It's been drilled into your head since childhood: "Eat your vegetables!" During school you're told, "Make sure to include all five food groups in your diet." Then, it becomes a matter of memorizing all five food groups and their respective importance. If you recall, whole grains, vegetables and fruit stabilize the pyramid while lean meat, fats and sugar comprise the pyramid's top. Most likely, you, like most other kids, left nutrition class wondering, "If the pyramid is correct, why are cookies so delicious?"
As a business owner, it's tempting to focus on the "cookies," but this may cause losing sight of the whole grains and vegetables needed to get your business to where it needs to be online. Much like the food pyramid, internet marketing is comprised of five distinct groups designed to ensure the health of your business. In order to reach the good stuff, you'll need to build a solid foundation.
Branding: The Whole Grains of an Online Presence
According to statistics released by Brandpoint, over 90% of searchers use a popular search engine to look for brands, while nearly 70% go to a brand's social media profile before making a purchase decision. For brands, high visibility and a unified brand presence is key.
Whether your focus is regional or global, you need to build a solid, cross-platform strategy that ensures a first impression - wherever it may be - and communicates a clear, brand-centered message. Combined, the following elements form the foundation for your brand's online presence.
- Brand Name - Building an online presence involves buying up virtual real estate. A brand's name should be included everywhere a customer may interact with a company online, from a branded website and social media pages to local search directories and third-party review sites.
- Logo Design - For companies vying for customer attention online, a custom logo design is crucial. Statistics indicate that the majority of individuals are visual learners, and visual content is processed by the eye 60,000 times faster than text. Successful brands take this opportunity to get their logos noticed and remembered with custom visual elements.
- Company Story with Image - Easily recognized as the requisite "About Us" page, a brand story is more than providing customers with a company profile. It's about communicating value, purpose and passion. Associated images should have a clear relationship to your brand's story.
- Website Design - Believe it or not, website design influences a customer's purchase decision, according to Psychology Today. To stand out from the competition and make an impact, branded websites need an eye-catching, easy-to-navigate web design that encourages visitors to stay and interact.
- Landing Page Design - To increase your brand's conversion rates, designing attractive, branded landing pages is a must. Multiple factors contribute to landing page design, including color, desired emotional response and the demographics of the intended reader.
- Google+ Author Verification - The importance of Google+ author verification soared once Google made landmark changes to its search algorithm. Taking the extra steps to complete this process means content receives higher search engine rankings. As a bonus, readers associate content with your brand prior to clicking on a link.
- Google+ Business Page Management - The success of your brand's online presence lies in claiming valuable real estate where your brand will live. Actively managing professional pages, such as a Google+ business page, increases brand awareness and your website's reach. It also enhances credibility.
SEO & SEM: Your Brand's Fresh Fruits & Vegetables
Considered by many to be the bane of the food pyramid, fruits and vegetables are essential to health. Similarly, search engine optimization is a necessary component of a healthy online presence - there's simply no way of getting around it. Just like feeding your broccoli to the dog did nothing to improve your health, taking the easy route with SEO can cost you. Depending on your business goals and intended audience, you may need to employ one or more of the following strategies.
- On-Page and Off-Page SEO - Modern SEO incorporates both on-page and off-page strategies to increase reach, engagement and brand awareness. Pages published on-site need to be optimized to achieve higher rankings while helping customers find the information they need. Comparatively, off-page SEO tactics, like link building and directory submission, are equally important for brands.
- Local SEO - Last year, Forbes reported that one-fifth of all Google searches are tied to location. In addition, it's estimated that nearly half of mobile phone users search for local businesses from their device. With local SEO, businesses are better able to tap into local markets and generate quality leads. Here's a great free tool to see how your business looks online locally.
- National and International SEO - As a brand's intended market expands to incorporate national and international markets, SEO strategies must adjust to help meet these goals. Factors such as culture-specific terminology, content languages, and different technology trends must be considered when expanding a brand's SEO strategy.
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM) - As a highly traceable advertising medium, SEM allows brands to instantly track ROI to the penny. Direct response marketing, coupled with proper targeting, opens the opportunity for greater brand awareness and more site traffic. The 2013 State of Paid Search revealed that 72% of survey respondents planned to increase PPC marketing funds this year, which speaks to the power of SEM.
Content Marketing: Got Dairy?
Dairy products are an essential aspect of creating strong, healthy bones. Bones determine a body's unique structure and its ability to survive in the long-term. In the same vein, content marketing strengthens a brand's overall worth and contributes to a company's ability to outlast the competition. According to Demand Metric, businesses who invest in quality content marketing can earn more leads per dollar than other marketing venues. Three times as many, in fact.
- Website Copy - The content that exists on your site, from product pages to service lists, should do more than provide information - it should engage your readers. This is the basis of content marketing and should begin with your site's copy.
- Blogging - Over 50% of customers feel a brand's blog has made an impact on their purchase decisions. Blogs are being used to provide information, engage customers, and add value to the lives of readers. Businesses without on-site blogs are sadly missing the opportunity to interact with their target audience.
- Press Releases - A powerful tool for businesses, press releases extend a brand's reach while providing priceless publicity. When incorporated into a content marketing strategy, press releases can result in backlinks to a site, improved credibility and provide journalists with a reason to write about a brand.
- Video Marketing - With over 100 million people watching video online per day, brands are noticing the importance of video marketing. Videos are often used by brands to describe a product or service, provide information or to capture customer testimonials.
Social Media: The Meatier the Better
The internet marketing pyramid's "meat" is social media. Social media is where the majority of brand awareness, social sharing, and brand-centered conversations occur. A recent article noted that nearly 75% of all people using the internet are active on social media. For brands wanting to "get in front" of their customer base, social media participation is a must.
- Social - When thinking about social media, Facebook and Twitter emerge as the giants of the industry with their clear focus on engagement. Over a billion people use Facebook, and Twitter's 500+ million users trail right behind it. As a result, these two platforms have become the meaty "staples" of branded social media use.
- Professional - LinkedIn and Google+ have evolved to be the world's top social media platforms for professionals. There are over 350 million monthly users on Google+ while LinkedIn continues to capture the attention of professionals and B2B companies.
- Video - YouTube, Instagram, and Vine are three of the most popular social platforms used to promote and distribute branded video content. The second largest search engine in the world, YouTube, receives over 100 hours of new video content every minute. Vine and Instagram, for their bite-sized videos, are becoming popular platforms on which brands can promote creative content.
- Images - Flickr and Pinterest are two of the most popular social media platforms for image distribution. Approximately 25% of leading brands are active on Pinterest, reaching 70+ million users per day. Though Pinterest has been found to inspire customers to make a purchase, Flickr remains a popular image-sharing platform for customers and brands alike.
Email Marketing: Dear, Sweet Cookies
This is the best part of the internet marketing pyramid - the goodies. All the hard work has finally paid off and you've cultivated a list of email subscribers interested in your brand. In order to retain their attention and encourage them to take the next step, it's necessary to reach out to where they spend the most time online - their inbox. With an estimated ROI of 4,300%, email marketing reigns as the icing on the internet marketing cake.
- Newsletters - Personalized newsletters keep customers engaged, informed, and excited about your brand's latest news and content. One study suggests personalization techniques can increase conversion rates by 600%.
- Outreach - Email is a great way to let customers know about deals, events, and special promotions. As a powerful sales tool, email outreach can inspire the majority of readers to take action by making a purchase, according to one study.
- Customer Care - Sending customer care emails are a great way to provide customers with immediate acknowledgement of their needs or concerns. Customer care via email is being used by more brands to streamline customer service. Furthermore, customers tend to respond positively when they feel their needs are being met.
- Surveys - Reaching customers in their inbox provides businesses with the opportunity to conduct research. Short surveys, with or without incentives, let customers know you value their opinion while giving brands a first-hand glimpse of customer preferences.
- Review Management - Review management email campaigns help brands encourage customers to leave feedback about a product or service. This feedback can be analyzed to improve future products or services.
The Internet Marketing Pyramid's Ladder
Before you go, picture a ladder leaning against the side of your brand's internet marketing pyramid. It's providing visitors with access to all components of your brand, from social profiles and blogs to product and service pages. The ladder is called "mobile" and, for businesses planning to stick around, it's a requirement. Statistics released by Epic Consulting indicate that approximately 1.2 billion customers use their mobile devices to access the internet. The future of a brand's success will greatly hinge on a business' mobile accessibility.
This article is dedicated to recognizing March as being National Nutrition Month.