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August 20, 2010

How to Navigate Online Marketing’s Slippery Path

It’s not an easy task to be successful at online marketing. One slip and you can practically watch your leads and sales roll down a hill and end up with some other company.

Here are 10 key tips and suggestions to keep in mind as you make your way along online marketing routes.

1. Grow thick skin.
Encourage your staff or consultants to tell you the plain truth instead of going out of their way not to offend or upset you.

If your website design has serious issues, own up to them so the rest of your campaign can really pay off. In other words, if you invest in getting more traffic and visitors give up on your website, then you’ve failed.

2. Pick the right keywords for search engine optimization (SEO).
It’s not about just researching keywords. It’s about selecting keywords. You need to think about site age, keywords in the domain, competition, current rankings, existing content, planned content, page headers, keywords in URLs and more.

3. Learn how paid search really works.
The primary pay-per-click tools are easy. You can have an ad up in no time. If you waste your money, it’s not Google’s fault. If you send your paid search visitors to your home page and can make a good profit, great. Odds are, you’re better off directing them to a specific interior page. In fact, you’d be wise to make some outstanding custom landing pages with clear Calls to Action and not a lot of distracting navigation.

4. Use paid search negative keywords.
Why should you pay for the wrong keywords? Think of all of the ways you don’t want to be found. Maybe you sell men’s jackets. You better rule out women’s jackets. Your options – broad, phrase and exact match can make a huge difference.

5. Use misspellings with paid search.
You can find different tools to generate misspellings, including one at SEO Chat.

Sure, these phrases won’t get a lot of traffic. But it could be worth while adding a number of them to your overall mix.

6. Write content – lots of content.
At least from an SEO perspective, tiny websites get what they support – tiny traffic. Whether you expand the website with a blog or regular pages following existing navigation, write more words. Yes, you may rank well for keywords on a single page. However, several pages with cross-linked pages can make a big impact on rankings.

7. Don’t bury your calls to action.
Too often, I see pages with 12 paragraphs followed by a phone number that’s probably going to be overlooked. Promote the phone number up high. Add a short form – you can easily see. Create an image that points visitors to case studies, white papers, demos, how-to guides, etc.

8. Track everything.
Are website analytics on every page? Did you set up your goals (Google Analytics makes it easy)? Are you using all of the right settings with your paid search? For example, are your ads running all of the time or just when you want them to appear? Are you favoring certain ads or giving all of your ads a shot?

9. Don’t ignore link building.
It takes time – a lot of time. Sure, you can register with hundreds of free directories. But what’s the impact? Make sure you get links from industry-related websites and credible directories with structures categories that relate to your services and products. Swap links with some other businesses (try to get them to include strategic keywords when they link to you). Create a blog and get involved in other blogs. If you participate, you’ll increase the odds that someone will link back to you. Share your knowledge – write articles for online publications (you always get a good link in your bio). Speak at conferences (you’ll get another link).

10. Test and measure everything.
If people get lost on your website, fix it. If your keywords don’t rank, change them. If no one is calling, stop hiding your phone number next to your outdated 2003 copyright notice. Make note of where people leave their shopping carts in your digital aisle. Shorten your long response forms. Seriously, do you really need their address, zip code, state in all cases? Look at your competition. Are you charging more than they are and can you defend your pricing? Add some testimonials – real ones (the fake variety turn me off).

Bonus Tip:
Don’t neglect e-mail marketing. You have e-mail addresses. Treat them like gold on a regular basis. Get a real designer to craft a professional message with great offers and brief introductions to your expert article (lead them to your website for all of the details and insights).

Mike Murray is president of Online Marketing Coach, which helps small businesses with online marketing challenges and opportunities. Since 1997, Mike has written extensively about the industry and produced several studies. He also speaks at regional and national conferences, including Search Engine Strategies and Content Marketing World.