The Web is a relatively new medium (compared to newspapers or even TV) yet the sheer number of “consultants” is overwhelming. There are the IT people, the design people, the PR people, the copywriters, the photographers, the developers and don’t forget the project managers!
Each sees his or her own specialty as the critical element in creating an internet marketing strategy and website. Many of them are so focused on carving a place for themselves in the project (and the budget) that they can’t think strategically. They also don’t like to admit – “actually this isn’t my area of expertise”.
Thing is, when all you’ve got is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail. What a client needs is a full toolkit.
What’s required somewhere in the process is synthesis – the ability to use each of these capabilities and disciplines appropriately and interdependently.
Technology is not the message, it’s the medium. Decide first on your content, your message and your marketing strategy; then use appropriate technology tools to deliver the message quickly, efficiently and effectively.
If you have the strategy right, you won’t get tempted by fun web gimmicks like animation, revolving logos, flying menus and flashy introductions. Designers just LOVE that cool stuff!
I’m amazed by all the mystery created around navigation? It’s not an art form, it’s common sense; put things where people can find them easily, and categorise logically based on your audiences perspective of the world. Make sure Google can read your menus, or you will end up with a poor Page Rank and 90% of your pages will remain un-indexed.
Photography and images
Photographs need to be small, so make sure that the pictures you select can survive being 1-2 cms across and still make sense. Then they must be compressed, and there is an entire science in that statement.
Finally, if you’re going to put quite a few photographs on a page, surround them with a fair volume of [interesting] text – this gives photos time to load before the viewer is notices missing boxes. Don’t bunch images together. By spreading them down the page (with larger ones at the base) you give them extra time to load.
Although download speeds have improved, many web pages are still larger than the recommended 100k file size (30k in South Africa!). Flash and other bandwidth hogs are rampant. Some of this is the designers’ fault but some is due to thoughtless, make-it-cool capriciousness on the part of clients.
Design and layout aren’t novelties or aesthetic window dressing. They’re critical elements in selling a product, service or brand. Marketing specialists need to understand how design elements help or hinder customers’ efforts to understand and buy a client’s products and services.
Graphics, web design or technology experts can create attractive, fast webpages, but many don’t (or can’t) identify with your particular target market, who might be older, less experienced on the web or using older computers.
Use your own sales team’s understanding of the market, the customer and his interests. If the most user-friendly site in the world doesn’t address the customer’s need for information, they will pass it over with speed.
Search Engine Optimization (and SEO specialists)
Everyone wants a high search engine ranking.
Search engine optimization is a specialized field, but even this discipline does not exist in a vacuum. Optimizers are meant to understand how different search engines compute their algorithms. Design and site architecture are both important: A well-designed site takes into account how search engine spiders crawl. If your site is designed in Flash, yes, well. Search-engine spiders ignore it.
Search engine optimizers who don’t understand copywriting, design and sales can’t do a good job for their clients. Identifying the right keyword phrases that your customers are likely to think of and use is critical to search engine success.
The moment you have a website, you will be inundated with offers from SEO specialists. They throw out the irresistible lure of a guaranteed page 1 rank on Google and 90% of MDs will believe them – because they so desperately want to believe that getting onto page 1 of Google is that easy. After all there are only 230 billion websites in the world, why shouldn’t their offering be in the top 10. There are no big secrets, and no magic wands to SEO. Everything you want to know about search indexing and how Google works is clearly published on Google’s website. Most of what an SEO expert will do is outdated (like backlinks, metatags, multiple domains and entry pages), paid advertising, or common sense (use keywords in your text – amazing!).
SEO isn’t about everyone finding you, it’s about prospective customers finding you.
Words are your greatest communication tool, from your unique selling proposition (USP) and value proposition to descriptive copy. You can’t accomplish much without the right words used in the right way at the right time.
Speak to your visitors and develop relevant, persuasive copy. To persuade people to buy, you must speak their language and address their needs. Spend time learning techniques to rev up your writing or, at the very least, identify the sort of online writing that will work for you.
Tracking and Metrics
In brick-and-mortar businesses, executives enjoy a full range of fundamental metrics that help them understand trends and opportunities and find hidden hazards, allowing them to manage by the numbers. These tools help determine strategy and build businesses in normal and unfamiliar conditions.
Web-based business executives fortunately have even more detailed performance metrics to help make the right decisions in this unfamiliar, highly volatile environment.
Web statistics can extract a great deal of data about user activity. Within those logs is a wealth of actionable knowledge if you know how to turn the raw data into metrics with which you can make effective marketing decisions.
Oh lord, don’t get me started. Once SEO was exposed as a fraud, hundreds of thousands of out-of-work 17-year-olds advertised themselves on Facebook and Twitter as Social Media Specialists. 40-year-old CEOs who should know better hired them because “youngsters instinctively know about this kind of thing”. If you think you have found a gem of a Social Media Expert, now and then check your website statistics and your email to confirm that the budget you have spent on Facebook Ads is resulting in increased visitors to your website and genuine sales enquiries.
Digital marketing combines daunting list of disciplines and skills: programming, graphic design, consumer psychology, market research, sales managment, advertising, fulfillment, customer relations, email marketing…
For advice on effective corporate communication over the internet, contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org