Day 1—Competitor Research
Take a look at what your online competitors are doing. To do this, you need to understand that your online competitors may not be the same as your actual competitors. Your online competitors are the companies/sites that are returned as results for the search phrases that are appropriate for your business. In some cases, the top sites could be Wikipedia, an association, an educational institution, etc. These, obviously, are not actual competitors, but they are competition for search engine ranking.
To keep tabs on your competitors on an ongoing basis, set up Google Alerts for the phrases appropriate to your business. Make sure that you set up the phrases with quotation marks around them, so you get the only the most relevant results. If you have a Google Account, you can set up your alerts here. If you don’t have a Google Account, sign up for one free there.
Day 2—Search Term Research
It is important to know the terminology that your potential customers might use to find you. This helps you develop content for your site’s pages that will capture and keep visitors to you site. I have access to databases that will provide much more detailed information, but you can learn something about how search engines treat keyword search phrases by trying different phrases in the search bar.
Day 3—Home Page Content Modifications
Every once in a while, it’s important to put yourself in potential customer’s shoes and take a critical look at your home page from the perspective of your visitors. Ask yourself: Does my home page look attractive and representative of my business? What kinds of information do my visitors need, and is it easy to find that information using the navigation on my site? Do I have “trust enhancers” like testimonials, association logos, SSL certificates, etc. prominently displayed? Are there “calls to action” that will impel the visitor to make a purchase or contact you for more information? If it is difficult for you to analyze your site’s strengths and weaknesses from the perspective of a first-time visitor, ask a friend or business associate to help you.
Day 4—Contact (or Shopping Cart) Page Modifications
By the time a visitor has reached your contact page (if you have a lead-generating site) or your Shopping Cart (if you are making sales online), they need to feel confident that all of their initial questions have been addressed. The sales friction caused by hesitancy to take action must have been eliminated. Re-displaying your “trust enhancers” here can help. And, since there isn’t a sales person around to note a potential customer’s questioning look, make sure that visitors can easily access frequently-asked questions, and have an opportunity to contact you with other questions. Do not provide them with a link to another site here, or send them down a “rabbit hole” on your site where they will find it difficult to return to complete their transaction or request.
Day 5—Analytics Set-Up
In the “12 Days of Christmas” song, day five is those important “5 golden rings.” Setting up analytics software on your site is just as important, but not nearly as expensive. In fact, Google Analytics is free. http://www.google.com/analytics/ Use this web application to monitor your traffic, the keywords and search engines that are bringing visitors to your site, the amount of time visitors spend on your site, and the pages that are visited most. You can also get an analysis of how your site performs in comparison with others in your industry. Once again, you’ll need a Google account.
Day 6—Pay-per-click Advertising
Many local businesses and those with narrow specialties can benefit greatly from pay-per-click advertising. You can set up a Google pay-per-click account on your own, although I don’t recommend it. There are just too many nuances that can make the difference between success and failure with the pay-per-click medium. But, you can take a look at it here http://www.adwords.google.com. Remember, with pay-per-click advertising, you pay only if someone clicks on your ad and visits your site. So, you need to use your ad to “filter” out those who are not likely to buy from you, and you need to have a special page designed to complete the “sale” to which those ads link.
Day 7—Social Media
Social media are a great way for you to “network” online. I think every business person needs to have a profile on LinkedIn. Other important social media sites for businesses include MySpace.com, FastPitch.com, and Twitter. Depending upon your business, there are many others. In fact, the list of niche social media sites below may include some that are appropriate for your business.
Social media are a great way for you to find out what your potential customers are thinking and concerned about. Use social media to make new friends/clients, promote your expertise in a particular subject, and as an adjunct to your company website.
Business blogging is also valuable for some companies. You can set up your own blog on Blogger.com (another Google-owned site) for free.
Day 8—Directories and Link-Building
There are many “vertical” directories on the web that serve particular industries or communities. If your business “fits” in any of these, they can provide both traffic and “authority” for your site. Again, I have access to software that can identify appropriate directories for almost any business, but if you want to try this yourself, just use Google Search and type your industry and/or product along with the word “directory” into the search field. The search engine will return at least a few appropriate directories. Then, just submit your site using the instructions on each directory. Some directories may require a small fee for inclusion. Use your own judgment about paying for inclusion. I usually do not use directories that require payment for my clients, but there are exceptions to every rule.
Day 9—Email to Existing Customers
If you are not using email to generate repeat business, you must be crazy. This is the easiest, cheapest, most valuable marketing possible. But, email to customers still needs to have a good perceived value if you expect your customers to read it and act on it. Keep it fun and interesting. And remember to carry through the branding used on your website to your email communications.
Day 10—Email to Prospects
Prospects need to get different email offers than what you send to existing customers. Email can be used to educate prospects about the value of your products and services and the competitive advantages your company offers. Research and common sense prove that prospects will ignore email that simply offers a sales pitch. But, an email message that offers advice, case studies, or white papers can help you identify the hottest of prospects, so you can give them further attention and close the sale. Coupons or discount offers can also be very effective.
Day 11—Rewards Programs
If your company relies on repeat business—or referral business—your best opportunity for real growth may come from instituting a rewards program. A successful rewards program will be easy for you to administer and will also make it easy for the customer (or referral source) to redeem points. So, you need software that assists you. And, appropriate rewards that have good perceived value. The Asenz360 internet marketing platform has an excellent rewards program module integrated with a website, content management system, customer relationship database, and email marketing system.
Day 12—Online PR and Brand Management
Public relations efforts on the Internet can pay off handsomely. Publishing articles, either in online magazines or in article banks, can provide important links to bring visitors to your website. But, many companies now recognize that these efforts also help protect a company’s brand and good name. Remember, when someone uses a search engine to find your company’s website, the first page alone will contain 10 results. Only one or possibly two will be your website. The other results will be sites that include your company’s name in their content. Some of them may be unflattering—or even libelous. Search engines do not check the veracity of the sites that they index. And, legal action takes time. So, many companies find that the best way to protect their brand is to place plenty of web content about their company on lots of sites across the Web. That significantly increases the chances that on the first page or two of results, a search for your company’s name will provide lots of positive information to the searcher.