How to get started on a winning Internet marketing strategy

By Dave Turner

(Updated 11/04/2009) - Today the Internet offers unprecedented marketing value, so now is the time to evaluate your website and any other Internet presence you may have to make sure you’re getting the highest return on your investment of time and money.

But given the cacophony in the business world about search engine optimization (SEO), keywords and key phrases, social media, microblogging and more, it’s hard to know where to start.

So I called Internet marketing expert
Sarah Benoit and asked, what are some basic first steps an organization should take toward a successful online marketing strategy?

Determine the Internet’s role

The answers to a more basic question is key to getting an Internet marketing strategy off on the right foot: What role does your website play in your business? For example, some companies receive 20 percent of their sales via the Internet. For others, that figure is 80 percent. Some websites are portals for customer service or direct online sales, while others drive contact from prospective customers. “For each function, it’s a different strategy,” said Sarah. “When you understand the role, you design a website that does its job.”

Consider usability

“Usability should be your top priority, in terms of how the website converts traffic into the paying customer, or the call for an appointment, or the other action you want,” said Sarah. “Most of the time, nobody has this conversation. People tend to forget that users are people with emotions and energies that are not technical but are organic,” she said. “What are the steps you want the visitor to take? How do you prompt them to take those steps in a natural and simple way so they just follow the trail of crumbs right to your door and become a customer?”

Further, the website must be useable across the full range of personality types within your target market. Detail-oriented people are more likely to drill down into the website copy and read just about everything. Visitors with a shorter attention span will respond to scanable information. “You have to take a holistic view,” Sarah said.

Consider the way the human brain works in general.

“Don’t put more than three options on your home page,” she said. “The human brain is not a machine, and it doesn’t deal with lists very well. People with photographic or encyclopedic memories are not the norm, and besides, we’re already on information overload.”

Think ‘online presence’

If you have a limited budget for website development, it may be better to go without a website for now—but not without an online presence.

“Everybody does need a web presence that’s available to the public, and by that I mean people should be able to find you online so they can call or email you. But it’s better to spend a little money on a blog and on social media and go without a website for now than to spend $1,000 on a website with poor usability and searchability,” said Sarah. For example, a restaurant or a music venue can use profiles on Myspace and Facebook to reach customers and promote events. “And when you have the budget later to build a high quality website, the work on blogs and social media will complement the new website.”

Understand SEO

Finally, said Sarah, SEO is not a one-shot solution. “Search engine optimization is an ongoing process that you do in a variety of stages,” said Sarah. “And it has to be updated constantly.”

Many SEO practitioners engage in keyword and key phrase tactics that attempt to trick the search engines, or game the system. "While this can generate higher traffic for a website, it can also knock the site out of indexing if the keyword and link building strategies are deemed 'black hat' by the search engines," said Sarah. "Plus, tricking the search engines is not a viable long-term strategy. The search engines are constantly finding better ways to identify and rank credible, relevant content, so your web site must be credible and relevant," she said. "The search engines are also always working to better detect keyword stuffing and other tricks."

The most effective way to approach SEO, she said, is to provide relevant content with keywords and key phrases on the front end, integrate keywords and key phrases in the coding on the back-end, and do quality link-building and updates on a continuing basis.

For more information

My source for this article is the founder of Creative Original, a company that provides Internet marketing, web design, and training and seminars. Sarah Benoit teaches classes on topics such as keyword research and analysis, audio and video podcasting, Internet marketing, referral marketing, web site analytics, writing for the web, social networking and more for both advanced and beginner students. For more information visit
www.creative-original.com.

1 comment

  • Debra Montgomery

    Debra Montgomery

    Hey, Dave: Very good points here. I will definitely vouch for the link building. It has made a significant difference in traffic getting back to my website. In my case, with products to sell, there are links to suppliers, etc., you can get where they offer small commissions of someone goes to their site from mine and buys their product. It really ups the exposure and doesn't cost anything. Another thing I just found out about is StatCounter.com. It is a free (or you can pay for an upgrade) that lets you see where your traffic is coming from, returning visits, what keyword activity, etc. That has helped me see exactly where and how people are finding us.

    Hey, Dave:

    Very good points here. I will definitely vouch for the link building. It has made a significant difference in traffic getting back to my website. In my case, with products to sell, there are links to suppliers, etc., you can get where they offer small commissions of someone goes to their site from mine and buys their product. It really ups the exposure and doesn't cost anything. Another thing I just found out about is StatCounter.com. It is a free (or you can pay for an upgrade) that lets you see where your traffic is coming from, returning visits, what keyword activity, etc. That has helped me see exactly where and how people are finding us.

Add comment

©2018 Dave Turner Creative. All rights reserved.