Web marketing is nothing without research and data to back it up. That’s why at the beginning of a web marketing campaign, we spend weeks (literally!) researching before constructing a long term plan to meet our client’s goals. Research, when done right, leads to valuable ROI-driven web marketing strategies and tactics.
Here are some best practices when doing web marketing research:
Your site: Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and imagine you are seeing your website for the first time. Do you like your site? Does it clearly tell visitors what you do? Can they easily navigate to conversion points? These are all questions to will help you target the problem areas of your site so you can start making improvements.
Keyword research: Remember to be realistic! For instance, a hair salon in Canton, Ohio, isn’t going to rank for the phrase “hair.” It’s an ultra competitive phrase that has multiple meanings depending on context. Visitors could be looking for the Broadway musical, the song by Lady Gaga, or a place to get a haircut.
Keywords need to be specific to what your business does or keep your geographic range in mind. So phrases like “canton hair salon” or “canton nail salon” are perfect keywords for our pretend website. Knowing what phrases you want to target will be helpful in the next step…
Competitors: The first thing you need to do is identify who your online competitors are. Believe it or not, your online competitors could be different from those in the traditional brick-and-mortar world. If your potential competition doesn’t have a website and/or doesn’t rank for keywords you want to rank for, then they are not your online competition and you can rule them out.
This is where the keyword research you already did comes into play. Do some quick searches for phrases you identified as what you want to target. Take a look at who is ranking for those phrases and look for trends, like Competitor 1 ranks #2 for canton hair salon but it’s not even on the first page for canton nail salon. But Competitor 2 ranks #1 & #2 for canton hair salon and #2 for canton nail salon.
Once you find competitors that are ranking for the types of phrases you want to target, you need to start analyzing their web marketing efforts. What is their site like? Are they utilizing social media? What about PPC, forums, blogs, etc? Knowing your competition and what they are doing provides a wealth of information.
Google Analytics: Looking at your site’s Google Analytics is an important part of web marketing research. You’ll be able to see how visitors are currently getting to your site and what they are doing when they get there. Stats like unique visitors, average time on site, bounce rate and traffic referrals allow you to gauge the “temperature” of your site.
Now that you know all of that, you need to decide how you want visitors to get to your site and what you want them to do when they get there. For instance, you might see that most of your visitors are coming to your site directly and bouncing off the homepage right away. But you want them to find your site via the search engines and fill out your get a quote form. Now you just need to brainstorm ideas to make that happen.
Benchmark: Before starting your campaign, make sure you benchmark your site traffic and conversions via Google Analytics and your rankings via a ranking tool such as Rank Checker. As Josh Gordon always says, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure!” And I hate to admit but he is right! You can’t tell how much you have improved if you don’t know where you started.
I hope these tips helped; research can be very overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Of course, there’s lots more to look at, but these basic items will help you prepare a long term web marketing strategy.