There are daily headlines on what’s new and next in marketing. “Facebook is dead,” they say. “Pinterest is the new place for business,” another proclaims. “Email comes back from the brink,” “Google wants businesses to go mobile,” and so on. There are more choices and information about how to market your business than ever before. So how do you know what’s best for your business?
[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ow do you evaluate the options and information for your Internet marketing choices in order to know what’s valid and, most importantly, understand the right answers that will help your brand, product, or service reach prospective customers?
When evaluating information on Internet marketing, there are a few things to look for and look out for; being aware of both will help business owners cut through the noise and determine what information to trust and what is most relevant to their company and target market. Overall, evaluating information and resources on marketing will help you make informed decisions for your business. And by the way, Facebook is not dead, Pinterest may not be the right place for your business, email was never on the brink, and, yes, Google does want businesses to go mobile. Here are some ways to start your evaluations:
Recent = Relevant
First, check the date. Information published within the last six to nine months is recent enough to still be relevant. This is particularly true for articles, videos, or webinars that provide how-to information. Whether it’s “how to be successful on a particular social media platform” or “how to improve search engine optimization,” relevance comes down to being current. A 2012 article on “how to build links to your website for improved search engine rankings” will likely contain strategies that are not only outdated in 2015, but could actually earn your site penalties from Google. Even seemingly innocent topics like “tips for writing email subject lines that get more open rates” have a shelf life. As email filters shift to keep spam and scams from inboxes, businesses have to stay up-to-date to ensure their messages get through. Right now, dollar signs ($) or the word “offer” increase the chances that your email will end up in a spam folder. This wasn’t always the case and may not be true a year from now.
For resources on the principles of marketing, social media, or search engine optimization, older content can still have significant value. This information (as inspiration, not a sales pitch) takes a wider perspective and focuses on “why” rather than “how.” Topics such as “why social media has achieved such high levels of adoption” and “what users expect from a social media experience” provide important context for evaluating or creating a social media strategy for your business. Still, it’s important to cross check articles, blogs, and videos in this category, as examples from 12 or 24 months ago may not have the same relevance now.
Repeated = Reassuring
Whether what you are reading, watching, or listening to is two weeks, two months, or (gasp) two years old, look for consistency on a topic – it’s a key filter for determining if the information is reliable. It is unlikely that one person has an insight or strategy that other people in the field aren’t also talking about. There are always people who are on the cutting edge and who see trends before others do and that, of course, has value. Internet marketing visionaries like Gary Vaynerchuk provide context for where things are going in the big picture and let us know what we should listen for more of in the future. These insights lead to decisions that will have a longer lasting impact.
Like anything in business, there is no crystal ball. Even search engine giant, Google, can’t say exactly how their platform will look and function two years from now. Internet marketing is simply too dynamic. Changes come from how we as a society choose to communicate, research, and connect the world’s many technological advances, and how marketing channels respond to both. Google, for example, is clear that they want to help people find the information that they seek in the least amount of time. That’s why they have pushed businesses to make their websites mobile friendly.
Does connecting efficient and relevant search results to mobile friendly websites seem like a stretch? Consider this: Internet searches from mobile devices are on the rise. They have been rising steadily and are expected to continue to do so. Not to mention, accessing a website from a phone that is not mobile-ready (we’ve all been to those pages that require pinching and scrolling) is something no one likes. We leave those sites – quickly – and then we go back to Google and search all over again. In other words, we haven’t found what we need, and we’re not happy about it. This is not what Google wants for its users. So, they began prioritizing changes to sites that are not mobile-friendly earlier this year. In many ways they have done businesses a favor by making companies address how their websites don’t serve a growing number of their prospective customers. There was a lot of conversation, articles, and headlines about Google’s mobile update before and when the algorithm was changed. The overwhelming theme discussed was the importance of businesses ensuring their websites were mobile friendly before a certain date. There was considerable speculation about how important this change would be for businesses, and a range of opinions developed, including those that said it would only have significant impact on some websites and those that felt it could be disastrous (although it wasn’t). Still, there was wide agreement: Mobile friendliness is something businesses should be paying attention to. A lone voice saying, “This doesn’t matter, don’t worry about it,” stands out and, therefore, should be questioned.
Real Data = Reliable
The use of data or case studies to support a trend or strategy is another important truth test for online marketing information. Similar to how there are a lot of theories about how to motivate employees, there are also many schools of thought on the best ways to gain customers from online marketing. Information based on actual trends rather than projected trends is always more reliable. Keep an eye on your own data via Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and the insights available from individual social media platforms. Businesses who were paying attention to their own website user data saw (as early as 2013) that bounce rates – when someone leaves a website from the same page they arrived on – were high for mobile visitors; meanwhile, mobile visits to their site were growing. So when marketers and then Google began talking about the importance of a mobile friendly website, these businesses weren’t very surprised. While your own marketing results are just one example, they are the most relevant case study to your business.
It’s All Relative
All of the recent data-backed information from multiple sources is still only as useful as it relates to your desired audience. When evaluating what new channels to explore in Internet marketing, use the same thinking as you would when choosing what print publications to place ads in or which events you should sponsor; in other words, go where your target market will most likely be. Just as you would look at the readership demographics for a publication, look at the user demographics for a social media platform. Investigate where others in your industry have found success and where they haven’t. There is not one answer to “how to do online marketing.”
If you have a food truck, Twitter and Facebook are good places to start. They offer real-time updates to followers, allow for paid promotions to reach new audiences, are very mobile friendly for on-the-go customers, and are searchable via hashtags. This type of business might not even need a website to start – a rare exemption to the “the website comes first” rule in all things online. If you sell supplies to that food truck, social media might not be the place for you, unless you want to use LinkedIn as a recruiting tool for your staff.
Like any aspect of your business, when it comes to deciding where to invest time and money into your Internet marketing, it’s best to avoid fads and instead use strategies that are more likely to deliver long-term results. While Pinterest may be one of the fastest growing social media platforms (currently), that doesn’t mean it’s where your prospective customers are looking for the solutions you provide.[quote float=”left”]As a visual platform that is used heavily for recipes, crafts, shopping, and events like weddings, Pinterest is not likely a great fit for a law office.[/quote] At the end of the day, the answer to “how to succeed in online marketing” is very much, “it depends.” But armed with good information, you can make the best decisions for your business.
Adrianne Gordon counseled and trained business owners for over 10 years before joining JB Media Group as director of marketing and operations.
She doesn’t speak code but does have an MBA from Western Carolina University.