You can always hire a professional SEO consultant to assist you with keyword research and proper set up – but this can be done with some time and attention internally.

5. Simple website architecture with clear, simple navigation, limited distractions from flash or music, and a clear call to action.  Don’t forget to add your phone number and other contact details in a primary location (eyes usually scan the top left of a website first then zig zag right and down towards the centre).  Website usability should be addressed often and tested.
6. Understanding what you customers are looking for – pretty self explanatory
7. An online marketing budget.  The Internet has created a new marketing medium that should be addressed as a separate part of your marketing mix depending on how important your website is in generating sales.  If your website is your primary source for lead generation or sales, you should consider developing an online marketing budget that is separate from your offline marketing. 
8. You want traffic now?  Paid search marketing is the most targeted and measurable form of advertising I have ever seen.  If you properly set up a paid search campaign – or have a firm do it for you, and you have the dollars to support it – then you can be found for your target search terms right away.  Also – try Google local advertising, it is a paid search vehicle but it is starting to replace the top “above the fold” results in the organic space.  This makes sense to anyone with a “bricks and mortar” business.
9. Commitment to ongoing quality content updates – this is important to both search engines and your customer.  The search engines love new content to index – they will rank your site higher if content is refreshed often, and customers will visit more often if there is something new to see.  You can add fresh content to your site easily by adding an RSS feed to your site and posting news, specials and other updates, adding a Blog or simply making sure that your website is current.
10.Web analytics – now this is a big one.  All of the above recommendations mean absolutely nothing unless you are properly measuring the success of your website. 

This is the critical piece of the pie, and I am by no means a lover of statistics – but understanding what to look for in your analytics is critical to the success of your site.  We recommend Google Analytics to everyone we work with.  It is free, user friendly and provides a guide to how your website is performing breaking it down by geographic area, keyword, unique visitors by day, week, month or any point of measurement you wish.  A full review of Google Analytics warrants another post – stay tuned – statistics can be fun!

So there it is!  It is not magic at all, just commitment, resources and an online plan that makes sense to your business.

More and more websites are acting as an additional salesperson – or sometimes as the primary sales engine to businesses who have found an expanded client base outside of their local area.  The Internet has allowed us to expand our target markets outside geographic borders – now the only thing we have to do now is attract the traffic and convert it to sales – sounds familiar doesn’t it? 
[tags]online marketing, search marketing, seo, sem, pay per click, web analytics, internet marketing, seo best practices, online marketing plan, search marketing[/tags]

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