Anything of value has to be built on a solid foundation. When it comes to your business –and your marketing mix in particular – there are few tools more valuable than your website, which can be one of your greatest lead sources. In the past, it was enough simply to have a website. But, with the release of every new Google algorithm, poor quality sites have found it increasingly challenging to achieve and maintain good visibility on the search engines. As ranking criteria have become stricter, websites that have been haphazardly built on SEO shortcuts – or, worse, black hat tactics – have found their rankings falling fast, particularly in the wake of Google Panda and Google Penguin updates. But websites that have been constructed on a solid online marketing plan, using legitimate SEO and online marketing strategies, have not been affected by these algorithms, and are likely to maintain and improve their positions on the search engines in spite of the updates. This is Google’s way of rooting out sites that have tried to cheat the system; those that have attempted to attain high rankings through dishonest methods. The good news is that this clears the way for quality websites to claim the spots they rightfully should. But how do you create a quality website? By building it on the 3 core pillars for online success – and applying each pillar correctly:
1. Search engine optimisation
The ‘old’ way of doing SEO – the quick, easily cheated method – involved lots of keyword stuffing, lots and lots of rambling content (logical flow optional), and meta descriptions crammed with keywords. This worked for a while, until people learnt to manipulate the system, optimising pages for keywords that weren’t actually related to the content at all. Remember searching for a fridge repairman and landing on a page that screamed “BRITNEY! BRITNEY! BRITNEY!”? That’s when the Google police started patrolling somewhat more energetically… Today, SEO has evolved into a strategy that involves much more than relevant keywords. Successful SEO marketing strategies include:
- Targeted, highly relevant keywords
- Content structured to answer your visitors actual intent
- Informative, well-written, sharable content
- Backlinks from quality sources
- Relevant images to accompany content
- Fast website load times
2. Content marketing
Content marketing encompasses the full spectrum of a business’s online communication, and not just its website content (although this is an essential and indispensable part of it). In the past, site content was often the sole means of communicating with customers and potential leads online, and this was largely sufficient when there were fewer businesses vying for online visibility. Today, given both the highly competitive nature of the web as well as the intense Google clamp-down, a business’s online content must include several elements that work in synergy to attract attention, generate leads, encourage sharing and following, and paint a complete picture of your brand. Blog posts, social media content, videos, pod casts, educational articles and guides, and sometimes even games all form a part of content marketing. Vitally important to remember is that whatever content you publish must be of a high quality. Inaccurate, unprofessional or poorly constructed content can do more damage to your brand than having no content at all. And the kicker? Google loves great content. And when Google’s happy, your site reaps the rewards.
3. Social media marketing
Here’s a novel idea: Social media marketing as the link between SEO and content marketing. Sound like a stretch? Well it’s not really: When assessing the value of any piece of content, search engines take into account how many times that particular page has been shared. Moreover, social media is fast becoming a dominant online communication method, and in many instances is the go-to platform for sharing information on the web. And keep in mind this useful pearl: Studies have found that online users are more likely to trust information that is shared by people they know, so if your content is shared by your users, it’s a massive endorsement of your business and worth its (virtual) weight in gold. Don’t fall into the trap, however, of believing that more friends/followers = more success. Social media marketing is all about engagement, and engaging with 100 fans who actually want to receive your marketing messages is far more valuable than having 1000 followers who ignore, block or never share your updates. Not just anyone can ‘do’ social media marketing, which is why palming it off to Charlene in Accounts is probably not going to make your business the next What’s For Dinner? on Facebook. A Properly executed, a marketing plan founded on these 3 pillars has the power to boost your brand’s online presence, generate more leads and offer great returns for your business. Now more than ever, online marketing is about doing things the right way; the way Google intended. So lay the proper foundation, and your site will survive – and flourish – regardless of the animals that Google unleashes.