One of the fastest evolving marketing trends is the advent of internet advertising which continues to skyrocket on the global front. To better understand the landscape and to maximize the internet marketing investment, Waypoints Editor Wanda Kenton Smith spoke in-depth with British-based David Main who is head of search for Dominion’s marine division. He addresses the latest trends in internet marketing, his predictions for the future, and his top strategies and tactics for internet marketing success.
Waypoints: What are the key trends you're seeing these days on the internet in terms of marketing/advertising?
Main: There’s a trend to become more visual and interactive but with higher levels of engagement than ever before, no matter where one is. Content now has to look good and be provided in different styles, such as video, delivered through different channels.
Many businesses have been promoting their Facebook pages for the past couple of years, whether on their website, in their store or elsewhere as they race to get fans over their competitors. However, in recent months some big brands have used Facebook.com where once was a regular website URL.
Waypoints: SEO (search engine optimization) continues to be a major component in online marketing initiatives. What are the most important things to consider when developing your SEO strategy … what works?
Main: SEO is the process of improving the visibility of a website and web pages via the natural/organic search results of search engines. SEO should also improve sites’ interaction with users as well as search engines. Basic SEO best practices work for all websites, regardless of size or type and cover: accessibility, content (quality), on-page elements, user experience, marketing, and site structure.
While also ensuring that you are following the basic guidelines from the search engines, ensure you have a clear action plan which allows you to track, measure and expand/tweak your site through your SEO efforts on a regular basis, whether it be weekly or monthly. Your Action Plan should include the following:
- Diagnostics - error checking, robots.txt blocking, 404 errors, 302 redirects, etc.
- Analytics - number of visits, keywords sending traffic, number of keywords converting, pages getting most or least traffic
- Content Strategy - defining the content strategy, measuring search volume of keywords and looking to build content that will help rank for keywords with good search volume that are relevant to your business where your rankings are weak
- Outreach - optimized press releases for target keywords, starting or improving existing social initiatives with increased SEO efforts and building quality links from sites with good authority
Waypoints: What are some of the most common mistakes or misnomers about SEO?
Main: Many people believe that the stuffing of keywords in to the Meta Description and Meta Keywords helps SEO. Although not used for ranking your site/pages by any of the major search engines, the Meta Description is an important place to use a target term/phrases due to the bolding of it in the snippet of the search results. Usage has only been shown to boost the Click-Through Rate (CTR) - it is your ad copy that will determine if the user clicks on your result. Copy should be kept within 160 characters and written to get the user's attention.
Please note that search engines “may” choose to use a relevant section of your page if it does a good job of matching up with a user’s query. Any good search engine marketer is going to recommend that you do not spend any time on Meta Tags, advising that search engines no longer use the tag. However, the Meta-Title is the most important on-page element for keyword placement and the keyword or phrase used in this tag should be relevant to the content of the page.
People also believe that the secret to SEO is all about the way the site is built and while it is a key part of it, off-page SEO such as anchor text of external links to a page is also a key factor.
Waypoints: What are you seeing these days in terms of Search Engine Marketing, and what should our readers consider when contemplating a paid campaign?
Main: Paid search advertising has not been without controversy, and the issue of how search engines present advertising on their search result pages has been the target of a series of studies and reports. Any paid campaigns must be measurable and allow businesses to see what traffic they are getting for their dollars. Campaigns must be planned, managed and optimized in order to be successful and offer the best possible return on investment.
Look beyond the number of clicks to analyze whether organic visitors provide more leads, convert more sales, etc., and look at whether you should invest more money and time into SEO first. Many search engine users ignore whether the search results are displaying organic or sponsored listings and instead click on the first result, which can therefore be a missed opportunity when looking at just SEO. Carry out multi-touch analysis to see whether a visitor has returned from a previous visit, and take note as to whether it was through a different method that they came back and where the initial lead originated.
I’d suggest targeting your paid campaign to longer-tailed keywords (year/make/model, year/make/model/location, etc.) as they tend to generate more targeted click-throughs. Though the volume of clicks may not be as high as broad keywords (i.e., boat for sale), you will likely spend less per click and reach buyers that are looking for the inventory that you carry.
Waypoints: How do social media activities like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn strengthen your online marketing results?
Main: Social networks and social media outlets are growing at an unprecedented rate. Last year, many advertisers were trying to find their way and understand social media better. This year I have seen a number of the smaller companies in the marine industry tap in to social media and start to utilize it, with social media marketing starting to become a mainstream method for businesses to connect directly with prospects and customers.
Partnerships have been established between search engines and sites like Twitter to bring real-time social media content in the search results of search engines. This makes it easier to get your tweets not just in front of your followers, but also to the masses. Expect to see other social networks establishing partnerships with search engines, in order to get higher visibility of real-time content.
Waypoints: Can you explain how to best capture leads generated from internet advertising?
Main: Make it easy for people to get in contact and ensure that messages are clear and are designed explicitly to drive traffic in order to help persuade prospects to get in contact. There are a variety of lead capture services that can make the difference in the success of any business. Be sure to offer as many different ways to get in contact as you can, from simply providing an e-mail address, to having call back request forms, toll-free phone/local telephone numbers and online support and answering systems.
Waypoints: What are some common testing strategies that can help maximize ROI from internet advertising, and how do they work?
Main: A/B split testing and offering alternative pages or content through tools, such as Google Website Optimizer, allow you to test and optimize site content and design. You can quickly and easily increase revenue and ROI.
Google Website Optimizer is a free tool and takes away guesswork from site design while helping you increase visitor satisfaction and conversion rates. If you had two possible headlines for your page and you couldn’t decide which to use, you could run an A/B split test in which half of your visitors would be shown Headline A and the other half would be shown Headline B. From these results, you can make more informed decisions when you to see which headline brought you the most orders.
Web Analytics is also key for you to be able to test and measure the effectiveness of paid and SEO campaigns to maximize ROI, measuring conversions and driving traffic from search engines. Where pages are generating a high bounce rate, you should look to alter the page in order to satisfy visitors and provide the information they were looking for.
I recommend the set-up of goals and events as a way to measure business objectives for your website. Goals must correspond to a measurable action performed by your website's visitors, for example, a visit to a "thank you" page. Usually the visitor action that's associated with a goal involves multiple steps and together these steps make up a goal funnel. Like the goal itself, each of these steps must correspond to a measurable action, such as a page view of a specific page. Being able to see and correct problems in the goal funnel can help your business achieve more goals whether they are leads, sales or other.
Waypoints: Many of our Sail America members utilize e-mail marketing campaigns. What are some tips for success in launching these campaigns?
Main: A successful e-mail marketing campaign has a few components to it. First of all, you must comply with the CAN-SPAM act if you use email for your business. Your audience should want and expect your content. Manage their expectation by giving the subscribers a clear benefit for signing up and follow through. The information you send them should be relevant, and with a clear call to action.
In addition, honor their email preference, i.e. frequency, subscription, especially if they opted-out of the database. Nothing gets you blacklisted faster than sending emails to customers who have opted out.
Can your email service provider give you insight into your customers’ email behavior? Use analytics to understand what your customers are responding to. Don’t blast your entire list just because you can. Segment your opt-in database based on profile or behavior criteria and personalize your emails.
And the last point is, always test, whether it involves testing your subject lines, day/time of sending, design, or call to action.
Waypoints: Besides an existing opt-in database, what are other legitimate means to target your audience for internet marketing activities?
Main: There are many highly targeted advertising opportunities within the social media spaces, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Various ad placements can be purchased inexpensively, created within minutes and served up to very specific audiences. You can also use the social media venues to create brand awareness by participating in relevant forums, blogs and other websites to join the conversation and become involved in the communities where your customers are building their online homes.
Waypoints: What do you think are the most important internet marketing opportunities available today?
Main: It is becoming increasingly important to build a brand identity within the realm of social media, as consumer participation within social media is growing at an extremely high rate. With social media, it is not just about the measurement of comments, number of fans or even visits from these sites to your own, but it is also about outreach. Provide information and build trust among the social networks by providing knowledge and support in order to convert these prospects into customers when it comes to them moving on to the transactional phase. Consumers trust other consumers, so they look to blogs and forums when they are researching products to see what their peers are saying.
Waypoints: How would you describe the advent and development of mobile internet marketing, and what do you see in this future?
Main: With the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices, customers are finding and exchanging information in more channels than before. The U.S. is driving much of the demand of smartphones, and social networks are fast becoming the primary way mobile users exchange information. Frequent social network access is linked to above-average mobile content consumption. In 2009, approximately 26% of people accessed the Internet at least once a month on their mobile device. By 2013, that is expected to rise to 44%.
Tablets are changing the face of mobility and computing with the launch of the iPad and the tablet category is helping drive the device market forward. By 2015, Forrester projects that tablets will represent 23 percent of all PC sales, which will be more than either desktops or netbooks, trailing only notebooks.
The mobile web is becoming more app-like in appearance and experience, and the likelihood is that the mobile web and apps will continue to co-exist. As the web industry pushes towards the HTML 5 standard, it is becoming more app-like, so there’s an increasing convergence between the appearance and experience.
Waypoints: What other trends do you predict?
Main: QR Codes is the abbreviation for Quick Response and is a matrix barcode that has been around for years, created originally by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in 1994, intended to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed. Readable by QR scanners, mobile phones with a camera or smartphone, the information encoded can be text, a URL or other data such as business card.
Expect to see them and micro QR codes a lot more, appearing on your TV screens during commercials, on billboards, printed documents whether a utility bill, brochure or magazine.
Waypoints: When it comes to budgeting and analysis for internet advertising, how do you recommend our members measure their ROI?
Main: Look at the maximum amount of outreach and ensure you have the right tools to be able to effectively measure your ROI. Analytical programs are becoming smarter while trackable shorten-codes like goo.gl and bit.ly are becoming more popular, allowing you to be able to measure various means of traffic along with call tracking.
Depending on the results you want to achieve from display advertising, you can benefit from measuring by either click-thru rates, conversion rates or time spent with the placement. Click-thru rates and conversion rates are more appropriate measures of ROI when compared to product sales. Time spent within a banner placement (i.e., rich media) is a valuable measurement when trying to build brand awareness and brand identity because you will be able to determine the level of online engagement and interest your brand creates.
Waypoints: Any other comments/suggestions you'd like to add?
Main: Businesses need to ensure that they are monitoring and dealing with reputation management, ensuring that they hear what people are saying about them and engaging with those people to ensure that all outcomes are to the benefit of their business.
Wanda Kenton Smith is editor of Waypoints, president of Marine Marketers of America, national marketing columnist for Soundings Trade Only since 1997, and owner/president of Kenton Smith Marketing, www.kentonsmithmarketing.com For more information or to comment on this story, e-mail email@example.com