It was all so easy, once upon a time, this search engine optimisation business, wasn’t it? You cut and pasted your URL or company name a couple of hundred times, dropped it down to two point, and ran it as white out of white at the bottom of your home page, and then sat back while the brand name rocketed up the search engine rankings. Brilliant.
The trouble was that, firstly, everyone started to do exactly the same thing; secondly, the number of businesses with a web presence increased beyond the imagination of all but a few people (all living in California and wearing rock band T-shirts); and thirdly, a search engine called Google conquered the world, got wise, and put a stop to such shenanigans. Less brilliant.
SEO companies popped up on every street corner, promising all and sundry that they could put your business name among the magic top three on any Google search. That was possible – in some instances but certainly not all – for a while, but web technology moves faster than a Eurofighter on after-burn, and nowadays the basic principles of SOE are dead, deceased and no more. And anyone who tells their clients that they can out-wit Google is fibbing; those guys at Google (still wearing the same T-shirts, but now driving Ferraris and living in multi-million-dollar beach houses) are cleverer than all of us.
Digital marketing has changed enormously in recent times; five years ago SEO was the be all and end all, but that’s not the case now. SEO became a buzz word – a short cut; nowadays, in itself, it’s nothing like enough, and you need to go back to solid marketing principles. In short, there are no short cuts.
No matter what you do, you’re never going to beat the big names if you rely on SEO alone. The first name you think of when you mention a product or service will always come up first on a Google search. In every market sector there are the unbeatable brands, and trying to take them is unrealistic, and potentially ruinous.
It’s important to understand, as a first principle, that web users in the UK are very sophisticated – as much as anyone in the world – and you have got to have an attractive and appropriate website. It doesn’t matter how much time you spend driving traffic to your site if the site doesn’t do the job.
A second, fundamental, crucial principle is to always analyse the performance of your site at every stage. You have to see where people are coming from, which pages are holding their attention, and whether a sale is actually being made. Site hits alone aren’t good enough; the visit has to convert into a sale or action. Then you build on your strengths and re-think the areas that aren’t working.
Rather than using SEO to attract people to your site, you can persuade viewers to make a bespoke visit, and go directly to the site rather than through Google – and so get round the competition. Email and SMS campaigns are often very successful. If a potential customer receives a carefully-targeted and attractive email then he or she is just one click away from the site which is being promoted.
Next come the two monsters of the online communication, Facebook and Twitter. Again, you are going round search engines, and your customer is just one click away from your site. The key here is absolutely anything but a hard sell; entertain and amuse – go softly, and lead the consumer to your web presence. The ideal position is not to be seen to be selling at all, but to become a thought leader, and build up a following among users, who actively welcome your message. If you try a hard sell you’re going to get people’s ‘backs up’. It’s the wrong medium to do that. Get viewers used to your name and the ‘feel’ of your business and they will come over to your side. That’s when your sale conversion figures go up.
SMS marketing has been given a bad reputation by all those annoying texts suggesting that you claim for compensation as a result of a PPI miss-sale. SMS shouldn’t be ignored though; it certainly has a place in most campaigns. Appointment reminders for GPs, dentists and hospitals are a terrific use of SMS, and are proving very useful to all parties. Garages can remind drivers that their MoTs are due, and restaurants can remind diners that they have a table for two booked for eight o’clock. This sort of use is getting SMS into the mainstream of public consciousness.
Talking to individual consumers is one thing, but business-to-business needs a different approach. Picking up the phone and talking to the ideal point of contact is almost impossible. It’s not just receptionists and PAs briefed to obstruct, but voicemail, which increasingly used as a filter. There are ways round this such as LinkedIn or an SMS sent directly to the decision makers phone, but they take time, energy, and inspired thinking, but do get results.
Bear in mind that corporate email set-ups often strip out a lot of content from incoming emails. Your lovely graphics may well never appear on the recipient’s screen; what looked great when it left your PC could look very unattractive when it is opened. Thus you have to be very aware of who the recipient is, and how to present the message.
It’s a big help to marketing companies and departments that you can track emails and see how often they are read and forwarded and if the reader clicked through to the website; indeed, if you don’t track them you’re wasting your time to a large degree. Our tracking has identified that some of our marketing emails have been opened twenty times, which is terrific. Through the site analysis you can see how often people from the recipient company then came to the site you are promoting.
In this post-SEO world marketers need to work harder, and need to both go back to basic principles and use their brains to come up with imaginative, innovative ideas. If you expect something to happen then inspect to make sure it did and don’t close your mind to different forms of contact, just because you don’t like it does not mean others would not. Keep thinking of those adverts you hate on television but then see the profits the company makes from it. Marketing strategically works, it used to be easy; it is easy no longer – and, no doubt, it’s going to become harder still in the future but it will get you to the position you want and that might not be Page 1!