With the New Year, we often resolve to improve our behavior, health, or personal relationships. Let me tell you, you're wasting your time. I'm OK, you're OK. It's our Web marketing that's a mess.
We've got out-of-shape Web sites, directionless Web marketing, and we're lost at the search engines. It's time to stop worrying about self-improvement and start worrying about Web marketing-improvement!
While every business has different goals and needs, please consider these twelve items in creating your own Web marketing plan for next year. Rearrange the order to fit your own schedule in 2006.
January: Set up a Web marketing budget. I know this is your favorite part: the budget. However, once you've decided how much money you plan on spending quarterly or monthly, deciding what to spend your marketing dollar on becomes much easier. You'll also want to carve out some time for your Web marketing endeavors. After all, a lot of the following to-do's are more about time than money.
February: Audit your Web site (beginner.) Often we're surprised or dismayed at the material that's on our Web site: bios of ex-employees, links to sites that no longer exist, a 2001 pricelist. Spend some time reviewing the content on your Web site and get rid of anything that's out-of-date or no longer expresses who you are. Nothing turns off prospects faster than a neglected Web site.
March: Audit your Web site (advanced.) Review your traffic reports and decide if your navigation needs to be updated. Maybe certain parts of your site are getting a lot of traffic and should be further promoted on the home page. If other sections or pages are being ignored they may need to be removed…or promoted. Fill out all the Web forms (contact, search, etc.,) and read the "hidden text" that appears on landing pages. Rewrite the copy that seems dated or incorrect.
April: Start reading blogs in your industry. Download a newsreader (I recommend NetNewsWire for Mac users) or set up a free account at Bloglines. To find blogs in your industry you can do searches at Technorati or check out BlogCatalog among others. Make sure you're reading the blogs of your competition and your clients.
May: Start your own blog. You knew that was coming, right? Blogs are becoming an important, perhaps essential, part of business communications. No matter the size of your organization, a blog can be a great way to connect with your clients…and your clients-to-be.
June: Subscribe to your competitors' email newsletters. This is a fantastic (usually) free resource of advice that is targeted towards your clients. Shouldn't you know what your competition is recommending? Maybe they know something you don't!
You probably know many of your competitors already and can visit their Web site to see if they offer an email newsletter. However, you can Google "your industry + email newsletter" to find some ezines that are new to you. (You should also be reading your clients' newsletters as well; you can't know too much about their business.)
July: Start your own email newsletter or jumpstart your subscriber rate. If you're not publishing an email newsletter you're missing out on one of the most cost-effective Web marketing tools at your disposal. Use an Email Service Provider (ESP) to manage your subscriber list and publish an ezine regularly.
If you're already publishing an email newsletter try some new ideas to increase your subscriber base. Offer a free article for new subscribers, raffle off a prize to one subscriber each month, or advertise on a complimentary newsletter.
August: Troll discussion boards in your industry. There are discussion boards on every topic under the sun, and certainly a few in your industry (or your target audience's industry.) By reading posts at these discussion boards you can get an understanding of what prospects are looking for and create products or services that meet their needs.
By posting responses you can quickly establish yourself as an expert and create links that drive traffic to your Web site while improving your site's ranking at the search engines!
September: Start listening to podcasts. The New Oxford American Dictionary named "podcast" its 2005 word of the year, so maybe you shouldn't wait until September before you tune in.
Whether podcasting ever becomes a part of your Web marketing, it's important to understand how podcasting works and how other companies (including your competition) use it. Visit the iTunes Music Store or a podcast directory like Podcast Alley and start sampling some podcasts. Not sure where to start? Adam Curry's PodFinder show (available at the iTunes Music Store) highlights new podcasts each episode.
October: Consider starting your own podcast. I can't recommend podcasting for every business, or even most businesses. I still believe there are more effective ways to communicate with prospects and clients. However, some businesses will benefit from offering a podcast. Keep in mind your target audience, and whether they will be downloading audio to their computer or mp3 player.
November: Submit some of your articles to article directories. A great way to increase your "findability" at the search engines is to have a lot of quality incoming links. One proven method to do this is to have articles you've written appear on other Web sites that link to yours. To get your articles posted at other Web sites check out article directories such as The Phantom Writers and iSnare.
December: Add share this page functionality to some or all of your Web site. As people suffer from information overload, they rely more heavily on the recommendations of friends and family. Make this word-of-mouth advertising easier by allowing site visitors to quickly "share this page" with a friend or colleague. You can even include your own marketing message embedded in the email that arrives at the friends' mailbox.