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What I am trying to find out is what is the most important aspect of marketing a website. I am going to be teaching a workshop at a university later this month and I want to get some opinions of what you all think is the most important facet of marketing a website on the internet.
I know that there are hundreds of different answers depending on the site, product, budget, etc. I am looking for some simple general ideas that could apply to a wide range of projects.
I guess I will go first:
For me the most important factor I can think of would be ROI. If I make more money than I spend and can maximize that I think the site will be successful.
Any other thoughts?
People consider facts when buying, but ultimately its an emotional decision. A site needs to tap that through the copy and navigation process. Words are magical from an SEO perspective and from a sales process.
The chain analogy is a good one. Find the weakest link and strengthen it. Anything else won't make a difference.
The most important element of marketing is information. In order to deliver the right products to the right customers at the right time and at the right price [cost] depends on targeting and without information we cannot target successfully.
ROI is the ultimate measurement tool for determining how successful you have been - but of itself it doesn't deliver.
Thats my tuppence worth!
How many of us have inherited "dogs" that could only be ranked using doorway pages. Even then, the 100K+ pages of the site redirected to will be "clicked off" by visitors before they are loaded.
Customers expect to win the money race against "well tuned Ferrari's" with their "overloaded taxi cabs". Then they blame the SEO's when they lose.
These are the same one's who also pay for clicks and lose their jock.
To build a profitable, stable ecommerce sit all three areas must be addressed. You must first build a site that motivates and faciliates conversions. You then focus on merchandising. Only then does it make sense to drive traffic to an ecommerce site.
If you looked at most ecommerce sites you would draw the picture with the tiers in the same relative place. Conversion would still be the base.
However, you would draw the paramid inverted and trying to stand on the narrow tip of traffic.
It is the basic error that sank the dot.com's. A site can't succeed that focuses on driving trafic first and conversion last.
You can't lose a little on every visitor and make it up on volune.
Sorry I missed this yesturday.
Traditional marketing value.
1. Awareness - from an online perspective inbound links and ranked position
2. Interest - attractive listings (although no#1 position provides alot of awareness ... Title - Wigets with a shown Description [Home] [Products] [ Contact Us] ...blue wigets, green wigets for more wigets support... doesn't make many want to click through
3. Movitate - focusing on the benefits the new visitor has with your information/products/services entices visitors to wants more.
4. action - all the above is nothing unless visitors trust you and you having given them a reason to act now.
A thousand visitors/day and 10 sales is quite possibly 9,990 "dissatified visitors"
Technology is just a tool ... marketing principles is what matters.
One opinion anyway.
Naturally, the marketing content (text & images) has to be dynamite too. It does us no good to have a top-ranking web site if the content isn't going to convert visitors into paying customers.
Though I'm referring specifically to e-commerce web sites, I think that being able to find any web site on the first page of search engine results is terribly important.
Just my jaded opinion...
Promote today, promote yesterday, promote tomorrow. You have to budget time for it.
Almost everything we do with websites is of an "instant" nature. We update a page, and we see it immediately. We buy an ad, and it goes up fairly quick. We leave a post in a forum, and zap - it's there. Send an email, and get a reply.
Promotion on the other hand, is a delayed effect. It's like driving on ice. We poked a search engine two months ago and are just seeing the effects today. Which way do we turn the wheel today to avoid next months ditch? That means we always have to plan several steps ahead. Todays work won't bear fruit for several months - if not years.
As an example, take the forums here. We are enjoying a huge wave of success right now. That is not based on efforts from this year, or really even last year, but mostly from ground work layed over two years ago.
Promotion, you just have to keep after it day in - day out.
Ask yourself what is the most important principle in marketing ANYTHING?
Contrary to popular belief, marketing isn't just about shouting as loudly as possible as often as possible. If you aren't shouting about anything particularly interesting or good, then you're not marketing, you're just shouting.
So I'd say first of all read The Anatomy of Buzz by Emanuel Rosen. Word-of-mouth is what really makes for a winning product. Word-of-mouth needs a push (movie studios need BOTH a great first weekend based on heavy advertising AND great word-of-mouth to give the picture legs), but if word-of-mouth is lukewarm or bad, you're trying to market something that there is actually no market for.
The really striking thing Rosen says is that the product itself largely determines whether word-of-mouth will happen.
So when it comes to a web site, the most important principle of marketing is that you need to have something unique and compelling there. Many don't. It helps even more if *you* are unique and compelling.
I don't agree that "ROI is the most important principle in marketing a web site." That's just an odd way of putting it. It's like saying "earning a lot of money is the best way to be rich."
The bottom line is that if you cannot conceive of the possibility of making a profit based on virtually *no* investment in marketing, you probably won't be very successful in achieving a high ROI on your marketing dollars.
If Google or Hotmail had had to spend a lot of dollars to reach their vast popularity, they probably would have gone broke.
The dollars are more profitably spent when you have something that, when offered to a few customers and industry experts, generates an instant and positive response and makes them want to go and tell others without being induced to do so.
And yes, if you have money to spend, it greases the wheels.
The "most important aspect of marketing a website". It is a new website than without a doubt the first action and therefore perhaps most important is: Research!
Research competitors, customers, promotion (features/benefits and means) etc., etc. In a nutshell:
Competitors: When done properly this tells you who are the direct (i.e. online vacation travel sites for Europe) and indirect competition (vacation sites...or maybe even entertainment in general), what they do well, what you can learn from them when building your site (both in terms of promotion and in terms of you building a better mechanic), and perhaps most importantly what advantages you have over them (that you should promote), and what disadvantages you have with them (that you need to 'spin'). And if a client thinks they have no competitors, run like hell.
Being on the web, and with the omnipresent free trial offer, competitor analysis is pretty easy.
Customers: This is pretty well covered in comments above but really the focus is what do they want? Are there different types of consumer (i.e. as simple as business users vs. home users or segmentation by every data field imaginable)? What are their present/future problems that aren't being solved now? If there aren't any then it's hard to make yourself different. That means you'll be fighting as a commodity on price. Even if you can produce and distribute for a lot less it may not matter as generally existing companies have deeper pockets/economies of scale/brand to fight this kind of battle than a start-up.
And I realise that many start-up companies can't afford formal focus groups to really get at this info but informal ones/cheaper ones done right, or secondary research, can be great.
Promotion: Features: What are the key factors of your offering (website)? What are the intellectual benefits of these features (generally these boil down to doing something quicker and cheaper)? What are the emotive benefits (why do these benefits appeal to the consumer)?
Once you have these, they should form the backbone of marketing aspect of any ads and web page copy (plus of course usabiity and SEO :-). If possible though this profiling should also influence the means of promotion.
Promotion: Means: How are you going to communicate to the market place? This has been explained so well above, there is not much more I could hope to add.
The topic can be flushed out forever but I'll stop there.
Where possible, this research should be done in advance. If not you'll be doing 10 times the work later, trying to fix your mistakes and having already blown your chance at a first impression with your potential customers.
Perhaps most importantly though, if you find that you are going to have a commodity product in a crowded marketplace than perhaps the best idea is to not do it at all.
(the author apologies to all the buzzwords skipped and slaughtered during this note)
1) Competitive prices: A current client of mine has a top 5 listing on Yahoo! for their base keyword, a #1 for their primary keyphrase and are #1 in their category. They also have #2 ranking on Google, as well. They have yet to make more than six sales a week for a product that's under $100. Reason - they must drop their prices to meet that of their competitors.
2) "Sticky" Content: Things to read, things to play, and exclusive content that gets the user to create an account to access. If you can't get a sale - get a lead and sprinkle the mention of that product or service throughout all content within the site, but no to the point of trying to brainwash the consumer(s). Most are too smart for that and will never visit your site again.
3) Presentation: Nice layout, easy navigation with multiple ways to reach areas of the site that would be referred to in different ways. For instance, a store locator for a major home supply site can be found in ABOUT/CORPORATE/STORES/LOCATE - but it doesn't mean that the user will go that deep to find it. In this case, two links should be created - one for "About Us" and the other for "Store Locations". Also, make sure the layout is fast and tight. Keep the colors and aesthetic qualities within the confines of the product or business' brand.
And LASTLY --- after you have created a web site that supplies quality content that has ways of selling AND expanding the user base (or contact list) of that company, is easy to use, and is visually appealling --- only then you
POSITION: You can have the best web site in the world, but if no one knows that it's there - then it might as well not exist. Even the most expensive of submission fees combined are nothing compared to the cost of advertising - and you get to keep those listings for anywhere from a year to infinity. Positioning in real world marketing (for brick and mortar storefronts) is one of the things that makes or breaks most businesses - and it can have the same effect online.
Another tip is that if you sell a product of some sort - and have control over the labelling (or the call room), definitely tie them all together through adding the site to the labels and having the sales people mention the site as a means of technical reference.