I’ll go ahead and say it up front – what most people will be looking for out of this is “How do I get more traffic??” Yes this is important, and it’s in here, I promise. BUT if you don’t set the foundations for handling that traffic once it comes in, all of that beautiful potential is going to start leaking out – so for that reason, I’m going to test your patience and make you wait for it. The people are coming – but first you have to have something worth coming to.
That’s right, we’re starting at home base. Getting your brand defined before you go out to the world is a critical first step, though. If you don’t know who you are, you’re going to have a really tough time convincing others to trust you enough to spend their time and money on you. Taking a step back to either write or revise a strong vision and mission statement, your elevator pitch, your values, and your unique value proposition will prepare you for a MUCH more successful digital marketing campaign than if you skip it. Skimp on this, and everything else will suffer, because these need to be represented across every channel you have, and when there’s a mismatch between who you say you are in different places, it’s a red flag for your customers whether they be consumers or other businesses.
Once you figure out (or have reminded yourself) who you are as an organization, making it visual comes next and this can be the hard part. We strongly recommend investing in professional design here (even if it doesn’t come from our awesome design team), and there are a couple key things you should be looking to get – Your logo in as high a resolution as possible of course, but also in different arrangements (to accommodate both rectangular and square formats), the specific hex codes for the colors of your logo, and a thorough branding guide that spells out exactly what does and doesn’t go with the logo. This last part is especially important, as this is something you can pass on to other agencies and freelancers who will be placing this somewhere on your behalf.
Your website will probably represent the biggest one-time investment you make in your digital marketing world both in terms of time and money, and with good reason – everything flows through your website. Paid advertising, social media, email campaigns, referral traffic all end up on your website because it is the only place on the web that you own in its entirety. Directing your traffic to a location that you have as much control of as possible is essential, as this allows you to know all of the factors that influence the user from that point forward, and to adjust them accordingly.
Now website development is a huge topic, but there are a couple key features to address here. To prepare your site for users, you need to be sure that your Calls To Action (CTAs) are clearly placed and above the fold, and that you understand your funnels, which mean in this context the paths that your users take from the entrance to the final macro conversion (read $$). User-centric design is a buzzword, and there’s a ton of existing content out there (including some coming from us), so I won’t tackle that here, but it is important to understand when evaluating a website design/redesign/evaluation. If you want a great way to check how your site is doing, take a look at our tool guide; it has a couple really useful gadgets to help you out.
Beyond your basic site design, it’s important that you have tailored landing pages that all of that paid, social, and other traffic is coming to. Sending them to your homepage is a quick way to shoot a big hole in your funnel. You need pages that are specifically formatted to users from those efforts that relate to what they came in through, be it a specific promotion, item, or even generic motivation post, and gives them the appropriate next step. Holding the user’s hand through these first visits to your site makes it much more likely that they will stick around. While there is some doubt about whether changing the color of an icon on your landing page can really skyrocket your conversion rate as many articles claim, few dispute that having targeted landing pages is absolutely critical.
Social media is a bit of a controversial channel, as it can be a huge and intimidating time suck for seemingly little results. Everyone knows you have to have it, and you can’t completely ignore it, but for most it isn’t exactly their favorite channel. For us, social media is great, but you have to understand it for what it is. With the exception of Pinterest and maybe Instagram (depending on the industry), social media isn’t full of people looking to buy – it’s people just looking. Having attractive pages is important, but what’s more important is putting out the right kind of content. You want to educate and entertain your audience here, and definitely not to sell to them. Try to do the latter too much, and your followers will start running. Recognize social media for what it is and tailor your strategy appropriately, and it will become much more useful to you. Keep in mind that social media will rank very highly in search engines related to your brand name, and is often seen by both search engines and your prospects as a way of validating the authenticity of your brand.
While content production is a huge part of ongoing digital marketing efforts, you’ll definitely need some a couple basics to get going. Professional photographs are a must so that you have something (that you own) to populate your website and social media. This is not the place to be posting the picture you took on a flip phone back in 2005- poor quality, wrong size, and clearly dated pictures will kill your perceived legitimacy. Even if your extensive history is something you want to feature, you need to make sure it’s done well (for an example, check out a site we built for Simpson Development Company, around for almost 100 years ). By embracing the old look of the pictures and picking a couple large ones for high-quality scans, our web designers put together a pretty awesome timeline showcasing the company’s history.
In addition to good photographs, we STRONGLY recommend investing in a couple good videos. Live action or animated can work, depending on your budget, but you want at least 1 strong video that can be cut into smaller chunks. 2 minutes max is the sweet spot, with 30-second parts that can stand independently for use on social media. Now remember, on social media as mentioned above, your content should either entertain or educate – not sell. That part comes later. You will for sure want to include multiple videos on your site and have your design purpose built to include them – it’s not something you want to try to squeeze in there after the structure is built.
NOW. FINALLY. Now you can drive traffic. The base is set, and you know that you’re going to be driving that traffic to something that makes you look good, and doesn’t create poor first impressions. I cheated a little bit and covered social media above as it’s a big part of the initial setup as well, so I’ll go ahead and focus on other channels now:
- Paid Advertising
This probably represents the biggest single chunk of cash that’s an ongoing investment, but it’s there for a reason. I love paid advertising because it’s very easy to measure, it’s specific, and you can be extremely precise in who you target to get you in front of the best audience possible. Paid advertising often drives a large portion of site traffic, and has great overall conversion rates when done properly. You should be able to see clear ROI tracking and be able to adjust your strategy accordingly.
- Organic Search (SEO Goes Here)
Organic search will probably be the largest single portion of your site traffic. It gets a boost because it seems most people now go to sites through google (or Bing or what have you) even if they already know it exists. SEO is a tricky beast because while it takes a lot of time, and thus a lot of money, to do it right, you won’t see those nice easy ROI reports that you get in paid advertising. While including structural SEO in your site (heading tags, meta descriptions, and all that fun stuff) is important, what really drives your organic search rankings most of the time is content. The major search engines have specifically set up their algorithms to reward the production of original and valuable content. It’s why everyone has to have a blog (even if you don’t call it a blog).
Getting strong traffic from other sites should be a major focus of your initial efforts. These are important for not just driving traffic, but for increasing the authority of your site and your brand, both for consumers and for search engines. While cultivating link sharing relationships with organizations that relate to yours is a great practice, beware of vendors offering to get you hundreds of backlinks at a too-good-to-be-true rate – having a ton of fake sites pointing at you won’t do you any favors. The best way for getting links outside of your network is by good content production and strong PR. A quick note on referral traffic vs. affiliate traffic – I’ve lumped them together here as that’s the way they will show up in your acquisition reports unless specifically sorted otherwise. You can find more information on the difference here.
- The Rest
Organic Search, Paid Advertising, Social, and Referral traffic are typically the 4 biggest drivers of traffic to your site. The other two that would typically be on a list of acquisition sources would be email and direct, but most of these are users who already know about you so you’ll engage these visitors differently; more on these groups coming in Phase 2 and 3.
To give you an idea of how these sources look in practice, I’ve included a couple breakdowns from different sites we manage. The top two are older, more established sites with healthy flows (the left being the older of the two), while the bottom sites are younger. Social, Organic Search, Paid, and Direct typically make up the big 4 sources, while Referral/Affiliate drives a smaller but significant portion of visits (and often high-quality traffic, depending on which sites are linking to yours).
That was a lot.
So to help digest it, let’s translate it into action steps, because after all, information that doesn’t lead to action is about as useful as that gadget your cousin got you for Christmas 3 years ago that’s still sitting in its box.
- Spend time on your brand. Whether this be defining it or simply check to make sure everything is still accurate, give it a hard look.
- Think of your website as the cornerstone of all of your digital marketing spend. Will it hold up? Does it present well? Get some good audits and get opinions outside of your organization.
- Make / Refresh your social media. I’m talking about your pictures, logo, descriptions, locations, and that one post you made back during that Christmas that your cousin gave you that thing after a little too much eggnog. Yeah. Delete that. Please.
- Get some content going. Start getting ideas together for blog articles, videos, and some new pictures. Content will be the fuel that drives your digital marketing engine, so you need to make sure that it doesn’t “peter out” after a few weeks – an ongoing content production plan is a huge part of making sure that things keep on running.
- Start collecting information. It’s important to gather stats on everything from the beginning – configuring your Google Analytics properly is a great first step, more on that from Google here.
- Put it all somewhere. This is going to get a little into our next topic, but for now, just be sure that from the start people have something to do on your site. Even if it’s just one “contact us” form, have a lead capture method from the start, and go ahead and link it to a CRM. You want to be seeing a return on this initial investment as soon as possible, so capturing leads from the very beginning is critical. The nurture process can be started a little bit later after you get all of this set up, but this will give your campaigns something to work through and keep your buildup process efficient.
Building off of that, in the next article we’ll go more in-depth on how to start taking all of this traffic and turning them into more than anonymous session so stay tuned, more goodness is coming your way. In the meantime, let us know your thoughts in the comments below!