Winning the Internet Marketing War Requires a Marketing Recognizance Mission, Bulletproof Armor, and a Strategic Plan of Attack
Make no mistake, internet marketing is a battlefield. You’re going to war against a million other websites and you need to have sufficient weaponry to compete and to walk away unscathed. You need to know your enemy, you need armor for proper defense and you need a clearly defined plan of attack to win the online battle.
When was the last time you performed a marketing recognizance mission? Have you looked at your competitor’s website recently? Or even their general internet activity? I’m always surprised that many small business owners, CEO’s, or marketing executives do not make this part of their overall marketing strategy. I do this with my own company and with ever client that contracts me to design a website or engage in an SEO project. I want to know the websites they compete with so I know how to best position them. I want to understand the battlefield so we can plan an effective attack.
If you are a website design client of mine I expect you to take the time to perform your own marketing recognizance mission. Since I will be doing one for you, I expect you to do one too. I want you to look closely at your enemy and I want you to be prepared as we enter into battle. Why does it matter? You need to intimately know the enemy. Your website visitors will know your enemy, so you should too.
In previous blog posts I’ve mentioned my client questionnaire. I ask clients to complete this before we begin our engagement. In many cases, I email prospects the document with the proposal so they know what they are in for and so they have realistic expectations of my marketing philosophies and me as a website designer. The vast majority of these people don’t “get” why I require this step until they review the questionnaire. It then becomes crystal clear that internet marketing is a war and that they are currently going to battle with a toothpick and not a armored tank.
So do you have a toothpick or an armored tank? Most likely you cannot answer this question yet, so take the time to evaluate your armor.
Review the Website Battlefield
- Identify your key direct competitors
- Identify benchmark companies within your industry
- Review competitors’ websites
- Review benchmark companies’ websites
- Identify strengths and weaknesses of the competition
- Identify strengths and weaknesses of the benchmark companies
Evaluate Your Armor and Prepare to Plan Your Website Attack
- How does your current website and online presence compare to that of your competition and the benchmark companies?
- List elements of your competitors and benchmark companies’ websites that you would like to incorporate into your new website design and build.
- List gaps within your existing content that need to be addressed and consider the timeframe and resources required to develop said content.
- Evaluate your internal resources and their ability to create a website that can address your gaps and weaknesses.
- Evaluate your budget for obtaining outside assistance for web design, build, and optimization.
Review the Online Battlefield
- Is your competitor using pay per client (PPC) ads and if so, what keywords receive the largest portion of their ad budget?
- Is your competitor’s website designed around a set of core keywords?
- How does the competitor score for these core keywords in organic search results (i.e. natural search not attributed to paid placement)?
- Is your competitor active in social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, Quora, LinkedIn, or YouTube?
- Is your competitor actively blogging and/or guest blogging on other websites?
- Is your competitor utilizing content marketing strategies for lead generation and potential sales?
- Is your competitor actively engaged in inbound link building?
- Is your competitor utilizing a drip marketing campaign or regular newsletter campaign?
- Is your competitor active on local search directories and are their profiles optimized?
Evaluate Your Armor and Prepare to Plan Your Online Attack
- What competitor keywords best align with your organization?
- What other keywords should you consider and target?
- Can you afford a PPC campaign?
- Do you have the knowledge and staff for organic search engine optimization?
- What changes to your existing social media activity needs to take place to level-set you and your competitors?
- Do you offer any unique and authoritative content to help differentiate your from your competitors?
- How does your blogging efforts compare to your competitors?
- Are you utilizing content tagging websites and RSS feed automation?
- Do you have the knowledge and staff for a link building campaign?
- Do you have a newsletter and would this apply to your target market?
- Have you claimed your local profiles and are they optimized?
As a website designer and SEO expert I cannot completely prepare you for battle. This is a joint effort and we need to collectively prepare for and fight the battle together. I can help in your internet marketing war, but I’ll need you to help in this effort.
One of my first website clients was a referral from a friend. This client was going up against some savvy competitors and I knew he had a steep climb. I built him a WordPress website and tried my best to prepare him for the battle that lay ahead. With his new SEO friendly website I gave him armor. Unfortunately he failed to plan his actual attack and he didn’t even walk onto the battlefield. He sat in his little bunker doing the same things he had done for years. He did not take the competitive analysis I had done seriously, nor did he believe in social media optimization, inbound link campaigns, or virtually anything outside his existing practices. One year later my friend keeps asking me why the website did not grow in search traffic. What? Really?
In that same time-frame I launched a website for another client who did go to battle. In his battle he was fighting against some of the biggest companies in America who had huge internet marketing budgets and a large number of internal employees dedicated to reaching page one search results. This client not only went to battle with my armor, he kept me on to help him plan and execute his attack. We were a force to be reckoned with and we beat the snot out of his competition. Everything we did had purpose, we planned our attack and executed it as planned. His search traffic grew almost 500% in one year and he even stopped spending hundreds of dollars each month on PPC ads. But he reinforced the armor I provided, he prepared a strategic marketing plan, he went to war with eyes wide open and he fought and fought hard.
Initially the client I feel was a failure crushed me. At first I felt like I failed him. But then a fellow and very wise WordPress consultant reminded me that I cannot fight a battle for a client who does not want to go to war. There are potential clients and situations where I have to retreat because I’m trying to win a war with someone who simply wants to spend his days sleeping in his bunker. It was a hard lesson, but a valuable one. I try to identify those people early on and I avoid them at all costs. We are not well matched and we have two totally different views of internet marketing.
Don’t let yourself fall asleep in the bunker. Rise up, go on a marketing recognizance mission, plan your attack, build your armor, and go kick your competitor off of page one search results. It is possible. You just need to decide if you have the fight in you and then you have to rise up and fight.