When I was a kid, a group of friends and I decided to build a tree fort. We spent weeks finding the right location until we found the perfect combination of pine trees to support the infrastructure for our project. We scrapped around the construction sites in the neighborhood to get our materials. Some of us would wrangle the wood, others would begin nailing the boards to the pines. Eventually, we had a completed treehouse. About a day after the fort was completed, we decided it was time for phase two and spent a few days expanding our new abode. After phase two, we were out of expansion options. All we had was our perfectly completed fort and absolutely zero clue what to do with it.
We built something and had hoped to find fulfillment in our finished product. What we quickly found was that we were lost. It was the first time I learned an important lesson in life: never confuse hope with a plan.
Building a website is an exciting time. You build your sitemap, fine-tune your copy, pick the perfect images, and use your creativity to showcase your brand’s online image. Essentially, you’re setting the infrastructure for your online activities for the next two to four years. But what do you do when the site goes live? How do you bring in new eyeballs to see it? What type of marketing efforts should you engage in?
These are questions all business owners face before a site launch. Even if the digital marketing waters can be murky and deciding which platforms and advertising portals your company should use is circumstantial, there are universal steps all businesses can take to ensure their new site is set up for success.
STEP ONE: Build the Right Infrastructure
For years, ATAK Interactive has made Google Analytics installation a part of every web development project. This year, we’ve decided to take it one step further and we now install a Custom Google Analytics dashboard for each site we launch. We want our clients to get a grasp of site traffic and how to increase it from the day their site goes live. Google Analytics can be tough to navigate, so if we simplify the dashboard for our clients, they can easily absorb where traffic is coming from and where it can be increased.
The most important aspect of Google Analytics, however, is setting up and measuring conversions. When someone comes to your website, you want them to do something. For ecommerce stores, you want users to buy products. For B2B professional services, potential customers fill out a contact form so sales representatives can get in touch with the prospective lead. If you know what a conversion is on your site, it’s easy to track it in Google Analytics. This sets the stage so that all of your marketing campaigns can use specific links with UTM codes that will identify where your traffic came from and if it led to a conversion. Regardless if you choose email marketing, social media, paid advertising, or another measure to advertise your site, you can track the success of the campaign if your Google Analytics is set up properly.
Additionally, all sites ATAK builds have Search Engine Optimization in mind. The way we structure our URLs, the choices made on alt tags for photos, the meta descriptions and title tags for each page… ALL of these are built with the intent to clearly identify to Google and other search engines what you do. Make sure your web developers build your site with SEO in mind or you’re starting a lap behind your competition the day your site goes live.
STEP TWO: Develop a Content Strategy
Hooray! You’ve spent months building this incredible site, now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor, right? Sorry, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s not how it works in 2015 (or 2018 if you find this article a few years down the road).
Buyers today come educated and informed. Smart businesses have pivoted away from cheap sales gimmicks (I’m looking at you, “ONE DAY ONLY SALE!!!”) and have begun teaching their customers about their products in an honest, transparent way.
To begin building a content strategy, first recognize the purpose is to educate your prospect, not try to reel them in with a hokey promotion they can see right through. Put yourself in their shoes and ask, “if I was going to buy a ________, what would I want to know?”
Once you’ve identified their pain points and where you can assist them, you need to think about the type of content you want to produce and how it will assist your marketing efforts and overall sales. For instance, blog posts help Search Engine Optimization, assuming you’ve outlined keywords you’d like to rank for and your content is reflecting this.
Whitepapers, however, do not help SEO, but they do help you build your email list if you offer them as a free PDF download in exchange for an email address. Videos that explain what you do will help you convert your browsers into buyers. ALL of these are great uses of content to help your marketing, but it is up to you to identify your greatest needs and ensure every piece of content you develop has a purpose.
Beyond educating your customers, a major part of that purpose needs to be increasing your reach. Whether it’s grinding out great blog posts to get better in search or building your email list with gated content, keep one eye on educating the customer and the other on increasing your network.
STEP THREE: Content Dissemination
You’ve built out your content strategy. You have an incredibly well-written blog post on a topic you know your target audience will like. Now what do you do with it?
There’s simple re-marketing efforts such as including the content in a newsletter, posting on social media, featuring in a prime area of your website, etc. It sounds simple and it is: keep putting the fresh content your producing in front of the people who already love you. Make them love you more by showing that you care about educating them on your product(s) the best you can.
Okay, so where else can your content go? There’s paid measures: boosted Facebook or LinkedIn posts, a banner ad in a popular email newsletter, or even platforms like Outbrain, who advertise your company blog posts on the bottom of popular media sites.
There’s proactive measures you can take: go to a LinkedIn Group and search to see if anyone’s asking questions that your content is answering or simply share your work with the group. (You can even get ideas for new blog posts by seeing what others are asking about). Search for questions your content answers and find forums where users have asked and you can deliver the solution. Join a Twitter chat on a particular topic and provide the content as part of the chat.
Re-purpose the content. Make it easy for someone reading a new blog post on a similar topic five months down the road to find past content they would equally find beneficial. Post it on social media multiple times, especially on platforms like Twitter where it’s more socially accepted. Make it a chapter in a larger eBook that you can build simply through aggregating old work.
STEP FOUR: Have an Amplification Plan
One of the strategies at ATAK Interactive is to build out something we like to call an “Amp Network.” This is the media, industry organizations, brand evangelists, and business partners you can lean on to be your allies.
Let’s say you want to get the word out about your new “How-to-Guide.” It’s a wonderful gated PDF and everyone who’s downloaded it has given it rave reviews. If you’ve built out an Amp Network, equipped with contact information, you can begin reaching out to each amplifier on the list and asking them to take a look at the “How-to-Guide” and if they think its something their readership would enjoy, invite them to share it via social media, newsletter, or any other communication method they use to connect with their audience.
Don’t be pushy and don’t ask for anything that would not provide value for their readership. This will become important when they come back to you with their own “How-to-Guide” a few weeks later and ask you to share it with your community ☺
Understand that a lot of the sharing that you want from your partners needs to be reciprocated. If you believe in collaboratively building your followers, email database, or site traffic with a little help from your friends, you need to be willing to take time in your content strategy to do the same for them. This is why it’s vital to connect with real partners, and not just someone with 50,000 Twitter followers.
STEP FIVE: Analyze + Optimize
"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." – Mike Tyson
Ah, the unfortunate sequel to the “never confuse hope with a plan” lesson we learned earlier. There’s no denying that even with the marriage of a great idea, solid execution, and noble intentions, the results aren’t always what you want. Lucky for you, you’ve set up Google Analytics properly and you can review your data to decide where you’re getting the best conversions.
Are links from social media sending the best traffic? Search engines? Eblasts? Tweets from one of the partners sharing your content?
Hopefully you can measure your success and understand which platforms are sending you the highest quality of users. Give yourself three months of data to work with. That’s enough time to identify progress. For instance, if you wanted to rank high for a keyword that you started by not ranking at all for and have found yourself climb to the third page of Google in just three months, you know you’re making progress. But if you’ve increased your social media following by connecting with others both online and off, and each tweet you send with a link doesn’t get any clicks, then you know you need to spend less time and resources on social and concentrate more on Search.
The data will provide each company with different answers. But it’s the best indicator you’ll have to the type of marketing that gets you the conversions you need to grow your business. Diversifying and measuring your marketing efforts in the beginning and adjusting based on the numbers is a great way to ensure the beautiful site you’ve built leads to the success you’ve envisioned.