Striving for Continuous Website Marketing Improvement

Taking small actions on a regular basis are likely lead to more meaningful improvements to your website marketing than a large investment in a website “refresh” or relaunch every two or three years.

It’s a mistake to think about your website marketing efforts as set-it-and-forget-it investments.

You’re probably thinking, “Well, yeah. That’s pretty obvious!”

It’s unlikely that you aren’t aware of the value and importance of a steady stream of fresh content on your website at this point in the maturity of the web as a digital marketing tool. And you’re almost certainly already aware of the necessity to integrate your website into your marketing more broadly, from your email marketing to your social media efforts to your CRM system.

All of which means you have a pretty dynamic website. It doesn’t look the same today as it did six months ago.

But that’s not where your growth-focused thinking should end. If you seek to continually improve your marketing performance, you have to implement incremental changes to your website on a regular basis.

Finding the Right Frequency for Marketing-Focused Website Updates

How frequently you make these changes will depend on your site’s traffic volume and the resources you have to identify opportunities for improvement and to make the necessary changes .

Regardless of frequency, the key is to make changes systematically and track performance so you know what’s working and what isn’t.

The improvements you make should be based on three kinds of data:

  • Straightforward analytics metrics
  • Feedback from prospects, clients, your sales team, and other client-facing staff
  • Your gut

That last one is sure to be either a shock to your system or to make you sigh with relief. Even with data-driven marketing being all the rage — and justifiably so, in most situations — there’s no reason not to lean on your years of experience and what your inner voice is telling you.

For example, a client of ours didn’t have a lot of data to back up the changes she wanted to make to a section of her website that was neither outperforming nor lagging behind other content. She just had a hunch that changes would have an impact on engagement and lead generation.

We helped her update the presentation of this particular content in a way that made it more useful beyond the website, easier to connect to through her email marketing, and far more sharable on social media.

We also worked to update her analytics so that future updates in this areas could be based on metrics, as well any hunches the client had.

What Will Move the Marketing Needle?

Not sure what might move the needle? The best places to start include these:

  • Calls to action
  • Content gating strategies
  • Progressive profiling parameters
  • Page layout and design
    • Colors
    • Pull quotes
    • CTA placement

Changes to any one of these could yield measurable improvements in engagement or conversion rates. And taking small actions on a regular basis are likely lead to more meaningful website marketing improvements than a large investment in a website “refresh” or relaunch every two or three years.

Overall, the key to continuous improvement in your marketing is measurement. Experimentation and adjustment can easily become change for change’s sake, if you’re not measuring impact.

I would also caution against chasing after the latest shiny object. That’s a real danger, if you implement a policy of incremental changes without a long-term plan documented and agreed to by your entire team. Know where you want to go in the long-term and take short-term actions to move you closer to your digital marketing goals.

Does Marketing Require Your Website to End in ‘.Com’? If Not, Here Are 7 Options

There is no definitive answer to the value of TLDs besides .com, but deciding on one is a marketing conversation more than an IT discussion. The value of the myriad other options available will depend on your brand personality, your message, and who you are trying to reach.

Whether you know what “TLD” stands for or not, you’re probably thinking that a discussion about top-level domains is likely to be pretty technical. It can be, but we’re here to talk about TLDs from a marketing perspective.

So stow the eye glaze (you know, for when your IT director really gets going and your eyes glaze over …) and lets dive into what to consider as you assess your domain name options.

First, let’s acknowledge that it’s the web’s enormous growth that has led us to a point where the domain name you’d like — yourcompany.com —  simply may not be available. Certainly, just about every single-word .com domain has already been registered, even if it’s not in use. So what are your choices?

Changing Your Firm’s Name to Get the TLD You Want

If you can’t register the domain you want, you can change your firm’s name. Typically, that’s going to be a pretty radical option, though this is more palatable if you’re just starting out. If you are launching a new venture, you should find (and register) the domain name you want even before you have your attorney do a legal search for the viability of the name you’re considering.

Variations on a Name

You can also choose a variation of your name. For example, the social media management tool Lately arrived on the scene too recently to register lately.com, so they’ve opted for trylately.com. That works exceptionally well as a domain name for a marketing site.

Relocate Away From .Com

Another option, of course, is to select a TLD other than .com.

The options here have exploded over the past few years. Which option you choose should depend on your market and your audience. Some choices will feel more traditional, while others may provide a level of differentiation. Your choice should be based on your brand’s needs.

Once you’ve determined that a TLD other than .com is your best bet, there are still a lot of choices to be made.

Custom TLDs

One option is a custom TLD, as Google has created. (Which it uses for sites like https://sustainability.google/.) The expense of these TLDs — $185,000 — makes them an impossible investment for most companies, other than very large consumer brands.

Restricted TLDs

Sticking with existing TLDs, you’ll find that some are off-limits to anyone outside of the groups they’re meant to serve. These include .gov and .edu addresses, as well as some country-based TLDs, like .com.au. Domains using that TLD are reserved for businesses registered in Australia.

Country Code TLDs

Other country-based domains are open to outside registration. “Co” implies “company” to most folks in the U.S., which is why the .co TLD is quite popular here, even though it is actually Colombia’s TLD. It ranks just above the .us TLD here in the U.S.

We’ve seen an increase in .io sites over the past few years. It’s not 100% clear why this is a popular TLD; though, the fact that it rolls off the tongue nicely and is shorter than .com when most other newer TLDs are longer certainly helps. (In case you were wondering, .io is the TLD assigned to the British Indian Ocean Territory. All of you “Old MacDonald” fans should also note that eie.io is currently available …)

TLDs to Avoid

On the negative side, there does seem to be a growing consensus that .info sites are often home to some of the less savory businesses on the internet. You may want to avoid that TLD, even if your site is purely an informational site.

Defensive Measures

Type the name of your favorite mobile phone provider, airline, or cable company into your browser’s address bar with “.sucks” appended to the end. You’ll see why owning that domain name for your company under the .sucks TLD is a smart defensive move. You don’t want a competitor or disgruntled former employee creating a site ranting about your firm.

Wikipedia’s list of TLDs organized by type can be a great resource to see if you can find a domain name that works with your company name. (We’d love to own andi.go if there was a .go TLD.)

So while there is no definitive answer to the value of TLDs, deciding on one is much more than a conversation for your IT department to have by themselves. It’s tough to argue with .com as a known quantity. You should always register the .com, if it is available. The value of the myriad other options available will depend on your brand personality, your message, and who you are trying to reach.

.com and TLDs

On-Page SEO for Content Marketing Success

On-page SEO is only one part of effective website marketing, but it’s a critical part. Here are some guidelines for improving results.

Since Target Marketing is in the process of moving to a new publishing platform, and I’ve been reviewing the new features and tools, I thought it might be a good time to review best practices for on-page SEO.

There is, of course, quite a lot more to getting the most marketing return out of the content you publish, but on-page optimization is almost always a key part of the equation. Here are a few areas to pay particular attention to.

direct marketing
Credit: Pixabay by Pete Detlef

Keyword Density

If you search the intertubes, you’ll find all sorts of formulas and calculations for how often you should use your primary and secondary keywords. I won’t go so far as to tell you to ignore those rules of thumb, but will say that you’ll be better off if you focus instead on staying well short of the point where your copy sounds stilted or algorithm-generated.

Keyword Usage

More important than density is placement. Using your keywords strategically is likely to yield much better results. This means that in addition to using your keywords in your pages’ body copy, you should also place it in your pages’

  • Page titles
  • Headlines and subheads
  • Page URLs

Beside being helpful for your optimization efforts, these all have the added benefit of helping your human audience understand how your content and your site is organized.

Just remember that your site should be organized from your prospects’ perspective, not your internal structure. (Nobody really cares about your org chart or how you group services together into service lines, etc. They care whether you can help them solve their business problem.)

Meta Tags

The keyword meta tag isn’t critical the way it once was, but your description meta tag is not only an important part of how the search engines see you but they can make or break whether users click on your link when it shows up on a search engine results page. (SERP) That’s because the description is frequently what is displayed on the SERP along with the page title and link.

Be sure you take advantage of the available space, which has recently been increased from the old 160-character limit by most search engines. You have somewhere between 250 and 300 characters.

And don’t ignore the alt text fields for editorial graphics. Describe all photos, charts, graphs, and illustrations. This is too often overlooked by marketers optimizing their pages.

On-Page SEO Tools for CMSes

Depending on the CMS you’re using, there are tools to help you with your on-page optimization efforts. There’s no need to count characters on your fingers and toes, for example. Most CMSes have modules, extensions, or plugins that count characters for you as you type or paste copy into fields that the search engines limit. (Description, page title, etc.)

Who’s In Charge of Your SEO?

Keep in mind that the search engines sometimes make decisions for you, and will display description copy based on the page content and SEO focus, rather than what you’ve entered into your description meta field. There’s no appeal process that I know of, or any way to override the search engines’ choices. An annoyance to be sure, but overall it’s a good thing, as it helps to limit the black-hat tactics that were prevalent in the early days of search marketing and SEO.

Site-wide Considerations

Though not strictly a part of on-page optimization, ensuring that your site is mobile friendly and fast-loading are both important factors in how well you will rank. There are various tools available, including some excellent free tools from Google, that will help you fine tune your site on both of these scores, but at the very least you should begin by reviewing how quickly your site loads and how well your content displays on various devices – new and old, big and small, Mac or Windows or iOS or Android.

Website Marketing How-To: The Secret to Building a Successful B2B Website

What if I told you that there really is one secret — a silver bullet — that all but guarantees your B2B website marketing will be successful? And by successful, I mean it will generate a positive ROI, differentiate your products, and move your target audience to act. Not only does this silver bullet exist, I can sum the secret up in one word: Listen.

What if I told you that there really is one secret — a silver bullet — that all but guarantees your B2B website marketing will be successful? And by successful, I mean it will generate a positive ROI, differentiate your products, and move your target audience to act.

Not only does this silver bullet exist, I can sum the secret up in one word: Listen.

Listen

To your clients.

To your prospects.

To your sales team.

To your customer service reps.

Sounds easy, but as I’m sure you already know, it takes some doing.

Who Should You Listen To?

Let’s start with the groups outside of your organization: prospects and clients. These folks are likely to be a bit guarded, particularly prospects since you haven’t earned their trust. As with any focus group-type activity, you also run the risk of having people tell you want they think you want to hear. So you have to create space that allows them to be less defensive.

You might do this by couching your inquiry in a way that is helpful to them. For example, rather than inquiring about what they loved about your product x, get them talking about how they’d like to see you improve product x. The difference may seem subtle, but asking about what they want rather than what you want is much more likely to get you honest, helpful feedback.

The situation is similar but not identical with your internal audiences. You once again are much better served by asking what improvements would make their lives easier, but you also have to be even more communicative about whatever changes you implement. (If you keep asking and they keep not seeing any changes being made that benefit them, they’re not going to engage.) You won’t ever make 100% of the people happy 100% of the time, of course, but you have to show you’re trying – and you have to offer solid reasons if you can’t implement an improvement that has popular support.

All of this is no guarantee that your site is going to look great, or work with every browser under the sun. It doesn’t even mean it’s going to attract visitors. (That’s another discussion entirely.)

Address Your Audience’s Concerns

But it does mean that the audience you do attract will engage because you are addressing their concerns. Remember, nobody is coming to your website looking to kill a few minutes between meetings. They’re on your site because they have a problem that they think you may be able to help them solve.

Show that you understand their problem, provide them with materials that helps them understand their problem better, and they’ll grant you permission to illustrate that you have experience and expertise to solve their problem with them.

That should be the primary focus of everything you publish on your website and every call to action and lead magnet you create.

If you talk to your prospects and clients they’ll tell you their pain, and that’s the information you need to build a website marketing plan that works.

Your Website Is a Conversation, Not a Presentation

Is your website a conversation with your clients and prospects? Or is it a presentation?
This can be a tough distinction to make because, of course, your website is a proxy for you. You’re not actually sitting face-to-face with your prospects. But even without the back-and-forth of an actual conversation, you can get better Web results by striving to create a dialogue by encouraging engagement with your audience.

Social conversationIs your website a conversation with your clients and prospects? Or is it a presentation?

This can be a tough distinction to make because, of course, your website is a proxy for you. You’re not actually sitting face-to-face with your prospects. But even without the back-and-forth of an actual conversation, you can get better Web results by striving to create a dialogue by encouraging engagement with your audience.

In Other Words, You Want to Control the Narrative, Not Dominate It

Of course, you can’t control where your site visitors are going to click next. That’s the beauty and the curse of the Web’s non-linear nature. You can’t even control whether they start at “the beginning”. (If your social media, SEO and email marketing are relevant players, your website home page isn’t always going to be their entry point.)

But You Can Encourage Them to Take the Action You Desire

Strong copy, intelligent presentation, and a little bit of coding savvy can work wonders for your site — but for starters, you’ll want to define a solid set of goals. You have to know the action you ultimately want your site visitors to take. And you have to know, as the conversation moves along, what you want your audience to be thinking about. The thoughts your website provokes in consumers will be the best determinant of their course of action.

Recognizing that your audience has more options than “previous” and “next” has the added benefit of forcing you to stay tightly focused on your topic and think in terms of your audience’s interests, not your own agenda.

This is where many marketers go wrong. Staying focused does not necessarily mean diving into the minutiae of a topic. Nor does it mean forcing prospects to move forward with no destination possible other than your conversion point.

Because, of Course, There’s Always Other Options

But not options you want pursued: the browser’s close button, or your competitor’s website. Instead, you must guide them toward the action you ultimately want them to take by offering a range of possible paths. They may feel it’s time to reach out and contact you by phone. Or if their need is less pressing, they might want to subscribe to your newsletter and learn more over time. Or a trip to your “related materials” section might be in order, so they can dive into a topic in more detail.

You have to offer these options because there’s no way of knowing where a prospect is in the buying process when they arrive at your site.

There’s a fine line to be walked here: Just as droning on and on about a topic is likely to turn off prospective clients, so too can offering them every option under the sun.

With the exception of certain pages of your website — the home page, most notably — most of your digital marketing should be focused enough to appeal to just a select segment of your audience. They should be reading your email newsletter because it is likely to be of interest to them. That newsletter should contain links to the pages of your site that will be most relevant to their needs. And the calls to action embedded in that page should lead them to the next piece of content that addresses their needs and creates your case as the best solution for them.

The more audience segments you are trying to appeal to, the more difficult this can be, so it is important to craft your online marketing with specific segments in mind. Next time, we’ll talk a bit more about effective audience segmentation.