Watching the presidential campaign in my household looked something like this: Flipping between CNN, Fox News and a reality show on TV. iPad on Twitter. Cellphone on Pinterest. My boyfriend had his laptop on Google’s results watching news feeds come in. His cell phone was on Facebook. It was certainly a media overload, and truthfully quite common for most of us in my generation.
With 2013 around the corner and my clients’ marketing plans for next year ripe on my mind, I couldn’t help but think that this is the perfect time to reiterate that “you’ve got to be everywhere”.
While formulating a digital strategy obviously depends on your industry, goals and the size of your business, there are a few steps that every business can take to lay a solid foundation for getting their strategy off the ground. Here are 6 steps to help guide you through the process of creating your 2013 online marketing plan:
1. Look at Your Analytics & Define Your Goals.
No goal should be pulled out of thin air. You need to know where you are starting from. This is where a thorough review of your analytics is needed. If you don’t have it installed already, that is your first step.
If your website traffic is dominated by branded organic traffic and direct traffic, consider aiming to increase your unbranded organic traffic. If you have a blog, but don’t really use it and know you should, aim to publish a certain number of posts per month and promote them. If you are happy with the amount of traffic your site receives, make it a goal to increase the rate at which those visitors convert on your site.
When you review your analytics, try to answer questions that help to formulate your goals: What are your visitors doing on the site? How are they getting there? Where do they drop-off? What are your popular pages, services or products? Are they viewing what you believe to be the most important information?
Next up, set your goals. Define a benchmark and decide where you’d like to be December of 2013. You can work backwards from your revenue goals using traffic and conversion metrics. Then, base your strategy moving forward on those goals. Make sure they’re realistic and project where you should be each month in order to meet that goal by December.
For example, if I wanted to increase my unbranded organic traffic by 20%, I might lay out that in January 2013 I need to be at 3% above prior year, in February 2013 I need to be 5% above prior year, etc.
2. Analyze Your Competitors
Once goals are defined and there is data to show how your audience is using the site, you should look at your competitors to see where they match up, where you need to improve and what channels competitors are already using.
With all of the online tools at your disposal you can easily obtain information on your competitors. Use tools like SpyFu and SEMrush to see if your competitors are running paid ads online, what their search engine traffic is like, and the keywords they are ranking for. Run a tool like CrawlerFX on competitors to see how well-maintained the site is and if they have unique titles, meta descriptions and technically strong sites. Visit MajesticSEO to obtain information on backlink acquisition. Complete a keyword search to see where your business stands in comparison to your competitors, if they have strong rankings, map listings and reviews. Visit their websites – take note of the tone, content, navigational structure, design – elements both positive and negative.
An easy way to compile this information is to just keep track in a table. Put yourself and competitors in the rows and the elements you’re looking at in columns to see where the overlap is. Note where their successes are and identify their weaknesses. Keep in mind that online competitors are not always the same as your offline competitors.
3. Consider the Marketing Options.
If your competitors are all optimizing their website for search engines, you’ll want to consider it too, otherwise you’ll soon be too hard to find organically. If half of your competitors are running PPC and getting strong traffic, you’ll want to consider it. Are your competitors active on Facebook? Pinterest? Twitter? You’ll want to consider these avenues too, as it may be a way to break into the market where they are not.
Options may include pay-per-click management, search engine optimization, email marketing, guest blogging and content marketing, conversion analysis, usability and click testing, a/b testing, a website redesign, call tracking implementation, local optimization – just to name a few.
Keep in mind, each of these avenues will require their own strategy, so you will need to determine what you can handle internally and where you may need the assistance of an agency.
4. Match the Marketing Options to Your Goals.
What marketing services help you meet your goals? If you have goals that are focused on driving and converting traffic, split the services between traffic drivers and traffic converters. Associate each service with helping to achieve one of more of the defined goals.
If you aren’t sure how to begin doing this, put them in a list and just start listing the services that help to achieve each goal. You can list the same service under different goals and prioritize them in relation to your budget in the next step. A brief example is below with 3 different goals.
5. Prioritize and Budget.
Obviously, we must all consider budget when planning. Creating your ideal plan comes with an ideal budget. Order your goals based on priority, consider the services that feed into achieving the most objectives, and filter from there. For help with breaking down your budget and deciding on the online marketing services to focus on first, this is a useful marketing calculator to use.
If the above are my goals, but I am working with a tight budget I might decide to start with SEO and PPC, then work in usability and conversion testing every 6 months or so.
6. Coordinate. Drill it Down and Build it Out.
Don’t just say that you are going to create shareable content. Define it with a SMART goal. What type of content? A video to share on YouTube, an infographic with a catchy topic? Spell it out and plan it out. Use weekly and monthly calendars where needed to create your schedule.
If you want to increase Facebook engagement and fans by 300 during the first quarter of the year, define actionable items to get you there. How many status updates will you have per week? Will you run Facebook Ads? Will you make a concerted effort to respond to customers and interact? Create a plan to start – 3 posts and 2 responses or interactions minimum per week. It’s going to depend on your resources and whether or not you do it internally or with an agency. Several weeks in, are you on track to reaching your goal? If not, revise.
Do this with each of your channels and you are on the right path to tracking and reaching your 2013 Internet marketing goals.
Last, but not least. Don’t forget customer service and lead nurturing! You can drive all the traffic you want and be successful at it, but if you can’t keep those customers coming back once they contact you, you won’t be able to reap the long-term benefits.