Once your corporate website is up and running (or even during the build process), inevitably someone will mention digital marketing, search engine marketing, and social media… and quite rightly too. There’s no point having a website out there if no-one can find it, and increasingly it’s not enough just to have a web presence; customers (even B2B customers) expect to be able to engage with you via other channels too. But how should you go about marketing your website and your business? Certainly not as an after-thought.
Search Engine Optimisation – a strategic approach
All too often, the stated goals of SEO go along the lines of “to get better listings in Google” – and it’s tempting to believe that it’s that simple. Better listings = more traffic = more sales, right? But really, SEO is only beneficial if it’s part of a strategic approach, with focussed goals. As with all aspects of your communications, it’s not just about getting noticed, it’s about getting noticed by the right people to achieve a business goal. It’s not about getting to number one on Google for the keywords you choose, it’s about considering what search terms your target audience will likely use, and optimising the site to get in front of those people – both so that they find the site in search engines, but also so that they do what you want them to do once they arrive.
The first step with SEO has to be not ‘let’s optimise our site’ but ‘who is the audience of our site, and what do we want to put in front of them, and why?’. Once that much is clearly defined you can look at generating keyword/keyphrase lists, bearing in mind the target audience, and then you can optimise the site accordingly, not just to get noticed by the search engines but critically so that you’re providing the right content for the people as well (they come down to one and the same thing, ultimately).
Social Media – choose your weapon
As with SEO, social media engagement also requires a well thought out strategy in order to be effective. Whether it’s trying Twitter or figuring out Facebook, before starting with social media activity, it’s important to first establish what you want to achieve, what value there is in it for you, who you want to engage with, what platforms will be appropriate, and how it will be managed. There’s a lot of – for want of a better word – bandwaggon jumping going on in this arena, but it’s only a value-add if it’s well thought out, and if you understand what it is you stand to get from it.
A blog, for example, is a great social media tool. Showcasing your expertise whilst establishing an authoritative voice in your market, providing plenty of informal content and encouraging engagement, it ticks all the boxes. But a blog is unlikely to directly increase your sales. It might encourage more traffic to your site, but since all you’re doing on the blog is sharing thoughts and ideas, many of those visitors will leave after reading a post without ever engaging further. Blogs, like other social media platforms, are not traditional PR channels, and a strategy (or lack of strategy) which just involves ‘pushing’ your usual message will not be well received, and will not benefit you.
And getting the style of communication wrong is just one way to fail with social media marketing. Failure to allocate resource to generating content and monitoring response, inability to provide engaging audience-appropriate content, and lack of commitment to engaging in a new and different way are other barriers to succesful use of something which was never intended as a marketing channel.
As much as we like to avoid marketing-speak, ‘joined up thinking’ is essentially what we’re talking about – it’s all part of the same picture. Too often, both social media marketing and search engine marketing become separated from the goals of the business, and both are undertaken almost as a bolt-on, without much clarity of purpose. All of your marketing activities – be it advertising, website, PR, social media or search engine marketing – are ultimately about communicating with people (the right people), not about blindly pushing out content. And all of your marketing activities should start from the underlying decisions about your business, its target audience and its goals, and should continue to be driven by them.