If You Build It, Will They Come?

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

If You Build It, Will They Come?It's important for small business owners to understand that while website design does play it's part in the eCommerce process, there is more to this puzzle. Building a successful online presence will require utilizing a combination of online marketing channels. I recommend search engine optimization, pay per click advertising, email marketing, and social media marketing.

If You Build It, Will They Come?

Against popular belief and one 1989 film staring Kevin Costner, simply building "It" will not be enough. The "It" that I refer to is a website, and the "They" is website traffic. Getting website visitors to first arrive on one's website and then take action is not an easy feat, and surely not one that can be solved simply by creating a website. It's important for small business owners to understand that while website design does play it's part in the eCommerce process, there is more to this puzzle.

Building a successful online presence will require utilizing a combination of online marketing channels. Personally, I recommend search engine optimization, pay per click advertising, email marketing, and social media marketing as methods for driving traffic to a website. These channels, when used properly, can generate mass amounts of website traffic and thereby help small businesses to be successful.

How do these marketing channels work exactly? Allow me to explain.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO as it is commonly referred to as, is the process of getting one’s website to rank organically in the search engines for relevant keyword phrases.

Why is ranking important?: When a business’ potential customers search on Google or Yahoo! for products and services it provides, showing at or near the top of a search engine will likely lead to an increase in website exposure, traffic, and more importantly sales.

How does SEO work?: Using a combination of on and off-page tactics, SEO marketers focus on 3 key factors: 1) getting search engine crawlers to first locate their website, 2) getting search engines to index their website, and 3) getting search engines to rank their website for a very specific set of keywords.

Pay Per Click (PPC)

Pay Per Click, also known as PPC, is the process of creating textual listings (ads) and getting them to appear in the search engines for relevant keyword phrases.

Why is ranking important?: For exactly the same reasons as SEO, online businesses can drive targeted exposure, traffic, and revenue to their websites by simply appearing in major search engines for keywords most likely to be used by their customers.

How does PPC work?: Pay Per Click is setup very similar to traditional advertising models in that website owners must pay for the privilege of having their ad listings appear in the search engines. Costs and positioning are determined by a series of auction-style bidding parameters, as well as several uncontrollable factors. An advertiser’s primary focus is to create targeted messaging, manage multiple keyword buys, and maintain bids and costs according to one’s own budget.

Email Marketing

Email Marketing is the process of sending targeted email messaging to a group of pre-qualified individuals.

Why is Email Marketing effective?: Email Marketing works because businesses are given permission from their customers and other industry followers to engage them with relevant and timely information via email, such as product updates and sales promotions. Sending targeted emails to targeted groups of buyers and followers will likely lead to an increase in additional website revenue.

How does Email Marketing work?: While using a combination of strategies and tools, email marketers have 2 primary tasks at hand: 1) creating and maintaining a subscription list of qualified subscribers, and 2) creating and sending highly relevant and visually pleasing email campaigns to subscribers.

Social Media Marketing (SMM)

Social Media Marketing, a slightly new and different animal altogether, is the process of using social media platforms to engage both new and current customers.

Why is SMM effective?: Social Marketing is based on the same key principle that makes Email Marketing so effective by having permission to engage customers directly. Being able to connect directly with targeted groups of buyers and industry followers for free has the potential to drive traffic and sales to your website.

How does SMM work?: Social marketers traditionally begin their efforts by first deciding which social media platform to use - Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, etc. Once this has been established, social marketers will proceed with building and maintaining a community of friends and followers and then creating and publishing targeted messaging unique to each platform.

Moving forward, and to recap my original thought, simply having a website isn’t enough to exceed online. Small business owners need to be aware of this fact, and be willing to invest both time and money into some form of online marketing.

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3 Comments:

  1. Don't be so harsh on the customer. I blame the web designer. I deal with the design of many mom and pops who want a website. I can't tell you the number of clients who I advise to save money for advertising and it's like I'm telling them the secret of eternal life. We deal with the smaller clients and they don't necessarily have all the answers. They just see the web as a way out of the 9 to 5 dull job or a way to make ends meet for fear of being laid off.

    The designer needs to educate the customer with all aspects of Internet life. How many clients have you spoken with that think if you put a keyword in the meta tags, they will show up #1 on Google?

    The designer is the first person that speaks to a customer. The designer needs to educate the customer and help them succeed. And it's not just SEO either. It includes everything from cost differences of real time credit card processing versus manual processing all the way to email marketing.

    So if you are talking about small business, jump on the designer that creates fancy flash sites and has all the bells and whistles right out of the gate. I'd rather create a more basic site that allows money left over for marketing. Once sales come in, then they can spend more money on the fancy stuff.

    The web site is never finished. It can be updated constantly as funds become available for improvements. Doesn't that also help SEO because the site gets updated regularly and remains fresh?

    We designers need to inform and educate customers. To paraphrase my friend Socrates, the customer does not know that they do not know. They fail to plan because they do not know they need a plan to start with.
    By Blogger Michael Roebuck on April 15, 2009
  2. Michael, I can certainly agree with you to a point.

    However, at some point one has to ask why is it the responsibility of a web designer - a person who may not necessarily be knowledgeable in terms website marketing - to be the one that has to educate their client on such complex topics? Why should a designer have to even care about what happens outside of their design engagement?

    A designer essentially has two main priorities: 1) design a website that appeals to their client's needs and desires, 2) make money for their company. It just doesn't seem fair to pass blame on to them.

    By that same understanding, you'd expect a clerk at a grocery store to tell you about all the hidden saturated fats in specific brands of potato chips, when their priority is just to stock the shelves. I mean, at some point, consumers have to except responsibility for their purchases, and specifically be willing to do the necessary leg-work to make sure that they aren't misguided.
    By Anonymous Karl Ribas on April 15, 2009
  3. Both Michael and Karl make good points. I think both sides need to share the blame. Designers should be helpful but customers can't be so naive.

    It's easy to blame the customer when you deal with the same ignorance over and over again, day in and day out. But in the end, you're probably better off trying to help rather than chalking it up to customer-stupidity and leaving it at that.

    Educating customers isn't always easy either. Most people want things to "just work" with little effort. You both know that's just not the case when it comes to advertising/marketing.
    By Blogger dubz on April 15, 2009

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