Everything you thought you knew about online marketing is changing before our eyes. The tried and true rules of five or 10 years ago are constantly being replaced with new ones. Search engine optimization (SEO) trends that were once cutting edge may now be counterproductive.
Without some kind of technical expertise in your corner, keeping up with the latest in online marketing can seem daunting—if not outright impossible.
While some basic business principles never change, the way we apply those principles to the internet is in constant flux. To effectively navigate each oncoming wave of innovation, you really have to pay pretty close attention. It’s no longer enough to simply have a website and hope it reaches your intended audience. In the living, breathing ecosystem that is the internet, it’s your job to add value and to do so with savvy. Whether your a small business owner or a manager at a larger operation, chances are the perpetual increase in online commerce either has changed or will change how you do things.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Online marketing represents a wealth of cost-effective opportunities—if you know what you’re doing.
Forbes’ Neil Patel recently explored the notion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and how it’s impacting the world of online marketing.
“The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a phenomenon and an entity,” Patel writes. “It refers to the way Internet connectivity has expanded to include everyday objects and to how those everyday objects interoperate with our daily lives.
“No longer do we ‘access’ the Internet. The Internet is ever-present. It operates as an automated entity that can carry out functions that reflect and affect the physical world. We conduct business, live our lives, and dictate our affairs in its presence and based on its rules.”
So how do we base online marketing on these new rules? Patel offers several recommendations to that end.
Patel notes the increasing prevalence of “on-demand” products and services, suggesting that your business should adjust itself accordingly. From delivery options to the availability of online customer service, there are any number of ways to make life significantly easier for your prospective clientele. And unless you’re doing just that, you might have a problem. That clientele will readily take its business to a competitor if it means making things easier of faster.
The bottom line is that people are generally either very busy or very lazy. The internet has become the ultimate enabler for both dispositions. And your primary competition is just a link or search query away. Think like your customers and do everything within your budget to make their online experience more convenient.
Don’t forget about measuring your online marketing success with analytics. And don’t miss out on opportunities to learn more about your target demographic with polls, surveys and even comment sections. Patel believes data will become increasingly important, in part because it’s now more available than ever. The rapid growth of online users creates all kinds of possibilities for marketers looking to learn more about their customer base.
If you’re a smaller business, your direct access to data may be limited. That’s not an excuse to stop thinking about it. Even if you find yourself catering to a relatively niche market, it’s still critical that you better understand what makes that market tick. The internet’s interactivity makes that possible.
There’s a difference between simply increasing visibility and providing a real service. Patel argues that you should put yourself in position to solve problems for customers, addressing real-time needs as they arise. There’s virtually endless room for business to innovate accordingly.
“With IoT, the degree of target marketing has grown in specificity,” suggests Patel. “Effective marketing will not only cater solutions to demographic and psychographic targets, it will also predict solutions for the individual users of products.
“In other words, if your car is connected to the Internet and the brakes are wearing out, wouldn’t it make sense for your car to direct you to a local brake shop?”
People are increasingly willing to sacrifice some privacy if it makes their lives easier. Immediate solutions may be the newest wave of truly targeted marketing.
Search Engines and Mobility
There’s a reason everyone is so concerned with Google’s search algorithms. According to Business.com’s Seth Rand, “As of October 2015, Google far surpassed the search engine traffic of its major competitors, Bing, and Yahoo, with 63.9 percent of all internet search traffic.”
This competition isn’t even close. The more important variable, however, is the fact that people are almost universally using search engines in the first place—for everything. To that end, visibility is still critically important. It’s even more important that you’re visible on mobile devices—both literally and figuratively.
“Starting in May 2015, mobile traffic exceeded the amount of desktop traffic for the first time,” adds Rand. “This trend is only expected to continue as more and more people get rid of their desktop computers in favor of tablets and smartphones.”
From content marketing to careful web design, you should be checking all the boxes. Putting your website in front of more eyes is the first step to generating more business.
Put simply, it isn’t going anywhere. Facebook may not be capturing as many headlines these days, but more and more people are using it everyday. The same goes for other platforms like Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. As Rand notes, “Overall, 73 percent of internet users had at least one social networking profile in 2015, which is a huge increase from the 48 percent of users that had a profile on 2010. It is expected that by 2019 the number of social media users in the United States will grow by about 20 million users from 180 million this year to 200 million.”
That’s an awful lot of people.
And those people are using social media in a multitude of ways: to find information, get the news, meet new people, reconnect with old friends, and keep a finger on the pulse of all that’s even remotely buzz-worthy.
You can capitalize on that social media presence in a variety of ways (detailed in a number of other our articles), but the bottom line is effort. You may need some help getting started, but you’ll likely be the one responsible for ensuring follow-through. Active and responsive social media accounts are crucial supplements to your basic web presence. And with the IoT invading so many facets of our social existence, every good marketer should get in on the action.