If you own a business, you have two choices in regards to web marketing: you can either stick your head in the sand or you can fully embrace it. Chances are many of your competitors are taking it very seriously. Here are a few statistics to keep in mind, courtesy of the “U.S. Online Retail Forecast” by Forrester Research:
- Online shoppers in the United States will spend $327 billion in 2016, up 45% from $226 billion this year.
- In 2016, 192 million U.S. consumers will shop online.
- Each shopper will spend more on average; U.S. consumers in 2016 will each spend an average of $1,738 online, up 44% from $1,207 in 2012.
And if your focus is B2B, the trends are all pointing to the web. According to BtoB’s “2012 Outlook: Marketing Priorities and Plans” survey, marketers are allocating more resources to cost-effective online and social media programs:
- This year, 74% of marketers are increasing online spending.
- Topping online B2B spending are websites (cited by 67.6% of marketers), email (67.5%), social media (64.3%), search (54.8%), video (50.5%) and webcasts/virtual events (45.6%).
- The top applications for social media are brand-building (82.6%), lead generation (51.4%), thought leadership (47.4%) and customer feedback (39.5%)
These are statistics you can’t ignore and, if you want to reach these consumers you’ll need to promote your business online. The first step? Hire a writer who understands the web – SEO, social sharing and content strategy. Let’s see why this is so important to your business.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, does just that – it’s writing (or rewriting) content to optimize it for the search engines. Why? So that your website will be listed closer to the top when someone searches on topics related to your line of business. This is accomplished by including keywords and keyword phrases throughout your content – at the beginning, middle and end.
When someone conducts a search, the search engine “spiders” all the content on the web in order to deliver the most relevant search results. The more relevant keywords your content has, the more likely your site will rank higher in the search results. This is known as natural or organic search, and is typically much more cost effective than paid search, or ads you purchase to appear when someone enters search terms related to your product/service.
Google remains the most-used search engine, by a wide margin. According to the Pew Internet & American Life survey of February 2012, 83 percent of Americans said they used Google most often, followed by Yahoo at a modest 6 percent. With that in mind, you can do a little of your own research with Google Adwords and select the Keyword Tool from the dropdown menu in Tools & Analysis. On the Keyword Ideas tab, you can type in a keyword or phrase and find out what related terms are being used the most often.
Then, when you hire a writer, you can request that certain keywords or phrases be used in the web copy. However, be wary of copywriters who overuse keywords; this is known as “keyword stuffing” and can actually produce the reverse of your intended results. It can cause your site to appear lower in the rankings. Don’t obsess over “keyword density,” or the percentage of times a keyword or key phrase appears on a web page compared the total number of words on the page. Instead, hire a writer who writes for people, not search engines, then optimizes the content for search.
If you think social networking sites are just for teens and young adults, think again. In fact, social networking site use among Internet users 65 and older more than doubled in 2012, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn remain the top social sites. On Facebook, you’ll want to establish a business site separate from your personal one. On Twitter, there are no hard and fast rules as to how often your writer should tweet (that is, post a comment that’s 140 characters or less). One to five times a day is a good start, and between 10 and 11 a.m. or 4 and 5 p.m. ET are often good times to tweet. Experiment and see what works best for your business. On Pinterest, don’t worry if you don’t sell products with images that lend themselves to this format. As long as your writer makes interesting, relevant and valuable pins, you’ll be just fine. For B2B companies, LinkedIn is a must. Whatever you do, hire a writer who can capture your brand’s voice. Otherwise, your social efforts will come across as inauthentic.
Encourage sharing of your content across multiple social media platforms. You’ll find numerous tools available that make it easy for others to share emails, web pages and attachments with just a click of the mouse. As they say, sharing is caring.
When you hire a writer, you’ll want someone who can advise you on content strategy. Writing for the web is more than just cranking out web page content. It’s about using content to promote your products and services. If you’re selling a product, for example, value-added content – customer reviews, usage, how to care for the product – can help influence consumer purchasing decisions. If you’re selling a service, white papers, case studies and solutions briefs can do the same. A well-written blog can connect with your audience on a less formal, more personal level. Guest blog posts on industry sites also will build credibility. And don’t forget to disseminate news releases about your business – new products, new hires, store openings, awards, speaking engagements and the like.
No matter what you’re selling, content can position you as the expert in your field. It also can create goodwill: By offering free content to site visitors, you’re establishing trust. Lastly, you can capture valuable email addresses by offering to deliver content to those who register on your site. When you deliver content on a regular basis, you keep your business top of mind with current and prospective customers.
In summary, hire a writer who’s well versed in SEO, social media and content strategy. Make sure it’s someone who not only talks the talk but walks the walk. At Content Launch, our writing team is well versed in all of these important areas and can provide high quality content that converts for your business.
Darcy Silvers Grabenstein is a freelance copywriter specializing in ecommerce and email marketing. She is professionally accredited in public relations.