Marketing is all about building and influencing trends. It’s also true that trends are important within marketing. Certain approaches become “hot” and widely used. Particularly with the Internet, the evolution of technology and discoveries of how people behave on-line make certain methods work particularly well at certain times.
Knowing what’s hot right now in Web marketing can be important to because that’s likely to be a technique that can pay rich dividends in terms of bringing business to you.
For this discussion, I’m grateful for a discussion that took place with a client yesterday, who had attended a talk on Web marketing that echoed just what’s presented here.
What I started this business in 1998, Web marketing consisted mostly of what’s called search
engine optimization, or SEO, which at the time was fooling Google into the impression that your site had content about the most popular topics of the day. A variety of tricks were used to do this. Today Google knows all about those tricks, and if you tried to use 1998 SEO today your site would see very few visitors from Google.
In those days of yore, we talk about Web 1.0, the use of the Web as a distributor of information. Visitors found Web sites through search, and then accessed information there. Web 1.0 was all about information provided by site owners. Visitors were passive consumers of information.
More recently, we’ve seen the growth of importance on the Web of user-generated content, as Web users shift their role from passive consumers to active providers of information–this is generally called Web 2.0. Of course, marketers are eager to use that trend to their advantage, hence the emergence of on-line reviews as a marketing tool. In fact, on-line reviews are the hottest topic today in Web marketing.
My own review management service was started to enable business owners to obtain more genuine, favorable reviews from their real customers. A number of my clients are now using this service to increase the number of reviews they receive, and to show a live feed of reviews on their sites, tagged so that Google recognizes them as reviews.
Technology trends account for the second major hot topic: mobile device use. More and more users search the Web using mobile devices, mostly phones but also tablets. Google recognizes this, and of course they don’t want to send their customers to sites that don’t look good on small screens, so they’ve told all of us that if your site doesn’t look good on the small screen, it’ll hurt your position in Google search results.
If you haven’t already done so, check out your site using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. If you fail the test, it’s time to engage your Web designer to solve that problem. If your site is built with WordPress, which I recommend, you’ll have a number of options, and you may be able to solve the problem with just a plug-in.
With all the current attention taken by on-line reviews and mobile use, it’s easy to forget the importance of content, which after all is what Web surfers are looking for. If you’re a small business and have limited resources to develop content for your site, it’s best to put a lot of your effort into what’s called evergreen content, which is content that will have continuing value, that won’t have to replaced right away.
Once you’ve compared as many sites for search engine positions as I have, you’ll see that the sites with a lot of well-written, interesting content related to the main theme of the site will have higher ranks in search engine results than sites with more limited content. If you want to rank high for some term, write about that topic.
Producing content is hard for small businesses. I usually advise small businesses to get double duty from their content by writing a blog, or articles, for their Web site, and then putting that content into their newsletter, as well. I follow my own advice; this blog post will also be an edition of my newsletter.
Finally, we come to SEO, that used to be the cornerstone in Web marketing. Even today, some small business owners look for someone to “do SEO” for their site, expecting that there’s some magic that can produce high rankings. There used to be such magic, when search engines weren’t as sophisticated and could easily be tricked. If you try many of those old techniques today, your site could be removed from the Google index, with devastating impact on your Web customer acquisition.
However, there is still an important role for the practitioner who understands technically how search engines analyze a site and decide whether the site has quality content. Fortunately for me! That role is to, first, understand all of the priority topics on this page and provide guidance with them, but then to make sure the site is set up so that Google will recognize the worthwhile content that is present. If things like tags and headings aren’t given proper attention, the benefits that should come from a quality content development effort may not be realized.
The Bottom Line
Yes, you can do all of this yourself. But it’s complicated, and it changes over time. It’s easy to make mistakes that can ruin your ability to attract customers through your Web efforts. So the bottom line is: don’t try this at home!
The Internet offers you the cheapest advertising medium ever devised, and professional help (from someone like me!) can allow you to focus on your own business, while making the best use of what the Internet can do for you. And getting the maximum business benefit from your investment in your Internet presence.
The most glaring example of how the unwary can get into trouble is provided by the unscrupulous providers of specialized Web sites for professionals. I’ve seen these services provide sites for dentists, doctors and lawyers that will never bring them any ranking in search engines because of built-in problems. Their customers think they’ve offloaded all of their Internet promotion problems into this vendor who delivers them a lovely site. Then for the money they spend they get nothing.