By Carlos Menezes on 2009/01/28
The attraction of online is paramount in today’s marketing industry. For a long time it has been viewed as a mystical component of the larger marketing strategy; something that only those with technical magic in their arsenal could tackle.
Over the last couple of years however, online has proved to be such a success that having an eMarketing strategy has become an obligation for businesses as opposed to an opportunity. Organisations, both large and small, want to occupy an online space but, without an inherent understanding of the medium, are unsure how to get onboard.
A detriment to eMarketing is that it involves a host of jargon that can either scare or, worse, confuse the intended recipients of its benefits. The good news is that one doesn’t have to understand everything; just enough to be aware of the various options and benefits available.
There are some fantastic resources available that’ll help you make sense of it all - Quirk’s eMarketing textbook is a great example. With so much to cover, no single article is going to highlight everything there is to know. However, the following are a few ‘must-know’ points that can act as a solid foundation to your quest for knowledge.
Flash Isn’t Everything
Flash, Macromedia’s multimedia platform, is an aptly named application. The Web content that it delivers can be absolutely amazing and it is safe to say that a large portion of eye-catching websites (or rather those that we would instinctively dub as being ‘cool’) have been designed in Flash.
However, Flash comes with some serious limitations. Most notably it is notoriously difficult for search engines to read Flash content, thereby seriously impeding your SEO efforts. Some significant advancements have been made in recent times, but most Search Engine Marketing companies would probably advise you to steer clear of Flash.
Secondly, unless cleverly implemented, Flash can be a usability nightmare. Interactions such as scrolling and right-clicking are different in Flash than in normal HTML pages, making it unintuitive for users.
As a last point, many browsers come with extensions that block immediate Flash playback leaving users with the choice of selecting whether they want to play or ignore the Flash. Not seeing the immediate value, many users tend to skip the content altogether.
As amazing as Flash can be, if poorly or unnecessarily implemented, it can turn out to be a massive stumbling block for your eMarketing efforts.
Depending on a number of factors (Internet browser, operating system, platform or device) different users will have different experiences when visiting your site. A drop-down menu might display smoothly on Internet Explorer but break in Firefox.
Validating your site so that the required Web standards are met is absolutely essential. There is way too much detail and jargon to explain for this article to successfully delve into website validation or Web standards, but this post is a great place to learn more about the discipline.
There are a number of tactics that can be used to raise the amount of visitors coming to your site. Search Engine Optimisation is probably the most prominent of these, and there are a few specifics that you need to remember.
- As already mentioned, Flash is in most cases something to be avoided as search engines tend not to be able to read it.
- Duplicate content can land you in trouble with the Googles of the world. If you are found to be using content that originated elsewhere, a significant penalty can be imposed - dropping you down the SERPs.
- Pages should be optimised according to a well thought out keyword strategy. Key phrases need to be researched and chosen for their suitability, search volumes and the amount of competition surrounding each one.
- Fresh content indicates relevance to the search engines and is a great way to boost your SERP rankings.
- Links from authoritative sites are gold-dust, and link-building forms an integral part of SEO (while link-farming is frowned upon).
- A strong and clear internal linking structure is also beneficial, and won’t only help more pages get indexed, but will also let you see which pages need more attention.
- Optimise your images. Using appropriate image file names, Alt tags, the correct text around the images, captions as well as a host of other factors all come into play.
- Canonicalisation, more commonly referred to as Lame-Ass Syndrome, refers to bad (or the lack of) redirects that result in your site not being reachable unless the ‘www’ is included in the entered URL. Solving this is relatively simple and the amount of traffic that can be lost if it is not addressed can be staggering.
SEO is a huge discipline, and there are a plethora of challenges and solutions available. For a more comprehensive guide download the textbook chapter or take a read through GottaQuirk’s common SEO Pitfalls.
Needless to say, how user-friendly your site is will translate into how successful it will be. Aside from validating and optimising it across platforms, browsers and devices it should have an intuitive design. Some basics to remember include:
- Breadcrumbs are not only great for making sure that users know where they are on a site and can navigate around it more comfortably, but they also make for an excellent SEO bonus.
- Keeping key elements and calls to action above the fold will make sure that users won’t miss the important content on your site.
- Building clear, simple and reassuring conversion paths will help turn more of your visitors into paying customers.
Analytics Are Crucial
One of the advantages that eMarketing has over other forms of marketing is the extent to which it is measurable. Pivotal to this is Google Analytics - Google’s website statistics analyser. A Web analytics program should really be core to your website’s marketing and although there are a host of options available, Google Analytics is user-friendly, reliable and, best of all, free.
You can have the most amazing site in the world, but it will count for naught if nobody visits it. Similarly, the world’s most popular site will be a dismal failure if it has the wrong type of visitor, or visitors who don’t behave according to plan. An analytics package will let you understand how many visitors you are getting, where these visitors are coming from and what they are doing on your site (the setup of conversion goals is crucial).
Ultimately, a well set up analytics package will let you see the state of your website, and will let you make a plan. There are an innumerable amount of metrics that can be derived from the data within your analytics package - some useful, some redundant. The key point is to act on the relevant metrics. Information isn’t worth much if it doesn’t result in action.
Some things to remember:
- Make sure that Google Analytics is implemented properly and consistently throughout your site.
- Setup goals so that you can measure your success rate.
- Link up your Google Analytics with your AdWords account if you have one.
- If you’re using Google Analytics make use of its ‘custom reporting’ and ‘advanced segments’ features. With the proper application, you’ll be amazed at the insights that you can draw.
Online Copy is Unique
As Kelly pointed out in her GottaQuirk post, writing online copy is very different to writing for the offline world. With shorter attention spans, online readers tend to scan websites in a hurry to see if they can pick out what they need.
It then falls to online copywriters to make their work as readable and scannable as possible. Breaking the copy up into bite-sized chunks, bolding relevant words or phrases, using appropriate headings, keeping the key information above the fold, and keeping the length and style brief and to the point are all factors that will help you transmit the correct information to your readers (and it will do the same for the search engines, thereby aiding your rankings).
People Online Act and React Differently
The anonymity of many online interactions results in people acting significantly differently than they would in many face-to-face encounters. The meek academic who might be intimidated into submission by a slickly dressed, fast-talking sales consultant could suddenly transform into a monster online.
Socially awkward individuals find their feet online, and are only too happy to vent their frustrations on blogs, forums or complaint sites. People being people, these frustrations are normally extremely contagious and, if left unchecked, have the potential to spiral out of control.
The online community is fickle, sensitive and quick to anger. With Consumer Generated Media playing an ever larger role this means that smart marketers need to both implement a solid Online Reputation Management strategy and alter their approach in dealing with these individuals.
Everything That You Need to Know?
Of course the above only addresses a fraction of Online Marketing and, in truth, is more a compilation of some random, albeit pertinent issues. In order to get a better grasp of the discipline, refer to a more comprehensive guide of eMarketing or set yourself up with a feed-reader.
RSS (Really Simple Syndication) allows you to receive, or syndicate, information without having to open a hundred new tabs on your browser. A reader such as FeedDemon or Google Reader lets you bring all of your RSS feeds into one location and organise them logically, so that you don’t have to trawl the Web or clutter your inbox with all of the content.
If you know of some sites that you think are good to follow, then add their RSS feeds to your reader and every time they publish new content you’ll receive it in your own personal library.