Seems like the year just flew by! The holidays are here and businesses are making marketing decisions for 2012. This past year was full of news and emerging trends when it comes to marketing online. Here are just a few of the things we learned:
- Don't count on the search engines to keep any consistent criteria for ranking web pages. In the last year Google has made a multitude of changes that had websites up and down in the result pages while knocking out some relevant websites altogether. It's more important than ever to watch your rankings for changes and to be proactive in your approach to providing the best quality content possible.
- Email marketing is still a strong tool for reaching your audience - but only when your audience is expecting to hear from you. I've seen clients rent lists only to be disappointed at the click through rates while their company lists, although smaller, produced sales.
- Social media. If you're tired of seeing that phrase, take an aspirin - it's here to stay. This year the social media fully blossomed and the search engines are experimenting with ways to measure search media in relation to your website popularity. To that end, Google+ started up and, after a much anticipated arrival, still hasn't quite found it's footing but you can bet that if people have "+1" your website it's going to count for something in the search rankings.
- This was the year of Groupon - and then everyone else figured out how easy it was to offer those deals directly to customers. The result: many businesses found that it may bring in short term discount driven customers but doesn't help business in the long run. Relationship marketing is still more important than the deal.
- Local advertising online lives!! While we can reach the world through our fingertips online, having access to your local businesses online for brick and mortar purchases has become equally important. Google local listings come up ahead of the regular organic search results putting the the local merchants right up front! If you haven't worked on your local presence, there is no time like the present.
- The smart phone revolution! Is your website mobile phone friendly? Take a look and see if it's easy to use on your smart phone. If the answer is no, time to create a mobile version for people who use iPhones, Androids and iPads to surf the internet.
- The opinion of others counts. There are many places for people to leave comments about your business - Yelp, Angie's List, Google, and social media websites to name a few. Searching for your favorite business will no doubt lead to reviews of some sort. As a business owner, you can stay in control of what people are saying by responding promptly to negative comments and using those as a springboard to show your eagerness to work with your customers to solve problems.
- The age of transparency. With rich keyword content and easy access through the blogosphere every business should be taking advantage of the opportunity to "get real" and be transparent to your customers through blogging. Some blogs are now considered as relevant and authoritative as newspaper editorial sections. If you still aren't using a blog to talk about your industry, it's not too late to start.
- Usability. There are still many websites that don't take into account what the mind of your visitor is able to manage. With people making decisions about a website's content and relevancy in 3-5 seconds (yes, that short!) you've got to make sure your message is clear from the beginning and it's easy for visitors to see what you've got, what you want them to do and how to complete the process. Everything from navigation options to images to call to action messages count. If you want to make every visitor count - focus on usability!
The internet marketing game is ever changing as you can see and a far cry from what was the norm in 2002. This is by no means everything but it will give you a good running start on what you should be focused on for 2012.