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Integrate strategy, optimization and communications to drive bottom line business results more effectively with your internet marketing program
Copyright 2009 StrategyGuideToInternetMarketing.com
Table of Contents
The Strategy Guide to Internet Marketing Overview……………………………….…………………………… About the Strategy Guide to Internet Marketing…………………………………………………………………… 3 4
Strategy Overview…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 5 Measuring KPIs………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 6 Strategic Scorecard………………………………………………………………………………………………….…………… 7 Customer Buying Process………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 8 Brand Alignment……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 9 Internet Marketing Trends…………………………………………………………………………….…….………………… 10 Optimization Overview…………………………………………………………………………….…………………….……… Content Strategy…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….……… Search Engine Marketing………………………………………………………………………………………………….…… Search Engine Optimization……………………………………………………………………………………………..…… Integrated Search Marketing………………………………………………………………………………………….……… Banner Ad Testing…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… Banner Retargeting………………………………………………………………………………………….……………….…… Email Optimization………………………………………………………………………………………………….……………… Social Media Optimization……………………………………………………………………………………………………… Landing Page Optimization…………………………………………………………………………………………….……… Forms and Funnel Conversion…………………….……………………………………………………………….………… Surveys and Heat Maps…………………………………………………….……………………………………….…………… Call Tracking…………………………………………………………………………….…………………………….……………… Communication Overview……………………………………………………………………………………….……………… Campaign Management…………………………………………………………………………………………………………… Marketing Report……………………………………………………………………………………….…………………………… Marketing Dashboard…………………………….…………………………………………………..………………………… 30 Second Elevator Speech……………………………………………………………………….…………………………… Wrap Up…………………………………………………………………………………………………….…………………………… 11 12 13 15 17 18 20 21 23 25 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35
The Strategy Guide to Internet Marketing Overview
The Strategy Guide to Internet Marketing was written by me to be an actionable, 'how to' guide to help fellow marketers and business people. Whether you’re a client-side, agencyside, with a Fortune 500 Company or a startup I've tried to include ideas that you can apply to improve your internet marketing program. To a large extent internet marketing is a misnomer. Digital, electronic, 'e', web, etc. are all used relatively interchangeably to describe this field in marketing. I had to pick one so 'internet marketing' it is. The Strategy Guide to Internet Marketing is divided into the following interrelated 3 topics: Strategy - The internet marketing landscape has a seemingly endless array of marketing tactics to choose from. Defining a strategy for your marketing program is not as much about saying "what" but applying a rationale to determine "why" one tactic is chosen over another. Optimization - Every internet marketing tactic can be tested or optimized relatively easily (at least compared to our traditional media counterparts). We'll review a number of internet marketing tactics in the context of what can be done to optimize their performance. Communication - Marketers are engaged in a ongoing battle for resources which includes media dollars to adequate staff to execute. By better communicating the results of your internet marketing program you'll gain visibility throughout your organization which can help you get access to more resources. You can read the Strategy Guide to Internet Marketing in its entirety online or click on one of the links to download a FREE PDF copy. If you enjoy what you've read be sure to share it!
About The Strategy Guide to Internet Marketing
I've been in the internet marketing field for nearly 15 years and have served in a variety of capacities. I've launched start ups and have worked at Fortune 500 Corporations. Throughout my career I've purposefully maintained a broad skill set and thought that breadth of experience could be helpful to others. I wrote the Strategy Guide to Internet Marketing to be an actionable, 'how to' guide and I hope you use some of the ideas that I present here. If you'd like to get some more ideas, check out my blog, PerformanceMarketingTips.wordpress.com You can also drop me a note via email at, eMarketingPro@Live.com. Thanks, Greg Marta
Learn how to decide what tactics to use in your internet marketing program so that they work together as an integrated plan. With more and more options on the digital landscape you need to block out the noise and use prioritization methodologies that pair the right internet marketing tactics with your business goals. Measuring KPIs - Define KPIs (key performance indicators) that are the most relevant to your business results. Strategic Scorecard - Measure a variety of visitor engagement on your website to capture a more holistic picture of the value your website creates. Customer Buying Process - Customers progress through Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action and Satisfaction when making buying decisions and need appropriate digital touch points at each step. Brand Alignment - Brands lend themselves differently to particular marketing tactics so use ones that are appropriate for you. Internet Marketing Trends - Proven tactics will drive more marketing results than continually searching for the next big thing.
In websites that have multiple engagement opportunities, a scorecard can be essential to measuring the outcomes of your internet marketing strategy. Most sites are more complex that a straight forward single product or single order scenario. Even direct response programs like SEM driven to landing pages will often have quantity, total dollar amount, and type of product dimensions that can be measured by your web analytics tool. As a result, the measurement of your marketing campaigns could be difficult making your bottom line results variable. A scorecard is different than a dashboard in that a scorecard feeds into a dashboard as one or several data points, and a dashboard communicates many dimensions of your campaign reports. An internet marketing scorecard is a holistic measure of engagement on your website. A lead may be worth $100, interaction with a tool $20, sign up for your newsletter $5, a page view $1 and so on. When you add up the value of all of these interaction points across your website you will get a much more accurate read on the value of a site visitor coming from a specific marketing campaign. Web Analytics tools, like Google analytics, let you track multiple goals across your site and assign a dollar value to each of them. The result is a report that shows the dollar value per visitor or segment for your entire site broken down per campaign with the ability to drill down even further. The biggest challenge in defining your scorecard strategy is determining the dollar value for website interactions that occur before ultimate conversion events. What is the return on your investment? For example, how much is an email newsletter sign up worth to your business? In some cases it's possible to dig deeper into existing data, in others it comes down to an educated guess. Guesswork in analytics can be uncomfortable, but at some level everything that your business measures is backed by a host of assumptions. Consistency in assumptions and transparency about what they are when reporting your marketing campaign results will go a long way. For example, if a lead is worth $100, an assumption may be that 1% of people that enroll for your e-letter become leads. Once these secondary conversion events start to get captured in your analytics tool and reported through an internet marketing scorecard, you can adjust the dollar values as feedback and additional data become available. The goal is to identify all of the events on your website that have a strategic benefit to your business and make sure that your internet marketing program is positioned to receive the appropriate amount of credit.
Customer Buying Process
In order to create an effective internet marketing strategy, it's important to understand your customer's buying process and strategically pair the appropriate internet marketing technique with each phase of the process. For example, branded keyword phrases in paid search are typically effective late in the buying process once a prospective customer has conducted research and started to develop brand preference. If you engage in an organic search optimization program you could find that creating very broad content around your product or service attracts customers earlier in the process while they're still evaluating alternatives. The customer buying process that I recommend is called AIDAS, which stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action and Satisfaction. It's not necessary for your marketing campaign to strategically address all areas simultaneously and it may take a considerable amount of time to build a campaign that is effective in all areas. The strategy for your internet marketing campaign will be dictated greatly by your business priorities which includes the competitive environment and the maturity of your organization's internet marketing program. You will need to understand the different phases of the buying process and use this to develop effective tactics for each phase that builds an overarching internet marketing strategy. Here are some examples of internet marketing strategies that match with different phases of the buying process: o Awareness - banner ads including site sponsorship and run of network placements, broad paid search terms such as "insurance", broad informational search engine optimization (SEO) content about your industry, SEO press releases o Interest - targeted and co-reg email blasts, product type specific search phrases, thorough and informative search engine optimized website content o Desire - sequentially targeting banner ads, test product offers and promotions, blog updates, social media o Action - long tail and branded search phrases, retargeted banner ads, follow up email offers, offer/channel/product specific landing pages, affiliate marketing o Satisfaction - follow up remarketing and support with email, product information and search optimized self service website content When developing your internet marketing strategy, prioritize and optimize in the context of your customers’ buying process. Most businesses have many types of customers, by applying unique personas to the AIDAS program, you can start to differentiate types of customers and different types of behavior at different points in the buying process. To a large extent your business model will dictate a great deal of how you apply the customer buying process strategy to your internet marketing program. Many B2B clients with premium purchases, complex and/or long sales cycles are well served to invest a greater proportion of their internet marketing budget in the Interest and Desire phases. Impulse or time sensitive consumer products may focus as much as 100% of their internet marketing budget on the Action phase of the customer buying process. Analyze each phase of the AIDIS customer buying process in the context of your business and build your internet marketing strategy around this principle.
Brand alignment can easily be misguided when developing internet marketing strategies. In many businesses the traditional advertising and marketing teams own the corporate brand. Despite the proliferation of internet marketing, it's still a relatively small amount of media spend compared to traditional channels. As such, there tends to be less than optimal brand focus for the internet marketing efforts. When evaluating different internet marketing strategies the first question to ask is, 'Does my brand fit this channel? If you're a direct marketer, SEM (search engine marketing or paid search) programs would probably be a good fit for your brand because of the immediate, controllable and measurable results. If your business has a long complex sales cycle it may make more sense to invest your marketing funds in developing rich organically optimized search content. Banner ads have similar opportunities. Try retargeting banner ads for direct response businesses and site sponsorship for branding purposes. Social media is an entire channel in itself that may only have specific tactics that align well with your brand. Destination such as Facebook and Twitter are great for consumer facing brands with frequent purchases. For highly regulated industries like pharmaceutical or finance, it may be difficult to effectively maintain a social media marketing campaign. Mobile marketing can be most effective for businesses with widely distributed local representatives, like franchises or field sales offices. Various internet marketing channels may pose risk to your brand: SEO (organic search) – Limited control over what the search engines will display or how various keywords will rank. If content requires continuous editing, your risk accelerates. SEM (paid search) - Broad match settings can help your SEM program to show up for a wide variety of keyword phrases, however, you'll need to monitor the referring traffic and manage your broad match settings with negative keywords, to eliminate the risk of negative messaging, such as "xyz brand stinks". Display Advertising - Ad networks are great internet marketing tools because they have driven down advertising costs and can provide wide distribution instantly. Depending on your chosen ad network, your visibility to ad placement may be limited. Social Media - Social media mandates transparency and with that necessitates fast reactions. If you place your brand on the internet, be prepared for feedback, positive and negative. If you engage in a platform that gives customers a voice, be prepared to manage the feedback.
Internet Marketing Trends
Distinguishing between marketing trends, seasonality, and legitimate long range marketing opportunities is essential in developing an effective internet marketing strategy. Emerging marketing will always be newsworthy and take center stage in the headlines. Most internet marketing professionals aspire to continuously be cutting edge and don't want to pass on opportunities that promise brand growth. Identifying a good opportunity can be one of the more difficult elements in defining an internet strategy because of the continuously evolving nature of the internet's landscape. Over time, the different opportunities within internet marketing have become more and more complex. In the last several years the proliferation of social media and mobile devices has increased the number of marketing opportunities exponentially. Due to everyday business constraints, whether it be resources, regulatory, etc., it’s impossible to take advantage of all the options, making it all the more important to make distinctions about which marketing channels will produce the greatest ROI. Many internet marketing opportunities can be fast-tracked and dead-tracked in a mere couple of months. For example, Second Life has come and gone twice, many believed that it was essential to make large investments to own a piece of Second Life's digital real estate. There may be something that emerges from Second Life's popularity and it may even come around in popularity for a third time. Fads, just like limited time offers (LTOs) can still be profitable marketing opportunities. Internet users love to play with new toys and if your brand is positioned properly you can garner some eyeballs and engagement for your business. You will need to develop a strategy with clearly defined marketing objectives, costs, entry and exit strategies to capitalize on these opportunities. Keep expectations realistic, define what stretch goals would look like and be creative. Even if the program doesn't meet ROI targets, participation may create excitement and generate newsworthy brand buzz. In general, proven marketing channels include 3 primary pillars: o Search - SEO (organic search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing or pay per click) o Display - banner ads shown as part of a site sponsorship, across ad networks or part of a retargeting program o Email - remarketing to house lists and direct sends through email brokers and other third party lists An internet marketing strategy can be initiated by analyzing these three pillars in the context of your business and industry. Once specific tactics start to emerge, resource allocation will follow (which should be flexible throughout based on the performance of your marketing campaigns). If discretionary funds exist, it may be worthwhile to “test” some emerging marketing trends.
Learn how to apply a test and learn approach to optimize the performance critical internet marketing tactics. Continual improvement will keep your internet marketing program's performance trending upward. Content Strategy - Create an integrated view of all internet content opportunities that will help them to work together. Search Engine Marketing - SEM (search engine marketing) has many tactics to boost your campaign's ROI. Search Engine Optimization - SEO (organic search optimization) can engage prospects at different points of the buying process and provide long term returns. Integrated Search Marketing - A synergistic search marketing program leverages organic and paid search together to help drive business results. Banner Ad Testing - Display media has many opportunities for optimization with both creative testing and media targeting. Banner Retargeting - Leveraging banner ads to retarget recent site visitors can increase the ROI of other internet marketing programs. Email Optimization - Email is the oldest marketing tactic on the internet and optimization shouldn't be taken for granted. Social Media Optimization - Social media is a rapidly evolving channel with many risks and rewards. Landing Page Optimization -Landing pages are the first impression that your brand makes online and reducing the bounce rate can lead to more conversions down stream. Forms and Funnel Conversion - Forms and funnels are the last steps of the conversion process and performance improvements can create the most value. Surveys and Heat Maps - Typical web analytics tools leave out some valuable user insights that can be uncovered with the help of visitor surveys and heat maps. Call Tracking - Tracking conversion beyond the website is important to capture the full value of your internet marketing programs.
Given the proliferation of content across the internet, including social media sites, content strategies span beyond single-point business domains. . While you can directly control all “official site” content about your business, it can still be externally influenced. A comprehensive content strategy achieves 2 things on the internet. First, it's an opportunity to present a compelling value proposition to your prospective customers which will impact sales. Second, it's ambrosia, or food for the search engine spiders. The internet is expansive and growing, so it's necessary to develop a content strategy that is focused and maximizes your optimization. A sample of the major content opportunities for your internet marketing program and their strengths and weakness: o Corporate websites - can be a challenge to optimize for maximum internet marketing results. This is because corporate sites serve many masters which can dilute the core business driving content and messaging. o Microsites are small, content focused websites which can compensate for some of the brand and SEO limitations of broad reaching corporate websites. o Blogs provide an opportunity for fresh, frequently updated website content. They encourage more of a dialogue than standard website pages which can be fairly static and a more personal voice that is generally not achieve through formal business communications like press releases. o Social Media properties such as Facebook and Twitter are brand building opportunities to create web presences with search optimized content and links back to your primary converting sites. o Discussion Groups are participation opportunities. If your brand has a leadership position, share your point of view. If your other sites have valuable, relevant content to the discussion add links where appropriate. o Industry Publications or Industry Focused Blogs are always looking for content and writers. If your business is well know or you've got some quality thought leaders. White papers, articles, interviews and guest writing are all valid ways to general relevant content on the internet for your business. Content efforts must roll up to a larger content strategy that accomplishes the following: o Appropriateness for brand positioning o Optimization for search engines o Relevance for the audience Review all of these content opportunities to build a comprehensive content strategy for your business. Not every opportunity will be appropriate tactic for your business, so be diligent when evaluating them. Once you've identified the best content opportunities, brainstorm your business' value add and resource allocation required for each effort. This will help to prioritize and build a timeline for the implementation of your content strategy.
Search Engine Marketing
SEM (search engine marketing) or PPC (pay per click) has been a juggernaut on the internet marketing landscape for nearly a decade. First popularized by GoTo, paid search gained significantly popularity on Yahoo! in the early 2000s and exploded with the growth of Google's PPC platform. Search engine marketing's popularity hails from the fact that with easy to use interface campaigns were simple to setup, provided substantial reach, attracted 'hand raisers', had built-in ad text testing tools, and with a little bit of code implementation could track conversions highly accurately. These factors have made SEM the backbone of internet marketing. In order to effectively optimize an SEM program it's important to be extremely well organized and this starts with setting up ad groups. Ad groups are sub-campaigns for your SEM program and are clusters of similar keywords. The benefit to clustering keywords is that it's a lot faster to gain statistical significance if you're optimizing toward 20 similar keywords rather than at an individual keyword level. Ad groups can be anywhere from a couple of keywords to greater than one hundred. Each campaign can have many ad groups and it would make sense to have a separate campaign for each product or service. For a single product SEM campaign you could have anywhere from a few to more than a dozen ad groups. Once you've identified a rough outline of what ad groups you want to test in your SEM campaign you'll need to start your keyword research. Google AdWords has a free keyword tool that will show different combinations of search phrases, make additional suggestions and show relative search volume & competitiveness for the keywords. Based on these findings you’ll invariably go back and fine tune your ad groups. Keywords will generally fall into three categories which will also help you to create your ad group structure: o Broad - Broad keywords are general industry terms that likely will attract potential customer early in the buying process. As such you'll need to test broad terms carefully as they may not have a positive ROI right away based on your marketing allowable. o Long-tail – Long-tailed search phrases are generally 2-3+ word length combinations. They tend to occur at later stages in the buying process as potential customers already have product preferences. The deeper your keyword research the longer the phrases. It's not unusual for ad groups to have over a hundred long tail keywords. Although they may not receive many searches the aggregated volume can lead to a successful campaign. o Branded - Branded keyword search phrases contain your business or product brand name. Be sure to bid on these phrases to block out the competition but monitor their performance - you may already be getting enough branded traffic from the organic search listings. Once your search engine marketing campaign has some results a best practice is to take the top handful of keywords and manage them in their own separate campaign at an individual keyword level. In SEM campaigns, the 80/20 rule doesn’t apply, it's closer to 99/1. Even large campaigns can have 5-10 keywords that drive the majority of the results and need virtually constant campaign management.
Search engines like Google, Yahoo! and bing have built in tools for testing ad text. It's easy to create several ads and test your creative based on clicks. While this helps to drive volume it may not be best for ROI. If you have enough volume in your search campaign be sure to track which specific set of ad text is converting once people reach your site. Remember, you only pay when people click on your ad -you don't want a lot of clicks, you want a lot of conversions. The most clicked ad doesn’t always yield the best ROI for your marketing campaign. There are several different campaign settings to test and optimize your SEM program. It's important to test many different combinations and even create mirror campaigns to test the same ad groups or keywords simultaneously. o Keyword Settings - These can normally be set for your SEM program at a campaign, ad group, or keyword level. Exact Match - will only show your ad for the verbatim phrase that you enter. Phrase Match - will show your ad to any search query that contains your keyword phrase in the same order Broad Match - will show your ad to any search query that contains your keywords in any combination Negative Match - will block your ad from showing up for specific search queries o Day Parting - Allows you to determine which hours of the day or days of the week you want your ads to show. Some products convert better at night, others may convert well on weekends. If your budget is limited, it may be beneficial to start your campaign in the mid afternoon so that you can extend the campaign through the evening hours. o Geo Targeting - Shows your search ads only in the countries, state or regions that are relevant to your business. Most search engines default to include Canada, which may or may not be relevant, so check your geo targeting settings before launching your SEM campaigns.
Search Engine Optimization
While there are a number of SEO (search engine optimization) best practices, the focus here is primarily on the content optimization of your website. Content optimization is the most significant factor in receiving high rankings in the search engines for your targeted keywords. Not only do the spiders like optimized content, but quality content will also encourage external linking which is the second most important factor in achieving high rankings in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Here are the major factors for optimizing your website's content for the search engine spiders o URL - URLs can contain keyword phrases in several different areas. If there are clear content breaks on your site, such as specific lines of business, a sub-domain containing your search phrases would be appropriate. For different products or services, use keyword rich sub-directories. Individual pages should have optimized URLs that are similar to the page titles. o Page Titles - It is generally recommended that page titles be approximately 7-9 words in maximum length with the primary keyword phrase occurring early in the title. o Keyword Distribution and Frequency - Keyword distribution throughout your copy is can be fairly simple. Your primary keyword phrase should appear in the first and last sentences of the first and last paragraphs on the page. There is much debate about total page length, but 200-600 words is an appropriate range. Keyword frequency should be between 3% - 6% with shorter pages (200 words) closer to 6% of keyword density. o Anchor Text - Anchor text for keywords are helpful for the search engine spiders in determining site content, which can have an impactful result on your website's search ranking. It's important to identify the most focused pages on your site for a specific topic and then comb your site for opportunities to link to it. o Meta Keywords - Meta content has less and less impact on SERPs and most experts would agree that meta keywords have little to no impact at this point. That said, meta keywords are still a best practice in order to cover all of your SEO bases. Anywhere from 6 to 12 keyword phrases can be used that are derived from no more than 2base keywords. In other words, pick 2 keyword phrases and write 2 to 5 additional variations of each. o Meta Description - The meta description may not help achieve high search rankings in and of itself. It is used often times by the search engines to display on the SERPs. A good description can encourage click throughs and higher click through rates are often rewarded with higher ranking in the SERPs. Although most sites are written and structured with organic search engine optimization in mind, it's still important to perform periodic site audits for 2 crucial reasons. First, search engines thrive on page updates, placing higher values on your page. Secondly, most companies add new content over time such as news, press releases, and updated product information. These items are generally churned out based on business needs. Maintaining SEO best practices may be difficult to meet the needs of the business. As a result, some content may not be optimized properly. A number of changes by Google have started to impact search results beyond standard page content. Universal search was released by Google, and now SERPs will contain local listings, news results, videos and images. Google has plans to include product listings complete with
images in the SEM paid search results and social content in the organic listings. Overall this means a lot more competition for attention on the search results pages. As such be sure to optimize all content related to your business including optimization of press releases, alt tags on your website's images, adding appropriate tags to YouTube videos and applying best practice optimization to social content on Facebook and Twitter.
Integrated Search Marketing
The integration of SEO (organic search engine optimization) and SEM (paid search or search engine marketing) is important to maximize the impact of each and the overall performance of your internet marketing program. In many businesses and interactive agencies there can be little coordination between these two disciplines. This results in a lost opportunity since theoretically they both have the same keyword goals. The primary reason for this is that SEO can be more art than science, since it's heavily content based and results can take may not show up for weeks or months. SEM on the other hand is more of a direct response marketing tactic because campaigns can be launched quickly and results are measured accurately and immediately. SEM or pay per click search programs can provide 2 major values to your internet marketing program when well coordinated: o SEM results can inform which keywords to focus your organic search optimization efforts on. Once you do your keyword research you'll know what keywords people are using to find your business's products and services. However, it won't tell you which keywords are most effective at driving conversions for your business. Search engine marketing can be used to validate your keyword focus and lay the ground work for your organic search engine optimization campaign. o SEO efforts have several challenges. SEO results can take weeks or month to take hold, the final impact of results will vary and be difficult to estimate, and it's often difficult to determine precisely which activities led to you website's improved search results. Your SEM program can provide coverage for your target search keywords by filling in unmet gaps in your SEO program. When looking at the total ROI of your internet marketing search efforts SEO can help to greatly boost ROI. When well executed, your website will rank well for many long tail phrases that can be overlooked by SEM. The results for SEO can be volatile, but are generally lasting. In SEM, your ranking lasts as long as your budget. With SEO your listings may rank well for years, especially if you keep up with your organic search optimization efforts. Although there are real costs in SEO, content optimization whether done internally or with an external search optimization agency, is generally less expensive on a per click basis which optimizes the overall ROI of your search engine results of your internet marketing program.
Banner Ad Testing
The most important factor in the optimization of a banner ad or display campaign, as part of your internet marketing mix, is to test and optimize across several fronts. The performance of banner ads will vary greatly from one design to the next, both in terms of the graphical treatment of the banner but also the size and placement within the publisher website. The ad network, ad exchange or direct banner placement will need constant monitoring. Finally, brand value must also be measured but can be difficult to attribute. When creating banner ads as part of your internet marketing campaign, don’t be too critical of the storyboard development phase. Any good design concept should still be a solid test candidate. Debating which design is going to be most effective is basically moot - your campaign response will be the arbiter of your banner creative. The key is to design a hypothesis that can create a learning from the test. Does a red background work better than blue? Does the banner with a photo have better campaign results than the illustrated banner ad? Subtle differences such as the image of a woman with straight hair versus curly hair probably won't produce significant test results unless you have a very mature marketing campaign. The placement of banner ad campaigns is also critical in your campaign performance. The options for media buys have greatly proliferated for the last decade. As a result, prices have gone down and targeting has become more precise. Depending on the size of your target audience banners can be targeting on a category/vertical niche level and in many cases down to the site level. It can also be helpful to try a run of network banner ad campaign with separate tracking. Often times the costs will be lower but more importantly the performance can be higher. Studies have demonstrated that showing your target audience banners out of context can be more effective than in context where there is more related clutter. For example, if you sell business services you may want to try the sports vertical market. You may be targeting a similar audience and have a banner ad that visually pops against the other sports ads. Aside from the standard Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that you may be tracking in your analytics package, I suggest running on/off tests with your banner campaigns to help measure the impact of brand value. Most analytic tools credit the most recent click with the sale, but many times the banner ad can be the first click that one of your prospects takes in the buying process. A possible solution is to test by running your banner campaigns in bursts for, –2 weeks on, 2 weeks off. Measure the difference in performance between your search and direct traffic performance. Some banner campaigns may contribute a 50% lift in performance of the search campaigns, which would be completely missed if you're only analyzing your banner ad campaigns in the context of your primary KPIs. More importantly, without understanding the true ROI of your banner ads, it will be difficult to fully optimize your marketing campaign - some key banner ad channels may get turned off due to lack of performance by itself, versus assessing the integrated campaign. Deciding the sequence and combination of items to test with your banner ad campaign is highly dependent on your business model and performance goals. Optimization requires a sequential plan with appropriate hypotheses. Communicate the test and key learnings to manage business expectations. Remember that banner ads and placements are not created equal, just because one banner ad underperforms on one ad network or channel doesn't mean
it won't be effective in another. Don't be afraid to dust off old ideas when you need to develop new testing and optimization strategies for your banner ad campaigns.
Banner ad retargeting is a highly effective and complimentary internet marketing tactic to the overall marketing strategy. The concept of retargeting is fairly simple. When your website receives a visitor an ad network cookie is setup on their browser. While they are visiting other websites in the ad network, banner ads relating to your site are served to them. The ad network will recognize them based on the cookie that was set and will automatically serve them the banner ad of your choice. Banner ad retargeting is a complimentary optimization program, and not a primary internet marketing tool, because brand awareness must pre-exist. Banner ad retargeting can be used with organic SEO driven traffic but is highly effective when paired with a paid search (SEM) program. In this case you have a pool of hand raisers that probably have already indicated a specific product interest based on the pages they visited and are in between the Desire and Action phases of the Customer Buying Process. Banner ad retargeting gives you another marketing opportunity to reach someone in-market that hasn't purchased from you (yet) for whatever reason. Another reason why banner ad retargeting is highly effective is to re-engage visitors on nonproduct related sites and reinforce your brand, which makes your ad stand out. If you sell financial service products, you may do well on financial sites, but your banner ads may get lost in the noise. What if you could place your financial services banner ad on a sports website? There's a good chance that your banner ad would standout against the sports backdrop and sports-related ads. Furthermore, you know you're marketing to someone who's already exhibited initial interest. A variety of banner ads become more effective with retargeting as well. Sequential banner ads tell a little bit of a story, where each banner builds on the theme from the previously shown banner. To tell your brand or product's full story may require more ads than usual. The other creative advantage is that you can test or promote different offers on the fly. If you have a weekday promotion or an inventory overage, you can direct the message quickly, to a qualified audience with banner ad retargeting. This quick cycle time will allow you to optimize your banner ad creative. Retargeting does have a few limitations to consider. The first is audience size. In order for retargeting to be successful, it has to be scalable. Since you can only retarget to people that have visited your website or landing pages, you'll need a relatively high volume of traffic to create a large enough pool of prospects to market to. Ad network reach also impacts the effectiveness of your retargeting efforts because less reach keeps the retargeting pool smaller. When planning your banner ad retargeting program it's also important to find out how long the ad network will keep your cookie active for. Many ad networks cater to direct response marketers and only have cookies with a short-term life, typically a 30-day expiration. In most cases, this is sufficient. However, I've worked with many B2B clients who have long sales cycles and would be willing to retarget their banner ads for months on end with persistent cookies to build up greater brand awareness.
Email marketing is perhaps the oldest tool in the internet marketing mix. Despite this, email marketing can be forgotten and often misunderstood. The evolution of email marketing has led to 2 primary marketing applications; house email marketing programs primarily used for retention, and third-party email blasts for new acquisition. House email marketing programs entail sending emails to your existing database. Ideas include opt-in thought leadership content like e-newsletters, e-promotions and follow up offers or e-announcements to a customer database. In order to optimize email marketing programs, a relevant house list is essential. Numerous studies have proven that consistency is essential to making it to the target’s in-box and getting read. Details in the subject line and who the email is from should be as consistent as possible. Third party email blasts can be sent as an exclusive offer, or as a sponsorship of someone else's e-newsletter. In most cases, there is a per address charge or CPM. Some email database vendors will work with you on a CPA (cost per acquisition) basis. It's important to understand the credibility of any third party email list and verify that they are CAN SPAM compliant. An email sent to the wrong database could cause many problems for your brand. Whether you're sending to your house list database or a third-party email database, be sure to customize your email send according the appropriate segments that are available in the database. Over time your house list should contain a relatively rich data set and allow you to optimize everything from frequency to offer on a segmented user, if not individual user basis. General email campaign best practices include: o Keep the same From email address, always o Limit your creativity with subject lines, they need to be straightforward and consistent from email to email limit to 50 characters do not include the word "free", or other overly promissory words limit punctuation including exclamation points o All content in the email should be above the fold for offers, scrolling is permissible in email newsletter and other content rich emails o Always have a text back up email o Include a link to allow recipients to opt-out of future emails o The best days to send are on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday Email testing and optimization ideas include: o Subject Lines - Once and effective subject is determined it's a good idea to stick with it for the long haul. o Content - HTML emails can be either A/B or multivariate tested similar to landing pages. Test candidates include images, headlines, offers, copy, calls to action, etc. o Send Times - Try sending your emails at different times between Tuesday and Thursday. Depending on your product and audience first thing in the morning, lunch time, or evening may be most effect for your email marketing campaigns.
Although email was prevalent prior to the world wide web, don't take it for granted as an effective internet marketing tool. Be sure to include a progressive testing and optimization program as part of your sustained email marketing program.
Social Media Optimization
Social media marketing programs can be amongst the most complex of all internet marketing channels. The landscape of social media is highly dynamic; an effective strategy is often a unique strategy. Due to the fact that social media is user- and community-based, its’ growth is organic. It will always be a challenge to determine when to deliberately insert a corporate brand into the conversation. Prior to engaging social communities, it's important to understand who can best represent your brand in the social media communities. If your brand has a mascot that is recognizable and closely tied to your brand identity, then a social media campaign based on your mascot can be an effective way to personify your brand. If you don't have a highly recognizable mascot, it may be more appropriate to leverage social media to personify your brand or products. Some businesses have a highly visible CEO, thought leader, or endorsement figure. Their point of view can be brought to light more readily with social media. In other cases, grass roots efforts and employee-based campaigns could be most effective. Ultimately, a combination of all of these strategies could be very effective at promoting your brand, but it would make the most sense to pick one, rally your business behind it and see it through. Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin are all effective social marketing platforms. For your initial reach into social media, depending on your goals, it may be beneficial to start small, track the results and feedback before committing to larger platforms on multiple sites. Unlike more traditional internet marketing strategies, social media campaigns pose greater risk because they have more delicate exit strategies. Like any business venture, success with these tools is not guaranteed. A corporate blog is normally the first social marketing tactic that internet marketers consider. A corporate blog requires resources and should be a longer-term initiative. A corporate blog can be a great way to create a dialogue and more personal voice for your brand than more formal channels like press releases. Having a blog on your website that hasn't been updated in several months can be a brand killer. Bloggers will interpret the lack of updates as "this company doesn't care" or "my opinion doesn’t matter”, “they are not responsive”, etc… Rather than using corporate blogging as strategy for your social marketing campaign, try other blogs or publisher websites. If you have a point of view and industry insights, you may be able to write a post or series. Most blogs and publisher sites are hungry for content, so the right one should be receptive. Plus, the external links from these established websites will be much more effective at driving visitors to your website and provide more SEO value. Discussion groups and forums are effective means of reaching your audience in a social context on the internet. Although these marketing opportunities have existed since the commencement of the internet, don't under estimate their ability to finely target meaningful influencers in your brand or products’ space. It's important to commit your participation longer-term. An effective strategy to leverage forums and discussion groups would include research on several, followed by participation in two to three. Rather than being active daily, try setting aside 30 minutes at various times each week when you can participate actively. In order to have an effective social media optimization program, rigor on the analysis is key.
Check referring website data in your analytics package to determine which social media websites are creating the most value. The number of referrals is important but also evaluate based on engagement metrics like page views, time on site and your website's conversion events. Google has several tools. Link: is a way to check for backlinks to your website. Alerts are easy to setup and will let you know when your get a mention in news, blogs or anywhere on the web. Yahoo! Site Explorer has some tools that can also track backlinks and provide insights into who's linking to your site.
Landing Page Optimization
The goal of landing page optimization programs is to create a consolidated and focused experience for your website visitors from your internet marketing campaigns. Fundamentally, websites are too broadly focused in an effort to server a variety of visitor types. By focusing the content and limiting navigation options, landing pages tend to produce much greater results for internet marketing campaigns, especially for direct response campaigns. A more straight forward user experience also makes testing a little easier on landing pages than on websites. Key performance indicators are usually limited to 1 compared to multiple success events that may need to be tracked through an analytics tool on your primary website. In order to optimize the conversion rate on the landing page marketers have 2 fundamental testing options; 1) A/B testing and 2) multivariate tests. A/B testing (also known as cell testing) is the oldest form of testing known to marketers. It’s not as innovative as some new techniques, but it can still be the most effective tool for optimizing landing page performance. A/B tests can contain more than 2 landing page variations or recipes, but the more recipes you test, the larger the sample size. It's important to start with a hypothesis and develop 2 (or more) significantly different experiences. This will help to create a greater variance in your testing results which will gain statistical significance sooner and create key learnings. For example, rather than testing an image of a person with brown hair versus a person with light-brown hair, try testing a woman versus a child. Once you learn which type of image works most effectively it's easier to test additional permutations of your landing page. Multivariate testing is a newer testing technique landing page optimization. Multivariate testing monitors multiple elements on a landing page simultaneously. Most multivariate testing platforms will dynamically create your landing pages once the required assets are uploaded. Multivariate testing platforms are based on one of two distinct testing methods full factorial or partial factorial. Full factorial multivariate testing is similar to creating a large A/B/X test; it's essentially lots of variations. Many systems will use an algorithm to help determine the best combination and the interaction of different page elements. The primary advantages of full factorial multivariate landing page testing are greater accuracy in reporting results and understanding how landing page elements interact. For example, an image with a blue sky in the background may hurt the performance of a blue submit button because there isn't significant contrast between them. Tested independently both elements may be superior, but in combination, they hamper your landing page's conversion rate. Partial factorial multivariate testing has many different algorithms, the most famous being the Taguchi method. Partial factorial multivariate tests only show a limited number of recipes or page combinations. It uses an algorithm to estimate the optimal winning combination for your landing page. The advantage of partial factorial tests is that statistical significance can be reached more quickly than full factorial multivariate testing platforms. The primary disadvantage is lack of accuracy. Since the winning recipe may never have been shown, it’s impossible to know for sure if it's really the winner. There is also no way to accurately measure the interaction of page elements with partial factorial testing.
Landing page testing and optimization is essential for the performance of internet marketing programs. In many cases the ROI may result in 100%+ gains with an effective testing program. Early landing page tests routinely deliver performance gains >20% or more for a single test. Over time, the percentage gains will start to level off, but the final product should be a landing page that converts at a much higher rate than one lacking discipline.
Forms and Funnel Conversion
The optimization of forms and funnels on your website is the next step in the testing and optimization process, after the landing pages have been optimized. Landing pages initially have the greatest impact on your internet marketing campaign's performance because they reduce bounce rate, among other things. In other words, your website could have the best of the best (forms, funnels, product shots, special offers, etc.), but if visitors exit quickly, your internet marketing budget is lost. Forms are typically the final conversion event - at least of this session. Your website's visitors may abandon or convert based on the slightest factors. Here are some A/B and multivariate testing candidates to aide the optimization of your website's forms: o Navigation - By removing the navigation from your form page visitors may become less distracted and convert more efficiently. However, they may also require additional information or become disoriented without your website's standard navigation. Therefore, test! o Required Fields - Different labeling can effect your form conversion rate. Red generally stands out, but what if you have a website that is heavy in red? Are the labels big enough, could the font be italicized, etc.? o Number of Fields - Generally a reduction in the number of fields increases conversion rate. For lead gen websites this may not be worth the drop in quality. For payment forms a generally accepted principal is to have only essential information - not the time to ask for enewsletter opt-ins. o Submit Button - Size, color, shape, call to action, positioning on the page. Test away and never assume that it's obvious. o One Column or Two - Some websites perform best with one column of form fields even if it means scrolling. Others do better with two columns above the fold. The optimization your website's conversion funnel is essentially like testing several forms. All of the above holds true with 2 significant additions. First, use your web analytics package to determine the drop off points that are the most impactful. This analysis will help to prioritize your test candidates. Second, depending on how long your process is and the maturity of your testing and optimization program you may need a testing platform that will work across multiple steps in the process. Bare in mind that multi step funnel optimization will require significant traffic for even basic A/B tests so keep the tests small and know your sample size. Form and funnel conversion rate optimization and testing can be very impactful on your website's bottom line. Unlike landing page testing there may be technical requirements and challenges to setting up tests on your website's forms and funnels due to website security. Therefore it makes sense to reach out to IT early and often in order to support your optimization implementation initiative. If you conduct landing page testing first, it may be helpful to share the optimization results with the executive and IT team to help prioritize items to get your form and funnel testing program launched.
Surveys and Heat Maps
The emergence of VOIP (voice over IP) technology has arrived just in time for internet marketers. "But I'm only responsible for online sales"? Wrong, as internet marketers we're responsible for driving business growth. Whether it's through a website or a phone call, internet marketing can drive the conversion event - especially now that call tracking allows us to easily measure it. Many companies offer VOIP-based call tracking. Essentially, VOIP is an internet-based calling system, which eliminates traditional “long distance” calling at an economical rate. As such, the cost to make toll-free calls is low, the cost to rent the toll-free number (and cover some infrastructure and profit margin for the vendor). Because VOIP is web-based, tracking is almost natural which provides rich analytics data and opportunities to optimize your campaigns. Once you setup a few toll-free numbers to your call center, the internet marketing applications for call tracking are plentiful. Here are some ideas: o Landing Page Testing and Optimization - Integrating toll-free tracking numbers into multivariate or A/B landing page optimization tests will paint a much clearer picture of a specific recipe's conversion rate. It can also be helpful to try different sized phone numbers and on/off A/B landing page tests. Try to keep your landing page tests as simple as possible because integrating the call tracking data may require a little math depending on your testing platform. o Banner Ads - Try incorporating your phone number into banners to see if you can get calls prior to the click. Much like the landing page testing example above, use call tracking to evaluate the true effectiveness of your banner ad creative. o Ad Text - Reminder, in your paid search program, you pay for clicks, not calls. In other words, integrating toll-free tracking numbers into your Google paid search ads is free advertising. Any return on free media will boost ROI. o Email Creative - Tracking numbers can be integrated into your email creative in an almost identical fashion as the landing page testing above and most testing and optimization platforms integrate perfectly with HTML emails. o Affiliate Marketing - Providing a handful of exclusive tracking phone numbers to your affiliate marketing partners will give them a great resource to work with. Remember, affiliates can work for anyone so if you make it easy for them to work with you. Providing them with resources and ideas will help you to get the most out of your affiliate marketing partners. With call tracking, you're probably best served to have many numbers than ones that are easy to remember. Many vendors won't offer toll-free numbers that translate into a word, brand, or action, ex: 1800-Contacts. Call tracking vendors will let you select from a pool of numbers so you should still invest some time to find the ones that flow a little better (have the same number repeated many times or a more familiar sequence).
Learn how to communicate the results of your internet marketing program in an effective way throughout your organization. The better you get at this the more funds you'll get for future campaigns and the more resources you'll have to help execute. Campaign Management - Maintaining a persistent log over time will help to provide perspective and identify which marketing tactics drive business results. Marketing Report - Routine marketing reports to team members and executives are key to maintaining visibility. Marketing Dashboard - Dashboards can be the highlight of reporting programs by leveraging rich graphics to tell your marketing story. 30 Second Elevator Speech - Communicating what's most important in a timely manner will keep your internet marketing program top of mind.
Communications plans for internet marketing programs need to have the ability to be backward looking. There are many levers that can be pulled in the process of campaign optimization and while some of the changes have an immediate impact on campaign performance, some can take weeks or months. SEO (search engine optimization) and banner ad retargeting can have significant lag in being recognized due to campaign changes. Creating a campaign log to help support the communications plan for your marketing initiatives is essential. Logging campaign changes is helpful in 3 ways: o Recurring Campaign Reports - Reporting trend lines are effective at highlighting campaign growth over time and the continual value add of the internet marketing team. Adding call outs for significant changes that proceed significant jumps in campaign performance help to build value in the internet marketing team by adding color to their contributions. o Executive Questions - It's not unusual for executives to look back at historic results and ask strategic questions. As such, they'll come back months down the line and want to know 'why'? Executives move quickly and will expect you to have the answer at hand and a campaign log will allow you to find the information quickly. o Institutional Learning - Campaign logs can capture valuable best practices for a particular business which creates 'institutional learning'. Institutional learning is what creates lasting competitive advantage in the marketing place. A proprietary way of doing things transcends any one campaign or marketing professional. It's not essential to document every minor campaign change - for example updating a bid on a single keyword. Keep the campaign log limited to the items that have a legitimate chance to move the needle for your campaign results. o Campaign Launches - new promotions, new marketing channels o Creative Changes - new banners, removal of banners, changes to ad text o Site Updates - new content, SEO changes, multivariate or A/B tests o Media Changes - changes in banner placement, changes in ad groups o PR - search optimized press release launch dates, news article publication dates o Other Internet Marketing Changes - directory submissions Since you're creating a campaign log, don't get frustrated if you don't use the information routinely. Maintaining a marketing campaign log is a habit which may seem fruitless now, but could prove to be critical for your communication plan.
Creating an executive summary or internet marketing update routinely will answer questions before they are asked, as well as showcase analytical rigor. This is an important aspect of the communications plan because it needs to be educational, rather than just informative. It's easy to assume that others in the organization especially senior leadership understand internet marketing. Mostly, general managers rely on subject matter experts for such insights. When putting together marketing reports, be concise and relevant. Extensive spreadsheets, charts and graphs may be too overwhelming and better served as an appendix. It's easy to add a lot of clutter to reports over time -ne time requests get included regularly by default, more marketing channels open up, etc. Weekly communications need to be impactful and provide four key items at a glance: o Data - the primary KPIs usually including metrics like total sales, increase over the previous week/quarter/year, spend, etc. o Highlights - identify the big movers (good or bad) or new opportunities and tests to further optimize your internet marketing campaign performance. o Context - what else was happening in the environment like campaign changes, new offline advertising, changes in the fulfillment process, competitive moves, etc. o Analysis - attempt to answer why there were changes in the marketing campaign performance since the last report. If you already have a weekly marketing report in place and don't think it's worth the time to rethink what you are communicating, try not sending it for a week. If no one notices, you should consider redeveloping what you're communicating and/or moving your marketing reports to a monthly schedule.
Dashboards can be an important part of an internet marketing communications plan. Often times marketing dashboards can be created in your web analytics tool. Depending on the complexity of your business, data may have to be pulled from other sources and merged in excel or a database program. Dashboards aide marketing communications plans by providing quick, at a glance, view of campaign performance. Snapshots over time, say a week, can be incorporated into weekly executive reports. When creating a marketing dashboard it's important not to make them look like real dashboards. The analogy has evolved and data visualization of your marketing campaign results can be most effectively communicate with some of the more standard reporting tools such as pie charts, bar charts and line charts. Don't worry if these aren't quite as eyecatching as something like a gage, we're trying to effectively communicate marketing campaign results. Dashboards are generally reserved for the items that need to be monitored closely. They tend to be top level reports. For example, the day-today results of a specific keyword in an SEM campaign would probably not be actionable, but the daily comparison of Google versus Yahoo! could provide valuable insights into how your marketing campaigns are performing. Data visualization can sometimes be challenging because there are so many options. 2 strategies can help get your marketing dashboard to the next level: o Pick up a few books on data visualization and creating charts and graphs. Most books are graphic intensive and can be scanned quickly to provide you with some ideas. Pay particular attention to learning which metric or dimension is best displayed by which graphic. For example, if you want to show the performance of Yahoo! Vs. Google over time, use a trend line. Try a pie chart if you need to communicate results over a shorter period of time. o Leverage some creative expertise. Your marketing dashboard's layout and color scheme, when done well, will create a professional presentation. Take your ideas to a graphic designer or someone in a creative area. They often have a sharp enough eye that they will be able to pull together the pieces of your dashboard in a matter of moments and deliver a result much better than you can do on your own. When incorporated into periodic reporting, dashboards will need some analysis to be provided in order to help make sense of the data. A common mistake that internet marketers can make is to assume that because everything is simplified into a straight-forward graphic, that people will understand what it means. Brief bullet points will go a long way in communicating campaign results. Despite all of the automation that is available, don't underestimate the value of the human touch.
30 Second Elevator Speech
A 30-second elevator speech is essential for the success of any internet marketing communications plan. As an internet marketing professional, you're in competition for resources from all over your company - especially the traditional media people. As a result, it's important to not only justify, but promote, your internet marketing results throughout the organization. The focus needs to be on bottom line business results with no fluff and limited ratios (%). The 30 second speech will need to be fresh and change routinely - quite possibly weekly. The premise is to arm yourself, your boss, and the rest of your internet marketing team with a quick snapshot of the recent wins. The purpose of the 30-second elevator speech is to be able to communicate with other departments and the executive team quickly. Many of them don't routinely have time for a great deal of details. Unfortunately, most weekly status or marketing reports go unread or are glanced at unless something specific is needed. At your business there are many demands for the executives' attention and they want to be in the know. Most importantly, they're responsible for setting the budget - so it's critical that your internet marketing work stand out. The communication must be prepared in a written format and formally sent out. Additionally, it needs to be written in a manner that is easy to read and articulate in a spoken format. There's no room for romance copy in a 30-second elevator speech, only facts. An effective format has one summary sentence of recent activities and a maximum of 3 bullet points in non-sentence format. Some detail oriented marketers may have difficulty with the brevity, so it may take some practice. If you only had 30-seconds each week with your boss, what do you want them to know? Remember, if you have more to say, include it in your regular status report or as highlights when you deliver periodic analytics report. There is competition within your business for various resources, including the marketing budget. It's important to recognize that not everyone understands internet marketing. Communicate concisely, and often, about bottom line business results. For example, 'this week we reduced cost per leads by $10', 'the new website optimization program will generate $150,000 in revenue each year', etc. The 30-second evaluator speech should be sent to all of the stakeholders and will arm you and your internet marketing team with quick factoids to standout within your business.
The ultimate goal of your internet marketing program is to drive value for your business and be accountable for the results. This requires a methodology for defining strategy, a desire to continually optimize the results of your campaigns and tactics and the discipline to share these results with others in your organization on a routine basis. Strategy, Optimization and Communication work together in a comprehensive manner to ensure internet marketing success for your business. After completing this strategy guide (or at least skimming the sections that are most directly beneficial to you) be sure to do 2 things. First, apply what's been said, even if it's just 1 or 2 new nuggets of new information. Second, be sure to share it with others by sending them a copy of the PDF or a link to this website.
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