For many years organisations have based their online marketing strategy around SEO, perhaps with a smattering of PPC thrown in for good measure. And in many cases these organisations have seen good results, with optimised keywords making the first page of Google’s organic search results, thus delivering traffic to their site. However, in the last two years Google has made many hard-hitting changes to their search algorithm, with the aim of targeting those who try to manipulate the search rankings. These changes have covered a wide range of areas and sites have been punished or re-evaluated on a variety of elements, including:
The result being that many organisations found that the keywords they had been optimising for suddenly fell down the rankings. For those that had relied heavily, or even solely on SEO, the impact was devastating, as traffic to their site fell dramatically. In some instances companies went out of business virtually overnight, as orders for their products or services decreased significantly; paying the ultimate price for placing all of their digital eggs in the SEO basket.
Google’s determination to prevent the manipulation of organic search has had wide reaching implications on the digital marketing arena.
There has been a dawning realisation that SEO used as a standalone solution to online marketing is a high risk strategy. Whilst it is possible to make the required changes to your site that should see keyword rankings maintained within the search rankings, there is no guarantee how long they will stay there, as and when Google make further changes to their algorithm. In order protect against such changes in the future, it is essential that organisations incorporate other methods to drive traffic to their site, taking a more holistic approach to their online marketing strategy.
The real challenge for businesses is to work out exactly which marketing strings they should add to their digital bow.
We have already touched briefly on PPC, and this is certainly a well-trodden path for many. However, despite the fact that the reach of social media continues to grow, many businesses still shy away from it. Yet something as simple as a competition pushed through social media channels can greatly improve the amount of traffic to a business’ site.
There is little effort for the entrant, perhaps having only to like the businesses Facebook page and share the competition via their account. Yet the business can benefit hugely by being able to target potential new customers thanks to having details of their Facebook account.
In addition, their company name is shared across the particular social media channel, increasing brand awareness.
Online PR is another great way to increase brand awareness and improve traffic levels to a site. It is essential for businesses to shout about any new products and services, not only to inform of their new offering, but also to keep their brand in the public consciousness. Likewise, any events with the company or industry deemed newsworthy should be shared through PR channels, both online and offline.
This could be something as simple as providing an expert opinion to a magazine or newspaper on a topical subject. Doing so requires minimal effort, yet can deliver fantastic exposure, whilst conveying the message that the organisation is an expert within the industry.
Affiliate programs can also be a great way for businesses to reach new consumers, whereby they pay other sites and companies for referring customers to them. However, a successful online strategy shouldn’t only focus on driving traffic to the site, but also look to ensure that the existing traffic converts into business.
There is no point driving thousands of users a day to your online shoe shop, if none of them actually buy anything. It is easy for a business to lose sight of the aim of their website, with ecommerce sites often looking more like information sites, when optimised purely for SEO. It is therefore important to assess the performance of your site on a regular basis - including user testing where appropriate.
The exact route a user must take to complete the desired journey must be examined and simplified wherever possible to reduce the number of drop-offs, thus increasing conversions.
Another area that can be addressed when it comes to improving conversions of existing traffic is to cater to people using mobile devices to browse the internet. Figures show that the use of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices continues to grow, yet many organisations do not have mobile websites.
This can result in a poor user experience for mobile browsers, prompting the user to leave the site before completing their purchase or journey.
Mobile sites and responsive sites are designed so that their format appears in a more digestible way on mobile devices. Load times can also be speeded up by reducing the amount of information that is required to display pages.
One example of how this can be achieved is the removal of images from the page, or scaling down to a size better suited to mobile devices.
Finally, we must also mention the power that email marketing can have when used properly. Most companies collect information on new customers when they make a purchase, but not all use it to their advantage.
A well timed email to past customers can keep a business in their thoughts and lead to repeat custom. In some instances it may even be that past purchases can be used to draw up a more targeted strategy, whereby certain products and services are pushed to those most likely to be interested.
By considering the many different facets of digital marketing beyond Google’s organic search results, organisations can not only increase traffic to their site, but split it more evenly across the various channels.
Such a move serves to protect the organisation should one of these traffic channels suffer, with enough traffic remaining to sustain the site and organisation, whilst the issue is addressed.