This month marks the five year anniversary of the beginning of Prime Incorporated, which has me thinking about where I've been and what I've learned. Prior to starting Prime, I was doing some digital marketing on the side while serving as the multiple listing service director, for the Southwest Montana MLS. Looking back even further, I've been involved in marketing for about ten years now and time sure has flown. Since I am feeling a bit nostalgic I thought I would share five digital marketing lessons I've learned over the last 5 years since we started Prime. As digital marketing has continued to evolve, it's been a fun journey continuing to learn, try new things, measure and adjust. There is no silver bullet in digital marketing and each client has different needs, but here are a few words of wisdom that I have picked up along the way.
Success Is Determined By The Goals That Are Set
For everyone, success is measured in many different ways. Everyone wants to make a million dollars and and everyone wants to rank #1 on Google. For some, this is achievable, for most this is a long term goal that will take many years and many steps to get there. I'm a firm believer that in order to truly measure success you must set short term goals that are attainable. These goals must be clearly defined and have a specific measurement associated with them. Saying, "I want to grow my traffic," or "I want more leads," isn't specific enough. We need to have a concrete number, "I want to have 4,000 monthly site visits," or "I want to receive 10 leads per month." Taking the subjectiveness out of your goal will allow you to measure and analyze your results. Then you can see where you have been successful and where you need to focus your efforts for improvement. Digital marketing is all about learning from the data and adjusting to get you closer to achieving those goals.
Social Media Is Not Always the Answer
Social media is a powerful communication tool. It has helped orchestrate revolutions, connect long lost relatives, and has been a means for people to make a lot of money. But is it right for every business? No. For social media to truly be effective, you must first understand your target demographic. If you think everyone is your target demographic, then you don't understand your business. (Unless you are selling toilet paper-- I'm pretty sure everyone needs toilet paper.) But if you are not selling toilet paper, you need to understand who will most likely benefit from your products or services, how old they are, where they live, how much money they make, what factors into their decision marketing, what keeps them up at night and which forms of social media they use. This information will help you create content or posts that they will relate to. You might have a target demographic, product or service that is just not a good fit. One of the first social media clients we had was a naturopathic doctor who had a line of supplements for elderly people. We didn't take the time to fully understand that target demographic so the content that we created didn't connect with their target market. We were also dealing with a limited audience because they just didn't have enough followers to reach on Facebook and this was prior to Facebook's targeted posts. Social media was not a good fit for that client and we learned that.
Content Is King
Google's algorithm is a wonderfully confusing piece of genius and there are a lot of ways the people have tried to "Game the system." When it comes down to it, the content on your site is crucial. In today's world of SEO, If you don't have a content strategy, you are going to struggle to improve your traffic, rankings and conversions. We have designed numerous beautiful websites and set up countless blogs that go unused and we still get questions from those clients asking for ways to improve their traffic. BLOG! Create some engaging content that is built around your target keywords and educates your visitors about your industry. Don't write content that talks about how great your business is, show them how great you are by helping them. Answer their questions before they even know they have questions, inspire them with stories about past experiences, give them examples of what they can expect if they buy your products or use your services. The days of putting a website out there and expecting the leads to flow in are long gone. You need to be proactive in your approach to engage people. Plus, if you are kicking out some great content that gives you fuel to distribute on social media and then your digital marketing efforts start to work together.
PPC is Great For Immediate Results, But It's Not Always A Long Term Solution
I'm currently managing about five Google Adwords campaigns for clients that just drive traffic. They are great at that, but as soon as I turn them off, the traffic is gone. Where PPC is most effective is allowing a website to immediately compete for specific keywords. It is also great to help me identify which keywords deliver the most traffic so I can target them organically. I know there is value in long term PPC campaigns, but I'm not a fan of being dependent on PPC. It's just not sustainable. You need to have other channels that drive people to your site; organic, social media, referring websites, etc. PPC can be a portion of the overall traffic, but should never be the dominant traffic source. A strategy that I like to utilize is to run a short campaign, maybe four or five weeks, that will help you quickly identify some keywords to build content around. Use these keywords to write some great blogs to help your organic SEO. If they are competitive keywords you will need to have a long term content creation strategy built around that keyword. You can continue your PPC campaign but the goal would be to slowly wean yourself off of the PPC dependency through continual content creation.
Failing Can Sometimes Be Helpful
There is a popular term out there called "Growth Hacking." This refers to the practice of trying different things to figure out what works and continually adjusting your strategy to "hack" your way into growth. Since there is no silver bullet in digital marketing you are presented with a lot of options. When you first start you might have some ideas of what might work or you may have no idea. Don't be afraid to try different things. Just because something doesn't get you a bunch of traffic or a bunch of leads, that doesn't mean it isn't worth it-- as long as you learn something. Be sure to have the appropriate infrastructure in place to measure your results, as in Google Analytics, but don't be afraid to fail. If something doesn't work as planned, maybe you need to make a small change before you abandon that strategy. It could be changing a heading on a landing page, using a different call to action or finding an alternative keyword. The great thing about digital marketing is that it's fluid. It's not like finding a spelling mistake in a really expensive magazine ad or realizing you should have used a different tag line on your billboard. You can always keep tweaking and you should.
If you are anything like me, than you probably nerd out on data. I love digging through Google Analytics to find little nuggets of insight that direct me to adjust our digital marketing strategies. I enjoy making changes and watching the results. It's true, executing a successful digital marketing campaign takes time, but over time you will become far more efficient and learn a lot about your business.