Online Strategies

After taking some well needed R and R time over the New Year’s holiday, my personal and work routine is finally starting to come back to “normal.” And as I slowly catch up on my long list of RSS feeds, I’m noticing all the typical articles titled “Strategies for 2011.” It seems like the online community is trying to reinvent itself with some new, fresh and revolutionary strategy upon the launch of the new year and new marketing budgets. In essence though, no drastic changes have happened from the end of December in 2010 to January 1st of 2011. The Internet is still the same, social media is still going strong and so are the SEO and SEM strategies.

Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel and come up with some revolutionary online marketing strategy, my advice to all is to simply stick to the basics. In my discoveries, the average business owner doesn’t need an advanced online marketing strategy if their current strategy hasn’t even covered The Basics.

1. Google Places

The first thing that everyone should check is their Google Places listing. IS IT CLAIMED? If you’re a service-oriented business that would draw customers from a specific area around your city, state, or even multiple states, registration with Google Places is key. Simply claim your listing and try to complete your business profile with as much useful information as possible regarding your business for potential visitors, such as a list of services provided, any credible affiliations, any specialties, certifications, hours of operation, and customer reviews. The key to a proper Google Places registration is your “keywords.” The rule of thumb is: The Internet and everyone else assumes you don’t do it unless you say you do! Crazy, but always true!

2. Professional Website

If your business already has a professional website, you’re a step ahead. In most instances though, I’ve noticed that the majority of business websites are outdated and far away from what I (and the general public )would classify as “professional.” Not to sound rude, but often the website essentially is an embarrassment to the company. (If it’s not obvious, I’m very passionate regarding this subject) If five years ago you hired your cousin, uncle or friend of a friend who does some web design on the side to design your website, guess what, you probably don’t have a “professional” or properly designed website.

Over the years, I’ve come across so many credible and professional businesses in our city that, quote, “Have a Website”, but upon the initial launch of that website in my broswer I get ill to my stomach. If a potential client who has never heard of your business were to land on your website, would the impression it gives lead them to contact you? Or would they to move on to a competitor?

If you’re on the other side of this, and your business doesn’t have a website at all, it’s simply a must in this day and age. My only suggestion here is, just make sure when you do design a website that it’s professional, easy to navigate and is property set up and registered with search engines.

3. Website Promotion

If you already have a professional website, you have registered it with all the major search engines and implemented at least some basic search engine optimization, you’re on the right path. However you shouldn’t stop at that. Just like your business, your website needs ongoing promotion and updating.

From a general marketing standpoint, your website can and should communicate everything necessary about your service. As an advertising platform, websites allow you to describe your company’s services in detail, list all the accreditation and credentials you worked so hard to achieve, feature products or promotional events, and allow your potential clients an easy way to reach your business whether it’s through email, online contact forms, by phone or driving directions.

The key to proper website promotion and maintenance is to continue to utilize your website post launch. So many business owners fail to involve their website into the regular operations of their business, which, in my eyes, is a waste of a very dynamic resource for business advertising, general promotion and client retention.

And, spread the word about your website. Is it listed on your business cards? Letterhead? Email signature? Any advertising materials or videos? Does it make sense to mention it in your voicemail message?

4. Tracking Your Online Efforts

Now, lets say you did everything right. You have an awesome website, it’s registered, you implemented a Search Engine Optimization strategy, you might even be running a Search Engine Marketing campaign and you constantly promote your website in all your other marketing efforts. My last question is, are you tracking your leads? As a business owner myself, I understand that tracking the source of every lead is a lot of work and is not always easy, but failing to track your business leads altogether is not an option. In the long run, how will you know what marketing efforts you should concentrate on the most if you don’t know which ones are the most profitable for your business?

Unfortunately, in the online marketing world there is no one-size-fits-all recipe. A marketing strategy that will works for one service-oriented business might not work for another. By tracking your marketing dollars, you can determine which programs to dedicate more dollars to come the new quarter or the new year, and which marketing efforts to scrap altogether based on their poor return on investment.

In the online marketing world, there is no need to reinvent the wheel and start implementing crazy and advanced marketing strategies if you haven’t taken care of The Basics. Once you get your basics in line and start seeing solid results from those, then you should start thinking about advanced online strategies that will kick your lead generation and business growth to the next level.

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